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A Full Larder for Forest Foragers in The National Forest

Thursday, 8th September 2011

Visitors to woodlands during the autumn will discover trees laden with edible delights.  In September and October, the number of different ripe species explodes with fungi, fruits and nuts, such as beech nuts, bramble, hawthorn berries, juniper and rosehip, ready for picking.  This year apparently the horseradish is particularly good!

With changes in the weather,Mother Nature is certainly challenging the identification books as to when certain fruits and flowers should be out, so now more than ever, it pays to go out with an expert! 

And to help visitors get to grips withthe differences and similarities between harmless edible species and their poisonous cousins, there are nowthree bushcraft and survival schools inThe National Forest.  These runday, weekend or week-long courses where, in addition to learning the fundamental principles of survival and wilderness bushcraft, groups learn how to identify and cook edible plants, recognise specific trees and discover uses for different plants and trees.

Penny Wilkinson, Tourism & Promotions Officer with the National Forest Company, commented: ‘The National Forest is one of the few places in the country where you can come to the woodland and safely learn all about plants and their uses with experts who explain the effects that changes in the weather are having on the fruits of the Forest.’

The Survival School, based near Burton upon Trent, has combined a foraging course with the ancient art of falconry. The course showcases the edible, medicinal and poisonous plants that are to be found in our woodlands, fields and hedgerows. It also looks at tree identification and uses for the different types of wood. Participants also learn how to hunt with and fly Harris Hawks.

Jonny Crockett from the Survival School said: ‘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 next year so that they can see what The National Forest has to offer.’

Jason Ingamells of Woodland Ways Bushcraft & Survival added: ‘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.’

Dave Watson of Woodland Survival Crafts Ltd runs a spring and autumn Wild Food Day. Dave said: I focus on building confidence in the selection of wild plants and fungi. I do this by taking a look at some key characteristics that will help you identify a family of plants or fungi. From here we can guide you more easily to the individual species and what we can do with it. These courses usually have a local chef who will turn our basic ingredients into something quite special.’

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.’

For more information on where to go, what to see and places to stay in and around The National Forest, the 2011 visitor guides to the Forest are bursting with great ideas. For acopy telephone 01283 551211, email: discover@nationalforest.org.  Or go visit: www.visitnationalforest.co.uk