With birdsong now long gone (save for that of the territorial Robin), today’s visit heralded another change of season - and with it, another change of focus.
Having equipped us with hand lenses, Fungi expert Andy Woodall introduced us to microscopic worlds which teemed with essential life forms. We searched in the undergrowth for the fungi where the smell and touch of the earth or rotted wood gave a hint of dampness. They were often hidden or camouflaged and I noticed a heightening my senses uncovering the processes of decay and decomposition: ……..a Wood Pigeon carcass,…….briars with casts beginning on their remaining fruits ……..and acorns crunching underfoot.
The very first fungus we found had ‘split gills’ which I learnt was a successful device for increasing surface area for weathering periods of unpredictability in the weather. This must have been especially useful following the periods of drought we have had this summer. Our discoveries came quickly with each new character having a different strategy or host to assist its successful survival:
……..brackets, ……tarry spots, ……burnt cakes,…… turkey tails, ……jelly ears, ……dripping blood, ……the smell of malt vinegar …….and my favourite - yellow rubber gloves!
Within these miniature worlds we observed the same struggles of twisting stems, attack and defence and ingenious methods of collecting essential trace elements which we have seen at every level of our investigations into the woodland. But perhaps here we had found the glue which brings everything together?