With the promise of the best salt beef sandwiches in Essex, we set off at eight o’clock last Sunday morning for Epping Forest. We were hoping to find a wide variety of fungi to photograph. Along with our cameras, we were well prepared with plastic ground sheets, kneelers, tripods and the odd flash! It was misty and damp as we gathered in a small car park on the edge of the forest. Some of the group wisely set the location in their phones, I was so busy trying to get my wellies on and sort my camera, that I completely forgot to do the same.
We set off together with our eyes darting backwards and forwards across the sodden, leafy ground like search lights in the mist. I couldn’t see anything remotely like a mushroom anywhere. The initial optimism of those who had found hundreds of mushrooms the year before, gradually dwindled as we began to realise we were probably a week too early for a great crop. Just as I began to think about the mouth watering salt beef sandwiches to come, someone shouted, “Over here!”
Those of us that heard the call, made our way over to see a few lace like fungi sheltering under some very dark trees. After waiting my turn, I tried to use my new flash. The picture I took with it, was worse than the one I took without it! Confused, I passed my camera to Clive who dutifully and expertly rummaged through my camera’s menu to see what settings I had manged to mess up this time. Eventually he discovered that my shutter speed had inadvertently been set and fixed incorrectly. I resumed my shots lying flat on my stomach on my ground sheet, hoping that nothing black, ugly and creepy would attach itself to me while I lay there. Having mislaid my little tripod, I had to improvise to keep my camera steady, so I balanced my camera on my bag. I took several shots from different angles and then set off once again in search of slightly more attractive fungi.
By this time, our group of eight from Saffron Walden Camera Club, began to fan out and I lost sight of many of them. John, Clive and I continued to search, take pictures and move on through the forest. At one point, just as I was just about to take a picture of a rather small black headed mushroom, a huge black, wet and overly curious mutt appeared from behind a tree trunk. Fearing for the safety of my mushroom and the loss of a potential photograph, I stood up to block the dog’s inevitable path. Her owner appeared and was immediately interested as to why we were lying on the forest floor. He spotted the cameras and introduced himself as an arborist with an interest in fungi. He explained to us that without fungi we would drown in a sea of leaves and that many trees would die. He confirmed that the lack of rain in September had reduced the crop this year and that the best time to come would be in eight to ten days. He also told us where we could find some interesting fungi that had attached itself to both sides of a tree.
We set off after the elusive tree fungi. On our way through the narrowing paths and denser undergrowth John and I managed to lose Clive. One minute he was lying in the undergrowth taking a picture and then he disappeared. After about a half an hour, John and I found the tree with the fungi on two sides. We changed to wide angle lenses and took several pictures. We then discovered some rather interesting purple mushrooms, we changed to macro lenses and took more pictures. I checked the time. We had agreed to meet in the car park at eleven o’clock, it was now half past. I knew Dave and the others would be fairly keen to enjoy the salt beef sandwiches by now. It was then I realised I hadn’t a clue where the car park was. We had taken a very circuitous route through the forest. John seemed less concerned about our situation until he inadvertently put his foot into what he thought, was a large puddle, only to see his boot and his ankle disappear completely in thick black mud and water. Fortunately I had long boots on and a split second after John put his foot in I was yanking mine out. Covered in mud we made our way slowly, to what we could now see and hear was a road. When we reached it, we were not convinced which way to turn. If only I had set the car park location in my phone! Fortunately John’s geographical awareness is much better than mine and within minutes we were back with everyone else.
Finally, after a few delays and a wrong turning we arrived at High Beech and the famous kiosk. We sat together in the sunshine, eating the best salt beef, gherkin and mustard sandwiches in the whole of Essex and probably the whole world and I thought to myself, what a wonderful way to spend a Sunday morning!
I have not been able to identify the fungi as yet, if you know please leave me a message. Daughters please note, a book on fungi would make an excellent Christmas present!