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Foraging & the law


This is a slightly complicated subject and one with local and national variation. 

This article is meant as a brief overview of the main legislation that covers foraging in the UK.

Not quite foraging:

Walking on private land in England and Wales, without permission implicit or explicit is trespass, this isn’t a crime but is a civil offence, and you can be sued. Implicit permission is given in many areas, such as land owned by the Wildlife Trust, National Trust, local authorities etc. Scotland has a right to roam with a few exceptions.

Theft act 1968

“A person who picks mushrooms going wild on any land, or who picks flowers, fruit or foliage from a plant growing wild on any land, done not (although not in the possession of the land) steal what epics, unless he does it for reward or for sale or other commercial purpose. (For purposes of this subsection ‘mushroom’ includes any fungus, and ‘plant’ any shrub or tree.)”

This means that in areas where you are allowed access you can legally pick your wild foods, as long as you stick to the four F’s, Foliage, Fungi, Fruits, and Flowers, cutting branches isn’t allowed.

There are exceptions to this – local byelaws often forbid foraging in certain areas. The byelaws should be visible on a sign at the entrance to the land. The new forest had byelaws governing the collection of fungi. 

Country Side and Rights of Way (CROW) Act 2001

This act gave walkers access to vast tracks of land that was previously unaccessible. However that person its not also given the right to forage.  

Your entitlement to walk on the land ceases if you “intentionally removes, damages, or destroys any plant, shrub, tree or root, or any part of a plant, shrub tree or root.” And you return to committing trespass.

However if your on a right of way in land owned up by CROW you can still forage along the right of way. 

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

This act aimed at preserving our countryside states “…if any person.. not being an authorised person, intentionally uproots any wild plant… he shall be guilty of an offence.”

Some rare plants and fungi are protected by the list in Schedule 8, and its illegal to damage these in any way. 

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSI’s)

SSSI’s often protect a few corner stone species that made the area a SSSI in the first place, and it is illegal to damage any of these species. Often though a list of “operations likely to damage” the SSSI also includes a statement similar to removal of or damage to any living plant animal or fungi. These “operations” therefore are not all out banned but do need permission from the correct conservation body. These are: Natural England, Natural resources Wales and Scottish Natural Heritage. Permission for appropriate gathering of commonly found plants and fungi is often not something that is denied however.

Now that you have an overview of the legalities have a look at some of the suggested recipes we have for foraged foods.

Foraging Recipe Blogs

Chutney Making

How to make a traditional apple & onion chutney

It’s that time of year again when the berries, and fruits are calling out for our attention.

Growing up on small holding in rural Surrey, I was raised producing these preserves year-on-year to store the garden’s produce. This recipe is adapted from a Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food recipe from WW2 and is commonly referred to by friends and family now as Chaldon Chutney after the village I grew up in.

Continue Reading Chutney Making

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