The good foraging code
As foraging becomes more popular it is important to know what the rules are - both the legal rules and the ecological rules - before you set out with your basket.
Where can you pick?
Right of access to land (the right to roam in Scotland) does not mean a right to forage. If the land is privately owned then you must ask specific permission of the landowner to pick anything. This is especially important on farmland and the edges of farmland where, as well as livestock and crop issues, there may well be activities going on that you don't know about - whether that is a habitat restoration or chemical spraying, you do not want to be foraging there.
General foraging is usually not allowed in parks or recreation areas, but there may well be a specific area where it is allowed.
You can get a list of common areas from your council.
On a lot of land managed by the National Trust, the Woodland Trust and National Parks foraging is allowed but it is important to check as some have areas designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest or areas where ground nesting birds are common where it is not permitted.
The UK coast is mainly owned by the Crown and Conservation charities - both of which tend to be fine about foraging for personal consumption - though it is worth checking, particularly where there may be rare species under protection.
Where would you want to forage?
Think about what might have come before you - cars, peeing dogs, people's feet, chemical sprays, industrial residue - and make sensible decisions. Picking meadow buttercups from industrial wasteland isn't an issue but I'm not sure I would want to eat anything growing in that ground.
What can you collect?
The guide is that you can collect the 4 Fs - foliage, flowers, fruit and fungi. These are basically the parts of a plant which will naturally regenerate.
What can't you collect?
Anything that is protected - you can get a list of the protected species in the UK here.
You cannot uproot anything without express permission - this includes things like digging up wild garlic and replanting in your garden, just as much as taking rare orchids. It also includes lichen and moss. If you want lichen pick windfall pieces as they are already uprooted but leave anything on a tree, even a dead tree.
Anything not for your own consumption (commercial foraging needs proper permissions as so many areas have been destroyed by it)
I would add . . . .
Don't collect the first 10 of anything you see and never pick more than 10% from an area. Remember that this is food and habitat for birds, insects, amphibians, small mammals.
Never pick more than you KNOW you are going to use. Don't pick if you don't have the correct equipment with you - so don't pick flowers if you don't have water to carry them in, don't forage for mushrooms if you are stuffing them in pockets.
Always make sure you know what you are picking BEFORE you pick it.
Inspect for signs of insect eggs BEFORE you pick.
Do not trample an area while picking.
Consider whether taking your dog is appropriate - dogs can spook wildlife and farm stock even if they are well behaved and under control. Spooked birds abandon nests, spooked sheep can miscarry, you may not even realise.
It is really all about respect - respect for other people, respect for wildlife, respect for the countryside.
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