Praying for Everton’s survival among the wildflowers ⚽

Amberley, West Sussex, May 2023

I am aware that most of the people who read my posts are likely to have a natural aversion to football. But really I’m not sure this blog would be here without the football side of my life. I’m someone who is able to say I’ve had words printed in national newspapers having written (unpaid, of course!) short articles about Everton Football Club as a student for the Observer newspaper. As a child I learned to love the outdoors from playing football with my dad and then my friends in the park, and chasing the irregular bounce of a ball over uneven grazing land in Ireland on summer holidays.

As a masters student I dreampt up articles and essays about the psychological landscape of football pitches and the sheer absurdity of the rules of the game. I wanted to deconstruct football, to make it make sense. The ball crosses a line and people’s lives are changed, while billions of pounds change hands. It has become something so unpleasant in many ways nowadays, but its heritage is old and significant. My family have probably supported Everton since the late 1800s when the club was invented.

On Sunday 28th May I forced myself, though tired, to go for a walk in the Arun valley in the South Downs. The aim was to try and distract myself from Everton’s final day game against Bournemouth, where my team could be relegated from the top division of English football for the first time in 69 years.

Formed in 1878, Everton were relegated in 1951 but came back in 1954 and promptly won the league. My dad passed away just short of his 72nd birthday. As an Evertonian from the age of 5, he had never known his team to be anything other than in the top flight. I can say they have won the league in my lifetime, in 1987, in the year of my birth, 1985, as well as picking up the FA Cup against the odds in 1995. It’s not something Newcastle and Spurs fans my age or younger can say!

The stress of these final day relegation cliffhangers is extreme, but I couldn’t tell you why. In 1994 Everton were on the brink, 0-2 down to Wimbledon (RIP) on the final day, but managed to win 3-2 and stay up. In 1998 I put my face in the grass and pleaded with a god I didn’t really know, to save Everton from relegation again. They survived yet again.

Back on my present day distraction walk I passed through Amberley village and popped into the churchyard. It was a beautiful sight, with intelligent mowing having taken place to allow the chalk downland of the churchyard to grow into a rich and healthy sward. #NoMowMay indeed. One unlikely advocate of this excellent initiative is the former footballer and now pundit, Chris Sutton. Sutton regularly makes the case for bee conservation while barracking his co-host Robbie Savage on BBC Radio 5Live’s football phone-in. Well in, lad.

Back in the churchyard, the grasslands were full with oxeye daisies and that downland favourite, yellow rattle.

I entered into the church and took a break from the sun. I love the cool air and quiet of churches, of which the South Downs is spoilt in terms of the sheer number of them. Now, I am not a practicing religious person of any recognised faith, my cathedrals are usually either tree or hill-shaped, but I did ask for my pathetic football team to be spared while sitting on the pew (I also donated to support the church’s eye-watering running costs).

Some hours later, having hammered out 6 miles on the Downs and rushed back to catch the train to listen to the second half at home, Everton survived.

1994, 1998, 2023. Please, just not next year.

Thanks for reading.

The South Downs

Apaches over the Downs

Steyning, West Sussex, February 2023

A walk from Steyning, along the field edge with those lumpy Downs caught in a smoke-like haze. The sun beat over the hilltops, the trees naked, grey and brown without leaves. Hazel catkins were the only decorations.

We walked through an old farm replete with buildings that seemed to be crumbling. The ground underneath was churned up with that grey gloop where the downland chalk meets the Wealden mud, a Sussex special.

The woods were cold and quiet except when labourers felled a tree somewhere in the shade of the Downs. It crashed down and broke into pieces. No doubt an ash tree, dead or dying like so many of them across this once ashy landscape.

On the banks there were the first signs of woodland spring, with dogs mercury leafing and some flowering.

Rising up towards Chanctonbury Ring, the views north were dulled by a dense grey fog that looked like London’s winter pollution belt.

A stand of dead ash trees led to the top of the Downs, where a pair of marsh tit passed between the brittle branches, calling as they moved from tree to tree.

A new vista opened out with the views south, hills folding away into the haze. Black trees breaking the lines.

Further along the South Downs Way a great roaring emerged from the south and an Apache helicopter flew low overhead. It felt too low. A flock of what I thought were starlings were spooked and seemed to fly right at the helicopter.

A second helicopter appeared, banking north and turning 90 degrees as it slid over the edge of the Downs and dropped out of view into the Weald beyond.

A man came past on a bike and stopped to speak to us, registering our surprise: ‘Have you never been here when they do that? I just hope they’re training Ukrainian soldiers and that they’ll be sending them out there.’

We heard stories of accidents that had happened when the appearance of sudden, low-flying military aircraft had disrupted the flow of civil life in the wider landscape.

Up ahead beyond the enclosed South Downs Way, cattle grazed the green hill, unperturbed by the helicopters. In the valley to the south one of the few hedgerows to be seen jangled with the key-song of corn buntings.

Thanks for reading.

The South Downs

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A tale of two hedges in the South Downs

Amberley, West Sussex, February 2023

The light was low over the Arun valley. To the south the Sussex coast was a band of grey concrete, the horizon between sky and sea broken only by the pale sticks of the offshore wind farms. The Isle of Wight rested out at sea to the west like a great sleeping sloth.

The Arun’s floodplain had traces of silver, the remains of January floods. The rain had gone quiet in recent weeks, and so the wetlands were receding back to the river.

The birds were quiet, too. Every now and then a small flock broke and reformed in leafless branches, possibly linnets, goldfinches, chaffinches, it was hard to tell. A red kite followed the crests of the Downs for much of the seven I walked along the South Downs Way that day.

When I first turned off the main road onto the trail, I saw a couple planting out the fresh green leaves of cherry laurel, no doubt to screen their farmland. I gasped but said nothing. They worked at speed, focused intently on their planting. 

Cherry laurel is one of the most invasive and ecologically destructive shop-bought species in the UK. I’ve spent much of my recent working life removing it from oak woods. I firmly believe it should be banned from sale. Holly and yew do just as good a job as screening hedges and are nowhere near as destructive. England’s most ecologically rich and diverse woodlands are usually oak, a tree that loses out every single time to cherry laurel. It can also become established in downlands, of which the South Downs are famous.

A couple of weeks ago I was working with a group of volunteers pulling cherry laurel saplings from an ancient oak woodland that holds a diversity of broad-leaved tree species, namely: oak, ash, wych elm, hazel, holly, yew, field maple, hawthorn, guelder rose, and more. Where cherry laurel has become established in this woodland, all of these species would disappear without intervention. So the task was very clear – remove the self-seeded laurel saplings before they become established and reduce the woodland to a monoculture of one species.

That is the fundamental issue with monocultures of invasive species: the diversity of plants, fungi and animals dies out. That is bad for everyone and everything, even laurel eventually.

This is a tree that originates in the Balkans and is available in most garden centres as a quick-growing, glossy evergreen to create a screen in a garden. It’s also toxic.

Of course there are many species which have toxic chemicals in them, and humans are experts at introducing them to the environment, but I’ve personally felt the impact of laurel’s toxicity. 

Some years ago I somehow got a very small laurel splinter into the vein in my wrist. The following day my wrist swelled-up and a line appeared down the middle-underside of my forearm from the site of the splinter. I went to the accident and emergency and was forwarded through to a care unit where they injected my hand with antibiotics and took several tests, including an ECG. They puzzled over the issue and sent me home with a prescription of more antibiotics. Laurel wasn’t even on their register of toxic plants on that December day in 2017. The infection dropped away after the NHS’s treatment and a few weeks later a miniscule, redundant piece of laurel splinter appeared from my wrist.

Cherry laurel contains cyanide in its leaves and is used by entomologists, or so I’ve heard, to create kill jars for trapping invertebrates. That said, yew is of course also toxic, and the cherry family (which laurel resides in) holds cyanide as a defence mechanism in many of its relatives. The laurel is just doing what’s in its nature, its our role in spreading it to places where it causes harm that is an issue.

Along the South Downs Way, there was much better news. For miles I observed a trench dug into a farmer’s field and saplings of hawthorn and other native hedgerow species planted. This new hedgerow spread for several miles, an incredible contribution from the farmer, or perhaps volunteers who had been involved. Britain has lost 50% of its native mixed hedgerows since the Second World War and, in a landscape home to declining farmland birds like corn bunting and yellowhammer, this new habitat will make a huge difference.

In this case, the difference will be a positive one.

Thanks for reading.

The South Downs

Earpick fungus in Hampshire 👂

Here’s an account of the final fungi walk of my calendar for 2022. It was held on Saturday 19th November on the birch and pine heaths of Bramshott Common, where Hampshire and Surrey cross paths. West Sussex isn’t far away either. It’s an area that is arguably Wealden in character, but inside the South Downs National Park.

I wasn’t able to take any photos during the walk, other than the header image (not visible in email). For a better account of the fungal communities at Bramshott Common, please see my blog from a couple of months ago.

Back in October this Ministry of Defence site contained basketfuls of mushrooms. On 19th November however, they had all gone on holiday. Where fly agarics had previously flung themselves onto paths, only one could be found across the entire walk, tucked away behind a heather shrub. Interestingly, I had been speaking to the person who did find it, moments earlier. She had grown up in Sweden and spoke about how as a child she was taught about mushrooms in school. This heathy, birchy, piney landscape must have been similar to landscapes she knew from Sweden.

The brown birch bolete parties of the previous visit had dwindled to the last man standing, spotted somehow among the identical shades of fallen birch leaves on the ground. As my scouse family says, well in that lad.

Cassius V. Stevani, IQ-USP, Brazil, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

My personal highlight of the walk was when an attendee found a small bonnet-like mushroom among the leaves. I picked up the pine cone it was growing from. The spindly bonnet slumped, but it seemed to have bioluminescence. The one we saw is not the same species as the one in the image above (Mycena luxaeterna) which is found in rainforest in Brazil, but it had a glow and was a bonnet so that’s not too far off.

Does anyone out there know this magical bonnet mushroom in a European context?

Anyway, holding the pine cone up to show off the glow-in-the-dark mushlette – let’s call it that – I mentioned earpick fungus to the group, a species I had only seen once before that is found on pine cones. Looking at the cone again I noticed a small antenna poking up from the cone’s segments. It was earpick fungus! I wish I could have taken a photo with my macro kit but it wasn’t possible. I was surprised by how small and difficult to see the fungus was, only really spotted because it was so close to my face.

As I’ve said previously this autumn: visualise the mushrooms you want to see in the world. Sometimes it works out well.

Big thanks to Olivia and Dan from the South Downs National Park’s Heathlands Reunited project for putting on the walk, and to all the lovely people who came along and made it worthwhile!

Thanks for reading.

Fungi | South Downs

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Praying for Everton’s survival among the wildflowers ⚽

On Sunday 28th May I forced myself, though tired, to go for a walk in the Arun valley in the South Downs. The aim was to try and distract myself from Everton’s final day game against Bournemouth, where my team could be relegated from the top division of English football for the first time in…

A spring epistrophe? 🐝

Another week of some sun, some showers, and some temperatures that got close to freezing. That sentence may turn out to be a spring epistrophe, but more of that later. In Scotland it reached as low as -5C. April 2023 has been a mishmash of seasons. Here’s what I encountered in my garden on 22nd…

The South Downs: old ash tree

This week’s single photograph is an old ash tree in Amberley, West Sussex, taken on 2nd December 2022. This tree may once have been part of a laid hedgerow, hence its wider base. Ash trees are disappearing from the British landscape thanks to the invasive fungus known as ash dieback. I do try and record the older ash trees when I see them. This tree’s left-hand branch is pointing to one of the highest hills locally, Amberley Mount, up on the South Downs. The bracket fungus seen higher up the tree is probably shaggy bracket.

Thanks for reading.

Further reading: The South Downs

The Sussex Weald: Autumn sunset at Cowdray Park

A new blog post series of single images, maybe, to counteract the decline of Twitter and the TikTok-isation of Instagram?

This image was taken at Cowdray Park near Midhurst on Monday 14th November. It was a stunning autumn evening, with trees in shades of gold, yellow and orange all the way to the sumptuous Downs.

A basketful of boletes 🧺

As seen on Friday 14th October 2022

In mid-October I met up with the Heathlands Reunited team at a Hampshire heathland in the Surrey borders. The meeting was to scope out a fungi walk I will be leading with them next month, and I thought it would be worth sharing some of the sightings. They will no doubt differ next month when autumn is well and truly progressing towards winter.

Very early on we found a perfect scarletina bolete (Neoboletus luridiformis)! This is one of my favourite species, having only seen one once before, on chalk on the South Downs Way in 2019.

Elsewhere in the bolete family, there were loads of brown birch boletes (Leccinum scabrum), most of which were in very good condition. Bramshott is a heathland so there’s a lot of birch there.

There were also plenty of Boletus edulis but they seemed to be mostly covered in mould after recent rain. This part of the Weald and Downs is quite misty and damp at times, so the mushrooms were probably quickly affected by the conditions.

There were lots of these red mushrooms that you may have heard of before. They’re enjoying a good year.

Other amanitas found that afternoon include what is either panther cap or grey-spotted amanita.

Less spotty amanitas included the highest numbers of tawny grisette mushrooms (Amanita fulva) I’ve ever encountered.

This grisette had fallen over. At the base you can see the ‘egg’ the fruiting body emerges from.

Along with those amanitas, the most common mushroom by a long, long way was the brown rollrim (Paxillus involutus). This is a poisonous mushroom which seems to be having a very good year.

Here’s a closer look at one of those grizzly bears. I first saw this mushroom when attending a walk from someone who taught me a lot – David Warwick – in Nunhead in SE London. He pulled what looked like a piece of rubbish from an old tree pit, what turned out to be the brown roll rim. I’ll never forget it!

As mentioned previously this season, the russulas are having a strong year. These lovely yellow ones, were appearing afresh from under the pines and birch. You can see a collapsed amanita in the background.

I have considered whether to try and spend more time learning to identify russulas. My focus is on learning families rather than getting obscure fungi down to species level. I am not completely a scientist in this and my aim is to produce photographs and write these blogs. It becomes all about how much time is available to you and what the best use of that time is.

As we finished scouting the route for the walk, we bumped into a group of women who were picking mushrooms. They had a woven basket full to the brim. From what I could make out they had picked a lot of honey fungus, ceps, a scarletina bolete and one of the leccinum boletes. We got talking to them and discovered they were Polish – I can speak a little bit, which I deployed here, always received very warmly! – and the woman in charge really knew her stuff. She said she was going to pickle them in olive oil and was happy with the slug-bitten state of that cep you can see on the lefthand-side.

I’ve written before about the place mushrooms have in historically ‘Slavic’ countries such as Poland. This is not something you would often see in England, nor to encounter someone with the level of confidence in their knowledge. Of course no nation of people can be generalised or defined in any one way but the English culture has become one of mycophobia.

If anything is to be said in riposte to that, it’s that the level of interest and intrigue in fungi in England is growing. We were here to plan a route for a public fungi walk, after all!

Thanks for reading.

Further reading: Fungi

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Chanctonbury to Cissbury in the South Downs

On a warm and clear day in October I walked between two of Sussex’s most famous and well-loved hillforts: Chanctonbury Ring and Cissbury Ring. This is a walk that you can access by public transport, with buses to Washington and then from Findon off the A24.

I didn’t know much about Iron Age hillforts until I worked in the South Downs National Park and had the chance to learn from people working at the National Trust and other heritage experts. Still, my knowledge is not strong on this subject.

It is amazing to think that these hilltops might once have held the equivalent of small villages, using the hilltops to monitor the movement of people across land in the north, and at sea in the south.

The walk winds its way up through woodland to Washington chalk pits, an old chalk quarry that’s now habitat for butterflies and orchids. Here you get good views north to the Greensand Hills where Leith Hill, the highest point in SE England can be spotted (out of shot on the right hand side in the north).

It wouldn’t be a walk for me without the sighting of something fungal. The cow pats in a field approaching Cissbury Ring contained some inkcaps which may be the uncommon snowy inkcap. In the distance the ridge of the Downs bowls away west towards Amberley and the Arun Valley.

Immediately upon ascending the Downs, you can get good views south to Cissbury Ring, a hillfort much, much bigger than Chanctonbury Ring. In the distance are views of the south coast and, in this image, the Rampion windfarm. It’s named after ‘the pride of Sussex’, round-headed rampion, a flower more common in the South Downs.

You approach Chanctonbury Ring on the South Downs Way. I like this subtle stretch of the trail, with the beech trees that cover the ring giving a parkland feel.

In the distance beyond Chanctonbury Ring are the aerial towers of Truleigh Hill, home to the Youth Hostel and secret bunkers (apparently).

I first heard of Chanctonbury Ring when reading Robert Macfarlane’s The Old Ways. There are stories of the ring being ‘haunted’, not just by nature writers. It’s a welcome place to sit and rest, taking in the views under the fair shade of the beech trees. You can understand why this smaller hillfort would be such a good location to observe the comings and goings in the surrounding landscape.

Continuing east on the South Downs Way, views of Devil’s Dyke begin to open out. During the walk the site was visible through the glinting of the sun hitting car windows in the National Trust car park!

Devil’s Dyke (what is one of the most dramatic and awe-inspiring parts of the Downs) can be seen in the mid-left/centre of the image where the dark lump of woodland sits atop the ridge. Truleigh Hill is again visible with the masts.

Turning back to look over your shoulder gives a nice view of Chanctonbury Ring. I think the lump of hills in the right hand side of the image is Black Down, the highest point in the South Downs National Park, near Haslemere in Surrey.

Leaving the site of Chanctonbury Ring gives the impression of walking straight into the sea.

There’s a southern turning to take towards Cissbury Ring and off the South Downs Way. The track leads alongside arable fields and shooting cover. In this view the distant shape of the Isle of Wight is visible in the top right.

The resplendent South Downs set against a ribbon of blue sea and cloud-scattered sky.

Approaching views of Cissbury Ring.

Cissbury Ring is owned by the National Trust, thank god.

On Cissbury Ring there are better views of Brighton and the Seven Sisters cliffs reaching round to Eastbourne. This was a good way to observe the landing of invading armies but probably also to monitor trade.

Out at sea you can get closer views of the white turbines of the windfarm. The development required cables to be dug into the landscape, with a long strip having to be cut through the Downs to reach the electricity terminal. One person I know who lives in Hove said they were comforted by the red flashing lights on the horizon at night.

This sycamore tree got quite a lot of Instagram interest during lockdown, when a local person posted stunning phone pics of the sunsets up here. This is looking towards the Findon Valley.

Looking back where we’d travelled from, Chantoncbury Ring’s mini-hillfort can be seen as a beech clump on the hill, but much smaller now.

To the west, if you have binoculars, you can see the City of Portsmouth outlined on the horizon.

A last look across the Findon Valley, west into the Downs. The ramparts of the hillfort are in the image’s foreground.

Thanks for reading.

Further reading: The South Downs

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Is this England’s national mushroom? 🍄

On a recent visit to the National Trust’s Nymans Gardens I spotted some big, cream-coloured things in the lawns near the car park. No, these were not scones or cream cakes, or even pasties discarded by visitors.

What this hoverfly doesn’t know 🐝

On Sunday 16th April my garden thermometer (kept in the shade, don’t worry) read 16C, and the garden was alive. Here’s what I found in the space of about half an hour.

Bogshrooms, and a life lived wild and free 🍄🐐

I went for an evening walk down the old trackway to the foot of the mountain. The track was flooded, meaning that without wellies I had to find tussocks and rocks to move further. Where the track turned, I noticed a ram of some kind grazing up ahead. After a time, I realised it was…

The Arun valley: gateway to the unknowable Downs

A couple of weeks ago I spent some time in the Arun valley, my local access point to the South Downs. At last some rain came and we watched it shift across the Downs, all the way over to the Greensand Hills in Surrey.

I remember looking at this view in April 2021 after a year of lockdowns and computer screens. I honestly did not believe it was real. Perhaps it was the veil of mist, or perhaps I had developed some mental or neurological disorder from so much time stuck at home.

The Arun valley around Amberley is a crossing point (or perhaps washing point) of the Weald and Downs – where the river that rises in the High Weald’s most westerly point cuts a course through the chalk hills. It has wetlands of international significance in Amberley Wildbrooks and nearby Pulborough Brooks.

Arun at North Stoke, page 71 Book about the Highways and Byways of Co. Sussex, England

Like the nearby Adur, probably better known to people because it passes through the very fashionable Knepp Estate, it used to be a much wilder and freer river.

Along the Arun is the village of Bury, likely to originally have been a defensive point preventing easy Viking access from the coast, up the Arun and towards London, a key trading point (obviously). I recently read a book about Anglo-Saxon England that included some information about King Alfred’s development of ‘boroughs’. These were defensive outposts alongside rivers designed to protect from Viking invasion, which happened so regularly and to great effect in Alfred’s time.

The churchspire of Bury village can be seen among the trees on the banks of the Arun (2020)

The boroughs were an effective means of defence, for a time at least. I can think of so many placenames that include a borough of somekind: Pulborough, Bury (Lancashire, too), Borough (on the banks of the Thames) and Middlesbrough being the first that come to mind.

The Arun valley at Amberley is a place I first visited through working in the South Downs National Park. My relationship to it is about to change as my time with the National Park comes to an end, but that mixture of professional connection and personal fondness has always been an uneasy one.

It’s the place you can get a train to, which is rare in the South Downs, and enjoy some of the most accessible downland walking. There are views to the North Downs and then south to the coast. The Amberley Downs have glow worms, junipers, barn owls, ravens and rare butterflies like the duke of bergundy. It’s also home to vast monocultures of ‘improved’ grassland that were once rich in communities of now rare plants.

A lone hawthorn on the Downs with the Arun snaking away in the background (2019).
Much of its floodplain has become grazing land

The South Downs was first floated as a National Park contender in 1929 but the devastation to its chalk grasslands from the need to plough it up for crops in the Second World War left it a poor relation to the seemingly untouchable Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and Peak District. It only got full ratification as one of the final acts of the outgoing Labour Government in 2010. The Conservatives who followed have begun to cut National Park budgets through flat cash settlements, despite the effect this might have on such a strongly conservative social make-up (‘the shires’ or ‘blue wall’).

The pre-war Downs were sold as one reason to fight for Britain’s sovereignty from Nazi Invasion in the Second World War. How ironic that they ended up being denuded by the very same need to survive. Once the Downs would have been roamed by shepherds grazing large expanses of chalk downland. Today the South Downs feels in some places like an outdoor factory of intensive agriculture, with miles and miles of fences. It is not a wild place in the way that people imagine American National Parks, which in themselves were not necessarily ‘wildernesses’ either due to prior Native American presence. But it is still an incredible place to witness England’s wildlife and geology,

Your Britain – fight for it now (Imperial War Museum/Frank Newbould 1942) – this is not geographically accurate, with the landscape being a splicing together of different parts of the Downs for artistic effect

In Rebirding, a sort of bird conservation polemic, Benedict Macdonald questions the designation of the South Downs as a National Park because of its rolling hills and chalk grasslands, having read this on the website. Ironically the South Downs is one of the most wooded in its tracts of the ancient Low Weald, and home to internationally significant wetlands like those along the Arun at Pulborough. Chalk grassland is also one of the rarest habitats in Europe. It is an astonishing range of habitats, with the dry lowland heath now very rare after the Victorian and 20th-century devastation of the ‘wastes’.

The whole 100 miles of the South Downs, from Eastbourne in East Sussex, to Winchester in Hampshire, has been in my thoughts most days for the past 4 years. The Arun valley now becomes for me that gateway that exists for so many people who don’t have to consider a National Park in its entirety, a psychological doorway into somewhere freer, better and more ‘wild’.

Looking east along the Downs from Chantry Hill, June 2020

In reality it is far more complicated than that.

Thanks for reading.

The South Downs

The fungus capable of mind-control 🍄

In June I was down on the Sussex coast at the mouth of the river Cuckmere. During a bioblitz event I was supporting I discovered something I never expected to see. At the foot of either the first or seventh of the Seven Sisters cliffs, the fenceline and surrounding grasslands were alive with invertebrates. One large thistle plant was covered in all kinds of insects. I felt especially drawn to a beautiful orange and black ichneumon wasp clambering over the spiny leaves. But there was something else that caught my eye.

The fly as found

I noticed a dead fly in a quite unnatural position, a bit like an upside down koala. It was clamped onto one of the spines in a way that reminded me of the famous victims of the parasitic ‘zombie fungus’ cordyceps. Luckily I had my macro lens with me and could get a close-up of the fly.

The fly after I had bent the spine tip of the plant over

The body looked an unusual shade for this species and, looking closer, you could see it was kind of mouldy. I showed everyone I could, taking away the images and several questions I needed to answer for myself!

That afternoon I put the photos on Twitter and had a quick reply from Lukas Large, a known fungi expert in the UK. He said it was a species of entomophthora, a group of fungi that kill flies, just as this one had done. It does much more than that beforehand, however.

Somehow, the fungus enters a final stage of mummification where it ‘gains control’ of the fly’s brain and therefore control over its functions. The fungus is then able to make the fly move to a high position in order to disperse its spores from the dead fly. That is mind blowing in more ways than one.

Thanks for reading.

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