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Dramatic Shift for Forest Foragers in The National Forest

Tuesday, 28th August 2012

Foraging has been dampened in every way by the weather this summer according to bushcraft experts in The National Forest.

This affects not just our own foraging behaviour, but also the wildlife will have to wait a further few weeks in order to harvest their autumn glut before the decline of food in the winter.

Summer fruit is ripening later than last year and it has been a disappointing year for raspberries but the recent blast of sun and hot weather has kick-started everything in the right direction.

Jonny Crockett from Survival School said: “The outlook for the autumn is not for a bumper harvest, but there is a silver lining or two if you know where to look. We’ve noticed an early season for fungi this year. The amethyst deceivers are adding a beautiful purple hue and the giant puff balls are out in force already to accompany the blewits and the boletus.”

Jason Ingamells, Chief Instructor at Woodland Ways, agreed: “We have noticed a dramatic change in foraging this year. Blackberries are fruiting very late this year - the latest we have ever known! It has also had a dramatic effect on elderberries as well which are just starting to come through now.”

Dave Watson of Woodland Survival Crafts commented: “This constant dampness is having an effect on everything, but bramble and nettle are growing very well!  This is actually good if you want to make string from their fibres, and I have been picking some woodland mushrooms recently that were tasty.”

With changes in 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! To help visitors get to grips withthe differences and similarities between harmless edible species and their poisonous cousins, there arethree 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.”

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 & Survivaladded: "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.”

Derbyshire-based Glennie Kindred has written several books including the popular ‘A Hedgerow Cookbook’.  She added: “Foraging for native medicinal herbs has been an absolute joy this year. I have seen fields of Self Heal, Eyebright, Mullein, Comfrey and St John's Wort, to name but a few. The trees have put on a lot of fresh growth too and this will benefit them and future foraging in the long term.”

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 2012 visitor guides to the Forest are bursting with great ideas. For a copy telephone 01283 551211, email: discover@nationalforest.org