A Foray among the Funguses

In the Forest of Dean

From the Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists’ Field Club.


ON Monday evening, October 1st, the visitors slowly concentrated themselves at the Speech House, in the Forest of Dean, and were met on the fallowing morning in the Forest, or afterwards at the Hotel, by the Hereford contingent. Cold it might be, for some of the party swept the snow from the grass into their hands at about 10 a.m.: but it was clear and bright. As for the fungi, truly they were few and far between, the oldest excursionist venturing the opinion that it was the worst prospect of a fungus foray which the Woolhope Club ever experienced, bad as it was in the previous year. The ground was moist enough, it is true, but so cold, that only on the sunniest slopes could the commonest species be found, and even these were scarce and scattered. 'Whether in anticipation of such a result, or from a combination of various circumstances, the company was much smaller than usual. It included Messrs. T. B. Acton, C. Bucknall, Dr. Carlyle, M. C. Cooke, T. Howse, W. Phillips, Rev. J. E. Vize, H. T. Wharton, in addition to the President, the President elect, and a few old Woolhopeans, who, under the guidance of the indefatigable II. C. Moore, had travelled by train from Hereford to Newnham-on-Severn, where they were met by carriages from the Speech House which deposited them at Danby Beeches. From Danby Beeches they walked to Blackpool Bridge, examined there the traces of the paving of the old Roman road, thence past Moseley Green Turnpike through the Spruce Fir Drive, finally, after a delightful walk of four miles, met the visitors at the Speech House Hotel, which party had made their excursion in a circuit at some distance from the Hotel.

No record was kept of the species observed, but nearly everything in moderately good condition found its way into the collecting baskets, and yet they were not full. Rarities and novelties were out of the question, and never, perhaps, were common species treated with so much care and consideration. Even Agaricus melleus and A. fascicularis were treated with respect; one gentleman actually took off his hat in the presence of almost the only specimen of A. rubescens encountered in the Forest. Last year Cantharelus aurantiacus was one of the commonest species, sometimes growing by hundreds, but this year not a single one could be found. There was no dearth of walking—naught but walking " on, on, for ever "—to stoop and pick up a fungus was an event, but, alas! it was seldom worth the trouble of stooping for. It was worthy of note, that although the large genus Agaricus contains some 700 British species, the number seen was singularly few, the proportion being very far less than in most other genera, whilst, in the number of individuals, Lactarius and Russula exceeded it. Coprinus was seen but once or twice, and all the species of Cortinarius were extremely rare. Dinner at the Speech House Hotel, and a careful scrutiny of all the baskets, with the inevitable " nightcaps," ended the first day.

On the Wednesday the members proceeded by train to Park End, which proved so satisfactory last year; but here again they were doomed to disappointment, for although more prolific than any spot visited on the Tuesday, yet the best was very bad, nothing of interest being found except some very fine specimens of Russula integra, and a few Hygrophori. Strolling slowly back through devious ways to Speech House, soon after two o'clock, light refreshment and waggonettes carried the party a drive of eight miles to Newnham Station for Hereford, and completed the two memorable clays of fungus hunting in the Forest of Dean.

Like bears of the forest, in another corner of Europe, the fungi had retreated to the mountains, and would not be found.