Mushrooms – one of nature’s wonders

By Mark Binnersley, from Transition Stourbridge’s Wildlife and Edible Gardening Group

People are terrified of mushrooms.

From an early age, most of us are taught not to touch wild fungus for fear of being poisoned. It’s almost a taboo subject in the same way that death is.

For example, when I tell anyone I work with funeral directors jokes such as ‘bet your company car’s a black estate car’ or ‘that’s a dying trade’ ensue.

Similarly, when it comes to mushrooms, jokes about being a real fun guy (fungi) or mushrooms’ hallucinogenic qualities abound.

There’s a name for this – mycophobia. The fear of fungus.

The truth is, mushrooms get an unfair deal. Very few are deadly poisonous and even fewer will alter your state of mind, sadly.

As for the risk to children – most kids I know remove the mushrooms from their pizza in disgust. The idea that they’re suddenly going to start munching on a red and white fly agaric is ridiculous. Besides, all children know that fairies live under fly agarics, so why would they pick them?

I’ve been interested in fungi for some years now and am able to identify around 20 edible species, making me an absolute novice in the world of mushroom geeks.

But from fairy ring champignons and blushers to beefsteak fungus and amethyst deceivers, it’s rare that a walk in the countryside between May and December doesn’t yield something for the pot. The flavour of many of these mushrooms is diverse and often amazing.

What’s more, collecting wild food is incredibly satisfying if not slightly subversive – it’s a small slice of independence from an industrial food system largely built upon land that once belonged to the commons. Look up enclosure acts.

In the countryside around Stourbridge and often its built-up areas, you’ll find a wide array of mushrooms. Common species are sulphur tufts, shaggy parasols, fly agarics, mottlegills, yellow stainers, ink caps, earthballs, puffballs, polypore fungus and russulas to name but a few. Note, not all of these are edible.

This autumn has been a bumper season, thanks to the mild but extremely damp conditions. And thanks to people’s mycophobia, there are more for me to enjoy.

If you’re thinking about learning a bit more about what nature has to offer from a fungus perspective, you need to do a few things. Firstly, buy some books (more than one, so you can cross-reference). Roger Phillips’ Mushrooms is essential. Secondly, go on a foraging course with an experienced instructor. Google will lead you to someone near you.

The next thing you need to do is exercise patience – get to know mushrooms slowly. Individual species can vary significantly in colour and size due to their age and weather conditions. Identification is based on a set of vital characteristics, covering the cap, gills, pores, stem, ring, base and crucially habitat.  

For example, the blusher (amanita rubescens) is very similar to the panther cap (amanita pantherina). The blusher is edible when cooked whilst the panther cap is seriously poisonous.

Understanding some small but important differences ensure confusion of these two related mushrooms is avoided. The blusher has lines on the outside of its ring, whereas the panther cap’s is smooth. The blusher’s base is a more or less smooth bulb but the panther cap has a clear rim at the top of a volva. And the blusher gets its name from the red blushing that occurs when the mushroom is damaged. A diligent collector won’t mix these two up.

Additionally, in this digital age, never make an ID based on an internet picture or somebody’s comment on Facebook.

Once you do gain confidence and are able to accurately identify a number of mushrooms, please pick considerately.

They provide food for all sorts of animals, providing essential calories as we head into winter.

On top of this, mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of mycelium, the internet of the forest that helps trees to distribute carbon, phosphorus and nitrogen. It commands our utmost respect.

By leaving some mushrooms behind, you’ll help them to multiply, as their spores (seed equivalents) are blown across woodland or pasture by the wind. 

Hopefully, you’re now feeling a little less mycophobic than you did before. And if you don’t think you’ll ever be able to bring yourself to eat a wild mushroom, you might be able to look at them with a new-found admiration and wonder.

Some mushrooms might be magic but all of them are magical.

FILM: We the uncivilized – Saturday 21st April

The film documents the search of a young couple to find a different way of living-to find community, meaning, and a way of living in harmony with the earth and raises questions about our so called ‘civilized’ ways of living and hence the title.

Refreshments will be served and we hope to generate some discussion after the film.

Date: Saturday 21st April
Time: 7.30pm
Venue: Friends Quaker Meeting House, 37 Scotts Road, Stourbridge, DY8 1UR (map)

Entry by Donation | Refreshments | Discussion | All Welcome


Disillusioned by a story of consumption and alienation, a couple are called to action, and embark on a yearlong exploration around the UK, in search of the seeds of a different story, and with it, hope for the future.

We join Pete and Lily on an intimate and life-changing journey as they confront the stark reality of our times, and discover a hidden culture of connection and belonging.

Featuring conversations with grassroots activists alongside pioneering voices, including; Satish Kumar, Polly Higgins, Bruce Parry, Martin Shaw, and The Late Patrick Whitefield. A tale of both deep grief and inspired hope.


Nature Returns to the River Stour

River Stour behind Lion Health Centre
River Stour behind Lion Health Centre & Murrays Chemist

Thanks to our dedicated and committed volunteers we’ve almost completely cleared the River Stour behind the Lion Health Centre. The wonderful news is that as we’ve cleared away discarded shopping trollies and tyres, the wildlife has returned.

On Sunday 5th June we saw fish swimming in the now fast flowing river, and as we were leaving we spotted a Kingfisher. It’s incredible to see nature returning to this stunning wildlife corridor we have right in the heart of Stourbridge.

Giant hogweed, River Stour behind Lion Health Centre
Giant hogweed, River Stour behind Lion Health Centre

If you visit be very careful as also at the moment there is Giant Hogweed growing, which contains toxic sap which can cause severe burns. And if you see any litter, please pick it up and help us keep our town Green and Tidy for us all and the wildlife. Many thanks.


Photo’s from Sunday 5th June

More Info

Giant Hogweed

River Stour Clean-up – Sunday 5th June

River Stour Clean-up Event, Richardson Drive, Amblecote, StourbridgeOur next event is Sunday June 5th at Murray’s, Bradley Road, Stourbridge.

Please check email before coming on Sunday in case of changes due to weather, etc. For any newcomers : Please email to be added to the mailing list, thanks

Date: Sunday 5th June
Time: 10.15 for 10.30 start
Place: Murray’s by Lion Health, Bradley Road.


Please contact Rosanne ( to be added to our River Stour Clean-Up email list to be kept up-to-date with any changes due to the weather conditions closer to the time.

Photo’s from previous events


Foraging Walk – Saturday 9th April

foragingJoin us for a Spring Foraging Walk led by Owen Raybould. These walks have always been very interesting and informative, as well as highly enjoyable!

Date: Saturday 9th April
Time: 2pm
Meet: Blackstone Riverside Park free car park, meet there at 2pm, start the walk at 2:15pm. Tel number Owen: 07525261683
Cost: Donations

Please Note, very important: The location is the Blackstone Riverside Car park located on the B4194, situated just outside the town centre, (see map link below), and not the Blackstone picnic site car park which is located on the A456 Stourport Road on the other side of the river.

Map link:,+Worcestershire/52.3658366,-2.3109947/@52.3706853,-2.3225424,15z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m8!4m7!1m5!1m1!1s0x48706180b4fee04b:0x89a1061589a23d3d!2m2!1d-2.316973!2d52.375539!1m0

Directions: Coming from the Kidderminster area, enter Bewdley and cross over the bridge in the town centre. Turn left at the church down the narrow street, follow the road over a small hill and then under the bypass, the car park is then clearley signposted immediately on your left after the bypass.

Owen’s Meetup website:

Looking forward to seeing you there!

FILM: Planetary – Saturday 19th March

Our next film evening we’ll be showing ‘Planetary

Date: Saturday 19th March
Time: 7pm – Refreshments, 7.30pm – Film
Venue: Friends Meeting House, 37 Scotts Road, Stourbridge, DY8 1UR (map)

We are in the midst of a global crisis of perspective and have forgotten the undeniable truth that everything is connected. A provocative and breathtaking wakeup call, a cross continental journey, exploring our cosmic origins and our future as a species. Planetary is a poetic and humbling reminder that it is time to shift our perspective. It asks us to rethink who we really are, to reconsider our relationship with ourselves, each other and the world around us.


  • Donations on the door to help cover costs
  • Refreshments available
  • Do come, and bring friends! All welcome

Swap Shop – Saturday 13th February

swap-shopAll welcome to our  SWAP SHOP – the antidote to eternal economic growth – share, re-use, reduce demand on the Earth’s resources, and reduce waste!

Clothes, Books, Household items, Shoes, dvds, games etc. Bring along unwanted items, find something useful, re-use! Clear out your wardrobe and your store room!

When: Saturday 13th February, 3pm – 5pm

Where: Friends Meeting House, 37 Scotts Road, Stourbridge, DY8 1UR (map)

Find out more about your local environmental group Transition Stourbridge and see if you’d like to get involved with great local projects!

  • Refreshments available
  • All Welcome
  • FREE

Black Country Food Bank

The Friends Quaker Meeting House also has a box for donations to the Black Country Food Bank. See what items you could donate



The Stour Bag in the shops now!

Designed by Stephanie Green

Our new reusable Shopping Bag now available in the following shops, costing £4. All proceeds will go towards the River Stour clean-ups and future projects. Designed by local artist/designer Stephanie Green

With the new 5p charge for plastic bags introduced in October, our new shopping bag is high quality and durable with a beautiful design celebrating our River Stour and the bridge…after our town’s name… an iconic bag which people be proud to carry their shopping in.

We wanted the River Stour to be the focus of the bag design, as we as a group have been working tirelessly to remove tyres and shopping trollies from the river in our monthly clean-ups.

Stour Bag Group





Send David Cameron Giant Christmas Card for the Paris Climate Summit

David-Cameron-Xmas-CardJoin us for a super sized xmas card signing event, to pressure the Government to take action at the Paris Climate Conference

Date: Saturday 28th November
Time: 11am till 2pm
Where: Outside the Rye Market, near Boots, Stourbridge

We will be inviting members of the public to sign a large Christmas card for David Cameron to remind him that we expect strong binding commitments on climate change from the British Government at the Paris summit.

Just turn up or sign up on Avaaz Event

Dress Christmassy! 🙂

Organised by Climate Action Network West Midlands (an informal network of groups and individuals across the West Midlands).

Other similar signings will be taking place across the West Midlands by various groups.