A walk along an old railway near Coutances in Normandy was a chance to see a different autumn to that found in our more normal Northumberland. There isn’t much different between the South of England and Normandy, perhaps even less this year with the area suffering much of what the weather threw at the UK.
Despite the typical autumn weather there were few varieties of fungi to be seen. A very obvious exception was Leucopaxillus giganteus, with the rather disappointing if descriptive English name of giant funnel fungus. This was to be seen in large numbers including ring formations between the hedge and the cycleway of the old railway line. It’s said to be edible though some sources seem to be less certain of this than others and it clearly isn’t great to eat otherwise it would not have remained in such profusion in a public place!
The hedgerows were worryingly devoid of berries; here too the volume of hedgerow food for overwintering birds seems very impoverished this year. All the more striking then were the rather aged berries of black bryony (Tamus communis) that hung from a dried out clambering stem. This is a poisonous plant, the berries particularly so, and a member of the yam family. It will regrow next year from a tuber and will produce rather insignificant greenish flowers in May. It seems to prefer calcareous soils and is becoming increasingly common in the UK.
The hart’s tongue ferns (Asplenium scolopendrium), in an old railway cutting, provided an impressive green display hinting again at the lime rich geology of the area.