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  • Sim Elliott

Hargate Forest & Tunbridge Wells Common: Rocks, Fungi, Lichen & Bryophytes 28.11.22

Hargate Forest is just south of Tunbridge Wells. I reached the forest by the 29 bus from Brighton. Alight the bus at the Broadwater Down stop (outskirts of Tunbridge Wells), and walk east down Broadwater Dwon road, and the entrance to the wood is on the right (south) after about 60 m.


All sections of the text in italics are quotations, sources cited.


This post focusses on naming the fungi, lichen and mosses that I saw. The photographs are on chronological order of what I saw.


I am new to fungi, lichen and bryophytes identification so these identifications are provisional.


Stefan Buczacki, Chris Shields, Denys W Ovenden (2013) Collins Fungi Guide


Frank S Dobson (2018) Lichens: An illustrated guide to the British and Irish species


Ian Atherton, Sam Bosanquet, Mark Lawley (2019) Mosses and Liverworts of Britian and Ireland; a field guide


I have recently joined the British Bryological Society, the British Lichen Society and the British Mycology Society to improve my knowledge. I am a beginner in these fields!



Hargate Forest is a Woodland Trust Forest: Hargate Forest was once part of one of the great medieval forests of the Sussex High Weald. Set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it boasts mature woodland, an amazing diversity of plants and wildlife, an intriguing history and stunning views over the surrounding countryside.


Hargate Forest has a mix of broadleaf woodland and conifer. Native trees include oak, birch, rowan, beech, holly, yew, and hazel. The southern part of the wood is largely broadleaved. Though the area isn’t designated as ancient woodland, it has characteristics of the habitat. Hargate Forest - Visiting Woods - Woodland Trust


Red and Green. Over the last few weeks, I have been visiting woods of the High Weald. In my nature trips since I retired, I have mostly visited the South Downs and Sussex and Hampshire harbours and estuaries, mostly because these are easily reached by bus or train from Brighton. This autumn I have focussed on the high weald, but the journeys are harder as you need to work out how rural buses connect (or don't). I think I have mastered the public transport routes that get you to the high weald!


But you see a different side of Sussex (and Kent); most of Sussex is blue sea or green and white downs; the predominant tone of the High Weald is green and red; the red coming from the clay iron stones that were used in the iron smelting from the Roman period to the nineteenth century. The iron in the clays rusts to red.


The pond in Hargate epitomizes the redness of the landscape. Hargate Forest is one of the few remaining parts of the huge medieval forest that covered the Weald. Many trees where felled for charcoal making for iron smelting; but most of the forest has gone as a result of development. Hargate Forest is bordered on the north by new housing developments. The forest is cut by ghylls, the ravines that water cuts into clay soils, so different to the dry valleys of the chalk downs. Like everywhere, the landscapes of Sussex and Kent are formed by their underlying geology. When I was at sixth form college (Brighton and Hove and Sussex) in 1978-1980 I did A Level geology, and the fantastic field trips that we undertook with my teachers Mr and Mrs Baxter, where inspirational. Whilst I went on to do a music degree and then become a teacher, in my retrement I have renewed a dormant love of geology



Probably Crimped Gill, Plicaturopsis crispa


Probably, Slender Beaked Moss, Kindbergia praelonga


Candlesnuff Fungus, Xylaria hypoxylonI, with Slender Beaked Moss


Cladonia sp Lichen


To be identified




Probably Purplepore Bracket, Trichaptum abietinum


Possibly a slime mold


Yellow Stagshorn fungus, Calocera viscosa


Probably a slime mold - to be identified.


Common Powderhorn. Cladonia coniocrasa. The primary thallus at the base is grey-green when dry with a large number of small, rough scales (squamules). Podetia (green when wet) rise from this and are up to 3cm tall and slightly curved. The tips may be pointed or have a very narrow cup. Cladonia coniocrea (britishlichensociety.org.uk)


Moss, possibly Broom Fork-Moss, Dicranum scoparium


Upper band: Hairy curtain crust, Stereum hirsutum


Lower band: Crimped Gill, Plicaturopsis crispa


Hairy curtain crust, Stereum hirsutum


Artists Fungus, Ganoderma lipsiense


Glistening Inkcap, Coprinellus micaceus; typically fruits in groups.


Possibly Smokey Bracket, Bjerkandera fumosa


Sulphur Tuft, Hypholoma fasciculare


Bleeding Broadleaf Crust, Stereum rugosum


Hairy Curtain Cust, Stereum hirsutum


Possibly, Powdered Loop Lichen, Hypotrachyna revoluta


Candelsnuff Fugus, Xylaria hypoxylon


Most of Sussex is blue sea or green and white downs; but the predominant tone of the High Weald is green and red; the red coming from the clay iron stones that were used in the iron smelting from the Roman period to the nineteenth century. The iron in the clays rusts to red. The pond in Hargate epitomizes the redness of the landscape. The forest is cut by ghylls, the ravines that water cuts into clay soils, so different to the dry valleys of the chalk downs. Like everywhere, the landscapes of Sussex and Kent are formed by their underlying geology


An Antrodia species, probably Yellow Porecrust, Antrodia xantha,


Leafy Brain Fungus, Tremella foliacea




More Leafy Brain Fungus, Tremella foliacea


Tunbridge Wells Common


After walking round Hargate Forest, I walked back into Tunbridge Wells (2 miles) and then walked around Tunbridge Wells Common, in the centre of the town.


There are very good descriptions of the nature that can be found on the commons at: Tunbridge Wells & Rusthall Commons (twcommons.org)


As with all landscapes and ecologies, the underlying geology of locations is very important to the diversity:


he Commons’ unique and distinctive rock features have earned SSSI status at Bull’s Hollow, but there are plenty of other spectacular and weird rock formations to discover.

Perhaps the best-loved features of the Commons are their rock outcrops, including Wellington Rocks on Tunbridge Wells Common and Toad Rock on Rusthall Common. There are plenty of other rock outcrops to explore too, with strange forms like the Loaf Rock at Denny Bottom, the Cheesewring in Happy Valley and the Parson’s Nose.

The rock formations around the Toad Rock in Denny Bottom are sufficiently important to have been designated as a geological Site of Special Scientific Interest.


Technical details


The rock outcrops consist of Ardingly Sandstone, a layer of Tunbridge Wells Sand which contains small pebbles. The stone was originally laid down in the Lower Cretaceous period, around 130 million years ago, as deposits from a vast freshwater lake covering much of southern Britain. The outcrops as seen today were eroded by wind action during the last Ice Age, around one million years ago. They lie on top of the Upper and Lower Tunbridge Wells Sands which form part of the Hastings Beds of sands and clays.

If you want to find out more about the geology of the area surrounding Tunbridge Wells, there is an excellent guide on the High Weald AONB website. Tunbridge Wells & Rusthall Commons (twcommons.org)




Turkeytail, Tramesets versicolor


Common Powderhorn, Cladonia coniocraea



Wood Mushroom, Agaricus silvicola


More Turkeytail


Sulpher Tuft, Hypholoma fasciculare


Unlike other plants, fungi lack the green pigment chlorophyll and therefore cannot generate food through the action of sunlight: they rely on absorbing nourishment from living plants, dead wood, or organic matter in the soil. The only part of a fungus that is normally seen is the short-lived fruiting body which produces the spores.


Although some species of fungi can be found at any time of year, autumn is the season when most make themselves visible, and a walk over the Commons at this time can produce an extensive list of species. Among the more noticeable and brightly coloured are the ‘fly agaric’ (amanita muscaria), the most familiar ‘toadstool’ with its white-spotted scarlet cap, the bright yellow ‘sulphur tuft’ (hypholoma fasciculare), which grows in clusters, and the beautiful purple ‘amethyst deceiver’ (laccaria amethystea). Tunbridge Wells & Rusthall Commons (twcommons.org)




Wellington Rocks; an outcrop of Ardingly Sandstone


Lepraria sp.


Pellia sp, probably Overleaf Pellia Pellia epiphylla; a liverwort


Layers of rougher sandstone within the Ardingly sandstones


To be identified


Probably Cladonia floerkeana, no common name


Probably Powderhorn, Cladonia coiniocrea


Probably Punctelia subrudecta


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