Autumn Fungi at The Mens Nature Reserve, Sussex Wildlife Trust, West Sussex. 06.11.23
Updated: Nov 12
I received a lift in a friend's car to the Mens from Brighton. It is possible to reach the Mens by train, bus and foot. by taking the train from Brighton to Worthing, then taking the 1 Stagecoach Bus from Worthing to Petworth 1 Bus Route & Timetable: Worthing - Midhurst | Stagecoach (stagecoachbus.com) (once an a hour; 65 minute journey), and then walking on the Sussex Diamond Way footpath from Petworth through Brinskholme Heath, Flexham Park and Hammonds Wood. This a 3.5 mile walk from Petworth to The Mens, but I have not walked this path yet
This map is a screen shot form my mobile phone from OS Map App, see Online maps & routes for walking, cycling and running | OS Maps
About The Mens
A long and varied history of management has seen the reserve move from an open, wood pasture system with huge, spreading parkland trees and pollards to a high forest with closely spaced trees with narrow crowns. A lack of management in recent years has added to this silvicultural diversity. The unusual name of this area comes from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘ge-mænnes’, meaning common land. The Mens | Sussex Wildlife Trust
The Mens woodland sits only a few miles from the old wood pasture at Ebernoe Common but is very different in character. A largely unexplored wood, it certainly has an untamed, mysterious feeling to it and many people describe it as ‘wild’. A long and varied history of management has seen the reserve move from an open, wood pasture system with huge, spreading parkland trees and pollards to a high forest with closely spaced trees with narrow crowns. A lack of management in recent years has added to this silvicultural diversity.
As you start to wander through the reserve, you will begin to orientate yourself – there are old tracks and banks separating woodland compartments and heavily incised streams full of bryophytes that fracture and divide the site – old fallen giants are found everywhere, many of these brought down by the Great Storm of 1987 and now home to important populations of saproxylic invertebrates, fungi (almost 600 species found so far) and bats. Trees are almost always left as they have fallen and the amazing structure this creates adds to the wild feel.
There are great towering cathedrals of Beech, their high canopy filtering bright green light
to the forest floor in the spring sunshine. Elsewhere Oaks of many different shapes and sizes form a more intimate atmosphere with typical ancient woodland trees such as Wild Service, Midland Hawthorn and Spindle. There are many ancient woodland indicator species such as Yellow Archangel, Violet Helleborine and Opposite-leaved Golden-saxifrage but you have to search hard amongst the fallen and collapsing trees and recent growth of Holly to find them. Reserve profile | Sussex Wildlife Trust
I visited The Mens only a few days after visiting nearby Ebernoe, see: Autumn Fungi at Ebernoe Common National Nature Reserve, Sussex Wildlife Trust, West Sussex. 31.10.23
Whist I saw some fungi at both sites (e.g. Garlic Tufts, Honey Fungus, Garlic Parachutes, and many Bonnet species) there were fungi that I only saw at tone of these sites. That may be by chance (that these fungi happened to be fruiting when I went) but it likely that this also represents the different ecologies of these reserves e.g. The Mens has much beech, and I saw some beech-specialist fungi there e.g. Beech Jelly-Disc
This post focusses on fungi. Some of the other things I saw can be viewed on my iNaturalist public page: Observations · iNaturalist I have also included photos of Polypody Ferns growing epiphytical on some of the Mens' Trees, as this is unusual in Sussex, and some photos of Midland Hawthorne trees; which are ancient wood indicator species. There are Wild Service trees in the Mens, now a rare ancient wood indictor species, but we couldn't find any! I have also included some landscape photos to give an idea of the landscape in which these fungi grow.
All sections of text in italics are quotations, sources sited.
I am only an amateur naturalist; thus all identifications are provisional; if you note a mistake in identification please feel free to tell me. If you want to contact me about any aspect of this blog, email me at simeon[underscore]elliott[at]gmail[dot]com
Fungi are not always easy to identify. I think I identified 43 different species at The Mens; but some of my identification are likely to be wrong, and I may have identified the same fungus more than once with different names. As fungi's fruit, growing fruiting bodies (mushrooms, toadstools, brackets), these fruiting bodies change quickly and decompose/deliquesce quickly after releasing their spores. Decaying/deliquescing fungi are very hard to identify The resources I find useful are Buczacki, Stefan; Shields, Chris; Ovenden, Denys (2013) Collins Fungi Guide : The Most Complete Field Guide to the Mushrooms & Toadstools of Britain & Ireland and Philips (2006) Mushrooms. iNaturalist has useful AI photo identification for fungi (and all species of lfe) and is free to use; and if you submit observations to iNaturalist you will probably get peer feedback if you got the ID wrong. But iNaturalist AI does make mistakes! Picture Mushroom also has useful AI photo identification and is free to use if you don't pay for the enhanced version. And Picture This AI make mistakes too!
Do not rely on any identification I have made here as an accurate identification with regard to a species and its edibility. I make no comment on the edibility of fungi as I do not forage fungi for food, I just photograph them and leave them where they are for others to enjoy. Remember some fungi are highly poisonous; and some can kill you if eaten.
But you don't need to be able to identify lichen and fungi to enjoy them; I get great pleasure from observing the beauty of things, even when I can't identify what species they are.
Nature England SSSI citation:
The Mens remains as one of the most extensive examples of Wealden Woodland in West Sussex. It is important for its size, structural diversity and the extremely rich fungal and lichen floras which occur here. The wood supports a diverse community of breeding birds, and is the locality of a nationally endangered species of fly.
Much of the woodland lies on Weald Clay although in some places Paludina limestone outcrops at the surface. The woodland is predominantly high forest of sessile and pedunculate oak (Quercus petraea and Q. robur respectively), beech Fagus sylvatica holly Ilex aquifolium and locally, ash Fraxinus excelsior, birches Betula spp. and wild servicetree Sorbus torminalis. Beech dominates the lighter soils over an understorey of holly and yew Taxus baccata. On the heavier clay soils oak-ash woodland occurs over a mixed shrub layer which includes hazel Corylus avellana, hawthorn Crataegus monogyna, crab apple Malus sylvestris and blackthorn Prunus spinosa. In more open areas the dense ground flora is dominated by honeysuckle Lonicera periclymenum, bramble Rubus fruticosus, wood melick Melica uniflora and bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta with occasional butcher’s broom Ruscus aculeatus and hairy woodrush Luzula pilosa.
In the extreme north of the site the wood has been intensively managed on a coppice, or coppice-with-standards system. Here the shrub layer and ground flora are more diverse and include dog's mercury Mercurialis perennis, sanicle Sanicula europaea and a number of orchids. Several uncommon tree species occur here, notably small-leaved lime Tilia cordata and the wild service tree, both of which are indicators of ancient woodland sites.
The Mens has one of the richest lichen floras in the south-east, including several species closely associated with ancient woodlands. The site also supports a rich bryophyte flora (mosses and liverworts), with a number of locally rare species such as the moss Brachydontium trichodes. In addition The Mens is one of the richest woods in the country for fungi with three species of Russula for which this is the only y known site. Two other species have been recorded from only two other sites in Britain 1000537 (naturalengland.org.uk)
I don't think I saw any of these listed fungi, but what I did see was wonderful:
Beech Jelly-Disc, Neobulgaria pura
Probably Common Bonnet, Mycena galericulata
Butter Cap, Rhodocollybia butyracea
Garlic Parachute, Mycetinis alliaceus
Bulbous Honey Fungus, Armillaria gallica
A Genus Hypholoma species fungus
Common Bonnet, Mycena galericulata
Possibly Saffrondrop Bonnet, Mycena crocata
Probably Peeling Oysterling, Crepidotus mollis
Possibly Common Stump Brittlestem, Psathyrella piluliformis
Probably Matte Bolete, Xerocomellus pruinatus
Landscape scenes, including some of the streams
Common Puffball, Lycoperdon perlatum with Rosy Bonnets, Mycena rosea
Probably Red-cracking Bolete, Xerocomellus chrysenteron
Probably Rosy Bonnet, Mycena rosea
Strict Coral Fungus, Ramaria stricta
Probably Matte Bolete, Xerocomellus pruinatus
Amethyst Deceiver, Laccaria amethystina
Snowy Waxcap, Cuphophyllus virgineus
Bolete Mould, Hypomyces chrysospermus on a Bolete fungus
Midland Hawthorn, Crataegus laevigata
Midland hawthorn is a shrub of ancient hedgerows and woodland edges, and is also known as 'Woodland hawthorn'. In May, Midland Hawthorn erupts with masses of pinky-white blossom. During the autumn and winter, red fruits known as 'haws' appear. Midland Hawthorn is a rich habitat for all kinds of wildlife, from Hawthorn shield bugs and Yellowhammers that feed on the haws, to Wood mice and Slow worms that shelter in the thorny thickets. Midland hawthorn | The Wildlife Trusts Midland Hawthorn is predominantly a tree of Wealden woods and hedgerows
Small tress in mid ground are Midland hawthorns
Polypodium sp. probably P. interjectum, Intermediate Polypody; growing on the base of probably a Beech
Sessile Oaks, Quercus petraea, with a Polypody Fern Polypodium sp. (species uncertain as spori not visible as too high up)