Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Autumn fungi come early

Cortinarius violaceus - purple webcap (rare)
It's been a strange season for fungi. The summer fungi were very late - appearing only momentarily - yet the autumn fungi are everywhere, and we're only in the third week of August.

These purple webcaps were found growing on the east side of the pond, just up from the fishermen's bridge, so they're not strictly within our boundaries. However it's good to see this rare species making an appearance again. They don't seem to appear in the same spot twice. These ones are over 200m away from where last year's specimens popped up. The only similarities I have noticed is that they seem to grow in proximity to birch, and are more likely to grow near a path or near the edge of the wood where there is less shade.

Russula delica
These russula are typical of the many currently showing in the wood. These were found right at the roadside fence , growing through the leaf litter . Now these ones do come up in the same spot every year. They are very noticeable due to their size and the sheer force with which they push their way out of the ground, heaving aside the pine needles.

Amanita fulva - Tawny Grisette
Several members of the Amanita family are common in the wood - Amanita rubescens, Amanita muscaria (fly agaric), Amanita citrina (false death cap) Amanita excelsa and Amanita fulva (the tawny grisette) pictured above. They are all reasonably easy to identify as Amanita, due to their egg like appearance when young and that they often have a bag like 'Volvo' at the bottom of their stem. Distinguishing between different members of the family is more difficult, especially between pantherina and excelsa, which are both basically brownish mushrooms with spots. The grisettes are still the same family, but have a cleaner appearance, with a smooth stem. They are supposed to be edible, but I don't expect they taste of much. The picture above shows both the young and the fully grown specimen. There is a useful Amanita key here.

Crepodotis mollis - soft slipper toadstool
Finally, this one is a new one for me. Soft, damp and curly, the brittle fungus grows on decaying wood. The photo shows one which was part of a group growing on a dead rowan tree lying on the ground.  Crepodotis mollis - its common name is the soft slipper toadstool, which I can't quite see, but it was definitely soft to the touch.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Grant Aid

Earlier this year we put in an application for funding for a roadside hedge which will run about 625 metres from the northern end of Old Copse. We have just heard that we were successful in gaining funding, and are very pleased that our ideas have gained support. We aim to plant an informal hedge of native species along this eastern boundary . At present there is only  a single and rather ugly 4’ high wire fence between the wood and the roadside verge. 25 years old now, it needs constant repair. It adds nothing to the diversity and is not even an effective barrier. We regularly get garden waste dumped over it, giving rise to non-native species taking hold, which must be removed. Denser roadside planting  will help to discourage this. Photos below, taken last Spring,  give an idea of the current bareness of the roadside boundary.


We want to supplement existing sparse growth of honeysuckle and bramble with plants from the  shrub layer such as hazel, holly and hawthorn,  to create a more natural barrier along the roadside length of the wood. This planting will use the old fence as a support, and as it grows and thickens will greatly enhance the diversity and visual appeal of the woodland edge. It will provide valuable new habitat and food for birds and small mammals, both in the hedge and the adjoining woodland and contribute some much-needed understorey. The hedge will be an effective visual and sound barrier from traffic, and help prevent littering and fly-tipping. It will also look a great deal better than a wire fence.

So, many thanks to Sussex Lund for providing the funding for our hedging project and supporting our ongoing work of restoring  Old Copse.

We could have applied to the Forestry Commission for  funding for the hedge but decided to ask Sussex Lund which specifically funds projects in the Sussex Weald.  This was partly because we already have annual funding from the Forestry Commission  under the English Woodland Grant Scheme and  also because we wanted to establish contact  with other organisations.

We try and use volunteers to help us in the wood, and whenever possible people who can handle machinery  so that we don't have to. So far  we've avoided the need to buy expensive equipment.  The grant money we receive each year can be spent on re- stocking the wood with native trees. Though the plants are relatively cheap, costs soon mount up when  tree guards, stakes and rolls of wire  are included in the price. We  endeavour to keep these costs to a minimum , by making our own stakes and using recycled tree tubes as much as possible.

 Rampant growth this year due to the good summer and the increased light levels in the wood,  means that we are having to consider cutting and/or mowing the rides and glades to keep the bramble and other unwanted vegetation under control, and to encourage more diverse ground flora. We took welcome advice from Jim Smith-Wright, Ancient Woodland Restoration Project officer for the Woodland Trust . He suggested a number of machines to do the job,  from strimmers to brush cutters to  reciprocating, or scythe mowers which are a hand pushed alternative for level terrain. Jim also gave useful advice on the when, what, and how to cut , and what to do with the 'arisings'. The Small Woodland Owners facebook page is also useful when it comes to machinery, and a request for information always attracts a great deal of advice.  What we'll probably do is to try out a few alternatives either by hiring or borrowing a range of machines, and decide which one works best for us.