The Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa) is a native of southern Europe and Asia Minor, which has become widely cultivated both as a source of timber as well as for the edible nut. The tree can be succesfully coppiced, producing a crop of wood every 10-15 years, and the timber is durable, light, strong and weather resistant, making it highly prized. The nuts are traditionally cooked or roasted, as the raw nut is quite astringent, and then made into a wide variety of flours, in puddings and desserts, even as a coffee subsitute. Roman soldiers were given chestnut porridge before going into battle!
The trees can live for a thousand years or more, if given the right conditions. They don't tolerate limestone soils, so a neutral to acid site is necessary. They also need good drainage - sweet chestnuts will not like a heavy waterlogged clay soils. It is a heat-loving tree, which is why its cultivation in this country has been generally confined to the south, but the trend to warmer weather does mean that it is starting to become more common in the north too.