It may have threatened rain and the ground beneath may have been pretty saturated but what a fantastic Fungal Foray event was held up on The Sandstone Ridge this weekend.
Hosted by Brian Mellor at the Harthill Cookery School, the ever enthusiastic 'Fungalpunk Dave', together with his wife Gill, guided a group of absolute beginners around Harthill to identify and record the autumnal fungi of The Sandstone Ridge.
The encyclopedic knowledge of our Wigan-born guide is second to none; his love affair of fungi dating back to 2003. Some 16 years later, he has clocked up +300 guided walks.
Quite simply 'Fungi get their food by digesting their surroundings, they are nature's dustbin men/women, and are natural re-cyclers'.
Firm favourites were the lilac-blue 'Wood Blewit', the fleshy pink gills of the 'Deceiver Fungi', the freaky 'Jelly Ear Fungi' (shaped just like an ear) and, of course, the 'Fly Agaric', known for its distinctive bright red appearance with white spots.
Whilst Dave was rattling off the Latin names for a variety of structures, the group were enthusing over the fact that most of what we see above ground level are the 'fruiting bodies' of the species which then release the 'spores'. Everyone who attended is now sufficiently adept in identifying all manner of 'gills', whether they be fine-gills, cross-threaded gills, brittle gills or wide gills, and whether the fungi were 'spore shooters' or 'spore droppers'.
We giggled over 'Shaggy Parasols', 'Crystal Brain Fungi', 'Ugly Milk Cap Fungi' and 'Caps' galore, whether they were 'Milkcaps', 'Tawny Funnel Caps' or 'Butter Caps'.
We spotted 'Crusts' in abundance such as 'Bleeding Oak' or 'Hairy', and as for 'Bonnets', there were many.
'Fungalpunk Dave' has run sessions at The Harthill Cookery School on many occasions and following the afternoon jaunt, we all tumbled back into the Cookery School, where Brian had created a themed and tasty mushroom soup and mushroom risotto for all.
And, for information – at least 50 species were actually recorded in just two hours and next day, after some intensive microscopy, the list was updated to 82 species!
Look out for more fantastic courses at The Harthill Cookery School CLICK HERE.
We understand that the next Fungal Foray event will be in September 2020 – keep watching the website for further information.
Click on each image to enlarge.