Leader Alan Feest
We gathered as a small group in the small car park at the foot of Dolebury Warren on a misty morning and I explained the nature of the site and the intention to look for CHEGs (Clavaria, Hygrocybe, Entoloma, Galerina) species, which are characteristic of nutrient poor grassland and therefore threatened in today’s polluted countryside. If enough CHEG species are recorded from a site it may be classified as an SSSI. Such is the case for Dolebury Warren (along with many other features) and between 1999- and 2004 Justin Smith and I carried out a full assessment of the CHEG status of three areas on the Warren. We were therefore looking for CHEGs (and anything else!).
As often happens the first interesting species was identified by Alan Rayner (Phlebia tremelosa, Jelly Rot), which was found on a stump in the car park. Then, when nearing the top of 150 steps up the hill out of the trees into rough grassland, we encountered the Ascomycete Helvella crispa (White Saddle) and our first CHEG (Hygrocybe conica).
Reaching the first ramparts of the Iron Age fort , we were immediately struck by the huge human effort of creating such a huge structure with nothing more technical than a deer’s antler. Moving into the first area of the fort, a huge number of ant nests came into view, a rare sight in the British countryside due to ploughing. It seemed that we were too early for the bulk of the CHEGs and most of the fungi we encountered were coprophiles, growing on cow and sheep dung, notably species of Coprinopsis and Panaeolus.
Looking at the water runs down the scattered Oak trees proved to be interesting since not only was this the habitat of some interesting bryophytes but also of the bryophilous fungi, Mycena pseudocorticola and M. hiemalis, which are not often recorded by mycologists with their eyes on the ground!. These were also abundant in nearby woodland, where the leaf litter was extensively colonized by troops of Marasmius rotula.
Back in the open we continued to record Galerinas, Psathyrellas and Lycoperdons then finally another beautiful Hygrocybe (possibly H. chlorophana). We continued to find scattered fruit bodies of other common species (Rickenella swartzii, Bovista nigrescens) and then a single spike of “Golden spindles” (Clavulinopsis fusiformis).
We moved to the highest point and had spectacular views of the estuary and Wales and were struck by the black patches of the Photo-voltaic “farms”. After lunch in a sheltered spot we continued into the large inner part of the fort and continued to find numerous coprophiles and spotted some Speckled Wood butterflies flying in the sunny shelter against the wood. After finding some specimens of Slender Parasol (Macrolepiota mastoidea) and Pestle Puffball (Lycoperdon excipuliformis), we realized our finish time was approaching and so hastily retraced our steps across the Warren and down through the wooded hillside towards the car park. Along the way we saw a Small Heath butterfly, a colony of Entolomas (probably E. serratulum) and then the rarity of the day, Orange Coral (Ramariopsis crocea) as a group of branched yellow fingers poking up through leaf litter (thus completing the CHEG list). Having scared off a Roe Deer we were left to extricate our cars from the car park.