MUSHROOMS and TOADSTOOLS
A miniature puff-ball (LYCOPERDON PERLATUM)
This page of my web-site is dedicated to SIMON HILL (1935-2008). Simon was a professional mycologist who worked at the then Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Pest Infestation Laboratory on the London Road, Langley, just outside of Slough. I probably first me him in the early 1980s, when I gave a lecture about my plant hunting in the Himalaya to the small Garden Club which the Lab had, invited by a near neighbour, Bishu Chakrabarti (who specialised in the fungal infestations of grain crops). But it was Simon's Fungus Forays for the Iver and District Countryside Association in Langley Park which I most remember him for. When I first came to live at my parents house in Langley towards the end of 1981 and joined IDCA, I telephoned Simon about the forays. I had been on a couple in the New Forest, led by Professor Manners, a mycologist of international repute, whilst an undergraduate studying botany at the Southampton University. A few students would gather edible varieties (which the Professor had verified as non-poisonous), purchase some venison sausages from a local butcher and have a jolly good "fry up". So I asked if the IDCA forays ended in similar style but Simon was much more cautious about eating fungii - wisely so. Any mistake could be fatal!
Subsequently, I took all three of my sons on some of his forays during their primary years. I even gathered mushrooms and toadstools in a basket the year I began an Open University Post Graduate Certificate in Education - with a view to teaching science at Secondary Level (there had been family pressure on me to get a 'proper' job). I took these into Altwood School, Maidenhead, my main placement, to show off to science classes - these were favourably received; students were impressed to learn that top chefs went on forays themselves and sold them cooked at high prices in London restaurants. One autumn took some dried puff-balls into my sons' primary school, which caused much amusement, so left them with a class teacher. At the end of the day they were "missing". Eventually, I tracked them down to the Headteacher's Office - he was absolutely amazed by them!
In later years, Simon was involved with the conservation of 'Iver Heath Fields' and played a major role with the Iver & District Countryside Association. Family circumstances and work commitments prevented me from being as involved with these projects as I would have liked.
My youngest son was able to pay tribute to Simon during his first power-point presentation outside his school, on the NATURAL HISTORY OF BLACK & LANGLEY PARKS to Iver & Langley Rotary in June 2015. At this time he was Upton Court Grammar School's Head Boy, the school being not far from where Simon lived. My second placement school whilst studying for the PGCE (which I never completed), was then called Slough Grammar. Given the proximity of Simon's home ( I do not drive), I was able to borrow some display material, for demonstrations about Fungii whilst there. Prior to entering this school, my son had an accident on his bicycle nearby. His mother was at work and unavailable to help, so we walked to Simon's house to find him and his wife Diana, in. They looked after Joseph, loaded his bicycle into Simon's car and drove him to our home, whilst I cycled back.
I fully endorse he comments of a friend of his, "He was a wonderful man with so much to give".
Common earth-ball (SCLERODERMA CITRINUM)
What a pity Simon never got to see the images I have included here - as he has passed before I began using a digital camera.
'Many-zoned Polypore' (CORILUS VERSICOLOR)
'Beef-steak Fungus' or 'Ox-tongue' (FISTULINA HEPATICA)
'Parasol Mushroom' (PARIOTA PROCERA)
I would like to recommend the following small volume (actually purchased by my eldest son), for beginners - which can easily be taken into the field.