Weatherman Walking – Barefoot, Mushroom Magic & Have Fun-gi

Taken from Lynne’s weekly column ‘Green Scene’ for the Western Mail. 9th September 2017 Leaf_Para_DividerWeatherman Walking – Barefoot

I received some lovely messages from readers after my barefoot walk with Derek Brockway for Weatherman Walking was repeated last week.  If you didn’t see it, it will be on iPlayer until the end of the month Here.

We actually filmed it in the summer of 2014 and it was first broadcast in January 2015.  I have no idea where that time has gone – but I’ve still got my hat!  

It seems that it has inspired a lot of people to do the circular walk from Crickhowell, up over the Table Mountains and down into Glanusk Estate, where you can now take the permissible path through to the canal, and drop back down into Llangattock and then back to Crickhowell. That’s great news. We have such good walking around here, anything I can do to encourage people to explore is fabulous. And of course you don’t have to do it barefoot!

I have been asked how long it took to film, bearing in mind that the finished piece was about 11 minutes long.  Well, two good days is the answer – about 20 hours in all.  There is an unbelievable amount of work that goes on behind the scenes, as the Director makes sure he has options of various views and conversations from several different angles and aspects.  And I have to take my (straw) hat off to all the crew who did the carrying of an awful lot of kit.  It was a really hot day and copious amounts of water, sunscreen and insect repellent was carried (bless the health and safety lot!) as well as cameras, tripods, sound equipment and other technical stuff.

Derek is just as you see him on TV, a lovely guy and really good company.  One of the many things that were cut, was me showing him how to nibble the bottom from clover flowers to taste the nectar inside.  We were all in hysterics as Derek misunderstood and ate the whole flower.  The Director said he looked like Ermintrude from the Magic Roundabout and poor Derek was just worried that he was going to be poisoned!  Personally I think that would have all made great TV but – back to Elf and Safety – it was deemed unsuitable!

It was a great experience with fabulous memories … and for a change, I’m happy that the BBC has no qualms about it’s numerous repeats!

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Mushroom Magic

It is a brilliant year for wild mushrooms and I have already found a delicious cauliflower mushroom, which tasted amazing. (see pic). My ‘mushrooming’ knowledge is all thanks to forager and author of Fungi Forays, Daniel Butler.

Daniel is keen to encourage us all to be braver when it comes to picking and eating wild mushrooms. He explains,  “Last year five people were killed in bucket related accidents and 91 people died falling out of bed.  No one died from eating a poisonous mushroom.” 

It is this refreshing and reassuring approach that will endear you to the fungi forager.  He explains, “The best beginner’s mushroom meets three criteria. Firstly, choose something that is very distinctive in appearance like Chicken of the Woods (the yellow dinner-plate fungi which grows on Oak trees)

Secondly, make sure there are no possible dangerous look-a-likes and thirdly, if you do finally pluck up courage to eat what you have harvested, make sure you get the maximum taste reward.  The Porcini or cep is a good one to start with.  These are one of the few mushrooms that taste better dried than fresh so are good to pick now and store. 

Beginners are often intimidated by too many varieties so it is better to slowly build up a repertoire of what you know and what you like.  They all taste different and you probably won’t like most of them.  The Puffballs are foolproof, you can’t them wrong but I don’t think they are worth the taste.” 

Having been foraging for fungi for over 15 years, Daniel promotes Wales as a mushroom mecca. “Wales is brilliant for mushrooms as so much of the land is untouched and unimproved.  It also has a much better mushroom climate than Europe, being damp and mild. 

The most common mushroom in Wales is the porcini or cep.  Coniferous forests are awash with these every autumn.  I once picked over 50kg from one woods in one visit.  They are often well camouflaged but worth hunting for.”

Daniel has also collated a series of essays as a Kindle book ‘A Mushroom is a Misunderstood Rose’.  Dispelling many fears and myths it is also packed with fascinating fungi facts, he explained that a lot of mushrooms have a symbiotic relationship with trees.  99% of plants couldn’t survive without fungi and neither could humans.  On a cellular level, mushrooms are closer to humans than plants.

For these kinds of fascinating facts you can find out more, and sign up for his fabulous newsletter at www.fungiforays.co.uk

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Have Fun-gi

My Dad used to adore fresh field mushrooms but they always used to make him really ill.  I mentioned this to Daniel.

“Most field mushrooms are edible and closely related to the mushrooms you buy in the shops however there is one called a Yellow Stainer, which bruises yellow.  It’s edible for 50% of people but 50% will have an allergic reaction and will spend a couple of hours on the toilet.  Mushrooms are intense in protein and often quite hard to digest for many people.  But it’s worth persevering.  Generally poisonous ones taste disgusting and you’ll throw up before you ingest enough of it to kill you.”  He reminded me cheerfully.

And if you still need reassurance, Daniel also runs fabulous fungi day courses in New Rhayder.

1 Comment on Weatherman Walking – Barefoot, Mushroom Magic & Have Fun-gi

  1. Hello, I’ve read your article about mushrooms picking. We would like visit Wales to find some Cepes. Is any chance you can recommend some places to find them? Thank you in advance

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