Nine people have been fined over £1,800 for illegally picking large amounts of fungi at Epping Forest. They were prosecuted on 2 October in Southend Magistrates Court by the City of London Corporation, which protects the site, which is one of the few remaining extensive natural...
Nine people have been fined over £1,800 for illegally picking large amounts of fungi at Epping Forest.
They were prosecuted on 2 October in Southend Magistrates Court by the City of London Corporation, which protects the site, which is one of the few remaining extensive natural woodlands in southern England.
The City Corporation says foragers are damaging the Forest’s ecology by stripping it of wild mushroom species, many of which are of national importance.
Some are selling them to restaurants and markets, removing the fruiting bodies on which many rare insect species depend and depriving animals such as deer of a valuable food source, damaging the Forest’s biodiversity and visitors’ enjoyment of this autumn spectacle.
Fungi play a vital role in sustaining Epping Forest’s wildlife habitats and are a major reason it is designated as a ‘Site of Special Scientific Interest’ and a ‘Special Area of Conservation’.
They are protected under Epping Forest Byelaws.
Removing large amounts of fungi can harm the Forest’s ancient trees, some of which are up to 1,000 years old, as particular types of fungus help to protect their roots and provide water and vital minerals to the trees.
27 people have now been prosecuted since 2014, with Epping Forest Keepers also often issuing verbal warnings.
Among the prosecutions was a 49kg bag of fungi picked and confiscated from the beauty spot.
Graeme Doshi-Smith, Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Epping Forest and Commons Committee, said:“Fungi play an incredibly important role in the delicate balance of biodiversity which makes Epping Forest special.
“Large-scale and commercial foraging is a huge problem and we want to raise awareness of how damaging it is to the ancient woodland.
“Stripping the Forest of fungi deprives insects and animals such as deer of a valuable food source, damages biodiversity and threatens rare species.
“We welcome the millions of people who come to enjoy this protected site. But I urge our visitors to leave the fungi how they find them – untouched.”
Epping Forest is London and Essex’s largest green space and has been owned and managed by the City of London Corporation since 1878.
The woodland has over one million trees – including 50,000 ancient pollards of Beech, Hornbeam and Oak, and there are around 500 rare and endangered insect species.
The City Corporation protects 11,000 acres of green space in the capital, including Hampstead Heath, West Ham Park and Burnham Beeches, and over 200 smaller sites in the Square Mile.
The City Corporation funds its open spaces with over £29 million a year.
They include important wildlife habitats, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, and National Nature Reserves. They are protected from being built on by special legislation.