STORM ALI has blown through and carpeted our street with a crunchy layer of nuts and conkers.

At one end, the horse chestnuts have dropped a good crop of conkers and their casings onto the tarmac which the car tyres have ground into a pithy green paste.

At the other end, the sweet chestnuts have been shaken so much that they’ve laid down a crackly carpet of their smaller nuts in softer shells.

The two trees are only distantly related. The horse chestnut is a newcomer, arriving from the Balkans in the late 16th Century. It gets its apparently because in its native Constantinople, the people fed the chestnuts to horses because they swore it cured their “broken wind”.

It took 200 years for small boys to cotton on to the beauty of horse chestnuts. Boys had previously done combat by smashing their snail shells against a friend’s. The winning snail shell was the conqueror, or “conker”, and it wasn’t until 1888 that the dictionary notes that word had been used in a battle of horse chestnuts.

The Romans brought sweet chestnuts to Britain from the Mediterranean, mainly because they like to ground the nuts into a porridge they called polenta. Whereas a horse chestnut only stands for 120 years, a sweet chestnut can easily last 500. In Gloucestershire, there’s one – the Great Tortworth Chestnut – with a 12 metre girth that is said to be 1,200 years old, and on the slopes of Mount Etna in Italy, there’s one with 58m circumference that may be 4,000 years old.

To the south of Darlington, it was only at the weekend that I noticed it was a good year for sweet chestnuts. They were given away by the lime green beards on their shells – they look sharp but they are actually quite wispy – but now they are down before Bronagh can whip up a second storm of the season.

BEFORE I ran out of space a fortnight ago, I was going to mention what I consider to be the best line from all the speeches on the opening day of Darlington library, October 23, 1885. Huge crowds on a specially built platform outside the library had heard the first of the day’s speeches, and the second of the day’s speeches were heard at the celebration luncheon at the Trevelyan Hotel in Grange Road. A third set of speeches was delivered at a public meeting in the Mechanics Institute, a meeting that was so popular that an overspill in the Friends Meeting House had to be hastily arranged where a fourth set of speeches were delivered.

I bet some speakers cheated, and repeated the same speech at each of the four venues.

The man who I think gave the best speech was Lord Lymington, who was ten years older than the 19-year-old fabulously wealthy (on paper) Pease heiress he had just married.

I have to be careful here because the last time I wrote about Lord Lymington, I received a letter from his descendant, who is an earl, accusing me of an “ad hominem” attack on his ancestor. Still, I believe Lord Lymington to have been a brazen, greedy gold-digger, whose heartless attempts to get his hands on his wife’s inheritance drove the Pease family to financial destruction.

On the plus side, he had the best line of the opening day.

He said: “A library ought to be a club of the best minds of all time.”

Thankfully, Darlington council has decided not to close its branch of that remarkable club.