On an autumnal Saturday afternoon 23 members of Rutland Natural History Society were led around the tracks and glades of this mixed broad leaved and coniferous wood.
Dr Vin Fleming started the proceedings with the identification of a collection of fungi one of the members had brought in from Bedford Purlieus. This included Horn of Plenty, an edible mushroom found in Beech and Oak woods.
The walk started at Yew Tree Avenue, a unique collection of 150 yew trees, mostly over 200 years old, demonstrating the art of topiary. The grass around the yews was a good hunting ground for exhibits which included colourful yellow Waxcaps, Golden Spindles and Coral Fungus.
Once out of the avenue we continued along a wide track further into the depths the wood. The party fanned out, bringing back whatever they found for Vin to identify. We were lucky to have two keen eyed children, who soon filled Vin’s collection basket. One of the identification methods Vin introduced to us was to lick a minute quantity of milkcap fungus “milk”. The two volunteers soon wondered why they had stepped forward as the sensation was similar to battery acid!
Towards the end of the wood we were impressed by orange peel fungi, Turkey Tail on old rotting stumps and the wonderfully delicate Mycenae.
By now the basket was full and World Cup Rugby was beckoning so we wound our way back to the car park where all the collection was laid out for i.d.
The spherical Earthstar was of particular interest as the spores are emitted from the apical hole as breeze blows across it, and much larger puffs of spores escape when raindrops hit and compress the spore-sac. For this discovery our keen children were given a chocolate bar as a prize.
Vin was thanked for his expert leadership and inspiration and maybe he has kindled a lifetime interest in our younger members.