I'm always most delighted to find a Fly Ageric mushroom. Especially one that is intact with no teethmarks! This beauty was the size of a saucer!
This iconic cartoon like mushroom of mushrooms brings back happy childhood memories for me. I grew up in a terraced house in Leeds with a leafy back lane of long gardens. Our opposite neighbours Norman and Lottie had a wild garden with a pond at the bottom and me and my friends spent alot of time there watching the frogspawn and catching newts.
Norman was big into nature and was always studying something. At one point I remember him studying fleas and helping him set up the glass slides for his microscope and peering in to see them up super close! He also had a beehive made of glass set up on his study window and you could see the busy bees flying in and out and all the tunnels leading to the queen bee in the middle. It was fascinating.
But the best thing was mushroom foraging. Not foraging to collect them but foraging to identify them. I didn't have cool band pictures on my wall. Nope I had mushroom identification posters haha. Oh and pictures of cats!
I haven't remembered all the names that I learned back then but the Fly Ageric has stayed fresh, probably because it's big and red with white spots but also because Norman nailed in the fact that it was POISONOUS. He didn't mention the word hallucinogenic. We were abit young to know about that! Today I learned on the Wild Food website that reindeer like this mushroom alot. And in Lapland rather than risking the poisonous effects of eating the mushroom directly, deer hurders would drink reindeer pee instead for safer recreational effect!
Another name that stuck with me is the Shaggy Ink Cap, also known as a Lawyers Wig. Dean spotted a huge ring of them yesterday at the top of Hardcastle Craggs so we went up there this morning to have a look.
There were loads in a circle of little circles. I learned that you can eat the young ones but the reason they are not harvested for the shops is that only twenty-four hours after picking they are reduced to a pool of ink!
These ones had started to go!
I have a lot to thank Norman for. When I reflect on these memories I realise what an influence he has had on me. I didn't like getting told off for tresspassing in the old folks home garden at the time (!) but we were doing it to see a birds nest fungus and that was awesome and it has stayed with me ever since.
In the book Losing Eden by Lucy Jones (another brilliant one) she talks about how with every generation we are losing our connection to nature a little bit more. Our parents may not have known what are grandparents knew and we may have even less to pass down to our kids. That knowledge and connection and discovery is SO important. We must remember this and do what we can to keep the connection alive.
I'm SO grateful for the adults in my life who nurtured my fascination for nature at an early age.