Nine people have been fined more than £1,800 for illegal mushroom harvesting in Epping Forest, as managers try to protect the natural woodland.

The City of London Corporation, which protects the site, said it prosecuted the foragers earlier this month at Southend Magistrates’ Court for picking large amounts of fungi in the forest, which is prevented by by-laws.

The City Corporation said foragers are damaging the woodland habitat by stripping it of wild mushroom species, many of which are of national importance and play a vital role in sustaining natural systems there.

Fungi support ancient trees and provide fruiting bodies that rare insects rely on, food for wildlife such as deer, as well as an autumn nature spectacle for visitors to the forest, which is one of the few remaining extensive natural woodlands in southern England.

Epping Forest Guardian:

Some foragers are selling the fungi to restaurants and markets.

The City Corporation said 27 people have now been prosecuted since 2014, with Epping Forest Keepers also often issuing verbal warnings.

Graeme Doshi-Smith, chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Epping Forest and Commons Committee, said: “Fungi play an incredibly important role in the delicate balance of biodiversity which makes Epping Forest special.

“Large-scale and commercial foraging is a huge problem and we want to raise awareness of how damaging it is to the ancient woodland.

“Stripping the Forest of fungi deprives insects and animals such as deer of a valuable food source, damages biodiversity and threatens rare species.

“We welcome the millions of people who come to enjoy this protected site. But I urge our visitors to leave the fungi how they find them – untouched.”

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