THERE is something special about beech woods, with their magnificent towering trees combined with the gentle give of fallen leaves under one’s feet.

Thus, I was delighted to explore a wee gem of a beech wood just to the south of Clackmannan and Kennet.

Following the path signposted Kennetpans, I was soon enveloped by the tranquillity of the wood here, and quickly spotted a grey squirrel scampering up a tree.

Both red and grey squirrels are found in the Wee County, with reds occurring in the north-east, and grey predominating elsewhere.

Many of the trees had ivy growing on them, creeping up their trunks like creeping tendrils.

Ecologically, ivy is an important plant, with the greenish-yellow flowers in autumn secreting abundant nectar that are pollinated by a variety of insects.

Thick ivy growth is also a favoured nesting site for several types of songbirds, and their small dark berries are a source food.

I crossed the farm track that leads down to Kennetpans, and struck along a small path through the wood, with lies on a steep scarp, and headed towards the main Clackmannan Bridge road.

A fly agaric toadstool shone out at me from the woodland floor like a smouldering ember, and I also stumbled upon a cluster of bonnet mushrooms on a decaying tree stump.

Fly agaric is the toadstool so widely depicted in children’s fairy tales, including Alice in Wonderland.

But behind that red-cloaked beauty lies a warning, for fly agarics are poisonous, and in parts of Europe there was the old custom of using the caps, crumbled in milk, to kill flies, hence the name.

At a time of year when much life is dying back and closing down in preparation for winter, fungi are doing quite the opposite and are bursting into life.

Fungi underpin the natural world, for they are recyclers, nutrient providers for plants and support every type of habitat there is.

Without fungi the natural environment as we know it would not exist.

For humankind, fungi are medicine providers and are used in the production of many of our foods and drinks.

Fungi define who we are and what we are, and as such, should be cherished for their infinite variety and form.