Autumn is a fantastic time of year for exploring our great West Sussex countryside.
The leaves of the oaks and beeches are starting to turn golden, tasty blackberries can be plucked from the hedgerows, conkers start to drop from the horse chestnut trees, and weird and wonderful toadstools pop up from the woodland floor.
The team at RSPB Pulborough Brooks are encouraging people to discover some of these seasonal highlights at their West Sussex nature reserve as part of their ‘Festival of Fungi.’
Appearing mysteriously overnight in the dank and dark places of the earth, it’s no wonder that there are so many magical tales about fungi.
In Britain we’ve always been a bit suspicious of mushrooms and toadstools (there is no difference between the two), associating them with malevolent magic – there are devil’s fingers, witches’ eggs, green elfcups and fairy bonnets.
Perhaps our suspicions are well founded, after all some fungi is deadly poisonous; consumption of just small amounts of the death cap, panther cap and the splendidly-named destroying angel could result in a painful death.
But fungi can be immensely useful too. They are nature’s recyclers, many are symbiotic with the trees with which they grow, some are very tasty, help us to make beer and even produce life-saving medicines.
Anna Allum, RSPB Visitor officer said: “Fungi play an important role in maintaining healthy habitats, but most of all I enjoy them for their beauty, variety and fabulous names.
“Kicking through the rusty red and golden leaves on a walk through the wood you come across the delicate amethyst deceiver – a beautiful regal purple toadstool. Growing amongst the moss on the trunk of an ancient oak is the smallest but most perfectly formed mycena or bonnet fungi.
“This year I’ll be exploring the woodland in search of scurfy twiglets, warty cavaliers and yellow brains!”
Anna added: “At Pulborough Brooks we have set up a fungi trail leading you through the nature reserve identifying some of the marvellous mushrooms and terrific toadstools. So if you want to get to know your parasols from your puffballs, come along and join in.”
The Festival of Fungi starts on Saturday October 4 continuing until Sunday October 19 and the visitor centre and nature trails are open daily from 9.30am to 5pm. If you would prefer to join a guided walk and learn more about this fascinating world contact the visitor centre on (01798) 875851 to book your place for Tuesday 07 or Friday October 10.
The reserve is located off the A283 between Pulborough and Storrington. To find out more about the activities, visit the website at www.rspb.org.uk/pulboroughbrooks or call (01798) 875851.
Report and pictures contributed by RSPB Pulborough Brooks nature reserve.