‘Foraging fungi in New Forest for commercial gain is theft’

August 8, 2015

New Forest Association

HISTORIC ROLE:  New Forest Association member Brian Tarnoff and colleagues at their marquee in the forest section of this year’s show at Brockenhurst. The NPA has been helping to protect the flora, fauna and heritage of the forest for the past 148 years. They are a full member of the Campaign for National Parks.


FORAGING LIMITS: These are not mushrooms from the Forest but read some of the advice to foraging in the New Forest and others below and there will be no danger treading on anyone’s toes.


FORAGING for fungi must be done at sustainable levels in the New Forest, says a conservation body that helps to manage the area.

Formed in 1967, the New Forest Association is one of the oldest conservation organisations in the world and with its members and volunteers, is fighting to secure the future of the forest, that became a National Park in 2005.

When I caught up with them at the New Forest Show since my last chat with them in 2013, their focus today is their concern for woodland management, inclosures and wildlife corridors.

They have been vigilant to ensure that important trees are retained in broadleaved areas and that felling in these areas is done with care – damage limitation during timber extraction operations.

While recognising the importance of recreational activity in the Forest, the association says in its guidelines that some activities that cause erosion and disturbance to wildlife and livestock must be relocated to less sensitive areas.

NPA member Brian Tarnoff said the association was particularly concerned with the amount of commercial foraging (particularly mushrooms) that was taking place in the forest.  It had reached “unprecedented levels” 10 to 15 years ago.

Under the Fungi Pickers Code of Conduct, some of the following points should be observed and could be legally binding:

  • Obey all the signs showing areas where fungi cannot be picked from;
  • If you don’t know what something is, it may be rare or potentially poisonous so leave it alone. Only eat it if you have identified without doubt that it is safe;
  • Never remove all the fungi in one area (leave the very young and old individuals)
  • You have a 1.5kg personal limit (and if you’ve found this much you’ve done well)
  • Commercial collecting is against the law and potentially carries a fine of £20,000.

Mr Tarnoff said: “A number of people from the National Trust went on an educational event for foraging and they found nothing. Commercial pickers came down and stripped the area. This has also happened in Epping Forest.

“When people do this, it is unsustainable and they do not recover. It has to be managed to a level that conserves the Forest. Any plant that is picked and unauthorised in a Site of Special Scientific Interest should not take place, you must consult with the statutory authorities.

“It is illegal to pick mushrooms from the wild for any commercial intent. In our view it is theft.”

Forest plans have been set up for the National Park’s woodland over the next 50 to 100 years with a focus on the first 10 to 30 years, of which the NPA has a major input in consultation with the National Park Authority and the Forestry Commission.,

This will include ensuring that a great diversity is achieved in management of broad-leaved woodland, the right type of conifer plantations and the protection of ancient woodland sites.

Mr Tarnoff said: “People move into the area and take interest and say ‘what can we do for the forest’. Some people see it as a kind of chocolate-box kind of area. What makes it so special is the combination of the commoners and forestry that has managed to create such a unique set of habitats.”


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