Mushroom pickers warned: don’t damage ‘green lungs of London’

Fungi pickers are being told that they are damaging Epping Forest’s delicate wildlife ecology.

The City of London Corporation, which manages the ancient woodland as a registered charity, says mushrooms are being illegally picked en-masse and sold to restaurants and markets.

Fungi are vital to the health of Epping Forest’s one million trees, some of which are up to 1,000 years old, as they protect their roots and provide them with water and vital minerals.

Epping Forest is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation and one of the few remaining extensive natural woodlands in southern England. It has the UK’s largest collection of ancient trees.

It is home to a wide range of fungi species, some of which are of national importance. They are protected under Epping Forest byelaws.

Many of the ancient woodland’s 440 endangered species are rare and scarce wood-loving fungi, and picking damages the valuable Forest biodiversity that has developed over the past 10,000 years.

Forest conservators the City Corporation are also warning that animals such as deer rely on fungi as a valuable food source and many rare insect species depend on them for survival.

The City Corporation has been clamping down on fungi foraging over recent years, issuing fines, and prosecuting over 27 people since 2014, with offenders getting criminal records.

Last year, one person was caught with a 49kg haul, the equivalent to multiple large black sacks.

Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Epping Forest and Commons Committee, Ben Murphy, said:

“We are urging people not to pick mushrooms in Epping Forest.

“Their irresponsible actions are damaging the green lungs of London.

“Our job is to protect the future of this ancient woodland which is of national and international conservation importance.

“We will not tolerate criminal activity in Epping Forest, and we will take swift action against anyone damaging wildlife and threatening rare species.”

Epping Forest as a registered charity relies on the public for income and donations to protect the People’s Forest.

It receives more than £4m a year from the City of London Corporation to deliver an outstanding environment attracting 4.5 million visits annually.

The City Corporation protects 11,000 acres of green space in London and south east England – including Epping Forest and Burnham Beeches - and over 200 smaller ones in the Square Mile, investing more than £38m a year.

These sites, most of which are charitable trusts, are run at little or no cost to the communities that they serve. They include important wildlife habitats, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, and National Nature Reserves. They are protected from being built on by special legislation.

Notes to editors

The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK.