Truffles in Sussex? Really? I wondered as I drove to a secret destination in West Sussex.
I was meeting Melissa Waddingham who is a registered Truffle Hunter and Wild Mushroom picker.
Pulling into a car park area, I couldn’t see any sign of Melissa, so I phoned her. But it was a bad reception area, so we had to talk a couple of words at a time before we were cut off again.
Eventually I realised that I was in the wrong car park, so I drove back down the road for a few yards. And there she was, with her trained truffle dogs, Ella and Zebidee.
We set off into the woods. And Zebidee started digging at once!
Melissa pulled her off and, getting down on her knees, she sniffed the ground like a dog. Then she began digging too, and emerged out of her hole, all excited, gently brandishing a tiny white truffle. She said it was a rare type of truffle, and she placed it gently in her basket, rewarding Zebidee with a titbit.
Recently, Melissa found an unknown species of truffle that hadn’t been seen for 200 years!
As we walked along, Melissa talked about truffle hunting and pointed out signs in the landscape.
Sussex is chalky in places, which gives the soil a high PH, which is good for truffles.
We were in a wood with a lot of beech trees. If you look up at the canopy, the root area will be the same, and there’s potential to find truffles everywhere, 360 degrees under a tree in that area.
Suddenly Zebidee started digging again, her front paws working rapidly, pausing now and then to stick her nose in the ground with her tail wagging. She was obviously having a great time.
Melissa gently nudged her aside and bent down to sniff in the hole. Then she called me over to have a sniff. I could distinctly smell a sweet, musty smell. And, success! Melissa dug out a large black truffle!
It was a bit too old to eat, and an animal had nibbled the edges. But it was an exciting find, and there would be enough traces of the truffle in the ground to produce more truffles.
Melissa is an expert at sustainability, and she carefully covered over the hole.
It was an exciting, interesting morning, but I had to leave for another appointment.
‘Do you know the way back?’ she asked me.
Of course I did. England’s supposed to be a built-up country and I was in the woods, not far away from a main road!
Melissa pointed South and told me to go that way, so off I set.
No problem. I was heading roughly towards the sun.
But then I came to a fork in the woods. Oh dear, which way should I go?
I went left for about 10 minutes, then as the woodland got thicker, I retraced my steps and followed a more obvious track. I was bound to meet someone walking their dog or riding a horse soon! I could ask them the way.
No, I didn’t meet one person. The woods were deserted!
Finally, I emerged at the first car park, so all I had to do was turn left and walk down the road.
But there was no sign of the other car park. What on earth was going on?
Again I retraced my steps – several times. Where was it? It should be there down the road from the other car park!
Again, I didn’t see anyone outside their house, and the few cars that passed me had no intention of stopping.
Finally, I walked up to a house and knocked on the door. The man who opened the door looked at me very strangely when I told him I’d lost my car! But then he said he’d take me there in his car, and said it was up the road.
No it isn’t, it’s down the road! I replied.
He told me we’d go up the road, then he could turn round if necessary.
We drove past the first car park (as I thought!) and there was car park no 2!
I found out that there were two identical car parks, so I’d turned left instead of right!
And there was my little car, waiting for me. Oh, the relief!
As you know, Dear Regular Readers, I am not a fan of hiking, etc.
See my Nordic Torture Walking article on our sister magazine B-C-ing-U!
As Hubby John says, I’d drive to the bathroom if I could!
And where did I go truffle hunting? Aah, that’s a secret and I’ve promised not to tell!
Melissa Waddingham is a truffle hunter and wild mushroom picker. In the spring and autumn months she runs mushroom forays, truffle hunts, talks and courses and throughout the year she provides truffle hound training days for your truffle hound to be.
She also manages woodlands for the sustainable production of truffle. For more information regarding these services, contact her.
Dates of up and coming events will be posted and group numbers are small with a maximum of ten people so Melissa does advise that you book well in advance. One to one and smaller group forays/courses are also available.
Truffle hunting is an uncommon practice here in England and the rare opportunity to have a go with a trained dog and its owner is an experience not to be missed for a great day out!
- e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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