City of London prosecutes mushroom pickers damaging forest floor

Eleven people have been fined up to £300 each after being caught illegally "hoovering up" mushrooms in Epping Forest.

The City of London Corporation, which runs the land, prosecuted 15 people in one day at Chelmsford Magistrates Court to send a message that the fungi, a crucial part of the forest ecology that provides food for wildlife, is out of bounds.

Fines of £200 plus costs were handed down to two defendants found guilty of fungi picking against a local by-law. Eight pleaded guilty and were fined £130 plus costs and one was fined £35 plus costs. The other four cases were adjourned after the defendants failed to attend court. They were brought to book in October by forest rangers who have powers of arrest.

Epping Forest superintendent Paul Thomson said: "These people were caught picking mushrooms in prodigious quantities with large double bags full of them. Most people listen to us and stop but some of the people we met were clearly picking commercially. When they got back to their vehicles their whole boot was full."

Epping Forest has 1,600 fungi species including rare varieties such as oak polyphore (Piptoporus quercinus), pink waxcap (Hygrocybe calyptriformis) and sandy stilt puffball (Battarraea phalloides) that are protected by the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981. It is also is a site of specific scientific interest.

Thompson said it is a problem if people pick the fungi before they have a chance to spore. "Volume is our principal concern," he added. "People are just hoovering up vast quantities of mushrooms. The whole forest floor is beginning to look different."

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