Foraging and the law

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Yes – we did promise that we’d said our last words on the subject for a while, and that’s nearly true, since the purpose of this post is to draw readers’ attention to a useful article on the BBC Magazine website this morning.

It asks whether foraging is lawful and sets out a brief guide to the complex legal position. Briefly, the answer appears to be that, if you’re not trespassing; not collecting for commercial purposes; not picking plants that were sown for commercial purposes; not on land where foraging is specifically excluded (such as a SSSI or right-to-roam access land); and not looking at a notice telling you that you’ll be in breach of a local bye-law then you’re probably OK.

Of course, like everything else in life, attitude is everything. If you’re thoughtful, discreet and know when to call it a day, you are that much less likely to draw attention to yourself and make life hard for all local foragers.

And attending to one of the codes that specifies useful standards to follow, such as limiting how much you take from each plant, leaving the roots and having a general respect for the ecology of the area you are visiting, is also highly recommended.

Here’s what the BBC has to say:

Is foraging fruit legal?

In recent years, people have begun to cotton on to the culinary riches that surround us in parks, forests and hedgerows. There is a vogue for foraged food, driven by high-profile chefs such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall as well as concerns about food miles and spending cuts.

And it has been a particularly bountiful autumn, with bumper crops of apples, pears and plums, blackberries, sloes and hawthorn berries, and mushrooms of all types.

But if you don’t own the land on which it grows, can you legally pick it? The Theft Act 1968, for England and Wales, states that:

“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.”

And the Scottish Outdoor Access Code allows foraging, but again, not for commercial use. So the intended use is key. Read on here…

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