An Introduction to Fungi – and the Mystery of Mushrooms

(c) Andrew Ridley

I was lucky enough to be awarded a sponsored place on the Intro to Fungi ID course at the beautiful Feed Bristol site in Stapleton on the 24th and 25th of November.

Thanks to ecologist friends, my eyes had been gradually opened to the amazing world of fungi and I had begun to develop an interest in this strange new world and all its wonders.

I have a professional background in mental health and psychology and am personally interested in ecology in general.

Both of these are vital sciences for understanding the planet we inhabit, and I believe in the connection between nature and wellbeing.

With this in mind, I am trying to learn about horticulture and certain areas of ecology to broaden my understanding of the natural world and to eventually combine nature into mental health work and wellbeing.

I was introduced to the work at Feed Bristol by an ecologist friend who completed the Grow Leader course earlier this year.

My first foray into mycology was at Feed’s event for UK Fungus Day in October 2017. I was amazed at what I learned and saw during the day, as well as what I discovered about the great work that Feed Bristol do.

When I saw that the Justin Smith Foundation was offering two sponsored spaces on the Introduction to Fungi ID course last November, I applied and was lucky enough to be awarded a space.

Tutor Rich Wright has developed a brilliant weekend of hands-on learning, classroom-based knowledge, field-identification skills and a field trip walk.

Rich provided a whole table of freshly foraged fungi specimens and we were encouraged to dive in by holding, touching and asking questions.

I loved the tactile aspect of the course as well as the two field trips we did on the Feed Bristol grounds.

There was a perfect balance of learning through doing (examining the specimens, taking spore prints, going on field trips to find fungi) and group work in the classroom (biology, working with identification keys, using microscopes). Even though I was a total novice, no question was too simple to ask and I enjoyed the wide range of knowledge and experience in the group. Rich is a passionate and friendly tutor whose wealth of knowledge seemed to know no bounds.

Whether you’re an ecologist, PhD student, hobbyist or curious novice this course will no doubt leave you transfixed.

I’d recommend it to anyone – keep an eye out on the Avon Wildlife Trust events page for upcoming courses at Feed Bristol as well as the Justin Smith Foundation website for their special opportunities for enthusiastic learners. 

Thanks to Feed Bristol, Rich Wright and the Justin Smith Foundation for the opportunity to explore the world of fungi!