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Rare roadside fungus find prompts action by community

PUBLISHED: 10:06 04 February 2019 | UPDATED: 12:04 04 February 2019

Volunteers clear footpath in Kelsale next to where sandy stiltball fungus has been discovered Picture: Charles Cuthbert

Volunteers clear footpath in Kelsale next to where sandy stiltball fungus has been discovered Picture: Charles Cuthbert

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Volunteers spring into action after sandy stiltball found flourishing next to footpath in Kelsale near Saxmundham.

Sandy stiltball fungus found on roadside verge in Kelsale Picture: Charles CuthbertSandy stiltball fungus found on roadside verge in Kelsale Picture: Charles Cuthbert

The sandy stiltball was first discovered by Charles Cuthbert last winter on a verge next to the main road running through the village of Kelsale - and clusters of the fungus have re-appeared again this year.

Volunteers are now working with the local parish council to enhance the area and do what they can to ensure this exciting find can flourish.

The sandy stiltball is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) species and one of only a handful of fungi given full protection under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981, meaning it is illegal to pick, uproot or disturb it.

READ MORE: Increase in foraging is leading to a decline in some wild species of mushroom, warns fungus expert

The sandy stiltball fungus was first discovered last year before appearing again this year Picture: Charles CuthbertThe sandy stiltball fungus was first discovered last year before appearing again this year Picture: Charles Cuthbert

Mr Cuthbert, a retired countryside manager and ecologist, says the fungus is found in dry sandy soils, more typically in parts of southern Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Helping hand

He is part of small group of volunteers who have cleared the area by hand to stop the verge further encroaching on the footpath, while the parish council has additional plans to clear the rest of the footpath and cut back the hedge where the fungus is growing to let in more light. Advice has been taken from Natural England and white markers put out at the location, so contractors cutting the roadside verge know to take care along this stretch.

“Fortunately, there is a good understanding that this management work must be done very sensitively,” said Mr Cuthbert, who praised the parish council for its work in giving wildlife a helping hand.

“The parish council has established a Biodiversity Group as a means of helping to support wildlife and nature conservation within the village area and this has been working quite well over the last two years,” added Mr Cuthbert who is member of the group but not a parish councillor.

The sandy stiltball  favours sandy soil, typically in southern Europe, the Middle East and Africa  Picture: Charles CuthbertThe sandy stiltball favours sandy soil, typically in southern Europe, the Middle East and Africa Picture: Charles Cuthbert

Awareness

He also praised the parish council’s awareness and positive actions for nature conservation by setting aside grassland areas to be managed for wildflowers and butterflies on the village recreation grounds and the fencing off the popular village bonfire site ahead of Bonfire Night to ensure that no hedgehogs or other creatures crept under the stack and risked being burnt.

Mr Cuthbert said hedgehogs have declined in many parts of Suffolk and that every effort should be made to help conserve these and other threatened species.

He added: “ Kelsale is surprisingly rich in wildlife interest and has many important features including species-rich meadows, ponds, verges and ancient trees, plus numerous rare and declining species. The Biodiversity Group has already mapped and carried out surveys of many of the more interesting habitats and this work is continuing as part of the developing Neighbourhood Plan.”

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