Looking forward to the Sheffield Food Festival

Another Bank Holiday weekend and a “window of opportunity” opened for a recce of Wyming Brook.  I needed to re-familiarise myself with this beautiful nature reserve and its potential for our Forage and Feast event which will take place on the 5th July as part of the second Sheffield Food Festival.

There's even Wood Sorrel on the stepping stones!

Rain had finally come after a prolonged dry and warm period, and it was pleasant change to set off from Rivelin Dam in light rain.  The BBC have reviewed April as the warmest on record for the last 350 years in Central England and followed by further great weather in June it would be interesting to see what effect this had on the flora.

Striking up into the mixed deciduous wood immediately above the reservoir I was surprised to come across a little group of Amythyst deceivers (Laccaria amethystea ) growing in the leaf litter from the beech trees overhead.  I had thought that late summer would be the season for these.  Not expert in my fungi identification skills I took a sample home to carry out a spore print and make further investigations.  It goes without saying that collecting any wild fungi can be a dangerous occupation and consuming then should only be after complete identification from an expert.

Amethyst deceiver

These fungi were a deep violet colour all over and although very striking actually blended quite well into the forest floor.  The danger I later read in the very good River Cottage Handbook No.1 on Mushrooms is that apart from the colour they are in every respect very similar to Laccaria laccata, the Deceiver.  The Deceiver whilst not poisonous itself can be confused with many in the “little brown toadstool” category including the deadly Fibrecaps.  And overnight as my sample Amethyst deciever dried out its colour magically changed from deep violet to boring pale grey, showing that a dry specimen would be harder to identify than my original sample as illustrated here.  The other factor I noted in the morning was that the spore print was white as expected in an Amethyst deceiver.  These fungi are edible (although the stem is said to be tough).

Heading on up Wyming Brook proper it soon became apparent that Wood Sorrel – Oxalis acetossela is the predominant plant under the dense tree canopy.  The oxalic acid in the leaves gives this plant a sharp lemony bite and will make a great addition to a wild plant salad.  See the fabulous Plants for a Future web site for more information and uses.

As we gained height up the brook I couldn’t help neglecting my examination of the ground to scan the river for a sight of a dipper.  Once a birder always a birder!  However, no sighting today although the conditions looked ideal.

Dipper Territory?

Crossing a couple of pretty bridges we were soon at the Southern end of Wyming Brook which meets the Redmires Road.  Here the gradient eases into a beautiful meadow area where I found Common Sorrel – Rumex acetosa, and Thistles the inside of their stalks making an interesting snack.   I think we will incorporate these into the meal for the event.  At this point my botanical inexperience was really beginning to tell and I will be very interested to meet with Be Wiggs from the Sheffield Wildlife trust to lend some expert identification.  Heres one that I could do with some help with now:

What is this plant?

We returned to the start via the high route heading NE on the margin of the wood and fields running up to the Redmires Road.  After a short way I was excited to find a flowering species which I had not previously seen.  This is the great thing about being inexperienced – finding new things for the first time is a real buzz!  Of course I have probably walked past Claytonia sibirica (common names include Siberian Spring Beauty, Siberian Miner’s Lettuce, Candy Flower or Pink Purslane) many times but been looking and not seeing.

Beautiful Pink Purslane with its 5 notched petals, Wood Sorrel nestling to the right

This plant was introduced into the United Kingdom by the 18th century where it has become very widespread and is apparently all edible.  I didn’t pick any on this Bank Holiday but look forward to trying it soon.

The second Sheffield Food Festival takes place between 4 and 10 July.  To book for our Forage and Feast event see here.  With the final programme starting to be revealed it looks as if it will provide an illuminating opportunity to discover more about Sheffield’s diverse food culture.  I am looking forward to our contribution and particularly to discovering more hidden gems tucked away in the wonderful habitats on our door step.  Ros Arksey in her recent article on PJ taste for Whats on Up North adds further thoughts for the festival

As a coda to this the Sorby Natural History Society recently helped organised a Bio Blitz in Shirebrook and over a 24 hour period found upwards of 1000 separate specis of flora and fauna.  This incredible diversity (and feat of recording) is amazing and it will be fascinating to watch this story as the final count comes in.