Wild foraging and feasting!

School of the Wild Meetup group
School of the Wild Meetup group

Sloe berry patties, hawthorn berry leather, elder berry cordial, rosehip infusion – these were a few of the delights cooked over a smoking wood fire at the School of The Wild’s wild food walk.

Wild food expert Milly Hawkins introduced us to both familiar and unusual hedgerow rewards and – perhaps as useful as the identification skills – Milly showed us simple ways to prepare and cook the produce in order to get the best out of them.

Milly, who holds qualifications in health science, nutrition and environmental conservation, has had a passion for wild foods since childhood. She has also worked extensively with The East Sussex Archaeology and Museums Partnership and ethno botanist Professor Gordon Hillman to research the foods of indigenous Britain. Milly is a mine of information for the keen forager and enthusiastically imparts her knowledge to both adult and child.

Rewarded by warm, bright weather (in October!?) we spent an enjoyable time beside the fire learning about and experiencing the qualities of wild food. This was followed by an informative wander through the woods of Stanmer Park, where us amateurs were finally able to put names to plants commonly seen on our walks, to understand how they fitted into the surrounding ecology and which we could eat and which to avoid.

The School of the Wild is a MeetUp group run by Nigel Berman that focuses on getting back to nature. Past meet-ups have included wild swimming and fire making and next month Milly will be showing us how acorns can be turned into food!’

Help Maintain Footpaths

Big Path Watch Logo
Big Path Watch Logo

The Ramblers – an organisation dedicated to public access of the countryside – have launched their most ambitious campaign ever, ‘Big Pathwatch’ (England and Wales only).

The aim of the campaign is to encourage walkers to record the condition of footpaths using a mobile app. The app enables walkers to report obstructions or difficulties encountered on the paths such as fallen trees, water-logged sections, broken styles, etc. Walkers can upload a picture of the problem using the app. Also pictures showing the positive features of the path such as good views or items of interest can be uploaded too. Experiences can be shared on Facebook or Twitter.

The app enables walkers to choose a 1km square grid from an Ordnance Survey Explorer map in which they will explore and report upon all the footpaths in that square. There is detailed information in the FAQ pages

If you are not already registered you will need to register with the Ramblers in order to take part.

If you are registered you can go straight to the Big Pathwatch ‘Get Involved’ page.

The Big Pathwatch app can be downloaded from the Apple AppStore or from Google play.

Fungi Forage in Surrey

Plate of wild fungi
Plate of wild fungi

Last Sunday I joined Andy Overall of fungitobewith.org to forage for wild Mushrooms. Andy organises various fungi focused events such as foraging walks, workshops, dinners, etc. Needless to say his knowledge is extensive.

As a child we used to visit relatives in Germany and uncle Rudi would take us into the forest to gather wild mushrooms. I was fascinated by the fungi we gathered – red, blue, green, yellow, purple – all sorts of things I would have considered as inedible or poisonous.

Andy’s trip did not disappoint and he took us to woodland rich in edible fungi. I came home with some Bay Boletes, Yellow Russulas, Chicken-in-the-Woods, Tawny Grizettes  and Polyporus Tuberaster found growing on a birch branch.

Cooking the mushrooms is also an art. The Grizettes must be well cooked otherwise they are poisonous. Many are more delicate than our standard supermarket mushrooms so must be lightly cooked. Those with spongy textures are good for marinating and soaking up a tasty stock.

Asian Glaciers at Risk

Researchers have found Himalayan glaciers could be very sensitive to future warming, and that sustained ice loss through the 21st century is likely. The model used by the team shows that glacier volume could be reduced between 70% and 99% by 2100.

Increased temperatures will not only increase the rates of snow and ice melt, but can also result in a change of precipitation from snow to rain at critical elevations, where glaciers are concentrated. Together, these act to reduce glacier growth and increase the area exposed to melt.

Glaciers in High Mountain Asia, which includes the Himalayas, contain the largest volume of ice outside the polar regions.

Changes in glacier volume can impact the availability of water, affecting agriculture and hydro-power generation. Initially water flows increase but ongoing retreat leads to reduced melt-water in the warmer months when rainfall is scarce. Glacier retreat can also result in lakes dammed by glacial debris. These dams can collapse causing catastrophic floods.

European Geosciences Union

Solar Road Excites!

A 70 metre test track in Amsterdam embedded with solar panels has generated more than 3000kwh, enough to power a house for a whole year. The result is much better than expected.

The road is made up of rows of crystalline silicon solar cells, encased within concrete and with a translucent layer of tempered glass overlaid. The top layer is dirt-repellent to guarantee maximum exposure to sunlight by keeping the surface clean.

The solar panels are connected to smart meters, which optimise their output and feed the electricity either to street lighting or to the grid.

So far, approximately 150,000 cyclists have ridden over the road and, if trials go well, the companies working on the project are thinking of developing solar panels that could withstand large buses and vehicles.

There is a similar initiative in the  US, the Solar Roadways project.

Europes Fracking Bubble has Burst

Logo for Refine
Logo for Refine

Researchers at Newcastle and Durham Universities have concluded that European shales are too complex for fracking;

“It is clear there are very few European countries in which fracking is likely to happen any time soon, if at all. Many apparently prospective European shales have turned out to be more geologically complicated than expected.

Much remains to be understood about how shales form, how they vary, and how they behave when fracked. Europe’s shales were always going to be different to those of North America. To major companies, they now look a great deal less enticing. Nonetheless, it is crucial that fracking research continues. A good understanding of shale geology is still in its infancy. If fracking is to take place anywhere in Europe, baseline environmental information from potential fracking sites needs to be collected, analysed, and made publicly available, along with long-term monitoring data”

However fracking in UK National Parks is equally unlikely. “Some national parks have no shales or coal within them or adjacent to them, so are of no interest to fracking companies. Many other national parks do contain shales or coal, but their nature means that they are unlikely to yield economic quantities of oil or gas.”

Earlier this year the EU announced funding of £8.6m to study the environmental impact of fracking, and the risks of chemicals and gases being dispersed below the ground.

Department of Earth Sciences, Durham University’