Wild Wanderings 8 – Damp And Green

by Paul Kirtley

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I have been teaching in Sussex recently, at Frontier Bushcraft’s main course location, an area of private land, several thousand acres in size. We run a range of programmes there, including our 1-day Bushcraft and Survival Foundation course. It’s a full day and I find it a really fun programme to lead.

Part of the day involves the group moving away from the main teaching area at our base camp, to employ and learn various skills out in a fairly untamed part of the woods. The students first job is to work in small groups to gather all the materials they need to light a fire, on which they will boil water and cook their lunch. They gather materials and employ the small-stick fire-lighting methodology they have been shown in the morning.

Once everyone had their fire materials gathered and prepared, before lighting, we all headed down to the small stream nearby. Here I talked about potential water contaminants and water purification strategies. Then the students collected water before heading back to their fire materials to light them, then boil their water.

Bushcraft course students light fires

Students employ newly-learned fire-lighting skills. Photo: Paul Kirtley

While the students were establishing their fires and heating their water, I took a short walk along the low-lying ground near to the stream. The stream is spring-fed so always runs a little, even in dry summers like 2017. Water from the adjoining land also percolates down into this depression and the ground is generally damp.

Wet Woodland

From previous experience of the area, I know you can consistently find water mint, Mentha aquatica, in the area. This was primarily what I was looking for, so the students could make mint tea to go with their lunch. Wild teas like this make boiled water much more interesting to drink.

While I was taking my short wander, I also used my phone to snap a few other species of trees and plants, which are very representative of this type of wet woodland in the UK…
These photos were taken on 16 July 2017.

Alder trees in damp ground

Alders, Alnus glutinosa, love having their roots in damp ground. Here, in the damp, narrow, valley bottom, they form the majority of the tree cover in these wet woods. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Round green racket shaped leaf of common alder

Leaves of common alder, Alnus Glutinosa. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Water mint area

This whole area was full of water mint, although too wet and boggy in the middle to access. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Water mint, Mentha aquatica.

A closer look at some water mint, with features typical of the mints – square stem, leaves in opposite pairs, arranged alternately up the stem. And, of course, it smells of mint! Photo: Paul Kirtley

Bunch of wild mint

A nice bunch of water mint for making tasty beverages. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Opposite leaved golden saxifrage and ferns

Another lover of damp ground – opposite-leaved golden saxifrage – carpeting the ground under the ferns. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Opposite-leaved golden saxifrage, Chrysosplenium oppositifolium

Opposite-leaved golden saxifrage, Chrysosplenium oppositifolium, has a succulent, juicy (and edible) leaf. A closer look shows the short, stubbly hairs on the tops of the leaves. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Water pepper, Persicaria hydropiper

Water pepper, Persicaria hydropiper, another common plant of damp ground. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Wood Sorrel leaves on the forest floor.

The three-leaved shamrock shape of wood sorrel, Oxalis acetosella, is easy to recognise. This is a common plant of damp and shady woods. The edible leaf is pleasantly tart, a result of the oxalic acid content. The latter, however, means you should not eat too much of it, particularly if you are prone to kidney stones. Photo: Paul Kirtley

A Few Fungi

On my walk around the area, I spotted a few common fungi…

Ganoderma applanatum on beech

The artist’s bracket, Ganoderma applanatum, commonly grows on beech, Fagus sylvatica, as it is doing here. Photo: Paul Kirtley

White underside of Ganoderma applanatum bracket fungus with brown score mark

The name “artists’s bracket” comes from the etch-a-sketch nature of the underside of the fungus, which is easily marked brown by running a finger-nail (as I have done here) or wooden stylus along the surface of the pore tubes. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Birch polypore fungi on a birch

Birch polypores, Piptoporus betulinus, dotted up a dead birch, snapped off by the wind. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Birch polypore

These examples of this common and useful (minor wound dressing, medicinal tea, razor strop, tinder) fungus of birch woodland were somewhat past their best. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Looking down on a tawny grisette, Amanita fulva.

On the edges of the bracken surrounding our lunch spot, I noticed a tawny grisette, Amanita fulva, with it’s attractive orange-brown cap. As well as becoming paler in colour away from the centre of the cap, note the obvious striations on the edge of the cap. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Side view of Tawny Grisette

A side view of the mushroom (apologies, slightly out of focus). Notice the volva at the base of the stem and the lack of skirt or ring on the stem, which sets A. fulva apart from many other Amanitas. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Underside of Amanita fulva

The gills are white and free (i.e. not attached to the stem). The stem is thin and quite brittle and usually hollow towards the top. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Please Note: When researching more information on the tawny grisette, Amanita fulva, you may well read that this mushroom is edible. Indeed, it is one of the few edible species amongst the Amanitas, a genus of fungi known widely for some of its notoriously deadly poisonous members such as death cap, Amanita phalloides and destroying angel, A. virosa, as well as other poisonous species such as panther cap, A. pantherina and fly agaric, A. muscaria. Given this genus is said to cause 95% of fatalities from mushroom poisoning, it is sensible to leave it well alone unless you know exactly what you are doing.

What Are These Wild Wanderings Blogs Anyway?

Wild Wanderings is a series of photoblogs of elements of nature which, having caught my eye while out and about, I want to share with you, the reader. These observations are typically related to tree and plant identification, animal tracks and sign and other aspects of natural history which pertain to bushcraft and survival skills.

These blogs do not usually contain much written explanation other than concise photo captions. This is intentional, as writing long descriptions, including background facts or a large amount of context, whether it be historical or contemporary, slows down the sharing of these images with you.

Photographic Kit

The above photos were taken with a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge phone. It’s the first time I’ve used this as the main camera for one of my Wild Wanderings photoblogs and I have to say, apart from a few fine-focusing issues, it acquitted itself well.

Related Material On Paul Kirtley’s Blog

Wild Wanderings 7 – Lakeside Life

Survival Foraging: A Realistic Approach

How to Light a Campfire with One Match

How to Leave No Trace of Your Campfire

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Paul Kirtley is an award-winning professional bushcraft instructor. He is passionate about nature and wilderness travel. In addition to writing this blog Paul owns and runs Frontier Bushcraft, a wilderness bushcraft school, offering bushcraft courses and wilderness expeditions.

 

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Frederica Huxley

Thanks – thoroughly enjoy your Wild Wanderings!

Reply

Paul Kirtley

You’re very welcome Frederica. Thanks for your feedback. I’m very happy you enjoy them.

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Jim

Thanks for taking us along.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Thanks for joining 🙂

Reply

Kevin

Thanks for sharing. As for the camera, the ones in phones are getting to be as good, if not better than most compact digital cameras, Though I’m not sure about the old 35mm. 🙂
Have a good one!

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Yes Kevin, this latest phone of mine has a very good camera. Surprisingly good colour representation and low-light capabilities. But you are right, my full frame DSLR with a good lens on it is still worth the money 🙂

Either way, glad you are enjoying the photos.

Warm regards,

Paul,

Reply

Cyril Flannigan

Great article, very interested in having a look for the water mint, in my area,
looks like a great addition to a cup of hot water.
Loving the plant identification in your articles, keeping me aware of what’s around me and what I’m familiar with and what I’m not.
Keep up the invaluable work Paul
Cyril

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Cyril,

As always, it’s good to hear from you. Glad you are enjoying this series and it’s proving of practical use to you too.

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Dave Howard

Hi Paul, thanks for sharing your findings. The photos are great, a really good shot of the bristles on the Golden Saxifrage. Have you ever tried combining the water mint and wood sorrel in the same teapot ?
All the best, stay safe, Dave (Howard 48).

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Dave,

Thanks for your comments. Glad you enjoyed the photos.

Yes, wood sorrel adds a nice twang to proceedings 🙂

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Greg McManmon

Hi Paul, thanks for the latest Wild Wanderings. I always enjoy your plant I.D. and info content. Greg.

Reply

Sven Thomas

Nice to hear you again. As always great pics to learn from greets from munich Dante

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Ian Shankland

Thanks Paul. Nice to see some of what I missed when I had to cancel. I’ve still not managed to see a real life opposite leaved golden saxifrage. I’d be interested to know how you use water pepper of which Richard Maybey’s ‘Flora Britanica’ says ‘its leaves have a burning peppery taste’. Cooked or raw it doesn’t sound like you’d want to use a lot if it.

Reply

Bob Lever

Thank you, Paul.
Great content, as usual!
We were camping in Norfolk this week, walking some of the “Marriott’s Way” (an old railway track). Loads of edibles were found on the embankments. Some natural native, others obviously derived from “escaped” cultivars. One evening’s supper mainly consisted of a perfect puffball, some cobnuts (cultivated cobnuts, definitely not wild native hazel!) and other herbary, all gathered on our walk. Delicious!

Yet again, your Tree and Plant ID course content proved invaluable.

Bob

Reply

Shawn Halloran

Hi Paul!
Love the pictures! The wild mint pic prompted me to go look for some in my garden. It’s good for fevers and colds and my son has a sore throat and cough. I read all of your articles and enjoy them immensely. Please keep them coming! Thanks for all your efforts! Hope to read you again soon!
Warmest regards
Shawn

Reply

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