When I checked the walk on Monday it was very muddy. Tuesday it rained; rained on the mud. Mud. No rain on the day, but cold and damp with a chill wind.
Health and safety talk was very much about mud, and that I had wet wipes with me. Then in a change to the usual programme, we set off down the medieval sunken track that would have lead to Moorsholm’s north field, round the corner past the fern rhizomes had been cut in two on the raised hedgebank by the hedge cutter and then noting the red lungwort (a garden throw-out) in flower growing amongst the nettles and then the various patches of common polypody, a fern uncommon in the east.
Round the corner again through the mud and then a long stretch of holly hedge and we stopped to look at the differences in winter twigs of the hedge opposite (oddly enough it included an alder). Then a brief pause to look out over to the North Sea and Warsett Hill(s) before off in a quick scurry down the grass track by the hedge and onwards into the still and the calm of the wood.
Along to the left and then down the steps where we compared the dense undergrowth on the left and the bare ground under the sycamores to the right – investigation on an old map showed the sycamore area was marked as conifer wood in 1950.
Alan Simkins found yellow brain fungus within minutes…and so began our encounter with fungi – dead man’s fingers, crystal brain, scarlet elf-cup, green elf-cup, candle snuff fungus and later witches’ butter, and Birch wood wart.
But I’m getting ahead of myself – to find these fungi we had to wander down the old track that curved tightly back on itself (so it did not stray into sycamore territory) and once had led across a ford and over the other side of the beck but then was changed to stay on this side (perhaps because of a change in ownership of the wood?). Why had it stopped being used? I suspect a slump of the clay soil had rendered it un-useable and too expensive to repair and wondered if this Ash tree had fallen in the slump only to try and regrow straight.
The fungi were growing on the rotting branches of Hazel, a whole slew of which had obviously been tumbled at the same time perhaps by an almighty gust of wind. We also saw the script lichen growing on the smooth bark and pondered the short shoots of a bulb appearing all over and a short scrunch later confirmed them as Ramsons (also called Wild Garlic).
And then back up the track to rejoin the path walking carefully through the muddy bits. A stop at a fallen oak tree to see oak curtain bracket fungus and a general discussion about the amount of Hazel in the wood (this wood shows clear signs of being managed as standard trees with hazel coppice which was an important economic crop once) – Kate said this was the last place in our area where dormice were recorded.
Chocolate stop by the large fallen crab-apple was a 41% milk, followed by ginger and lemon, raspberry (which I added last minute because it was such a grey day), and finally chilli.
Then off over the rise and down to the slump and wet patch where the alternate-leaved golden-saxifrage grows in abundance near the alder and a fine group of candle snuff fungus before diverting slightly off the path to investigate some bleeding oak crust fungus on the rotten limb of an oak still attached to the (very healthy) tree. Alan told us it that if you cut it then it bled red. With hindsight, the speed and glee with which everyone shouted “cut it, cut it!” ought to have worried me more, bearing in mind how far away I was from help if they suddenly turned nasty. Anyway, he did and astonishingly it did. Who knew fungi could be nearly as interesting as plants? Well.
And so to the track that leads down to the footbridge but we went the other way up out of the wood and into the brisk cold wind, sheltered only slightly by the newly cut hedges on either side of the stone trod.
No one fell, but it was quite muddy.