DCS: Local Heritage Event:
Fungus Foray in Gamlingay Wood
Saturday 5th November 2011 Return to Alumni Events
This event was a very new one for DCS and risky being outdoors in the autumn. Then with one week to go and a fully booked trip, the forecast turned dire with winds and rain, maybe torrential, but as the week drew on, the forecast softened and on the day, it was windless and there was no rain. However the ground was dampish underneath, not wet enough for a good fungal display and we began in misty conditions. Our luck continued to hold as we had booked Peter Walker who has been warden of Gamlingay Wood for years as well as being a first-rate naturalist and someone who often leads fungus forays. More unusually he has researched the history of this very ancient wood so we learnt a great deal of information that a walk with an array of nature books could not have given.
In his introduction, Peter explained that there had been a wood here for over a 1000 years , since before the Domesday Book was written although the ancient name of the wood is not known. However the size and shape of the wood has not changed for years and he showed us 2 maps of the wood from the 17th century and a modern map. They differ in only a few small bulges. Despite this age, the trees are relatively young as they have been taken for timber over many years expecially during the 2 World Wars. These days woods are not the source of many of the essentials of life that they used to be, so with most of the valuable timber removed, much of the wood was cleared and planted with conifers. These have been steadily removed and deciduous replanting and natural seeding have restored much of this part of the wood.
Soon after we entered the walk Peter pointed out a very ancient ditch which was the boundary between ownership and we crossed this and another as we walked. At another point we looked at a circular ditch with a domed centre to the circle, which the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire (the present owners) have been asked to clear and keep clear. However investigations have not given any clues to the reason why it was built.
The two hour walk was peppered with a mixture of historical natural history facts which made it very absorbing and between the historical facts we were told of management of different areas as we reached them, we were shown a Spindle tree with it's shocking pink friuit hiding bright orange seeds and we admired a superb Wild Service Tree in almost full scarlet autumn leaves.
The wood was looking beautiful with enough coloured leaves on the trees and plenty strewing the ground. Briefly we left Gamlingay Wood and travelled through Sugley Wood which is new land purchased by the Trust and being allowed to become forest so that the woods of Gamlingay, Gransden and Waresley will not too small to allow random extinctions. Up to this point we had seen some fungi and, although many were known by latin names only, none apart from King Alfred's Cakes had been found which had the colourful local names handed down over the years. This was to change. In the meadowland of Sugley wood a slime mould (Mucilago crustacea) was spotted by Peter who told us that it's local name was Dog's Vomit and you could see why! Soon after we re-entered the wood and found a large bracket fungus in the bole of an Ash Tree. It's local name is Dryads Saddle (Polyporus squamosus) and Peter told us of several others named with folk lore connections.
The time raced by and much too soon we had finished our walk and retired in good DCS fashion to the local Duncombe Arms for refreshment. Many thanks from all of us go to Peter Walker who was magnificent and made it all such an interesting experience. Many of our number had not known of this wood beforehand and had promised to return. Our thanks also go to the Duncombe Arms who reserved tables for us and served us well.
(Click on the pictures for larger versions) Return to Alumni Events