Wild food along with an accompanying deep knowledge of natural history has played a huge part in my life for many years and both areas of knowledge have developed as a result of each other. Indeed wild food cannot be safely foraged or efficiently caught without a thorough knowledge of the natural world. Merely dabbling at the edges is asking for trouble as nature has a myriad of potentially lethal traps waiting for the half-
On a deeper level wild food is also a reminder of our interdependence with nature as all plants and animals share a common bond. Indeed gathering wild edibles or catching a fish is about once again taking our place in the natural order of things. For me such knowledge has, along with other wilderness based skills, enabled me to experience wild places on their own terms without being overly reliant on the trappings of 'civilization'. Such skills and experiences have brought me closer to the Universal Pure Truth than anything.
Whilst I have been largely self taught where wild food and nature observation is concerned, I have known a number of prolific 'one for the pot' poachers during my life who taught me much. Indeed in my younger days I was an efficient casual poacher myself and being quite poor at the time, poaching seemed to represent the meeting of self reliance with social justice. Success, particularly on a large estate, was victory for the Common Man. For me the catapult played a big part of such activity, particularly for pheasants and I was deadly in its use. Today I have no involvement in any form of poaching and beyond legal coracle fishing, I have no interest in killing anything outside of a genuine and potentially life threatening survival situation. Now it is enough to know that I have the necessary skills to take game humanely on its own terms should a genuine need arise without constantly proving it to myself or anyone else. All animals are living things as we are and have as much right to life as we do.
The skills of tracking and nature observation are in many ways my primary outdoor interest nowadays and it is natural history that seems to provide the bulk of the material for various magazine articles and columns. Indeed my Best of British Magazine 'Countryman's Calendar' column, which replaced the wild food based 'Feasting on Nature', is a good example of my natural history activities and writing skills. Besides writing I have also led guided walks to impart my knowledge to others. Whilst wild food both in and out of the wilderness still interests me few things give me more pleasure in the outdoors than watching wildlife going about its business unhindered by me. Occasionally I still adopt a 'hands on' approach with small mammals and reptiles but largely leave well alone. Botany and mycology, (the study of flowers and fungi respectively) are major areas of interest particularly from a wild food perspective.
Whilst my knowledge of wild food and natural history is extensive, I am still constantly learning, itself a process of considerable joy. Indeed on a daily basis I give thanks that the nature continues to inspire me so much. Often the natural world is the only one which makes any sense to me.
Wild Food and natural History