CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Derbyshire Life today CLICK HERE

The magical world of mushrooms in Derbyshire

PUBLISHED: 09:34 25 November 2014 | UPDATED: 09:34 25 November 2014

Stag's horn fungus

Stag's horn fungus

Paul Hobson copyright

Paul Hobson explores the strange and fascinating woodland world of fungi

Sulphur tuft fungusSulphur tuft fungus

During any particular year, as a wildlife photographer I try to set myself targets. These are usually very seasonal and as autumn approaches I turn my attention to trees, colours and, of course, fungi. Some years are better than others, 2013 was a superb year and I found some fantastic fungi in many locations across Derbyshire. The best autumns seem to come after wet summers. Dry summers are often poor for fungi as well as other autumn fruits.

I tend to head for mature woodland and, if I can check on the age of the wood, the older it is the better. We often loosely use the term ‘ancient woodlands’, but this is actually a very specific definition. It means woods that we are sure have existed continuously since 1600. These are often the very best woods for fungi, especially if they are managed well and old dead and dying trees are left to rot back down and produce good quality soil.

I love the woods at this time of year. Often the weak sun shines through the increasingly bare branches and creates delightful streaks of pale lemon across the rich browns, yellows and golds of the forest floor. The variety of woodland mushrooms is also often high and as I search and my eye refocuses to become a good mushroom detector again, I am usually certain to find a good range of photographic subjects. Other habitats that can be fruitful are ancient meadows and grasslands. Many old parks like Chatsworth, Kedleston and Calke Abbey have some superb old grasslands, that have never been ploughed or fertilised with chemicals. These are often productive to the mushroom hunter, though photographically they never quite offer the variety of opportunities that our woods seem to have.

I have never hunted fungi for the pot. When I was younger I liked the idea of living off the land, living in caves in woods and finding/hunting for all my food. I’ve since decided to file this in the drawer of idyllic childhood dreams. It does not take too long as an adult to see the sheer folly of the idea. Wet, cold, miserable and hungry! However, it seems, possibly due to the huge popularity of Ray Mears and Bear Grylls, that an increasing number of folk now want to venture out and snack from our countryside. This is a bit of a seasonal thing and is almost entirely restricted to fungi and fruits. Fungi forays are a great way to get out and learn more about the natural world that we live in but I am becoming increasingly concerned by the collecting of fungi for food. In the last couple of years I have left some lovely fungi for a few days with the aim of returning to photograph them when they have ripened or the light is better, only to find when I returned that they had been neatly cut out and taken. The delight and beauty that they could have offered has been denied to everyone bar the stomach of the picker!

Yellow antler fungusYellow antler fungus

The other major consideration is that many of our fungi are poisonous, some kill and many would make you very ill. The fairly recent story of Nicholas Evans, the author of The Horse Whisperer, and his family who were poisoned by webcap mushrooms should be a salutary reminder of the danger of picking for the pot. Nicholas eventually had to have a kidney transplant from his daughter.

I have spent some time recently researching the importance of fungi to both humans and the natural world. In Britain over 1,000 invertebrates depend on fungi for food. Many larger animals such as wood mice and badgers eat them. Most of the decay of wood and vegetation is carried out by fungi, many of which we never see. All trees live in complex relationships with fungi that help them to extract nutrients and water from the soil.

We have also come to rely on fungi in many ways. We use them to produce alcohol, antibiotics, vitamins, bread and, of course, we eat thousands of tons per year of commercially grown mushrooms. If all the fungi in the world disappeared overnight, our world and the natural one would quickly grind to a halt.

As I read more I discovered some remarkable and fascinating historical anecdotes. In ancient Egypt mushrooms could only be eaten by the Pharaoh. They believed that mushrooms were the ‘son of god’ and delivered to earth by lightning bolts. The preceding clap of thunder was to alert them to the mushrooms appearance. Roman writers and philosophers Pliny and Cicero loved them and considered them great delicacies. We all know how witches added them to their brews of frogs and bat’s wings and our history is rife with delightful references to mushrooms, including their psychedelic properties.

Grass stem fungiGrass stem fungi

Today we see these organisms far more realistically but still marvel at their shapes, colours and mystery. They erupt as if by magic from the damp soil or woody trunks of trees. So, as the fungi season arrives, try to get out on a fungi ramble and learn about the strange and fascinating world of mushrooms in Derbyshire. I would plead with you though not to pick them but to leave them for others to see and marvel at, and for the natural world to exploit in its own way.

Related links:

All you need to know about mushrooms

Russula sp.Russula sp.


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Derbyshire Life and Countryside visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Derbyshire Life and Countryside staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Derbyshire Life and Countryside account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

Nigel Powlson visits Sudbury where a shopping courtyard is attracting even more visitors to this quintessential English village

Read more

If you’re walking in the Peak District, the chances are that you could encounter a reservoir at some point during your ramble. There are dozens of resevoirs dotted around all corners of the national park, we pick some of our favourite walks from our archive.

Read more
Peak District

A five-year Heritage Lottery-funded scheme, launched in 2010, was designed to encourage the restoration and conservation of the distinctive landscape character of a large area of north-east Derbyshire.

Read more

Enjoy the wonder of woodland in our glorious Derwent Valley on this park and ride special.

Read more

Paul Hobson reveals some of the fascinating wildlife there is to be found in this month of transition

Read more

From far away constellations to gas clouds, our night skies are bursting with natural wonders – if you know where to look... Viv Micklefield goes stargazing in Derbyshire

Read more

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust works across six Living Landscapes with 46 nature reserves to ensure there is wildlife and wild places for everyone. Reserve officer Sam Willis tells us about one of his favourite places – Ladybower Wood Nature Reserve

Read more

A multi-million pound makeover attracts more leading brands to one of the UK’s biggest shopping destinations

Read more

The first ever National GetOutside Day takes place on Sunday 30 September with the aim of getting 1 million people active outdoors across the UK.

Read more

Derby’s QUAD arts centre has become an important part of the city’s identity over the last decade and it celebrates its impact on the cultural landscape at its 10th anniversary this September

Read more

Interesting architecture, characterful places to shop, drink and dine and a hub of arts, heritage and history are some of the reasons to plan a visit to the town.

Read more

Peter Seddon celebrates the county’s red telephone kiosks

Read more

Ad Feature: Students at Trent College celebrate another year of success

Friday, September 14, 2018

The overall pass rate for A-Levels this year was 99%

Read more

As the starting point of numerous routes, scenic Edale is one of the country’s iconic base camps for hill walkers

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Subscribe or buy a mag today

Topics of Interest

Local Business Directory

Property Search