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Foraging Delights

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Posted: Thursday 31st August 2017 by WildBlog

Written by Hugo Hunt, photographs by Lucie Machin

As an Engineering Graduate Trainee at Rolls-Royce, I am constantly seeking opportunities to broaden my skill set. Leading the collaborative project between Rolls-Royce and Avon Wildlife Trust focusing on the ancient woodland of Prior’s Wood was the perfect opportunity. Alongside engaging the local community at Family Days in the woods, I have carried out necessary conservation tasks such as coppicing and path revetment. It is easy to become disconnected from nature when working a desk job, and I find the benefit to my mental wellbeing from spending a day in the woods invaluable!

Over time my passion and curiosity for nature has grown. So this year I decided to take on the Wildlife Trusts’ #30DaysWild challenge, seeking to connect with nature as much as possible in my daily life in Bristol. After a particularly wet beginning of August, the fine weather Bristol enjoyed during the weekend of the balloon fiesta was a welcome opportunity to get outside! As well as camping out beneath the Perseid meteor shower, I was keen to forage some fruit.

The rain saturated countryside around Bristol was bursting with life as I set out on my bike past the crowds in Ashton Court, along the Festival Way to Flax Bourton. In particular, I was looking for blackberries – the hedgerows along cycle paths at this time of year are heavy with the ripening fruit. Blackberries and their accompanying thorns are easily visible, but looking a bit more carefully can yield lots of different fruit. Some of the taller hedges along the cycle path turned out to be small plum trees laden with bright yellow mirabelles and deep purple damsons. These trees were interspersed with elder trees, the berries of which are also starting to ripen as they turn a purplish black.

Back home, the plums were pitted and all the fruit washed, because we’re not the only ones who want to eat it – plenty of grubs and insects were having a feast of their own and needed rehousing in the garden. Some of the apples and blackberries went into a crumble for dinner, while most of the plums, elderberries and remaining blackberries made a batch of hedgerow jam. The very last of the blackberries and plums went into a frangipane on the Sunday!

Before long the sloe berries, which are already out in full force, will be ready to pick. The berries are ripe once they easily burst when squished between thumb and forefinger. These can then be steeped in gin with sugar to make a warming sloe gin for the winter months! 

The fruit is not confined to the countryside though. On my walks to work I have sampled blackberries, apples, pears and plums! As always with foraging, leave plenty for other people, and the local ecosystem. It is important not to strip a bush or area bare. As well as feeding the local birds and insects, any fruit that falls and rots will enrich the soil.

To see how you can make a difference to our local wildlife visit, you never know how it might inspire you! 

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