Today we headed up to Crickley Hill for a very special nature club that Jenson had specifically requested. The three of us were joined by our friends - Arabella and her Mum, Ally.

The idea behind the club, as far as I could gather from what Jenson told me, was to forage for fungi, have hot chocolates in the cafe and then return home and build what we had found in LEGO! It sounded a super idea in theory and in practice it turned out to be a lovely day.

Ally is much more assured than myself at fungi ID so I was pleased to have her words of wisdom when the children asked, repeatedly, what type of fungi they were looking at. Any we were particularly unsure of we tended to let the children carefully pick and take home so we could study them further. 

It was a cold but sunny morning with only a brief rain shower. It was lovely to watch the children roam around the woods, embracing nature and letting themselves get lost in the wonders of the world around them. I always think it such a pity that children should be cooped up inside a classroom for such long periods during the day when outside there is so much learning to be done. 

This puffball is a type of woodland fungi that develops its spores inside its fruit body. These are particularly fun for the children because when you squeeze them the spores are released through a little hole at the top as a cloud of fine dust.

We found these little ink caps growing on a tree stump close to the puff ball fungi. We think these are glistening ink caps due to their yellow-brown cap and their glistening appearance. 

Just on the other side of the same tree stump we found these - they are also glistening ink caps but their gills have started to brake down.

These are little candle snuff fungi. They have an upright body with a black and hairy stem that forks at the top. 

This is a lovely example of lichen, which as Ally told me, is not a single organism. It is instead two separate organisms comprising of a fungus and algae. Lichen require food, (carbon) which the the algae provides, (algae is photosynthetic which means they use sunlight to synthesise nutrients from carbon dioxide and water.) The lichen symbiosis is thought to be a mutual, since both the fungi and the photosynthetic partners benefit. Through Blue Plant we've been learning a lot about how animals work together as a team for the better good of each other and these two organisms are a further example of another great partnership.

Considering it is quite late in the year to spot fungi we found a lot of different species. The mild weather might have a lot to do with it. Here are two different examples of jelly fungi. Almost all of these fungi have jelly like fruit bodies that have no protection from drying out but do recover quickly when damp conditions return. They all looked very healthy and juicy to us.

Half way around and the children decided to do some sketches of what they had found so far. Ally makes an excellent leaning post!

There are by all accounts thousands and thousands of different fungus. There are so many different species they represent an entirely separate kingdom of living things to plants and animals. The species of bracket fungi seems particularly vast. We found many different species on our two hour woodland walk. Some were huge while others were tiny. Trying to identify them all wasn't easy and so we just refer to them all as 'bracket' fungi!

There were some fungi that we couldn't really guess as to what species they were. The children still had fun looking at the colour, texture, size and shapes though. 

Back at the house the children got stuck into making LEGO models of their fungus finds! Here is their fungus garden with six different species of fungi: bracket, fly agaric, puff ball, candle snuff, common mushroom and an as yet unidentified large white species.