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Wild things – Britain's best foraging spots

The trend for foraging shows that Britain is a land ripe for picking. Here, Jo Davey rounds up some of our favourite places to try it

Wild Foods UK-wide

Wild Foods focuses its foraging on mushrooms and fungi – the weird and wonderful favourite of foragers, but also the most feared. There’s no denying that there are plants and mushrooms that are fatally poisonous, which may be the biggest reason some people are put off foraging in the first place. But fear not, as Wild Foods takes the worry out of picking your own mushrooms with in-depth, detailed courses that take you through hedges and woodlands all over the UK. While they’re obviously fungi fanciers, they also forage for all kinds of foods including shoots, nuts, seeds and flowers. What you find depends on destination and season, but each class includes foraged meals served up either on the go or at one of their favourite local places to eat. Dedicated to the foraging code, Wild Foods makes sure courses stay sustainable and don’t overpick their welcome.

Details: Regular courses across the UK, from Edinburgh to West Sussex, from £50pp. wildfooduk.com

Forage Fine Foods Abergavenny

On the Wales-England border sits Forage Fine Foods, a boutique business bottling up the best crops found in the local area. Owner Liz Knight is a chef, author and ace at all things wild and weedy, and her work as a wild food tutor in Monmouth makes her the perfect guide – in every sense – for first-time foragers.

Rather than wandering lanes and trails, these full-day courses take place in Nantybedd Gardens, a forest garden just outside the Welsh food hub that is Abergavenny. Here, garden gatherers learn how to use what grows in their own gardens and local area, as well as enjoying a wild lunch and drinks. Private workshops are also available, where you can learn how to make botanicals and drinks, seasonings and even beauty products.

Details: The full-day foraging course near Abergavenny costs £95pp. foragefinefoods.com

Coastal Foraging West Wales

Fish and seafood fanatics will find themselves clambering over rocks and getting stuck into pools to fill their baskets and bellies, with the tastiest sea fare. Coastal Foraging specialises in seafood, teaching guests where to discover the freshest of finds, how to catch them and throwing in a bit of history along the way too.

The glorious West Wales coast holds a wealth of landscapes full of delicious edibles, ranging from beaches and rock pools, to tidal mud flats and sand dunes. On the classic course, you’ll collect clams, cockles, oysters, sea vegetables, marsh samphire and even the protected sea holly. As well as foraging, tours take in the area’s scenery, history and points of interest. Coastal Foraging also operates the occasional extreme low tide course, where you’ll be able to pick up crabs, prawns and maybe even a lobster.

Details: Regular foraging courses throughout the month from £80pp with bespoke courses also on offer. coastalforaging.co.uk

Fore Adventures Dorset

Foraging with an adventure company was always going to be a little more on the wild side. Fore Adventures offer a brilliant kayaking and foraging tour, taking you to hard-to-reach rocks and coves on the Dorset coast, making you an instant hardcore gourmand gatherer. From the comfort of your kayak, scout for sea vegetables and seek out seaweeds in the shadows of Old Harry Rocks. The group also gathers land plants and berries, along with fish and shellfish.

If a half-day hand diving (it’s what they call it – ‘diving’ in with your hands) isn’t enough, Fore also offer feasts, where the tour culminates in a communal banquet. After meeting the resident chef and enjoying a welcome drink, the day’s catch is cleaned up, barbecued, brewed and baked, all at Fore’s secret beach spot. Alongside feasts, Fore also do a half-day forage and wild pizza workshop, using their wood-fired oven.

Details: Foraging in Studland bay from £50pp, with feasts for £90pp and kayaks from £65pp. foreadventure.co.uk

Totally Wild UK-wide

Totally Wild takes foraging across the UK, with events from Totnes to the Trossachs. The company, created by aptly-named expert James Wood, is all about finding remarkable flavours in ferns, flowers and fungi. You’ll find sweet citrus tangs, deep meaty notes and surprising spices in seeds, weeds and buds blooming across Britain – even in the capital and other cities.

The ever-growing Totally Wild team is spread across the country, making each experience entirely different depending on where you forage. Staff are always exploring to find new ingredients and make foraging accessible, as both a hobby and career. They’re also a dab hand in the outdoor kitchen; after a day spent searching through the forests and hedgerows as part of a group or private party, you’ll cook your fresh-found ingredients alongside the experts to add to your recipe repertoire.

Along with education and eating, Totally Wild donate 15% of their experience sales to saving the wild spaces they work with, making that Spruce Shoot Margarita taste all the better.

River Cottage Devon

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s celebrated River Cottage have long championed wild ingredients and getting the very best from them, and now you can join one of their sessions under the watchful eye of experts John Wright and Emma Gunn.

Individual courses make the most of their local terrain, covering waterways, seashores, hedgerows and woodlands, with a dedicated mushroom course ideal for the upcoming autumn. There’s also a Cook on the Wild Side class, named after Hugh’s first show, that focuses on how to use the produce, guided bythe expertise of River Cottage chefs.

Based by the Jurassic Coast, foraging days start at the River Cottage headquarters and take in the surrounding environment, including the cottage’s 100-acre farm. Naturally, food features heavily, with breakfast, snack breaks, a seasonal two-course lunch and tasters along the way. Emma and John are conscientious and careful scavengers; groups don’t pick up the same species twice and let rare or exotic finds be.

Details: Full-day Devon-based classes cost £245pp. rivercottage.net

Gourmet Gatherings Monmouthshire

Run by a chef, Gourmet Gatherings are all about showing off what your wild edibles can really become. Chloe Newcomb Hodgetts not only teaches you all about the art of foraging, but guides you towards the best recipes for each ingredient.

On top of 90-minute courses along the Severn Estuary, Gourmet Gatherings offer the unbeatable All Day Forage & Feast, turning your finds into faunal banquets. Baskets heaving with green leaves and rainbow mushrooms become tables filled with seasonal specialities like roebuck venison broth, wildflower hummus, lavender shortbreads and puffball mushroom burgers. Chloe also takes botanical foraging classes, where you spend an afternoon browsing the Welsh hedgerows for botanicals before taking an introductory course in gin making. Four hours and a few craft cocktails later, you’ll be heading home with yourown bespoke bottle of local botanical gin.

Details: Monmouthshire-based courses from £45pp; the 6-hour Forage & Feasts cost £120pp; and gin making costs £150pp. gourmetgatherings.co.uk

Words by Jo Davey.

This feature was taken from the August/Septe

Foraging Course Company Midlands

Introducing people to the remarkable ingredients found in our own gardens and greenery is the Foraging Course Company’s main aim, but they also hope to reconnect clients with the natural world. By unearthing a huge variety of edible species and explaining how best to use their new and unusual flavours sustainably, the skilled staff foster an appreciation for what the great outdoors has to offer. Of course their infectious love of good food, a varied diet and full flavours helps spread the word and get newcomers excited about foraging.

There’s a wide range of classes, including tasters, walks, lectures, cooking days, private and corporate events. Based primarily in The Midlands, their green fingers unfurl up to Derbyshire, across to Norfolk and down to Gloucestershire. As well as location-based tours, the Foraging Course Company encourages growing your own wild ingredients at home.

Details: Courses from £50pp. foragingcoursecompany.co.uk

Black Rock Outdoor Company Pembrokeshire

Aimed at teaching participants how to forage safely and sustainably, Black Rock’s classes have you picking up your dinner as you go. Dart in and out of rock pools, beaches and urban coastline as you harvest wild plants for the salad starter, and pick up abundant Pembroke seafood for the main course. The company also operate a few extreme low-tide foraging tours each year, where your guide takes you into the rarely revealed sub-tidal zone to discover seldom-found seafood.

The shorter hedgerow foraging course shows off the wild produce found in Pembroke’s salt marshes, woodlands and stunning coastal countryside. The seasons dictate the day’s finds, which you can graze on as you go or take home to cook. Informative and fun, the sessions are ideal for kids, who will learn about each ingredient’s use not only in food, but medicines and crafts too. Better still, under-16s go free.

Details: Hedgerow foraging in Pembroke and Carmarthen from £70pp. blackrockoutdoorcompany.co.uk

The Gourmet Forager North Devon

Down on the North Devon coast, family-run Gourmet Forager offer up seaside scavenging trips that take foraging up a notch. Here you’ll pick up local lobsters, massive mussels, sweet crabs and clams, as well as marsh samphire and a whole host of seaweeds. It isn’t all about seafood though; the rich Devon countryside supplies wild Morello cherries, chanterelle and porcini mushrooms and the ultimate forager’s treasure: truffles.

Classes run from a two-hour introduction to a full weekend of gourmet grazing, with options for private events and spearfishing. The Gourmet Forager teach you to spot, separate, pick and cook your ingredients, and boost the resulting meals with delicious home-grown ingredients from their own family small holdings. It’s high-end harvesting at its finest.

Details: Introductory sessions from £35pp, full days from £125pp, all around Barnstaple. thegourmetforager.co.uk

Ground up Dartmoor

Run by a dedicated cookery school, Ground Up put cheffing and eating front and centre from their base in Dartmoor National Park. The two-part course starts a two-hour walking tour, where you’ll learn about wild Devon produce, seasonality and how to pick sustainably while collecting fruit, nuts, roots, fungi and foliage.

After a bite back at the school, the cooking begins with teams of two or three using your endemic edibles to curate a shared spread. The school promote traditional cooking methods like pickling, fermentation, curing and infusion, and are dedicated to zero-waste in whatever way possible. Luckily for participants, zero-waste means leftovers, packaged up for you to enjoy at home.

Details: A foraging and cookery class held on 17 September costs £150pp. groundupcookeryschool.co.uk

The Fat Hen Cornwall

At the Fat Hen, food is more than just sustenance and foraging more than a thrifty gimmick. This wild Cornish cookery school promote a communal approach to both, bringing guests together to relish the outdoors, learn from each other and gain a better understanding of nature’s larder.

Named after the wild green plant used in the school that was once a staple global crop, The Fat Hen know their food history. They offer wild food consultancy for landowners and restaurateurs too, as well as foraging classes where you’ll learn about responsible gathering. Course options include a hearty pub lunch created using Fat Hen ingredients, a seaweed speciality tour, or a sublime picnic and spa experience, all set on the sunny Cornish coast near St Ives.

Details: Seaweed and pub lunch classes cost £65pp; spa experience and picnic costs £125pp. the-fat-hen.co.uk

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