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


In Anna Tsing’s book The Mushroom at the End of the World*, she tells the story of landscapes ruined – or seemingly ruined – by the greed of human activity. In particular, forests. In one unpromising forest in Oregon USA, where commercial forestry had stripped out all the trees of value and left an empty terrain of broken ground and scrubby volunteer pines, she met some mushroom hunters, refugees from Laos. They were gathering Matsutake, one of the most prized and valuable edible mushrooms in Japan and – allegedly – the first living organisms to appear from the wreckage of Hiroshima after the Bomb.
West Stormont Woodland Group

Matsutake mushrooms, like many fungi, only appear when they can be entangled with the roots of a suitable host tree in a mycorrhizal relationship. They got on very well with those scrubby pines. Tsing tells how the accidental introduction of the Pine Wilt Nematode on a shipment of American Pine into Japan had devastated the Matsutake’s natural host there, hence its rarity. It is not a serious pest of American Pine. Incidentally, Scots Pine is a good host for Matsutake.

Disappearing mushrooms when a forest changes is familiar to me. All forests and woods are in the process of change, but our two ex-commercial forests, Five Mile and Taymount Woods, are forests in abrupt transition. Before the Commission took out the last valuable trees and wind-throw did for many more, Five Mile Wood was my happy mushroom-hunting ground, the place I’d take people to for foraging walks. I knew exactly where to find the biggest chanterelles, the white Angels’ Wings, the logs where real oyster mushrooms could often break out. The ditches

beside the path were home to many fascinating species, including several edible Boletus including the Cep and the maggot-free Bay Bolete – and, of course plenty of highly poisonous examples too. Some years, the tantalisingly similar but inedible False Chanterelle outnumbered the real one – which is exactly what you need when teaching people not to harm themselves by misidentification. One damp corner was an emporium for the delicious Slippery Jack, which turned up in troops like clockwork, every year in late summer and autumn. I used to dry the ones we didn’t fry up right away, and store them in jars.

The fragile entangled associations which had built up over the decades were shattered by felling. The self-sown birches that are colonising parts of both the woods will eventually reel in their own, interconnected fungal friends, and the chanterelles will surely re-emerge one day, because birch is their main host tree. From experience, it takes at least a decade before mushrooms start to appear in a new wood, and the first arrivals are never the ones you want to eat! The precarity of a habitat for specific mushrooms is alarming – involving water tables, shade, parasitic plants, nematodes, beetles, animals – including mushroom pickers. Tsing’s book includes chapters on the equally precarious lives of the pickers – refugees, indigenous peoples, itinerants. Humans aren’t in control of what the mushrooms will do, because there are so many variables in play. Humans are just part of the landscape, and the landscape is changing because of and despite them.

So, I can only observe and enjoy the new but mushroom-free habitats in parts of our woods, note the changes, watch new worlds forming out of devastation and realise we are not in charge, not that clever, and maybe, not that important either. I scoured the ditches in Five Mile Wood for boletes recently, and right at the end, I did find a couple of lingering and determined specimens. I left them there.

But who knows what will be the mushroom at the end of the wood?



Previous Articles

Community Monthly Update – November 2023

We are really thrilled to let you know that Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) has approved WSWG’s Revised Wildwood Proposal and Business Plan for Taymount Wood. This is the first big goal achieved in our Community Asset Transfer Process to bring Taymount and Five Mile Woods into community ownership!

Read More »

Community Monthly Update – October 2023

A highlight for the WSWG Project this month has been the timely teaming up of a group of employees from Aviva in Perth with some unexpectedly lovely autumn weather for a day of corporate volunteering. On 2 October, five enthusiastic Aviva colleagues spent the day with WSWG in the middle of Taymount Wood on a range of interesting and very useful tasks, quite a contrast to their usual office based working environment.

Read More »

Community Monthly Update – September 2023

Given the distinctly seasonal change in the weather of late, we thought we would bring our Word of the Month up to the top of our September update. Psithurism: (Noun) The sound of wind in the trees and rustling of leaves, from “psithuros”, the Greek word for whispering. Enjoy your woods this autumn!

Read More »

Community Monthly Update – August 2023

This month we really want to share with you a wonderful event we had – the joint woodland picnic on 22 July with Tayside Woodland Partnerships (TWP). We pitched our gazebos in a lovely grassy glade in Taymount Wood and set out a delicious picnic spread courtesy of Alison’s Kitchen in Blairgowrie – quiches, sausage rolls and cakes galore – on portable tables kindly lent to us by Stanley Village Hall. More food and home-baking was brought by the picnickers themselves. Despite weather forecasts to the contrary, it was a beautiful day with not a drop of rain or drizzle. After lots of great chat and good food, we heard a little about each of our organisations’ respective projects and then took a walk up the main track to King’s Myre Loch.

Read More »

Community Monthly Update – July 2023

First up this month is for us to say a big thank you to a lovely group of young people from Ochil Tower School in Auchterarder who had come on a mini-bus trip to visit Taymount Wood on 21 June … and just did a litter-pick whilst they were there!! What a great example of being good citizens – enjoying the environment and taking care of it together.

Read More »

Community Monthly Update – June 2023

We want to start with a big thank you to all WSWG volunteers who helped in the Wildflower and Mining Bee Rescue Mission this spring. Many times more wildflowers have come through along the various stretches of raked verge than would have been the case had they remained swamped by gorse mulch and, as seen in the photo here, mining bees have successfully emerged where the track surfaces were cleared to help them out too. And of course the cleared sections of track make for more comfortable going again for walkers and dogs. Lots more areas still need attention, and we will keep doing what we can when we can, but thank you again to everyone who helped make a difference for nature this spring.

Read More »