News of wildlife and other issues

Forest Fungi - the Spitalfields Connection?

The last few years have seen a scarcity of fungi in Epping Forest compared to, say, 10 years ago. This has been remarked on by a number of people that remember not just the variety of species but the number of fruiting bodies that used to be found.

The reasons for this seem unclear: whether seasonal conditions have affected things or perhaps changes caused by climactic changes, or perhaps simply that the Forest has been over-harvested by collectors, particularly in the last few years. Epping Forest regulations state that commercial collection for restaurants and shops is not allowed under any circumstances and, together with collecting without a license, is a byelaw offence that can lead to prosecution.

A licensing system was in operation until recently, but personal observations on the basketfuls of fungi that were seen being carried would suggest that the sheer numbers could not be for home consumption.

Many of the fungi that I observed in such harvests were not edible species, so I deduce that anything was picked, and was sorted out later for edibility. One wonders where these basketfuls of fungi finished up, and who does the sorting?

An article on Radio 4 on 14th November called “Armatrading for Mayor” looked at some of the duties of the Lord Mayor of London, and one part of it particularly caught my attention:

The interviewer – Joan Armatrading - was talking to stallholders at Spitalfields Market. One of the stallholders called over a neighbour – a “Mr Mundo” – and jokingly mentioned that he patrols Epping Forest every morning making sure that people don’t pick the wild mushrooms. The intimation seemed to be that the mushrooms being sold at Spitalfields had come from Epping Forest!

Perhaps a look at the City of London’s own Spitalfields Market, and the provenance of some of the mushrooms on sale there, might be in order here?

Paul Ferris, 14th November 2009

Dartford Warbler on Wanstead Flats

A fungus foray on behalf of the Wren Group led by Tricia Moxey in Bush Wood had to be left as far as I was concerned, having received a call that there was a Dartford Warbler nearby, on Wanstead Flats.

I have never been an avid twitcher, but as far as I know there has never been a record of this species in the area so I decided that at least this warrented a look for myself. Also, I've rarely ever seen a Dartford Warbler.

There were two people already looking for it in broom near the model aircraft field, shortly joined by myself and later a fourth. Its general location was known, and there were a couple of fleeting glimpses, but not for me. However, persistence paid off after two of the group had left, for the bird began to make its scolding sound, albeit from low down and out of sight. Then a possible movement away from us, then in the distance the sound again - and there it was, perched at the top of a hawthorn in classic pose. Not much more than a silhouette, really, but I'm quite happy to have caught sight and sound of this new bird to our area.

img_2543_1dmk2 dartford crop flats003 Dartford Warbler on Wanstead Flats. Picture by Jonathan Lethbridge

Paul Ferris, 31 October 2009

Bat roosts in Wanstead Park

Three unusual bat roosts were erected at the north end of Wanstead Park in early 2008. These are oak trunks, hollow, and split in such a way as to encourage bats to roost therein. They are lashed to living tree trunks, appearing somewhat like gigantic garden canes as if to support the trees! (photos)

These were erected, it is supposed, in compensation for the destruction of natural bat roosts nearby in preparation for Thames Water Authority's pipe-laying operation over the last year. (see here)

As well as these, two others were provided at the same time. One is again a log from a tree, but his time it is strapped above a branch of a living tree that overhangs (and indeed leans towards!) the Ornamental Water at its North-east corner. The other - midway along the golf-course fence - is attached to the side of a tree and looks somewhat like a plastic dustbin.

Ash trees felled for pipeline work

Some mature Ash trees were felled during the second week of March 2007 at the north end of the Park, near to the golf course and the pump house (photos). Apparently this was done by Thames Water Authority in preparation for a water pipeline intended to convey water from a borehole near the Temple to the pumping station across the River Roding from the Park, near the Redbridge roundabout.

Although the photograph shows that the interior of the tree is decayed at the base, there is still plenty of surrounding wood that should ensure that the tree would have survived safely for some time. Indeed, it can be seen that higher up, the tree is perfectly sound.

Woodpecker holes were present in the trees, including one that had very recently been worked upon. I was told that during this operation four Noctule Bats were found to have been roosting in one of the trees. This disturbance may well have contravened some important regulations. Bats and their breeding and nesting sites (roosts) are protected under the Conservation (Natural Habitats) Regulations 1994 and Section 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Subsequently, some impressive artificial bat roosts were attached to the trunks of oak trees nearby, apparently in compensation for the loss of the natural ones.

A number of ash trees were cut down, mature hawthorns were severely pruned, and perhaps worst of all a rare specimen of an American species of  hawthorn in Wanstead Park, Crataegus coccinoides, was also felled!

Yet again, it seems to me, that destruction of the habitat has taken place with little regard for what is there.

Paul Ferris, March 2007

Cockspur Thorn felled in Wanstead Park

The stump of the small tree to the left of the felled ash in the photograph is a Large-flowered Cockspur Thorn Crataegus coccinoides, an American hawthorn and one of only a few in Wanstead Park.     It was felled during the second week of March 2007, as was the ash, at the north end of the Park, near to the golf course and the pump house. Apparently this was done by Thames Water Authority in preparation for a water pipeline intended to convey water from a borehole near the Temple to the pumping station across the River Roding from the Park, near the Redbridge roundabout. This photograph was taken on 20 September in 2005, it shows a healthy young tree.

This hawthorn, although self seeded, may be descended from the American Garden, that is shown as a feature on some very old plans of the Wanstead Parklands. Whatever, the question must be asked "Why was it allowed to be cut down - was it necessary?"

There may be one or two seedlings of this species remaining - a mature specimen exists elsewhere in the Park - but at least two other mature specimens are known to have been cut down at previous times!

Paul Ferris, March 2007