Quantock Hills Blog

Fungus Foray

- Anne Rivett writes about the recent fungi walk at Durborough Farm

Katy Coate

Posted by Katy Coate on 10 November 2014

Fungus Foray Anne, who came on our recent Fungi Walk has kindly written this blog for us about the event, led by fungi expert Patrick Watts-Mabbott and Quantock Rangers Owen Jones and Rebekah West. (Thank you Anne!):

This was my first experience of a fungus foray at Durborough Farm and it was a delight from start to finish. We were warmly welcomed by Janet White who has farmed Durborough in an environmentally sensitive way for more than fifty years. Thanks to her careful husbandry the farm is a haven for wild plants and animals, fungi and lichens. The farm nestles into the eastern edge of the Quantock Hills with far reaching views down to the sea and across fields and woods. It was a glorious autumn day and lush green fields with coppery beech trees contrasted against a bright blue sky. The perfect day for a fungus foray.

The morning and afternoon walks were led as usual by Exmoor National Park Ranger Patrick Watts-Mabbott. I joined the afternoon walk with half a dozen others, the morning having attracted a much larger group of over 20. Patrick gave us a brief introductory talk about fungi in general, their morphology, physiology and ecology. From a human interest point of view he discussed the toxic nature of some fungi and the usefulness of others and the difficult challenges of identifying the edible from the deadly poisonous.

We then explored the fields near the farmhouse and surprisingly quickly found 21 different fungi - from delicate pink ballerina waxcaps to a giant polypore at the base of an ancient beech tree. We discussed the parasitic nature of this latter fungus compared to other fungi which can exist in a symbiotic relationship with plants by developing mycorrhizal extensions of the trees roots. This was news for me! I now understand that far from being the exception such a mutually beneficial relationship is actually the norm in the plant kingdom. Fascinating stuff.

I cannot describe each and every fungus we saw and so will mention just a few outstanding examples. The prettiest was the ballerina wax cap with her pink skirts; also alluring was the little dark green moist parrot waxcap hiding in the green grass but spotted by an enthusiastic group member. We saw seven different waxcaps in all -  a real treat as they can only survive in meadows that are not enriched by fertilisers.

King Alfred’s cakes, as black as one would expect, surprisingly make an extremely good “fungal firelighter” as demonstrated by Pat who is well known in these parts for his bushcraft skills.
Stranger still was the small innocuous scarlet caterpillar fungus. Pat revealed its “secret” by digging down with his ever-useful penknife to reveal the corpse of a pupa from which the fungus grows!

There were many other interesting facts to learn including how the iconic fairy tale red toadstool (fly agaric) acquires its white spots - but to learn more any readers should really go along to a fungus foray nearby while we maintain the “secrets” of Durborough farm.



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    Rob Dolton

    06 Dec 14

    I stay at Durborough Farm and enjoy the Fungi Forays immensely - they are fun, educational and a great way to spend a few hours out in the fresh air

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