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 – 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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