I am a born again Mycologist. I’ve seen the light.
I’d signed up for an ‘Introduction to ‘Fungi Walk’ at Brockholes. In the depths of Brockholes’s Nature Reserve Jim, our ‘guide’, holds a small piece of twig with some even smaller black and white stems – Candlesnuff Fungus, for us to examine. This minute organism may even provide the compounds to fight cancer. He emphasises the importance of fungi in evolutionary terms and future research. Fungi, neither animal nor plant, have been on this earth 1.5 billion years. There are millions of varieties, but we only know of a small percentage. They have helped our environment to evolve. And what may they hold for the future?
What is the world’s largest living organism he asks? – not the Blue Whale or the Sequoia Tree – no there is a fungus that occupies some 2,384 acres in Oregon’s Blue Mountains. 1,665 football fields, or nearly four square miles. A truly humungous fungus. I like the style of our ‘funguy’ Jim.
Jim, has only this week been on the telly, BBC Northwest Tonight with everybody’s favourite Roger Johnson in a feature on Brockholes Nature Reserve. Have a look Here if it is still available.
We are in the presence of an amateur expert though even he can only identify a fraction of the thousands of UK’s fungi. Perhaps a hundred or so noted at Brockholes. And the general advice is don’t eat any of them unless they are on the shelves at Tesco. (other supermarkets are available) The names of some of them give a warning. Death Cap, Destroying Angel, Funeral Bell.
It didn’t stop raining all night, and I was expecting a wet morning ahead so dressed for the occasion with full waterproofs as I parked outside the reserve in the Crematorium grounds, (saving the £5 parking fee). This gave me a brisk mile walk down through the woods to the Floating Visitor Centre meet up. There were maybe 20 of us, an eclectic bunch. The sun shone throughout the morning and hence I sweated undercover.
Jim led us out into the reserve, and we had only gone a few metres before he stopped on a grassy verge. A keen eye was needed to spot the tiny fungi, Blackening Waxcaps, They slowly revert to a black mess. I would have walked straight past them or even worse squashed them. The more studious followers were making notes.
Then onwards into the woods. Puff Balls, Brackets, Slime, Jelly Ears etc etc. Here are some of my hurried photos.
Jim was a wise general naturalist as well as a fungus finder and imparted words of Lancashire wisdom as we proceeded. All very entertaining. Buzzards flew overhead and Long Horn Cattle grazed the meadows. All too soon the adventure was over, and we headed back to the floating visitor centre and more importantly the café.
After a coffee I had a stroll around the rest of the reserve. There wasn’t a lot happening, so I headed to the River Ribble and followed its banks back to Red Scar Woods and the climb back up to the crematorium high above the river. I was peering around me and examining every bit of dead wood for specimens, I didn’t spot many but I am full of resolve to get out tomorrow with my new-found enthusiasm for fungi. I need to download one of those apps to my phone to help in identification.
The Autumn colours are finally coming through and the cherry trees in the Crematorium were particularly dazzling. I had ended up walking about 6 miles in my wanderings.