Winter Fungi and Spring Prep

I feel like winter is coming to an end, with all the sunshine and mild temperatures over the past week, there is definitely a spring feel to the air and many early signs of spring appearing.

Last week, we delivered the first Forest School training course of 2019, a Level 1 course here at the Wolseley centre. The Level 1 course we deliver is delivered over two days and gives the participants a grounding in the Forest School basics and the ethos of Forest School practice. They also get the chance to experience some typical Forest School activities and experiences, such as safe tool use, basic fire lighting and woodland games. One particular challenge on this course was successfully getting the Kelly Kettles lit. A combination of new kettles, cold fingers and blustery wind, really challenged the course participants. But after much persistence and patience they boiled the kettles and enjoyed a much appreciated cup of tea.

This time of the year is often a good time to prep for all the spring training and delivery we have coming up in March, April and May. So over the last few weeks, we have been busy splitting and storing fire wood and gathering brash and natural tinder, as well as trying out new craft ideas and creations.

Birch brash

During a recent visit to our Georges Hayes reserve, between Rugeley and Lichfield, we also got the chance to see some amazing winter Fungi and practice our Identification skills. Many of these fungi are useful for Forest School, particularly for fire lighting.

Birch bracket
  • Birch Bracket this common species is found on Silver Birch has many historical uses, including as a strop for cut throat razors, an insect repellent and as a natural tinder for fire lighting
Horse hoof bracket
  • Horse Hoof Fungus this is another species commonly found and Silver Birch and when prepared correctly makes a very good natural tinder for fire lighting. It’s also a great species for ID due to the visible layers on the fungus.
King Alfred's Cakes

King Alfred’s Cakes these small ball like fungi, are often found on Ash and are great for holding an ember.

Dead Man's Fingers
  • Dead Man’s Fingers. This particular species is always a great one to share with the kids due to the gruesome name and appearance, like long dead fingers reaching out through the soil
Jelly Ear edit
  • Jelly Ear another favourite, a great one to share with the kids and feel the jelly like texture of the ears. This species is also used in oriental cooking and sometimes called mouse ear fungus.

It’s always important to remember that when dealing with Fungi to err on the side of caution and only collect fungi that you are 100% sure of a positive identification as well as only collecting what you need. Whenever I collect fungi like King Alfred’s Cakes, I only take small percentage of what is growing.