Ever wondered who’s in charge of all the weird and wonderful things around London? We go behind the scenes and find out…
THE MUSHROOM PROTECTOR – Keith French, Epping Forest
‘I’m one of a team of forest keepers who patrol Epping Forest
365 days a year, protecting it from damage or abuse. Foraging for mushrooms is definitely an example of this.’
‘We’re now seeing mushroom foraging on a commercial scale.
People fill huge bin bags with as many as they can find. We have over 1,600 varieties and there are maybe 50 fungi worth eating. Fungi support a wide range of wildlife – they’re the “lungs” of the forest – so the foraging is just not sustainable.’
‘We’ve just prosecuted 15 people for it.
We ask our visitors to respect the bylaws and leave the fungi as they are found, on the forest floor, for other visitors and future generations to enjoy.’
‘Most people understand where we are coming from.
But we do deal with some rude and angry individuals. The weirdest excuse I’ve had from someone picking the mushrooms was that they were collecting fungi for their pet slug!’
‘My favourite mushroom is King Alfred’s Cakes
– Daldinia concentrica – spherical black fungi which grow on the trunks of trees. These mushrooms make great firelighters.’
‘Feral pigeons, Canada geese and grey squirrels cause all sorts of problems.
So part of being a forest keeper is having a suspicious nature and a watchful eye.’
Want more mushrooms? Don’t be put off by all the foraging rules – Forage London does brilliant walks and courses showing you how to get the most out of your environment without upsetting the forest wardens.