West Stormont Woodland Group

West Stormont
Woodland Group

Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) SC051682

Join us today to bring Taymount Wood and Five Mile Wood into community ownership

Foraging Sustainably

...sated with flowers, I drifted back to the path, casting hopeful glances into the mossy ditches and banks beside the track. It was June, early for the summer edible mushrooms, but not too early to look.....

I can never get enough of the elusive levels of King’s Myre in Taymount Wood, and the half-land, half-water fringes of the lochan, oozing with damp warmth, damselflies and unexpected flowers. Ferns lit the tangled route in to near the water’s edge, green, lush and varied. Shiny, sprawling ladder ferns, the fractal fronds of taller, shuttlecock-shaped male ferns rising above.

When the water was obvious in my shoes, Yellow Flag Iris shone exquisite, and orchids appeared, sunning themselves in their pink frocks. Ragged Robin blew in competition against a haze of mare’s tail, but the Bogbean was not yet out. What I first took to be seed-heads of something turned out to be the emerging flowers of a single plant of Bog Cotton, or Cottongrass – a species well suited to myre, but which I’d not seen here before.

Sated with flowers, I drifted back to the path, casting hopeful glances into the mossy ditches and banks beside the track. It was June, early for the summer edible mushrooms, but not too early to look. I was duly rewarded – an enormous but overblown Orange Birch Bolete lording it over an eruption of apricot-hued chanterelles.

The big orange bolete did NOT get picked!

And there we have it – the gift AND the challenge for June and the coming months. Wild food has become fashionable in the last couple of decades, and where the easily recognisable chanterelle is found, you will get the pickers. Some are picking for themselves and don’t know when to stop – I can understand this, for it is hard, faced with such beautiful bounty, to resist the call of “just a couple more”. Some are picking for commercial companies, restaurants or hotels and will be paid by the quantity picked. Commercial pickers are not necessarily irresponsible, but we’ve all seen boxes and bag-loads of chanterelles being ferried out of the wood, so full, that many are spilled all along the path and left to rot. Some will tell you it does no harm, because the mushroom is only the reproductive organ of the fungus, the vast majority of it being underground. True enough. Centuries of mushroom harvesting in the woods of central Europe do not appear to have wiped out the fungi. Some people even claim it encourages more to come. That one’s not true. It’s not like picking flowers. Mushrooms are weather-dependent; they only form and spread spores when the conditions of temperature and humidity are right, and if someone comes along and removes every one, the right conditions might just not come again that year. The fungus has lost a chance to reproduce, it is weakened.

That’s without considering the effect on other users of the wood and eaters of mushrooms, other animals, birds, invertebrates, other people.  The many people with their children who might just want to explore the beauty of the world of fungi and take photos, not dinner. Mushroom hunters are always jealous about “their patch”, but, you know, none of really owns a patch of mushrooms. Some of us have spent a lot of time and argument working out a Code of Conduct for sustainable foraging, and never came up with a complete version. But for what it’s worth, here’s mine, distilled from many discussions:

  1. Pick only what you need and can use…..to eat and store, that is, not for gloating facebook photo-opportunities and testosterone-fuelled competitiveness.
  2. If there are only a few or one of a species, LEAVE THEM ALONE.
  3. Don’t pick the first you see (there might not be any others), or the last – leave some behind for others to enjoy and to reproduce
  4. If you can’t identify a mushroom, you shouldn’t be eating it, so why pick a basketful? Take photos, and if necessary, take one home for identification.
  5. Leave the tiny ones to get bigger. Leave the biggest ones to spread spores.
  6. Don’t ever strip an entire patch bare. Take a few here and there, and with respect and gratitude – they ARE a gift.
  7. If reaching the fungi you want causes you to trample the habitat, wreck a tree, stampede wild flowers into the ground, trust me, you don’t need them that badly. Go away. Look somewhere else.
All we need this week

Well, I’m sure I’ve forgotten some of my own rules, and I expect you can come up with more anyway. If you’re foraging commercially, I strongly advise you to join the Association of Foragers (www.foragers-association.org), started by Fife forager, Monica Wilde in 2015. Be mindful of the challenge – let’s all see or taste these gifts from the woods.

(I’m a bit late with this June offering, and what with holidays, weddings, visitors and other commitments, I’m taking a July break. See you in August!)



Previous Articles

Community Monthly Update – May 2024

We are really delighted this month to start with the announcement that the winner of the WSWG April Photography Competition in the Children’s category is Dougie from Highland Perthshire. His stunning and clever photograph was taken at the head of Loch Rannoch, looking west, on Saturday 20 April. Such a beautiful, calm scene in our precious Perthshire countryside, but just look at the perfect capture of the beautiful splash effect at its heart. A truly super photo.

Congratulations, Dougie. Thank you very much for taking part in this competition and your well-deserved prize will be making its way to you very soon.

Read More »

Community Monthly Update – April 2024

On Sunday 14 April, a lovely bunch of people turned out for a WSWG Guided Climate and Biodiversity Walk in Taymount Wood to celebrate the start of the new Perth & Kinross Climate Action Hub (PKCAH) for which funding has been secured from the Scottish Government.

Read More »

Community Monthly Update – March 2024

It is a disappointing thing to have to do, but a surprisingly rewarding thing to have done. We are talking about picking up someone else’s litter. We all know Taymount Wood car park occasionally suffers from fly tipping, but it is regular littering which is more of a chronic problem, clogging the ditches, being strewn around the verges, blown into the brambles and nettles, overgrown by rank grass, buried in the soil, or crushed by vehicles if not removed regularly.

Read More »

Community Monthly Update – February 2024

First up this month, a big thank you to the Community Payback Team from Westbank in Perth who very kindly made an impromptu stop when passing to remove the worst of some fly tipping they spotted in the Taymount Wood car park in January. A heap of black bin-bags full of spent growing medium and general rubbish had been dumped near the entrance gate a few days earlier. They were unable to clear it all up in one go but are going to come back to complete the task for us. Moreover, they have offered to keep a watching eye on the site in future and clear up what they can. That will be such a help.

Read More »

Community Monthly Update – January 2024

Unusually, we’re starting this Monthly Update with a “What’s Coming Up Next” item! This message is principally for people in the Stanley and District community but we’d love to suggest all villages in the West Stormont area follow suit with their own aim of becoming a Biodiversity Village.

Read More »

Community Monthly Update – December 2023

It’s another year end and this time WSWG member Françoise from Stanley has created an exquisite 2024 calendar of “Wildflowers and Friends” she photographed in Taymount Wood this year to help raise funds for WSWG. Having gone for a print run of 50, these gorgeous calendars are available on a first-come, first-served basis for a donation of £10 (or a bit more if you wish!) with net proceeds going towards the purchase of the woods.

Read More »