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Bumper Crop for Forest Foragers in The National Forest

Tuesday, 29th September 2009

The Survival School, which runs bushcraft courses just outside Burton upon Trent has discovered a feast in the Forest. 

Jonny Crocket from the Survival School said: ‘This has been a cracking year for fruits and nuts.  I have never seen so many sloes, elderberries, hawthorns, apples, pears, beech nuts or acorns as this year.  This stems back to a gentle spring.  The blossom on the trees wasn’t blown away before propagation like it was last year.

‘Fungi are just about to carpet the woodland floor.  Already the Ceps, Amethyst Deceivers and field mushrooms are dotting the fields and glades and making our foraging trips that much more exciting.

‘We lead foraging days around the woods and fields and this year have added to the experience with a pair of Harris Hawks.  Our intrepid foragers have the chance to learn about falconry and ferreting as well as foraging.

‘The National Forest has matured in so many ways since we started working here.  The trees are more diverse than ever, the plants have become more abundant and the way people have embraced this explosion of biodiversity has been amazing.  We look forward to meeting more people each season so that they can see what The National Forest has to offer.’

Interest in ancient woodland crafts and bushcraft skills, inspired by programmes with survival experts such as Ray Mears, is rapidly growing throughout the country.  There are three survival schools operating from within The National Forest area that run day, weekend or week-long courses.  These teach visitors not only the fundamental principles of survival and wilderness bushcraft, but also how to identify and cook edible plants, recognise specific trees and discover uses for different plants and trees - helping visitors get to grips with the differences and similarities between harmless edible species found in the Forest and their poisonous cousins! 

Jason Ingamells, director of Woodland Ways Survival School said: "The National Forest is a great place for people to come and ‘experience’ woodland. It is brilliant to be based within this growing Forest and our courses not only teach people to use the plants and trees but also to appreciate the woodland around them.

‘If visitors are looking for wild food, it is important to identify the plants correctly. There are many books now on the topic of edible plant identification but, for the novice, there is really no substitute for an experienced guide.’

But if foraging seems all too much like hard work, there is a wealth of excellent tea shops and restaurants across The National Forest where you can relax and enjoy Food in the Forest before embarking on a peaceful woodland walk.

Penny Wilkinson from the National Forest Company commented:  “The National Forest has this wonderful woodland resource for people to come and enjoy – whether to learn ancient skills or just to enjoy the fresh air and get away from it all on a Forest walk.”

There is a huge range of outdoor activities available across The National Forest to encourage people to get out and enjoy the new and ancient woodlands, such as guided walks to identify trees and wildlife, conservation activities, as well as walking, cycling and horse-riding, The National Forest website has a whole host of ideas to enjoy the great outdoors.

For more information on where to go, what to see and places to stay in and around The National Forest, the 2009 visitor guides to the Forest are bursting with great ideas.  For a free download of the Visitor Guide, please click on the link on the right of this page.