A COUPLE are appealing a failed planning application after the city council's decision shattered their rural dreams.

Jon and Holly Wright argue that the demands of their forest school and functional mushroom business mean it is essential for them to live on their land in South Wonston.

The pair set up Jolly Moon two years ago, a nature play business offering forest school, stay and play, birthday parties and nature clubs to children from their forest garden and young woodland in Drove Links Road.

More recently Jon lost his job and the couple moved onto their land and teamed up with an experienced mushroom grower to set up Myndful Mushrooms.

The pair is now in the process of appealing their failed application. Despite more than 30 people writing in support of their plans, a part-retrospective application for the family to live on-site to monitor the mushroom crop was rejected by Winchester City Council in December.

Hampshire Chronicle: Jolly Moon forest schoolJolly Moon forest school (Image: Jon Wright)

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Jon, 41, said: "Mushroom farming is a very intensive business, cropping is year-round and processes run for long periods of time. It would be impossible to launch this business if we weren't living close by. Our land has been left to nature for 35-plus years and we already have dozens of native species, even ones that glow in the dark under UV light! As well as using the land to grow mushrooms we also have a decommissioned refrigerated trailer in which we can mimic the optimal climatic conditions. We have carried out a market appraisal with four separate commercial agents but there are no suitable units available with accommodation on site.

"Functional mushrooms have been used in traditional east-Asian culture for thousands of years, but in the western world it is nascent. We are growing several different functional mushrooms in Winchester. Many people aren't aware of the techniques and processes involved so we offered to pay for the council to have an independent agricultural appraisal, but they refused. The main crux of their argument was the incorrect assumption that mushroom farming is an industrial (not agricultural) process and therefore has no place in the countryside.

"Functional mushrooms help to optimise a healthy immune system and gut biome. The most studied functional mushroom is Turkey Tail with over 40 humanised clinical trials for its immune-stimulating and anticancer effects, explains Jon. We are so lucky to have this wonderful mushroom growing naturally on our land."

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Hampshire Chronicle: Myndful MushroomsMyndful Mushrooms (Image: Jon Wright)

Mr Wright is hoping to bring Myndful Mushrooms to Winchester market in the spring. They will also host workshops teaching participants to make their own tinctures at home.

The city council pulled a grant from its rural enterprise fund, which was agreed during the summer to fund an organic, no-dig kitchen garden and play equipment for the forest school and music equipment for their community drum circles, due to the application.

Holly, a qualified forest school practitioner, 40, said: "It’s very disappointing. The grant was for our nature play offering and nothing to do with Jon's mushroom business or living on the land.  The grant would have enabled us to teach children about growing food and we have a wonderful volunteer with 44 years experience of running gardens on large country estates who wants to share his knowledge. We have promising conversations evolving with mental health charities and can offer real support to special educational needs children. It is hard to plan to roll out these offerings as the council has put our funding on hold."