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Our New Year Foraging Challenge

We have set ourselves the challenge of learning to identify all the wild plants along our favourite walk this year

Sky reflecting in Neigh Bridge Lake, Cotswold Water Park

 

I'm not one for New Year resolutions in general. The thought of depriving myself, or making sweeping changes to my life, is not something that particularly appeals to me, not least, because I already like it pretty much the way that it is. One thing that does drive me however, is passing on knowledge to my children. Readers who are familiar with our blog will know how much I love spending time outside with the kids; walking the dog, foraging for fruit and crafting with natural items. It was on one such walk, way back last summer, when the seeds for this project were sown. Our favourite haunt is Neigh Bridge Lake in the Cotswold Water Park where I walk at least a couple of times a week, and it was here that I realised my knowledge was fast running out. We had found wild mint, sucked on the flowers of dead nettles to taste their sweet nectar and spotted meadowsweet. I was enjoying watching my happy kids and dog explore, when one of them pointed to a plant and asked what it was - and I didn't have a clue.

We have set ourselves the challenge of learning to identify all the wild plants along our favourite walk this year

Playing in the dry Thames River bed late summer 2015

 

It turns out once you start pointing out all the plants you cant positively identify, rather than the ones you can, you start to see the world in a very different way. I grew up in the country, and have always been interested in the natural world around me, so would say I have a reasonable, but not deep knowledge of British Flora and Fauna. I don't want the kids to stop learning about the beauty and uses of plants, simply because I have passed on the extent of my knowledge.  I have therefore set myself the personal goal of making 2016 the year where I try to learn the identity of all the plants growing around our beautiful lakeside walk.

We have set ourselves the challenge of learning to identify all the wild plants along our favourite walk this year

The Thames River at Neigh Bridge January 2016 - the water is definitely back!

 

We plan to do this in a number of ways. Firstly, I am very excited to be going on a foraging day in the spring led by Robin Harford, the author of the Eatweeds Cookbook and Blog. This day out is my Christmas present from my brother, and I cant wait for it to come around! Although the foraging day is in a different area to the one we live in, I know that being shown how to approach wild plant identification by an expert will really boost my own confidence in recognising both the edible and non edible.

We have set ourselves the challenge of learning to identify all the wild plants along our favourite walk this year

Muddy Thames Path at Neigh Bridge

 

Secondly, The kids and I are going to use Instagram to record the plants that we find during our walks that we don't recognise. One of the difficulties I have with plant identification is that by the time I am home and ready to look something up, I either can not recall the plant with a great enough accuracy, or if I have picked a small sample of it, my sample no longer looks how it did in the wild. There is also a legal issue in picking some wild plants in Britain, and if I don't know what they are, I cannot be sure whether they are protected or not. By using Instagram to record the plants in their setting, at a particular point in time, should really help with their identification. We are new to Instagram, but hope that over time we will connect with other users who also have a love of nature and the outdoors, and may perhaps even be able to help us in our plant identification. If anyone who reads this would like to join in with our project we'd be delighted, or if you are experienced with Instagram, and have any ideas of how we might be able to facilitate our project on there, for example with ideas for hashtags, I'd really love to hear them - we really are newbies and need all the help we can get! You can visit our Instagram page here...

 

The thought of spending the year learning and growing while doing something that we enjoy is such a lovely prospect. We'd love to hear about any plans you have made to increase your knowledge and skills this year, so please let us know in the comments below.

 

We have set ourselves the challenge of learning to identify all the wild plants along our favourite walk this year

Winter sun at Neigh Bridge, January 2016

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72 Comments

  • Reply Zena's Suitcase

    I love the sound of this challenge and what a great use for instagram. It sounds like you will all be learning a lot from this

    February 9, 2016 at 8:47 pm
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      I think we will, the kids love the fact that we’ve managed to include a screen element to our challenge lol

      February 9, 2016 at 11:12 pm
  • Reply Emma

    Great idea, love challenging myself to learn something new! Instagram is also a really clever way to capture all those plants and will be a fab record to look back on at the end of the year! Best of luck with it!

    February 8, 2016 at 1:01 pm
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      Thanks Emma. Instagram is ideal for capturing the plants, and I’m hoping that I’ll come across people on there with an interest in foraging who might be able to help me with the ones I get stuck on!

      February 8, 2016 at 1:06 pm
  • Reply Danielle Parker

    Lovely pictures, and what a fab idea for the family. We live near your first picture, cotswolds…and it’s so easy sometimes to take the surroundings for granted. I made a new years resolution to get ALL the kids out every other Sunday doing something outdoorsy, no matter what the weather, easier said than done with a 13 year old…but he loves it once he is outside :)

    February 8, 2016 at 12:09 pm
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      It is a lovely area, but like you say its so easy to take it for granted when you see it every day (or when its under water like today!)

      February 8, 2016 at 1:08 pm
  • Reply Cliona

    Really enjoyed reading this post and looking at your beautiful pictures. We’ve always been a pretty outdoorsy family and I love nothing better than wandering through nature looking at plants. My husband in particular is really good at identifying wild flowers. I did a horticulture course but I’m better at cultivated species :)
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    February 7, 2016 at 9:20 pm
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      Thanks Cliona. It is lovely to spend time outside -I think its a great way to relax and recharge. I’ve got loads to learn still, and I really want to be able to use them in traditional remedies :)

      February 8, 2016 at 1:15 pm
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