24 November 2011

Cattle and toadstools

Yesterday I went to see the cows (everyone seems to call them 'cows' regardless of their sex) for the first time.  They are healthy-looking, friendly beasts of the Sussex breed.  These animals are a Wealden variety descended from the draught oxen of the past.  They are hardy, stocky animals with that characteristic dark red colour and were once reckoned to be among the finest cattle in England (and we think they still are).

20111122 BHW cattle in Cpt 4a (4)

In the picture above they are standing at the top of The Hoathes, one of the fields that was used for rough grazing in the past and which was a larch plantation until the end of 2009.

On my way back after an hour's walk they were standing together as though dreaming in the middle of a field half a mile away.  Maybe they were listening to the spirits of their ancestors.

For late November the day was exceptionally warm and there are still many fading leaves on the trees.

20111122 BHW Old lane Cpt 5a (15)

The shallow indentation above with the bank to the left is part of the old lane that led from Austford Farm to Brede High Farm and unused for maybe 200 years.

Here and elsewhere there are many fungi enjoying the dampness and the unseasonal warmth. The butter cap (Collybia butyracea), named for its greasy feel, has popped up everywhere

20111122 Collybia butyracea Cpt 3b (16)

while some of the pine stumps are sporting orange yellow stagshorns (Calocera viscosa) like the hackles worn on some soldiers' hats.

20111122 Calocera viscosa Cpt 5a

Most interesting of all was a fine crop of the redlead roundhead (Leratiomyces ceres - formerly Stropharia aurantiaca) on the remains of the woodchip pile at the old woodyard.

20111122 Leratiomyces ceres (55)

This species was first recorded in Britain in 1957 and has since spread widely on the woodchip habitat, though there are only a few other Sussex records.

It is not alone.  Many other species are turning up on woodchip. several from much warmer parts of the world.  It is thought that the warmth of the woodchip itself as it decomposes gives them a head start and that maybe our increasingly milder climate allows them to increase and spread.

Finally I came across this spooky little familiar on the ground in The Hoathes - a fawn (faun) man rather than a green man.  What could have caused it I wondered, then remembered the old phantoms of which the faraway cows were dreaming.

20111122 Face in ground Cpt 4a (52)