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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

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 🙂
    Cliona recently posted…Parenting Teens, some life-saving tipsMy Profile

    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
  • Reply Anosa

    Had to google foraging that’s shows the extent of my knowledge. I think it is an awesome idea and goal to have to help educate yourself and your kids
    Anosa recently posted…{Guest Post} Local Flea Markets and Souvenir Shopping You Can Buy in SicilyMy Profile

    February 7, 2016 at 8:33 pm
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      Thanks Anosa, we hoping to learn lots this year, and at least the kids will have an awareness of what wild plants can offer us 🙂

      February 8, 2016 at 1:16 pm
  • Reply Ickle Pickle

    This sounds such a great idea – we have a festival locally that started from a local foraging business! I know nothing about foraging, but it sounds fascinating.
    Ickle Pickle recently posted…Disney Pictopia ReviewMy Profile

    February 7, 2016 at 8:04 pm
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      I love local festivals. There is a wild food restaurant near us that I am hoping to visit sometime – think it’ll be really inspirational to have restaurant quality food prepared with foraged food x

      February 8, 2016 at 1:19 pm
  • Reply Ana De- Jesus

    I love exploring the natural world I think it is fascinating and absolutely beautiful to say the least. I would like to do more exploring soon!

    February 7, 2016 at 6:28 pm
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      I think its so good for the mind to spend time outside. We have a dog so I walk everyday – I always feel better for it 🙂

      February 8, 2016 at 1:25 pm
  • Reply Vicky

    My grandmother used to know all the names of plants, trees and even the weeds, I wish I had her knowledge. The Cotswold Water Park looks a fantastic place to take children on nature rambles. I’d love to go on a foraging day to learn more about our wild plants, I must check to see if any are taking place in our area. I hope you have lots of fun!
    Vicky recently posted…Pear and Ginger Pudding GF SCDMy Profile

    February 7, 2016 at 5:25 pm
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      Thanks Vicky 🙂 I think we’ve lost so much of the knowledge that our grandparents had, its one of the reasons we started this project – if I don’t know it, then the kids wont have it to pass on to their kids!

      February 8, 2016 at 1:27 pm
  • Reply Gemma

    What a great idea, I love the thought of foraging and learning more about your surroundings- Good for you.

    February 6, 2016 at 9:45 pm
  • Reply Idaintyit

    I have never been foraging , I wouldn’t have a clue what I was looking for! Furthered I’ve ever looked is asda haha I need to have a go at this
    Idaintyit recently posted…House AppealMy Profile

    February 6, 2016 at 8:40 pm
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      It’s great fun, but up to now we’ve only been able to go for the really obvious stuff that I am 100% sure about

      February 8, 2016 at 1:30 pm
  • Reply Rebecca Smith

    This sounds like a fantastic challenge for the year ahead!
    Rebecca Smith recently posted…Monthly Goals | February GoalsMy Profile

    February 6, 2016 at 1:45 pm
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      Thanks Rebecca. It’s making us take much more notice of whats growing around us when we are out on our walks

      February 8, 2016 at 1:31 pm
  • Reply Rosie

    I love foraging and was pleased to see the first wild garlic leaves peeping through when I wanked down our valley yesterday. I like the idea of learning more of the plants I see on my walks – I can go most of the common ones, it’s the less common or rather small less significant ones I am less good at. #BrilliantBlogPosts
    Rosie recently posted…Instant Booking Holidays – How much more are you paying?My Profile

    January 29, 2016 at 3:53 pm
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      Oh I haven’t seen any wild garlic yet, but have spotted some Sorrel in the fields. Once you start looking, its amazing how many plants there are out there on a walk 🙂

      January 31, 2016 at 10:43 am
      • Reply Rosie

        I’m not too keen on sorrel but there is almost enough wild garlic now to make a wild garlic and leek risotto, one of my favourites.
        Rosie recently posted…Animal Tales – 55My Profile

        February 4, 2016 at 6:25 am
        • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

          We don’t get much wild garlic growing where we live, compared to some parts of the UK, sadly – it really is delicious, I love the idea of the risotto 🙂

          February 5, 2016 at 8:01 pm
  • Reply Regina L. L. Wells

    This sounds incredibly interesting. I once knew some things from Girl Scouts, but that as all left even the deep crevices of my memory, so I am looking forward to your project. If we ever have a zombie apocalypse, I would probably be dead inside of 4 days from poisoning myself with something I shouldn’t have eaten. LOL!
    Regina L. L. Wells recently posted…7 New Chic and Feminine WordPress Themes Under $50My Profile

    January 28, 2016 at 2:32 am
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      Wouldn’t that be annoying if you’d managed to survive the zombies! I learned a bit as a child, but its knowing how to actually utilise the knowledge in a useful way that I really need to work on x

      January 29, 2016 at 8:36 am
      • Reply Regina L. L. Wells

        LOL, yes, that sure would be annoying. We have a program over here, Man vs. Wild, where a guy strands himself somewhere and has to get out and survive with what he has and what he finds. Mesmerizing. Again, I’d never survive 30 minutes, but like to feel like I’m learning something I will remember if my life depended on it. (Not even.)

        January 29, 2016 at 12:18 pm
        • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

          Oh that sounds a great program, I’ll have a look and see if I can get it over here, and check it out!

          January 31, 2016 at 10:45 am
  • Reply Mudpie Fridays

    Im not a big one for resolutions either but this sounds like a great challenge I am sure the foraging walk will be great, such a thoughtful present and brilliant idea re the pictures on instagram, I look forward to seeing them. Thank you for joining us at #BloggerClubUK hope to see you again next week x
    Mudpie Fridays recently posted…Win a pair of tickets to The Baby Show – London Excel 2016My Profile

    January 24, 2016 at 9:05 pm
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      It is a wonderful present, and it sounds selfish but it’s lovely to be having a day that is just for me, with no family to think about! Thanks for having us on BloogersClubUK the first week was great and we’ll definitely be back this week!

      January 27, 2016 at 11:32 am
  • Reply Jamie @ Medium Sized Family

    This is fascinating! My Dad knows most of the plants and trees in our area, but I could certainly learn more about them. This would be a fun thing to do with the kids in the spring and summer.
    Jamie @ Medium Sized Family recently posted…8 Exciting Competitions to Make Your Football Party FunMy Profile

    January 20, 2016 at 3:14 pm
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      I do think its something that older generations had a much better knowledge about than many of us do now, it’s one of the reasons I’m so keen to learn more 🙂

      January 22, 2016 at 11:37 pm
  • Reply Sarah James @ Tales From The Kitchen Shed

    What a great challenge & so exciting. I love foraging & I’m lucky that I can take any mushrooms I’m not sure about to our local pharmacy here in France to be be identified ( it’s a free service ). Will pop over to Instagram to follow your journey, thanks for sharing 🙂
    Sarah James @ Tales From The Kitchen Shed recently posted…Slow Cooker Vegetable & Cider CassouletMy Profile

    January 20, 2016 at 2:17 pm
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      I never knew that about France, what a brilliant service! (I have just read out your comment to hubby – and apparently he did know that!) Would love to have you join us on Instagram, and would love to see pictures of your foraging x

      January 22, 2016 at 11:41 pm
  • Reply Jodie (The Ridiculous Mrs H)

    I’ve never thought about doing this, but what a good idea. I am a total failure at woodland walks, i always mean to get out and do it but the inside seems so warm and inviting… I also can’t convince my toddler to walk more than five minutes, but this might convince her! Thanks for your post! xx #bloggerclubUK xx

    January 20, 2016 at 11:30 am
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      In my experience kids love woods once they are out – there’s so much to explore. We have a dog, so we have to get out every day, even if we don’t fancy it before we go. Try Sticky Nature Cards with your toddler – it’s a brilliant way to entertain kids and although you need double sided sticky tape its virtually no effort to set up 🙂

      January 20, 2016 at 1:00 pm
  • Reply Debs @ Super Busy Mum

    What a great goal to have for the new year! Good luck with it. Thanks for linking up with the Mad mid week blog hop. #MMWBH
    Debs @ Super Busy Mum recently posted…Living Arrows – Week 3/52My Profile

    January 19, 2016 at 11:41 pm
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      Thanks Debs, we’re really hoping we’ll learn loads about nature this year 🙂

      January 20, 2016 at 1:21 pm
  • Reply Jenny Eaves

    Good luck with your plant identification. There are so many great plant I.D. Courses around, but I highly recommend getting a good botany key and learn how to use it, then you can identify everything you want. I trained as an ecologist, specialising in plant ecology so we did a lot of plant ID at uni on field courses. Unfortunately I haven’t used my knowledge much since uni, but need to get back into it again as I want to teach my boys too. I recommend The Wildflower key by Francis Rose (there’s also a sedge, grass and rush one). I look forward to seeing how many plants you can ID at the end of the year. Thanks for linking up your challenge with #Whatevertheweather 🙂 x
    P.s. You can also join BSBI and take part in local plant ID sessions, great for keeping up with your local plant ID. BSBI.org.uk
    Jenny Eaves recently posted…How to Sunday Linky #15My Profile

    January 18, 2016 at 2:12 pm
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      Thanks for the tips on getting a key, I’ll order it. I am aware that all the plants are classified, but am not having much luck with the online ones – I definitely need to go back to basics and start at the beginning I think. I’ll let you know how \i get on with the guide when it arrives, and will check out the BSBI link you tweeted me – thanks for all your help, if I get stuck I’m going to tag you on Instagram now I know you know lots more than me! xx

      January 18, 2016 at 2:27 pm
  • Reply Lauren (The Helpful Hiker)

    What a fab idea, and a great use for instagram as well (I will pop over and follow you shortly!) I love the idea of foraging, I’ve picked a few mushrooms (carefully!) in France with my parents but would love to be able to do it here! #CountryKids
    Lauren (The Helpful Hiker) recently posted…Unearthing Local TreasuresMy Profile

    January 18, 2016 at 10:50 am
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      Would love to have you follow along – you must walk past so many edible plants on your walks, so you definitely should join in x

      January 18, 2016 at 2:30 pm
  • Reply Chloe

    I love foraging. I love that you’re on a mission to learn more and I am so excited to see new plants come up on your instagram page. I’d love to see what they are and learn them too. We’re going to be going out a bit more this year too and finding lots more edible plants and trying them out. I can’t wait! Your foraging day will be be so exciting! I hope you post about it. Thank you so much for linking this to #whatevertheweather xx
    Chloe recently posted…#MYSUNDAYPHOTOMy Profile

    January 17, 2016 at 10:51 pm
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      I cant wait for the foraging day 🙂 You’ve got the bonus of being able to forage along the seashore where you are – you’ll have to educate us all about that too x

      January 18, 2016 at 2:33 pm
  • Reply Erin @ Nourishing My Scholar

    I love your resolution to learn more about plants in the coming year. Late last summer we went on an edible plant hike with a forest ranger. It was a fantastic experience and we learned loads. I wish you luck in rocking this new year with new knowledge of the plant kingdom.
    Erin @ Nourishing My Scholar recently posted…A Week in the Life of UnschoolersMy Profile

    January 17, 2016 at 12:18 pm
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      Thanks Erin, we’re really enthused by learning more. Your hike sounds a fantastic day out – cant think of a better way to spend a day 🙂

      January 18, 2016 at 2:41 pm
  • Reply Gina Caro

    We love going foraging, there is lots of great places to do it where we live. Having said that I would like to do a foraging course like you are to brush up on things and possibly discover new things that we can pick and eat. #WhateverTheWeather
    Gina Caro recently posted…10 Reasons to Visit Dartmoor in DevonMy Profile

    January 14, 2016 at 5:10 pm
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      I think its a great skill to develop – I cant wait to do the course. Just been admiring your beautiful site, I love the layout 🙂

      January 15, 2016 at 7:55 pm
  • Reply Agent Spitback

    Sounds like a lovely plan. I don’t know much about plants, in fact, it’s my children who teach me! It is always lovely to bond over a shared passion. Thanks for sharing with #abitofeverything
    Agent Spitback recently posted…A bit of Everything Week 12My Profile

    January 14, 2016 at 1:12 pm
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      The kids are really interested in nature at the moment, I’m hoping it will stay with them as they grow up. Thanks for having us x

      January 15, 2016 at 7:58 pm
  • Reply Let kids be kids

    Sounds like a great idea. We love nature and walks, but I must confess, I am not very good at recognising plants, maybe we should have a go too. Good luck, I hope you enjoy your challenge. #Whatevertheweather
    Let kids be kids recently posted…The creativity of LegoMy Profile

    January 13, 2016 at 2:19 pm
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      We’d love it if you joined in – everyone is very welcome, and the more we all learn about the natural world around us the better! Thanks for your good wishes x

      January 14, 2016 at 12:18 pm
  • Reply Emma

    That looks magical. Good luck with the challenge.

    January 13, 2016 at 10:08 am
  • Reply Nikki Frank-Hamilton

    Sarah, This sounds like so much fun! I’m not sure if our plants are like yours, but this is something I’m going to love watching, if nothing else! In fact, I just popped over to your Instagram page, and I see that there are Hawthorne trees blooming? I hope that it doesn’t affect the spring blooms or summer growth, it has been a warmer year. I bet the kids are going to love trying to stump Mom!
    Nikki Frank-Hamilton recently posted…Weekly Happiness Wrap Up!!My Profile

    January 11, 2016 at 10:56 pm
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      Be really interesting to see how things fruit in the Autumn following such an early start. Last year was a bumper year, wouldn’t be surprised if this year isn’t so great. I would imagine that most of our plants grow where you are Nikki, having be introduced from Europe by settlers, but that you’ll have your own indigenous plants too. The kids like nothing better than catching me out, which is a great way to get them to learn stuff!

      January 12, 2016 at 2:21 pm
  • Reply Lucy

    What a wonderful idea. I keep thinking I need to learn more about our native plants so I can teach my son. Look forward to hearing about what you learn! #countrykids

    January 10, 2016 at 8:11 pm
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      I think it’ll be really fun to increase our knowledge – I have a theory that a couple of generations back people would have had much more awareness of their natural environment compared to many of us now, we’re already looking at things differently now that we’ve set ourselves the goal to learn more (well the kids are mainly trying to find all the plants I cant name!).

      January 10, 2016 at 9:42 pm
  • Reply Coombe Mill

    What a great idea to help you learn more about the surroundings, it gets a bit of a drag when the kids ask you what something is and you don’t know the answer. It’s great that you’re planning on going on this learning curve together so that you can share all the new things you learn. I hope you share all your walks with me and maybe share some new things you all learn that we can learn too! Thanks for linking up with me on Country Kids.

    January 10, 2016 at 1:44 pm
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      The kids are quite put out when I don’t know something – totally ruins my super-mum image! It will be really fun to learn alongside the kids, we’re already looking at plants more systematically now we’re trying to work out what they all are – we’ll definitely share our journey as we progress x

      January 10, 2016 at 9:47 pm
  • Reply Kathleen

    I like to follow back to the sites of those who are kind enough to leave comments on my posts. I hope you enjoyed your visit to the Blogger’s Pit Stop and we look forward to seeing you next time. These photos on your post are just beautiful, very nice photography. I guess that goes with your creative craft gifts. All the best Sarah.
    Kathleen
    Kathleen recently posted…Bloggers Relationships |Important OnesMy Profile

    January 10, 2016 at 6:03 am
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      Thanks Kathleen for visiting, and your kind comments. I learned loads at the Blogger’s Pit Stop and will definitely be back! Thanks for having us 🙂

      January 10, 2016 at 9:57 pm
  • Reply Louise (Little Hearts, Big Love)

    What a great idea and good luck with learning more about all the different wild plants you encounter. I realised last year that I knew very little about what the different plants were and ended up buying a book so that I could get better at pointing things out to the girls. I’ve yet to actually use it though, but maybe I’ll do so this year…! I’ll have to check out your Instagram and see if I can learn some new things as well 🙂
    Louise (Little Hearts, Big Love) recently posted…A day out at Uppark HouseMy Profile

    January 9, 2016 at 10:29 pm
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      Thanks Louise, and we’d love it if you joined us on Instagram, that way you could upload your finds too and we could all help each other 🙂

      January 10, 2016 at 10:06 pm
  • Reply Mary @ Over 40 and a Mum to One

    Whilst loving nature, my knowledge is pitiful. We’ve bought a tree book so we can identify more of them on our walks and I look forward to hearing about your foraging adventures #CountryKids
    Mary @ Over 40 and a Mum to One recently posted…Project 366 2016 Week 1My Profile

    January 9, 2016 at 5:17 pm
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      Having kids has really reminded me how much I enjoyed being surrounded by nature as a child, and I really want my kids to grow up with the same love – think its a lovely interest for families to learn about together 🙂

      January 10, 2016 at 10:09 pm
  • Reply Janice Wald

    Hi Sarah,
    I’ve been to the United Kingdom, just recently I cruised the British Isles.
    I am with you. I normally don’t have New Years Resolutions, but this year I made three, and I already forgot the third =).
    Thanks again for visiting my site and commenting on my Grammarly article.
    Janice

    January 8, 2016 at 10:32 am
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      Hope you had a great trip over here, I will definitely be visiting your blog again – you are really generous with sharing your knowledge, I learned so much today with my Pit-stop visits 🙂

      January 8, 2016 at 9:43 pm
  • Reply Laura's Lovely Blog

    Good luck with your challenge, my husband would love this as he loves a bit of foraging, he made some great stuffing with foraged chestnuts last year 🙂
    Laura’s Lovely Blog recently posted…How Do You Find Time To Read?My Profile

    January 7, 2016 at 9:50 pm
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      Thank you 🙂 I love Chestnuts too, they’re a great thing to have access to. I really think foraging is good for the soul x

      January 8, 2016 at 9:44 pm

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