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Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Bushcraft and the Law; Legal Foraging

So what does the law say about where we can forage and what we are allowed to take; 

Taking the fruiting bodies of wild plants along public roadsides. in public parks etc.. does not seem to be a problem, and if anyone ever did take exception to someone picking blackberries from the park or apples from a roadside verge I don't think it would ever amount to anything in court. But what if you wanted to picking that same fruit on a foot path on private land? (bear in my mind that roads and parks are still technically owned by someone even if the public do have more or less unlimited access to those areas)  

The law does state clearly that you can't uproot plants, that is 'digging up or otherwise removing the plant from the land on which it is actually growing' (Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981)without the landowners permission but regarding fruit, greens or fungi the following applies; 

"A person who picks mushrooms growing wild on any land, or who picks flowers, fruit or foliage from a plant growing wild on any land, does not (although not in possession of the land) steal what he picks, unless he does it for reward or for sale or other commercial purpose." (Theft Act 1968)

So that's fairly clear isn't it? You can pick the fungi, fruit and greens that you want as long as you have access to the land even without specific permission from a landowner, although that is no excuse for trespassing. If you go on to sell what you have collected or use it commercially you have committed theft. Complicating this slightly is another rule laid out in the Countryside and Wildlife Act that you are not allowed to forage (or pick plants at all) on Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI's), although those responsible for managing those sites may occasionally be seen removing species which may be non-native and/or invasive, which is allowed. 

The non-native invasive Himalayan Balsam, edible but terribly invasive and hard to control. 
If you want to collect edible roots, like burdock, thistle, cat tail, wood avens etc.. you must have the landowners specific permission to remove those plants. However there are also some species which you are prohibited from removing at all regardless of landowners permission, a list of these plants can be found in schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act. 

Without permission to dig up starch and carb rich roots what wild source can we turn to in a situation where we may need or want those vital elements of a diet, especially if we want that diet to give us energy to work outdoors? I will look at the practicality of using wild nuts and seeds (which you don't need the landowners permission to remove like you do with roots) as a staple element of a wild diet a bit later this year. 

Assuming there are some of us out there do have permission to collect some roots, burdock and thistle for example are unlikely to be missed by farmers who may gladly give you permission to remove them, I will share some foraging tips and a couple of recipes next week.     

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