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The Waki Way Foraging Code of Conduct

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net by alex_ugalekImage courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net by alex_ugalekWe love foraging for our own food, it's extremely empowering and allows a much deeper connection with nature and the rhythm of the seasons. These days however, the countryside is a very different place to when our ancestors trod the land with more people, fewer plants, and many laws to be wary of.

 

We want people to continue to enjoy the activity for generations to come so see below for our advice on ensuring that you keep both yourself and nature safe and within the law whilst foraging in the UK for wild food:

 

Leave some for the rest - Some Native American advice regarding the gathering of a particular plant is to pass by the first example you see and to instead pick the second, thereby ensuring that you would never pick the last of a kind. Likewise don't gather every berry or flower head in an area as many species may be depending on the resource for essential nourishment. Foraging is a fantastic way to reconnect with nature, but don't then drive a species to protected status or extinction through your love of a plant!

Stay within the law – Only gather from public land, or private land with permission. If you're not sure if you are allowed, don't pick there, and if someone answers your request with a 'no', respect their decision. A landowner has every right to not want strangers on their land, and they may have big plans themselves for the fruit of that lovely apple tree you've had your greedy eye on... Some native species of plants have sadly been pushed close to the brink of extinction through habitat loss and overuse so don't add to the pressure and leave protected species be, a good foraging identification book usually specifies where a plant holds protected status. Also take care not to pick from SSSI's (Sites of Special Scientific Interest) and never disturb a plants roots unless it is both common and you have the land owners permission! To read up on the current protected species and legislation in more detail check out The Wild Flower Society's code of conduct.

Avoid contaminants - don't collect plants directly from the road side since they will have been exposed to all manner of chemicals (grease, fuel, road salt etc), nor from water courses with risk of raw sewage from cesspit overflows or cattle. Be careful of similar pollutant risks at the seaside – definitely don't gather filter feeding species like mussels anywhere near sewage pipe outlets! Field run off of pesticides and chemical fertilisers can contaminate plants without obvious external signs (you can ask the farmer if, what and when they spray when you ask permission...) and be aware that many local grounds management contractors regularly apply pesticides to the grass areas in public parks.

A little knowledge is dangerous - Be 110% sure that you are looking at the correct plant and not a deadly cousin, if you can't be that sure – don't pick! Our tip to learning: Take a good hard look (size, location, stem shape, general smell, sap, presence of hairs/barbs, time of year...), snap a photo and check it in your reference book later until it becomes a familiar old friend.

ID every stem - Many poisonous plants grow right alongside their friendly cousins and can look deceptively similar. Never take your mind off of that fact and be careful not to accidentally throw a bad leaf in with the good when picking from a stand of plants – some plants only need a nibble to finish you off! IF IN DOUBT, LEAVE IT OUT!

Mind how you go – don't trample everything in the area like Godzilla in the city just to get at something you want! If you can't get near it without badly damaging the surrounding flora then perhaps you should keep looking elsewhere and leave that patch for nature's daintier foragers.  

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Sarah is a UK artist and writer with a lifetime interest in camping and survival techniques.

Living the #vanlife since before it was a hashtag and touring on two wheels with her husband Ryan, they have a wealth of camping and motorcycling knowledge to share, and know a thing or two about packing light! read more


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