Fascinating Fungi

Red and orange gilled fungi growing in a field

The fields around Hardcastle Crags are home to rare species of fungi. As part of our Grassland Fungi Project, we're working with local landowners to look after these important ecosystems.

With names like apricot club, purple coral and deceptive earthtongue, the world of fungi is weird and wonderful. Many of these incredibly rare fungi are on threatened species lists, as they only grow in very specific conditions. Luckily, they are thriving in parts of Calderdale.

What makes Calderdale special?

The meadows and grasslands that surround Hardcastle Crags are incredibly important for biodiversity. Many have been farmed with traditional methods for years, using few modern fertilisers and with a focus on grazing and hay making. These unimproved grasslands are perfect for rare fungi, espeically those with moist but well-draining soil. These fungi tell us that these fields are ancient grasslands - great for biodiversity and storing carbon.

Violet Coral
A purple, coral shaped fungi in the grass
Violet Coral

Why are these fungi important?

These fungal ecosystems can take hundreds of years to form, but once establsihed, the fungi can then live for hundreds of years too. If you see fungi growing in a field, it indicates the soil is in very good health and less compacted. This also plays a part in reducing flood risk, as less compacted soil can help to slow the flow of water off the valley sides. 

Many of the fungi found in Calderdale are on the UK and EU Red data lists for threatened species. It's still not fully understood how they can play a part in our own health. Many of them could provide medicines or solutions for problems we've not even thought of yet. The complex fungal systems are only just beginning to be studied.

Find out more about how we used DNA sequencing to study the fields around Hardcastle Crags.

A bright, cream coloured mushroom sprouts out of the grass

Meadow Waxcap

Keep your eyes peeled for the Meadow Waxcap, as it's a great sign that you're walking through ancient grasslands. It's one of the biggest of the waxcaps and grows in abundance in the right conditions.

Why are these ecosystems under threat?

Many of the traditional, unimproved grasslands have changed dramatically over the last century. New farming technologies and chemicals mean many fields have been changed to make them more productive, but this has had a knock on effect on biodiversity and species like fungi. Tree planting, whilst an important tool in the fight against climate change, can also threaten the delicate balance of these habitats. We believe in planting the right trees in the right place, but also want to show just how valuable unimproved grasslands are to help capture carbon.

Next steps...

The aim of the Grassland Fungi Project is to identify key sites where these fungi grow and working with farmers to maintain these habitats. We will be working with our partners the Calder River's Trust and following advice from Natural England. This project is not just about National Trust land; we'll also be working with landowners and farmers throughout Calderdale. So if you see a bright, shiny golden waxcap or the red of a scarlet waxcap on your next walk, please let us know.

For more information about the Grassland Fungi Project, please contact steve.hindle@nationaltrust.org.uk 

Information for farmers & landowners - Grassland Fungi Project (PDF / 0.1MB) download

A ranger holds different coloured waxcap fungi in her hand

What to look out for 

Want to learn more about the weird and wonderful fungi you might see growing in Calderdale? If you spot waxcaps on your walk, it might mean it's ancient grassland. Take a look at the different species and what they look like.