Fungi to be with was created to fulfill a role that up until the mid 1990?s and even now is scarcely covered. That role was to help the interested people of Greater London to connect/reconnect with the natural environment surrounding them. Unfortunately, the word foraging has taken on a whole new identity and is now a very different and more popular activity to what it was when I began Fungi To Be With, therefore I feel I need to draw a distinction between the more recent foraging phenomena/trends and the activities of Fungi To Be With.
Fungi To Be With is about educating and introducing members of the public to the world of fungi in all of its forms be they edible or toxic, big or small, dull or colourful. This is achieved via, forays and beginners workshops.
Foraging today and in the round, concerns seeking out all edible plants, fungi and even road kill, for personal or commercial gain, with barely, if any, scientific value to it at all. This is not the role of fungi to be with.
Fungi to be With plays an important role in bridging the gap between old and new scientific approaches. It is a vehicle by which people can interact with their natural environment, become more intimate with it and therefore nurture and care for it. As opposed to people feeling disconnected and therefore alienated from their natural environment, resulting in a lack of understanding and care, a true and real danger, where people are divorced from this intimacy.
Many of the worlds celebrated figures and leading experts in fields such as Birds, Animals, Insects and Plants became so through a ‘hands on’ interaction with their given subject. This is no different with Fungi and I have rewardingly seen over the years certain people who have joined the walks, becoming more and more interested and knowledgeable in the subject. The walks and workshops that I run are just one way of reaching out to find these people, and with the paucity of mycologists and taxonomists in this country, they represent a vehicle that is sorely needed.
When I first became interested in mushrooms, during the 1980?s I took it upon myself to begin the long process of getting to know these unusual organisms. Following my initial forays into the fungi world I realised the need for ‘fungi to be with’. “How many other people, like me, were looking for an introduction to the mushrooms that they came across whilst out walking? As a result of these initial forays, ‘Fungi To Be With’ was formed.
Some 18 years later, Fungi now has an established affiliation with the British Mycological Society (BMS) and is recognised as the longest standing, London Fungus Group. Some of the collections of fungi, are deposited at the Fungarium in Kew Gardens. Species lists are drawn up following each foray, which are then given over to the governing bodies of the areas in which the forays take place, providing an ongoing record of the fungi that occur or re-occur in those areas over time. For instance, the recording of the fungi of Hampstead Heath began in 1996 and together with the addition of other sites, such as Epping Forest and Wimbledon Common, this continual recording has been helping to produce a clearer picture of the distribution of fungi across the home counties and in London’s parks and woodlands. In this day and age of dwindling taxonomic expertise the need for this kind of work is greater than ever.