I was a bit spooked, it was very quiet and all was still
I WAS asleep the other morning when my two dogs decided to wake me up and go for a walk, It was 4.30am, still dark and raining. But 15 minutes I found myself I shuffling through the wet woods half asleep.
I must admit as often as I have walked the woods of Stoke Park and have done for more than 40 years there was an eerie feeling to them at that time in the morning.
For some odd reason I was a bit spooked by it ,as it was very quiet and everything was still.
As it got a little lighter I noticed an explosion of fungus. There is an old beech tree that had been blown over by the severe storms back in October 1990,when in fact many of the large trees here went over too.
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Now these trees are slowly being eaten away by micro organisms and fungus.
This particular beech tree is now host to around eleven different species of fungus throughout the year.
Now in front of me was a crop of stump puffball mushrooms. One of the smallest species of the puffball mushroom family. They look like mini golf balls on sticks poking out from the tree. They are one my favourite species to eat.
I simply cut them in half and fry them in butter. They have the typical mushroom flavour with a slightly earthy taste . As I carried on walking through the woods I wandered into one of the historical glades that the famous landscaper Thomas Wright had incorporated into the woods back in 1749.
There is an old Holm Oak tree there which was in fact planted in 1752 some 261 years ago.
I noticed a very large branch had snapped off. being curious I went over to have a look and found the reason it had fallen.
There is a fungus called the oak bracket, also called the "weeping" bracket fungus. It had eaten all the way up inside the tree and the fungal strands had eaten away at the inside of this branch.
As a result weakened it to the point it snapped off, the oak bracket fungus is in my opinion one of the most interesting fungus species because it has the ability to change the structure of live wood so it can then eat it.
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Steve England is an (RHS) horticulturist, amateur naturalist and chairman of the Stoke Park steering group. He lives in Lockleaze and has spent his whole life at Stoke Park from playing there as a boy to studying its history, wildlife, and pre historic past. Contact him at email@example.com