ONE of Britain’s biggest landowners has condemned commercial pickers who have taken EVERY edible mushroom from one part of the New Forest.
Fungi is often targeted by people who flout Forest by-laws by cashing in on the demand from posh restaurants and food stores.
The amount paid varies from year to year but experts say commercial pickers can expect to pocket at least £20 per kilo.
And now the National Trust has revealed that every edible mushroom has been taken from one of the five sites that it owns in the district.
The latest incident of fungi filching occurred on Bramshaw Common.
National Trust volunteer Roger Newton said: “Not only has every single edible mushroom been taken or cut, leaving just the stalk, but the ground has been badly trampled.
“There is also the danger that someone gathering mushrooms in this quantity could take poisonous varieties, with dire consequences for those eating them.”
The New Forest is home to thousands of species and is regarded as one of the best areas in the UK for fungi.
Demand is said to be exceptionally high this year because the wettest summer for 100 years has created a shortage of wild mushrooms.
Lee Hulin, one of the National Trust’s outdoor rangers, said: “Large-scale harvesting means regular visitors have less chance of seeing these lovely mushrooms.
“This sort of plundering is spoiling enjoyment for everyone.”
Commercial mushroom picking is banned in the Forest. The only person allowed to do it is Brigitte Tee-Hillman, who won a landmark ruling against the Forestry Commission in 2006.
A Commission spokeswoman said the Bramshaw incident was the only one reported so far.
She added: “People picking mushrooms should only take enough for personal consumption.
This means no more than 1.5kg per visit, and no more than half the fruiting bodies of any one species.”
But demand is at a premium because of the wet summer.
Mrs Tee-Hillman said: “It’s been an absolute disaster – the worst year ever.
Mushrooms don’t grow in water. I’ve hardly picked any because there aren’t any to pick except Chicken of the Woods."