PART of the New Forest has been stripped of edible mushrooms for the second year running.

Gangs of commercial pickers have staged dawn raids on the Forest, arriving by van and grabbing all the non-poisonous fungi they could find.

Mushrooms are 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.

Last year the National Trust revealed that every edible mushroom had been taken from Bramshaw Common, one of five sites that it owns in the district.

Now the same area has been targeted again.

A National Trust spokesman said: “The New Forest team have received reports from early morning dog walkers of what appear to be groups of people collecting on a commercial scale.

“Areas targeted include Half Moon Common, Black Hill and Duck Hill – all part of Bramshaw Common.

“A recent National Trust-led fungi foray on Half Moon Common resulted in sightings on non-edible fungi only, possibly because the edible varieties had all been picked.

“Several thousand species of fungi can be found in the New Forest and are an extremely beautiful part of the area’s autumn landscape.

“Picking a small amount of fungi for the odd meal is entirely acceptable.

“But mass collection means this special landscape is destroyed for other visitors. Fungi should be left in their natural environment for everyone to enjoy.”

Commercial mushroom picking is banned in the Forest.

The only person allowed to do it is Brigitte Tee-Hillman, of Sway Road, Lymington, who won a landmark ruling against the Forestry Commission in 2006 after a four-year legal battle.

In the first case of its kind she was granted a personal licence to collect as many mushrooms as she liked during her lifetime.

But the number of commercial pickers operating in the Forest has risen sharply in the past few years.

A Commission spokesman said: “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.”

  • Mushrooms found in the New Forest Chicken of the Woods: So called because many people think they taste like chicken. Often used as a substitute for chicken in a vegetarian diet.

Beefsteak Mushroom: Looks and tastes remarkably like beefsteak and even bleeds a reddish juice when young.

Bay Bolete: Often considered a poor relation of the Cep mushroom. It is nevertheless highly regarded by cookery writers such as Antonio Carluccio.

Hen of the Woods: Recognised by its smoky brown, wavy cups it is usually found near the base of oak trees.