I am delighted to publish this guest post from Peter Marren, conservationist, author and fungi expert.
The Forestry Commission has decided to ban the picking of wild fungi in the New Forest. A press release to that effect was despatched and most of the dailies duly reported the ban, uncritically and with approval. The Guardian even found a respected mycologist to say that, in her opinion, picking was harmful. There seems to be a presumption that picking mushrooms is like picking wild flowers – something to be discouraged in this conservation-conscious age. I doubt the FC would have gone so far without a sense that it carries public opinion with it.
Such are opinions. But what about facts? You could spend a long time trawling the scientific literature for evidence that picking is harmful without finding a jot of support. I know this because I did, for my book Mushrooms, which contains a chapter on the picking controversy. Trampling causes damage, yes; damaging the soil profile (an FC speciality), yes; but picking, no. On the contrary, there is quite a lot of evidence that picking, even regular, heavy picking, has no detrimental effect at all. Many woods in Eastern Europe are raked over for fungi on a scale as great as anywhere in Britain and the effect on the next year’s crop seems to be zero. In Oregon a long-term project to assess the effect of picking on one of the New Forest’s target edible species, the Chanterelle found that, after ten years, there was ‘no statistically significant correlation between sporocarp [i.e. the fruiting body] removal and productivity’. In other words picking had no discernible effect whatever. The FC sees such evidence as ‘conflicting’. On the contrary, it looks pretty clear-cut to me.
So, why doesn’t the FC find something better to do, such as managing its forests properly? The answer seems to be that it wants to swim with the current. Foraging, especially of wild fungi, has been given a bad name by stories, reported in the papers with lurid details, of gangs of pickers, often from countries in Eastern Europe with a long tradition of family foraging, who supposedly hoover up every mushroom in sight. But since there are only a dozen or so species gathered for food out of some 2,700 species identified from the New Forest, picking every mushie in sight would be fantastically inefficient. Moreover none of the foraging groups that use the Forest regularly have ever witnessed such a thing. No doubt it happens but the ‘damage’ they do is out of all proportion to the anger it provokes. So an outright ban might look justified, and might even be popular.
It might be worth reminding people that it is the fate of most mushrooms to be eaten, not by human beings but by slugs, maggots, mice and other fauna. Even in the New Forest only a tithe of a percent goes down human gullets. What we do is simply not significant in the survival of wild fungi. It is also worth noting that most of the edible ones are long-lived and that, for them, spores are more in the nature of a long-term insurance policy. Like perennial plants, they do not depend on an annual replenishment. Only a tiny, almost infinitesimal fraction of spores will ever germinate into a fungus.
What the ban will do is to criminalise the minority of harmless, pleasant people who enjoy foraging in the autumn Forest, and those locals who enjoy picking a few chanterelles or blewits for breakfast. Since identifying fungi generally requires microscopic examination, it will presumably discomfort mycologists too. Those 2,700 species are unlikely to become 2,701 unless the FC is pretty free with its licences (welcome to yet more bureaucracy!). From now on those found with a loose mushroom on their person can expect a ticking off from ‘FC staff’, the confiscation of said fungus and its ‘return to the Forest’ (I ask you!). Repeat offenders may face a charge. The FC claims it is ‘appealing to people to support a no-picking code’, but it isn’t as if people have any choice in the matter. The FC is not really appealing but demanding with threats. Whether they have the legal justification to do so is another matter. It admits that there is nothing specific in the by-laws to forbid the picking of fungi. And, given that much of the Forest is a Common with universal access, the Theft Act might not apply either. When, years ago, the FC tried to prosecute an old lady for picking mushrooms it ended up with egg all over its face and a six-figure bill (footed by the taxpayer of course).
What are we missing now that picking fungi is banned? Fun, I would suggest, followed by knowledge, health and outdoor adventure. Foraging brings you close to nature, which is generally regarded as a very good thing, physically and mentally. Foragers care about the natural world and are usually very knowledgeable about it. They are natural conservationists. The Forestry Commission, on the other hand, spent many decades destroying the natural soil profiles and native woodland of the Forest to plant their unloved Christmas trees. Taking lessons in conservation from them is a little like taking tips on orphan adoption from King Herod.
The danger is that the process will not stop here. The ban is supported by the National Trust and the New Forest National Park Authority. It is easy to imagine pressure building up for the extension of similar bans on National Trust land and other National Parks, and even on SSSIs in general. We live in a world of neo-Puritans who seem as happy to ban harmless fun as the Roundheads were to ban Christmas. Moral justification seems more powerful than knowledge and evidence.
Nature is there for looking, not touching. The Forestry Commission says so, and that, it seems, is final.
Excellent stuff, as always, Peter! As far as anyone can see, this is an ‘advisory’ ban, with no legal standing at all. Any ranger or warden demanding return to the forest to complete its function in life (such nonsense) will be overstepping their authority – I wonder if they will know that.
I have said in regard to the ‘ban’ that “Europeans have been harmlessly collecting fungi for millennia. The moment it becomes popular in Britain the first response is to ban it.”
thanks very much John.
I’m not sure that we can just point to continental Europe and say that they have been harmlessly collecting fungi for millenia. We need to qualify this by saying that in most European countries there are quite complex restrictions of one sort or another. Fungi foraging is completely banned in half of Belgium, for example, and in the other half you can only pick one bucketful and then only within ten metres of a path. In other countries there are restrictions on how much you can take, where you can take it from, when you can take it, etc… In the UK we don’t have these sorts of rules in most places, because until quite recently they weren’t needed. I am not saying this FC ban in the New Forest is the right way to go – just pointing out that it is slightly misleading to say that Europeans have been collecting them for millenia without pointing out those European regulations.
thanks very much Geoff
A sane voice! Thank you for summarising the arguments so well Peter. I teach foraging and know first hand, that each person taught to forage has far more respect for fungi and their environment than ever before. In the last year alone, I have seen hectares of fruitful mycelium destroyed by the ‘authorities’ and landowners, all without any consultation with those of us who know and love the terrain the most. Mountain bike paths in the nearby forest ripping through an ancient winter chanterelle lane. The concrete foundations of wind turbines drastically changing water courses, flooding old beech hedgerows whose huge chanterelle mycelium was untouched each year, except by a few. Herbicide sprays denuding pasture of waxcaps, field and horse mushrooms in the name of progressive agriculture. It is a well researched and documented fact that air and soil pollution are the biggest enemies of fungi,, especially acidity – such as that created when huge swathes of land are turned into pine forests by…. The Forestry Commission. Etc.
I have collected mushrooms from the new forest for over 30 years and I have never seen any people walking in lines picking all they see. Perhaps they do this in the middle of the night lol .The FC should lift this ban until they find proof that picking mushrooms is detrimental
Thanks Graham. As Peter mentions, research has been done looking at the long term impact of collecting, and it found no impact. FC just need to look at research, rather than reacting to anecdotes.
I have never seen any evidence whatsoever of any gangs “tearing” up the New Forest , and the next thing you will read from the forestry commission will be that they will be selling licences , just a way to make money , I will carry on taking my groups out and enjoy the mushrooms of the New Forest regardless.
thanks very much Richard.
I import and , in the past exported mushrooms from all over the world , at certain times of the year they are bought in from the same forests , same people picking and depending on the weather in that particular area they are always available at the same time each and every year , if picking mushrooms was so detrimental to the forest and surrounding areas then how can these mushrooms keep coming in from the same forests ?? And this is over at least the last 12-15years and still they are producing the mushrooms in quantity.
Same as you Graham , over thirty years picking in the new forest , lived here pretty much all my life and I have a friend who has picked for over 45 years in the forest and every year goes back to the same spot for various species with success. I will be happy to go to court.
Thanks Richard. I read a minute from the Verderers meeting last October, where The New Forest Association’s Brian Tarnoff claimed that “many of the illegal foragers strip areas of all fungi.” Have you experienced this sort of thing during your time in the Forest?
I’ve been saying this for years and when I read the article in the Guardian and the use of a mycologist from a university not renowned for its mycology studies (why not go to Edinburgh, or were they too frightened they wouldn’t get the response they wanted?) I realised yet again that an ‘organisation’ says something and because they are supposedly renowned it becomes a fact or an edict. But remember, we now live in a post-expert world so whether anyone will listen to the voices of reason in this debate is highly unlikely. The FC wins the argument because they’re an official body and not just some individual with an opinion.
Equally, I’ve been foraging for mushrooms for 25 years and I’ve never once been approached by anybody, let alone someone working for the FC and if I was there’s a simple way of dealing with them; refuse to give them your name and refuse to hand over anything you have picked and point out to them they haven’t got a legal leg to stand on.
Yes all true, but it’s highly likely that people without your expertise or confidence will be frightened into not collecting, or even not visiting the woods, for fear of being harangued by gangs of East Europeans rampaging through them.
It really does make you wonder how this decision was made, and whether anyone took a step back and wondered how it would look, once the decision had been taken.
A very interesting post, thank you Peter and Miles. I enjoy photographing fungi and am inclined not to forage because I have no real reason to. As a land manager I prefer to follow the code of the landowner, also. As Peter says, on Forestry Commission land surely spraying herbicides, replacing entire native woodland mixtures and use of forestry vehicles does more damage than foraging?
I continue to learn a lot from attending forays with specialists who pick and identify specimens later. From my experience, people seem rather frightened of fungi and are worried that touching it may cause sickness.
thank very much Daniel.
“It might be worth reminding people that it is the fate of most mushrooms to be eaten, not by human beings but by slugs, maggots, mice and other fauna. Even in the New Forest only a tithe of a percent goes down human gullets. What we do is simply not significant in the survival of wild fungi. It is also worth noting that most of the edible ones are long-lived and that, for them, spores are more in the nature of a long-term insurance policy. Like perennial plants, they do not depend on an annual replenishment. Only a tiny, almost infinitesimal fraction of spores will ever germinate into a fungus.”
I’m not sure this paragraph is entirely true. Given the number of people wandering around the new forest each autumn, and the ease of spotting chanterelles and hedgehog fungus from quite some distance, the idea that less than one percent of them get picked does not seem credible to me. At least, if it is true then those foragers are being extraordinarily bad at foraging. The same goes for penny buns – they may be brown, but they are sufficiently large that not many of them are likely to be missed if a forager gets within ten metres of them. These statistics are being invented out of nothing. Personally I’d guess that well over 50% of the fruit bodies of those species get picked in the New Forest, and wouldn’t be surprised if it is more like 90%. The key question is whether or not this makes any difference to the ability of those species to reproduce, and I don’t think we know the answer.
However, a thought experiment might shed some light. Let’s imagine that the activities of forager’s really do impair the ability of chanterelles, hedgehogs and penny buns to reproduce. What might be the long term ecological effect of this? These species are not internationally rare – they are in no danger of extinction and their populations elsewhere will continue to thrive, so while a reduction in their numbers in the New Forest might be annoying for foragers, there are no negative consequences for fungi conservation. On the contrary, the reduction in the number of spores of these common species would presumably have the effect of making it easier for other species, including rarer species that often out-competed by hedgehogs and chanterelles, to reproduce. In conclusion – even if foraging does impact the ability of certain common species to reproduce, there is no reason to believe this causes any long term ecological harm and it might even be beneficial.
The New Forest is a very big place. For even 50% of fruit bodies to be picked the Forest would need to swarm with gangs of pickers intent on picking every edible mushroom in sight regardless of condition. To read some newspaper stories you would assume that actually happens. So why is it that of the many groups that forage responsibly in the Forest, not one of them has witnessed these depredations by gangs of ‘East Europeans’? Could it be, do you think, that the situation has been exaggerated? Fungi face all kinds of threats to their survival – fertiliser, eutrophication of the soil, disturbance of the soil profile (an FC speciality), mismanagement of habitat etc.. Picking is being made a scapegoat for our much broader impact on the natural world. I don’t think this particular debate is about conservation at all. It is more a clash of two mindsets – neo-Puritans (rules and regulations) versus Romantics who want to be closer to nature, which in this case includes eating it.
The New Forest isn’t *that* big. By that I mean that compared to much of Scandinavia, or parts of North-west Scotland, or parts of Poland or northern Germany, it is actually rather small, especially considering the number of people living with 50 miles and the lack of other sensible places to go foraging. I can’t agree with your statistic. It really would not take all that many people to take all the fruit bodies worth collecting (I agree that some will always be too manky, or next to a lump of dog poo…)
Last time I was down that way I did not see any “gangs”, but I did see a lot of people with baskets. Regarding “eastern Europeans”…this is politically very sensitive, obviously. It is right up the street of the Daily Mail to print such stories, without paying much attention to how true they are. On the other hand, I have seen, with my own eyes, no shortage of people speaking Polish or Baltic sounding languages, walking around with carrier bags bursting at the seams. And some of these people really do take everything, especially boletes and milkcaps in condition that most Brits would turn their noses up it. So there is *some* truth to it. How exagerrated it is I do not know, and neither does anybody else, I suspect. What I *do* know is that the population density of southern England, especially the areas near to London and northwards of there towards the midlands, combined with the lack of woodland, means that some sort of change in regulations regarding fungi foraging is pretty much inevitable. Epping Forest was the start. The question is where it ends, and who decides.
I agree with your sentiment about who this dispute is largely between. But I think I see a side of it you don’t, and it is to do with population pressure and a failure of rules and regulations to keep up with changing culture. Do you mind if I ask where you live? Because I grew up on the border of south london and east surrey, and the changes there in the last 30 years are very noticeable indeed. I now live further from London (in Hastings), and the difference between the two locations does show. There are still places down here where almost nobody goes. The same is not true of the Caterham/Oxted area I came from.
25 years ago I came across a “patch” of winter chanterelles , approximately the size of 3 football pitches and for four years or so I picked with my mother , one summer the forestry decided to thin out the trees or use them for a particular project, large machinery was used to excavate the area and the trees were removed.
To this day they have never recovered to the vast quantities that were there before and I doubt they ever will. I am not against the forestry , authorities or people who don’t want others from outside in their “back garden” but this has gone way too far and beyond comprehension. I have been out today and picked a few girolle , couple of saffron milk caps and a small amount of very fresh chicken of the woods.
Unenforceable – (the removal of fungi for personal consumption falls between 3 laws, none of which make it prosecutable) – Unsupported (there is not a thread of documented scientific evidence to support the suggestion that picking fungi, regardless of the quantity picked, has any detrimental effect on future populations)- Unfair (to punish individuals enjoying the forest in a way they have done for hundreds if not thousands of years in order to discourage these mythical gangs of commercial foragers) – Unsubstantiated – (see above, where is this evidence of “mass stripping”, it does not exist, what the FC have recorded in the last 2 years does not back this up one iota..ask to see their repoerts) – Untrue (this “ban” has nothing to do with ecology and everything to do with politics, pressure from local lobbyists and an ongoing media campaign that has, very successfully, reported the same untruths year in year out) – Unclear (is it a ban, a call for licensing, a request or a threat?) – Unheard of ( the rest of Europe thinks we are a joke, they harvest their fungi on mass annually and enjoy the experience, safe in the time proven knowledge that they will be able to do the same the following year) Underhand – (the FC were in discussion with foragers about these issues and had promised to look into various approaches, but never discussed that behind closed doors, they were still singing the same old song and pushing ahead with this policy regardless) – Unpleasant (the constant references to gangs, eastern europeans, theft and profiteering, maybe not exactly by the FC but they have constantly allowed the national press to report things in this disgusting way without contradiction… and the FC have made utterly no effort whatsoever to engage with the large Polish community in Southampton, have never printed any literature or put up a poster in polish…if their are cultural differences, and believe me there are (mushroom collecting is a very normal past time in Poland), they should be met with conversation and outreach, not harsh words and harsher measures) – Unbalanced – (even if the activities of foragers were to threaten the local existence of a couple of species of grubs and insects, are they keystone species, vital to the balance of this supposedly fragile eco-system, no they are not, but that aside why are they so at risk from one tiny cross section of people who use the forest not all the rest, the dog walkers who make 500 metres around every new forest car park into a repulsive animal toilet, the mountain bikers who surely contribute more to compaction (what the FC like to label trampling) than any forager could ever do, the masses of tourists, the traffic, the ponies, the 7-800 pigs let out annually onto the forest and most notably the FC themselves who have destroyed vast areas or our beautiful woodland and replaced them with christmas trees and continue to us Glyphosate in the forest despite every other country in Europe having banned it). Unbelievable!
I dare say it will lead to licencing (£) in the park to forage, or the rights to collect will go to a local restaurant (£) or the likes, anything to stop people having anything for free (getting more cynical as I age).
My wife and I visit the forest every week, we attended a foraging course last year and heave been thoroughly enjoying our new hobby, collecting a few edible mushrooms with which my wife has made some lovely soup. In all our travels, we have never seen anyone else picking mushrooms, let alone “gangs”. On one occasion however, when we were with our 9 year old son, teaching him the basics of mushrooms, we were accosted by an individual with a video camera and dog. He started shouting at us that it was illegal to pick fungi and then after I informed him that I was well aware of the law and the mushroom picking code that was at that time in place, he started videoing us whilst talking about our illegal activity. This was last year, before the ban was in place. It upset my son to the point that he never came with us again.
My belief is that much of the concern has been created by the rumours that “gangs of marauding Eastern Europeans have been stealing our fungi”. This is a racist rumour, that no one who visits the forest has supported.
The ban is a discrace, and if there were any commercial pickers I’m sure it would not deter them. It will however deter those of us that are law abiding and nervous about confronting the authorities, but pick a just few mushrooms purely for enjoyment and learnt how wonderful these fungi can be. It is a very sad state of affairs.
thanks very much Steve. What an extraordinary story. Did you ever find out who this person with the video camera was? I guess he never considered whether him walking his dog in the Forest had an impact on the wildlife there.
No Miles, I never found out. Reported the incident to the Police though. Have wondered whether he could be one of the people suggesting that picking mushrooms is damaging to the forest. Certainly it would have been self righteous pleople such as this, that frown upon our innocent hobby, because they don’t partake themselves. Hope never to meet the person again. And hope the FC reverse this appalling assault on our freedoms soon…..
I can’t help feeling a double standard is being applied here in this criticism of the Forestry Commission just because some fungi is edible, and most people don’t eat wild flowers. Just consider the Forestry Commission’s position. Forestry Commission by-laws (Section 5 part vii) (Forestry Commission, 1982) prohibit all gathering, with fungi being considered plants in relation to this by-law. This is also considered the case for the purposes of Section 1b of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which prohibits unauthorised uprooting of any wild plant. The by-laws don’t cover Scotland, but the Scottish Gov. doesn’t consider picking mushrooms and toadstools as uprooting. However, the Forestry Act 1967 was amended by the Wildlife and Countryside (Amendment) Act 1985 to put a duty on the Forestry Commissioners to achieve a balance between amongst other things the management of forests and the conservation of flora and fauna. Moreover, Section 40(i) of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 puts on a duty on the Forestry Commission to conserve biodiversity “Every public authority must, in exercising its functions, have regard, so far as is consistent with the proper exercise of those functions, to the purpose of conserving biodiversity”
While picking a wildflower is not the same as uprooting it, we generally agree nowadays that it is unacceptable. So why do we not extend the same consideration to fungi? Why can’t I have the same expectation to go to woodland to see fungi, as I do with wildflowers, but be denied that every year because they have already been picked?
The answer to your question is that the fruit bodies of fungi are arguably more closely the parallel of fruit than flowers. Would you also, to maintain consistency, consider banning the picking of blackberries for the same reason? Is there any difference between blackberries and flowers?
Also, I don’t think all wild flowers are the same. What is the problem, for example, in gathering the flowers of ramsons from a woodland that is completely carpeted in them?
thanks Mark. I may be out of date but my understanding is that Fungi are not regarded as plants in law and therefore the law relating to uprooting does not apply. As previous commenters have suggested, I think picking fungi is more akin to collecting fruit than picking a wild plant, stem, flowers and all. The actual fungus lives underground feeding off decaying plant matter, producing fruiting bodies to spread spores.
Yes the FC is party to the Biodiversity Duty, but then I would imagine you would be the first person to call them out for ignoring the impact on biodiversity of a whole host of activities in the New Forest, long before any effects of people collecting mushrooms.
I would also take issue with your suggestion that wildflower picking is unacceptable. I used to think this, but have now changed my view. . Obviously for rare species, or for places where there are only a few flowers, then picking can be a problem. But for the most part I think children should be encouraged to pick wildflowers – it brings them closer to nature, may foster an interest in natural history that stays with them all their lives, and for the most part does no harm to the plant. Where is the harm in a child picking a handful of bluebells from a wood with millions of bluebells in it? Bluebells, like fungi, do not need to reproduce by seed every year, because they have bulbs which not only live for a number of years, but also split, propagating themselves without any need for seed.
If picking wildflowers is unacceptable, should children no longer be allowed to make daisy chains? Or pick a buttercup flower to establish whether someone likes butter?
Brilliant article. I’ve been mushroom picking with my dad as an Italian tradition, for over 30 years and I’ve never come across ‘gangs of foreigners’ ‘hoovering up’ mushrooms.
Infact Italians and Polish etc, have been going for over 70 years with no problems.
I’m sure the newspaper reports are racist scaremongering started by locals or rangers themselves. I’ve never seen other foragers when I’ve been to New Forrest, except for a few dog walkers, and so these mysterious ‘gangs’ could be just nonsense. As for commercial sellers, I knew one Portugese chap who had a restaurant and so he sourced his own mushrooms for this purpose, but like most will know, he would spend many days finding nothing or very little, with the odd good day getting a bumper crop. The end result being that if he calculated his man hours and petrol money travelling from London to New Forrest several times a month, to get a few kilos, it was hardly worth it and he probably would have been better off buying them from abroad ! But the point is that it was a hobby and he did it for fun by day, whilst working in the evenings when he would open his restaurant in the early evening. He enjoyed the exercise.
The only other forager I knew who sold them, basically also did it as a hobby, and needed the exercise, and going mushrooming was the motivation he had to go for the long walks. He was retired and he said he would go 3 times a week from London to New Forrest, and the petrol he spent was far more than the money he made from selling them. Infact he said most times he would come home empty handed and then the odd day he would find quite a few, so he kept some for himself and the rest he couldn’t really make space in the freezer for, and so sold them to pay for his petrol money. But he said he always made a loss in the end, and he laughed at claims that sellers are thousands because the restauranteur friends he sold his mushrooms to, only bought them at cheaper rates than what are claimed. Infact he said they wanted them cleaned too so he would spend the evening with his wife cleaning them and driving to the restaurants of his friends the next day to deliver. He said not only did he make a loss, but all the wotk involved wasn’t worth it if he had to do it as a job. He said it was just abit of fun and a favour to his friends who made good use of his excess mushrooms, and helped with his petrol money.
As for my dad and I, we have always done it as a hobby and only go a few times a year if we hear that other Italian friends have been and found them, and by that time, when we go, they’ve stopped growing. So usually we go several times to get one good or reasonable day and collect enough to dry and store for use in our homemade Italian bolognase sauce for our consumption. We wouldn’t dream of selling our mushrooms and it wouldn’t even be profitable if we did if you calculated everything, plus we want to eat them, not sell them. Dad says he loses money taking a day off work going mushrooming and spending all that petrol money on often long fruitless days searching for mushroom. He once laughed when a ranger asked him if he was doing it for money, replying that if he wanted to make money, he would have gone to work that day instead.
Yes, all this business of banning foragers is partly racist lies mixed with jealousy. I think it is probably because the FC wants to find a way to charge foragers in future or because they want to pick and sell them themselves. No doubt if there are really commercial gangs making good money off mushrooming, after all their effort and expenses, thry probably deserve any profit they make, but this has always been an illegal activity that should be clamped down on, but is very very unfair to punish honest foragers like ourselves who look forward to a few outings each year to the countryside to carry on a long tradition.
We should all fight this ban and take them to court. Can we set something up? Any of you out there involved in the legal profession and willing to challenge these bans ? Any mycologists and scientists willing to disprove the nonsense that the FC are peddling?
We must get a petition going or crowdsource a legal campaign or fund to help fight cases of foragers summoned to court. We should start a website, or are there any already up and running?
Let us do something to overturn this for future generations too.
Great article Silvio, that supports all that everyone else has said here. Agree that this ban should be fought. It is an assault on our freedoms and clearly is not supported by any imperical evidence that our hobby damages the mushrooms, in fact on the contrary, there is much evidence that it most certainly does not! Would be willing to sign a petition and get others to do so. Also willing to support legal action, however have no legal experience personally….
I would would sign this and the sooner the better its a human right to forage for wild food
Forestry Commission have now basically admitted that the “ban” isn’t a ban at all, because it is unenforcable. They were interviewed on today’s “You and Yours” on Radio 4. I had a long phone conversation with the reporter involved, and it is quite clear that however much the FC would like to ban fungi picking in the New Forest, they cannot actually do so, because there is no legal mechanism to do so. All they can do is prosecute commercial pickers for theft, which is what they could already do before this “ban” was imposed.
There is no need to “fight” this ban. It can simply be ignored.
Have received a reply to my complaint to the Forestry Commission which I think may be of interest:
Thank you for your email about the New Forest fungi campaign this autumn, which appeals to people to look, but not pick. As you may know from your visits to the area, the New Forest has a wide-range of local, national and international protections, meaning the New Forest is globally important for its landscape, nature conservation, heritage and recreation.
The New Forest is also one of the most important designated sites in England for fungi, with a lot of endangered species, which sadly are frequently mistaken for varieties that are picked for eating.
With increasing numbers of individual and commercial pickers harvesting ever larger numbers of fungi in the New Forest – including threatened species – we feel it necessary to adopt a precautionary approach and ask people not to pick fungi here. We hope it will help ensure both the rare fungi and the rare insects that depend on them are allowed to flourish for all visitors to enjoy.
I’d like to reassure you that we are not seeking to prosecute individuals that are picking for themselves – it is not illegal. We are appealing to people’s better nature, encouraging visitors to see the bigger picture. Our main aim is to tackle commercial collection of fungi, which has always been prohibited – it is an offence under the Theft Act 1968 to do so without the permission of the landowner. Also, in the case of persistent offenders, tools such as the Stop Notice may be issued.
We’ve seen a swell in the ‘trend’ of foraging in recent years and this increase in popularity of edible fungi picking puts increased pressures on the New Forest, which if left unregulated may have detrimental impacts on the biodiversity of this special place.
You may interested to know that we do permit educational fungi related events to take place on Forestry Commission land. There are many events advertised to the public, so you may wish to join one that helps to spread the message surrounding responsible behaviour to help minimise disturbance to this special landscape. With Natural England’s support, we have honoured existing and issued new permissions for the 2016 season, and hope to work further with these permission holders to ensure these events are both sustainable and appropriate.
We are trailing this precautionary approach here in the New Forest and at the end of this year’s fungi season we’ll review the reports to better understand if the campaign has had a positive effect on the number of reported commercial and persistent pickers.
We will continue to review our position on fungi picking on the New Forest SSSI, taking advice from Natural England and other conservation bodies. We will work with partnership organisations to help develop national codes of good practice for foraging.
We hope that you’ll support this new campaign and help to protect and care for the New Forest.
Queens House, Lyndhurst
Hampshire, SO43 7NH
Direct dial: 0300 067 4634
Interesting letter. Paragraph 2 catches the eye – can the FC provide evidence that endangered fungi are picked in error for edible ones? There seems to be little or NO evidence to support this statement nor indeed any of the justifications for the ban. Utter tosh!
I can only concur with what so many others are saying, having visited the New Forest for over 25 years, I have NEVER seen the so called ‘gangs’.
It would be good if the FC would engage with foragers and get them involved in making a sustainable foraging solution going forward. Sadly, this does not appear to be the intention based upon Paragraph 8 of their reply to your letter.
Adrian – agreed.
The New Forest SSSI Citation lists four species of rare fungi. Of these, the Bearded Tooth (Hericium erinaceous) is a Biodiversity Action Plan Species and as such, more has been written about its conservation than the other New Forest rare fungi species. It is specially protected under Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, meaning that the species is already protected from being picked, uprooted, destroyed and sold. The UK Priority Species pages – Version 2 (http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/_speciespages/361.pdf) claims that Bearded Tooth have NOT had a marked decline in the UK and that the threats to them are:
* Felling / loss of trees (specific host trees / ancient trees)
* Lack of dead wood
* Lack of woodland regeneration
So no mention of picking. Unfortunately, it is reported (http://www.kentbap.org.uk/images/uploads/Bearded_tooth.pdf) that “The species was lost from one site in The New Forest because the forest manager cleared away the half-rotten tree on which the fungus was growing”.
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Well.. Maybe it doesn’t matter for the fungi. But what about the fauna? Taking away their food supplies? That is reason why it is banned in The Netherlands. And that actually makes sense to me. To keep the Forrest healthy not just plant wise but for the various species of fauna to sustain and in some cases to grow. Weird that that doesn’t come up in this case.
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I love that: ‘Such are opinions. But what about facts?’. Permission to steal please!