Mike, founder of London Fungus Network, introduces the borough’s first ever Fungus Fortnight
Straddling the boundary of urban East London and rural Essex, Waltham Forest is one of London’s greenest boroughs. As well as providing habitats for wildflowers, trees, birds and mammals, its parks, woodlands and urban landscapes are also home to a wonderful diversity of fungi – if you let them find you.
The fungi and their reproductive organism (mushrooms) play a vital role in recycling nutrients and providing nourishment for plants and animals, as well as a being a source of fascination for people.
Though unlike many countries in Europe and beyond, wild mushrooms have something of a bad rep in the UK. “Is it poisonous?” is often the first question people ask when they encounter a wild mushroom. Sadly, it’s all too common to find patches of mushrooms stamped on, kicked over, or cut down in the prime of their life by a lawnmower. There’s a perception that there is something ‘harmful’ about all encounters between humans and our fungal neighbours.
But in recent years, we have seen a shift in attitudes on fungi, from fear to fascination. So during the lockdown of summer 2020, the London Fungus Network was launched to help city-dwellers get to connect with the urban fungal kingdom/queendom.
Led by volunteer Rangers from London National Park City, the Network is hosting a programme of fungi-fuelled art, inspiration and fun this autumn with support from Waltham Forest Council. Waltham Forest Fungus Fortnight will take place from 2nd to 17th October, bringing people together for films, forays, workshops and art installations celebrating the world of fungi at local venues across the borough.
The fortnight kicks off with the UK premiere of Planet Fungi on 2nd October, a documentary following Australian photographer Stephen Axford and local tribal guides on a fungal safari of the Eastern Himalayas.
We’ll also be exploring the fungal diversity closer to home, with outdoor education, arts and mushroom forays on Shroom Sunday (10th October) at Chingford’s Pimp Hall Nature Reserve, where people can learn first-hand how to identify common species of mushroom and the role they play in the ecosystem.
Other highlights include mushroom-inspired food and poetry workshops. We’ll also be co-creating a sculpture of ‘the first mushroom’, called Prototaxites – a giant fungus which dominated the Earth’s landscape in prehistoric times – with artists from the Leyton-based Casa Mundi Studio.
For further details, visit fungusfortnight.org or follow @londonfungusnetwork on Instagram
Find the Facebook event at facebook.com/events/353928199435885