Laide & Aultbea Community Wood
Located in the West Highlands, Laide & Aultbea Community Woodland (LACW), including two inland lochs, extends to 86.6 hectares (214 acres). It was originally owned and planted with mostly conifers by the Forestry Commission between 1963-67. Little management was carried out and the woodland was sold in 1993 and then changed hands several more times before being purchased by the community in 2003 when LACW was established.
Since 2003, trails have been created, bridges built, a bird hide constructed and over 62,000 (mostly) new broadleaf trees planted. A new 1.4km trail was completed in 2020 and a fully accessible picnic area developed in 2021.
The woodland is run by Trustees/Directors drawn from the local community and has an enthusiastic volunteer team and active membership, all of whom help to achieve our key charitable objectives:
To manage access to LACW, provide opportunities for recreation and conserve, regenerate and preserve the woodland
To encourage community involvement in the management of the woodland
Everyone is welcome at LACW and we hope you enjoy your visit
It was exciting to plan a resumption of Laide Wood autumn fungus forays, dislocated since the last one in 2019 by the COVID lockdown. It nearly did not happen, as the forecast for the day was dire and we awoke to heavy rain-so much so that we contacted some people early in the morning to say it was cancelled. However, when we arrived at the car park at 9.30 to inform the expected few diehards we found that by 10am, the planned start, there were a goodly number of participants (17) and the rain had ceased, so we uncancelled! -Apologies to those that did not come having heard the bad news. Please come next year.
After the usual introduction by JH to the ‘world of the fungi’and the safety briefing, we followed the left hand path through the deciduous tree plantings below the car park and were immediately slowed to a snail pace by the discovery of lots of fungi in the grass, including very tall stemmed and handsome pale brown caps of the Spring Cavalier (Melanoleuca cognata) ,which also occurs in this area in April, hence the name. At the Pine plantation, after finding the bright red caps of the Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria) growing, as it often does, with the reddish-orange domed fruit bodies of a the Peppery Bolete (Chalciporus piperatus), we took a left-hand detour to follow the new cross path for a few hundred yards to look for the ‘Fairy Rings’ of the Hedgehog Fungus (Hydnum repandum) which straddled this path in 2019 .They were again there but much wider in diameter, having ‘grown’ outwards in the intervening years; it is a pity we did not measure them in 2019 to be more accurate about this! As in 2019 there were also lots of purple caps of the Humpback Brittlegill (Russula caerulea) scattered through the area .
From here we returned the main path, crossed the new bridge (terrific construction!) and followed the path over to Loch na Cathrach Duibhe finding lots of fungi as we went along Some were growing on the rotting Lodgepole Pine logs by the path, the tiers of pure white fleshy Angel’s Wings (Pleurotellus porrigens) being very prominent but even prettier were the hundreds of small brown toadstools of Hypholoma marginatum growing all over the wood chip piles so kindly donated to the fungi by working parties. Possibly the best find here was the Milking Bonnet (Mycena galopus) growing in photogenic groups of small black toadstools which yielded drops of pure white ‘milk’ (a latex) when the stems were snapped. This is a new find for the wood. However the round white but soft pincushion shape of a very odd fungus with an even odder name, Postia ptychogaster growing on rotten wood next to the path runs the Milking Bonnet close for new finds and photogenic appearance. It was re-found by Chloe Hall the following week and her photo of it appears alongside this account.
In the grass by the path there were different fungi. Some were species you find in lawns and pastures, notably the strongly pointed yellow- orange caps of the Blackening Waxcap (Hygrocybe conica ) which demonstrated the aptness of its popular name by the stem rapidly turning black once we had had picked it and we also found some old totally black old fruit bodies. Alongside were the small jet black tongue shaped fruit bodies of the Earthtongue (Geoglossum)sticking up in the grass, also a grassland, not woodland, species. Identification needs a microscope but the two specimens collected proved to be a Black Earthtongue, Geoglossum fallax, a new record for the wood.
Also along the path side and in the surrounding trees were lots of fruit bodies of the Tube Mushrooms (Boletes), with tubes rather than gills under the large fleshy caps, always common in Laide Wood because they grow in association with the various conifer species, especially Lodgepole Pine. The Weeping Bolete (Suillus granulosus) was the most abundant again, covering the floor of the wood around both lochs with its large pale-caps (very, very slimy- hence the name) with whitish yellow pores to the tubes beneath. Less abundant than previous years was Slippery Jack (Suillus luteus) commonest when we reached by the path along the north side of Loch na Creige. It has a much chunkier domed bright (and slimy) brown cap, bright yellow pores below and a very clear ring on the stem. As we walked along this path section we also found the striking white scaly columns of the young Lawyer’s Wig (Coprinus comatus) with older fruit bodies nearby already partly digested into the inky fluid into which all Inkcaps eventually dissolve. This fungus has occurred here in autumn for a number of years-and it also pops up around the car park, two very different habitats! We found another regular by digressing a little along the side of Loch na Creige on the return path to the car park finding the tall stalks and rounded heads of young fruit bodies of the Pestle Puffball (Lycoperdon excipuliforme) in its usual place (seen there in at least the last five years) between path and loch. However we then retraced our steps and followed the path around the loch and entering the dense pine stands enjoyed the many bright red caps of a Brittle Gill, The Sickener (Russula emetica) scattered over the floor of the woodland. This fungus is not poisonous-as the name implies it quickly makes you sick so you do not retain it in your body (unlike some other truly poisonous fungi which are unfortunately readily digested).
Finally we arrived at the ‘waterfall area’. It always rewards in terms of the numbers and diversity of fungi: possibly because it has relatively old trees. Uniquely we have always found the white coral-like clubs of the Rough Coral (Clavulina rugosa) coming up in the moss by the path just after the wooden bridge over the burn leaving Loch na Creige and alongside the cascade itself there was in the usual place on the bank a large fruit body of the famously edible Penny Bun mushroom (also known as the Cep) (Boletus edulis).
We finished with a group photograph near the Bird Hide by which stage the rain had once again returned at some intensity. It was time to go! We retraced our steps to the car park trying to avoid too much delay by finding yet more fungi. Everyone seemed to enjoy the foray .Thanks for coming and especially our youngest participant (we do not recall his name unfortunately!) who proved to be such a good field assistant and he quickly learnt the technicalities of identifying fungi-well done!
See you next year-let’s have a Spring Foray!
To see the photos of all the amazing Fungi please click on the link in the Downloads section.
Six bridges down just one to go
For 2 weeks in August volunteers were busy removing one of the old bridges that needed replacing. The new bridge is wider so it involved a fair bit of time being put into the design & measuring part of the process. Once the exact placement of the bridge had been established it was time to remove the old bridge & dig out a wider section for the foundations. The wood which was sourced from Inverewe Gardens needed cutting to size & preparing for installation, a process which is quite involved. With everything prepared the volunteers then began installing the new larger bridge, a physical task for the volunteers especially given the size & length of the beams required to span the stream.
The wood is abundant with life & colour at the moment. The wildflowers are in full bloom, the young trees which were planted along the Heather Trail a few years ago are strong & healthy and the birds, insects, mammals & many other species are taking full advantage of all that the wood has to offer.
When walking along the Heather Trail visitors may notice many dead saplings on the ground, these are invasive self seeded Lodge Pole Pine & Sitka Spruce which have been removed by the volunteers. This is a necessary & ongoing process to allow the newly planted deciduous trees & Scots Pine space & light to flourish.
When looking through the photos below you may glimpse a Long Tailed Tit chick & an adult Grebe with 3 chicks. It's fantastic to see so many people recording their wildlife sightings on the board in the wildlife hide. It's so encouraging to know that the wood supports such a diverse range of flora & fauna.
In recent months you may have noticed that the old wooden benches have been replaced with recycled plastic benches which have durability, will be low maintenance & far easier for the volunteers to look after. We would like to thank everyone who donated towards the new benches.
One year on from Storm Eunice
It is just over a year since Storm Eunice left it's presence on the wood. The wood had to close to visitors for a spell due to the damage. Volunteers & Trustees worked tirelessly to clear up after the storm & reopen the trails that had been blocked by fallen trees & tree tops. There is still some evidence of the storm damage but it is really good to see the wood looking exceptional despite adversity.
Here are some before & after photo's.....