Woodland Bounty - Wild Harvests in the Scottish Borders
If there's one thing Reforesting Scotland excels at, it's bringing together enthusiasts and experts, and getting them talking to each other. On Sunday 15 Feb 2009 we were given the chance to help do exactly that, at the Buccleuch Arms in St Boswells. “Woodland Bounty – Wild Harvests in the Scottish Borders” was one of a series of events organised for the Borders Woodland Partnership. Reforesting Scotland, bringing our knowledge of Scotland's evolving sustainable harvesting culture and of Scotland's amazing range of wild harvests businesses, were invited to help bring together suitable speakers and demonstrators from the Borders and beyond. The aim was to learn about foraging nature's produce for food, for fun or for profit – reconnecting to our local woodlands as a sustainable, healthy, enjoyable part of our lives and livelihoods.
We heard about everyday household use of wild products in the Borders, eighteenth-century style; using local wild herbs in herbal medicine; tapping tree sap and reducing it to syrup (and how the results from Borders trees compare with finest Canadian maple syrup!); and sustainable harvesting. In the afternoon, Ann Miller, mushroom-growing expert from Aberdeenshire, and her small but expert team of helpers, somehow coped with the flood of people who wanted to learn about inoculating logs with shiitake, oyster, or lion's mane mushroom spawn.
Meanwhile, we enjoyed the Borders hospitality of the Buccleuch Arms in St Boswells, who took our unusual requirements completely in their stride. We mingled amongst a beautifully-laid out selection of wild food tasters Borders apple juice, and berry drinks from Clackmannanshire; fruit preserves from the Borders to Inverness-shire before gradually leaving the building cradling logs in our arms.
Best of all were all the people who turned up for the day. Over 70 people, bringing with them a real appetite for making a sustainable connection with local woods part of their lives and livelihoods and between them a considerable amount of knowledge and experience, from preserve making to spooncarving.
Among the people who came to the Woodland Bounty event there was a good deal of support for the idea of a Scottish Borders Foragers' Forum. This would bring people together for other wild harvests-based events, to learn from each other and from visiting experts. Our current vision is that these events would happen in the woods themselves providing basic shelter and hospitality using facilities such as those at Wooplaw Woods. Watch this space! - or get in touch to give us your views or to get involved:Speakers Organisations & projects Tasters - Scottish apple juice & berry drinks Tasters - fruit preserves and maple syrup Tasters - woodland tea - with one xylitol or two? Our hosts
Charlie Fulton, of Galloway Trees Ltd, who did the bulk of the organisation and introduced the day's programme.
Fi Martynoga, author of The Garden Cottage Diaries: My Year in the Eighteenth Century (writing as Fiona J. Houston), and expert in the practicalities of eighteenth-century living in the Scottish Borders.
Drew McNaughton of Spiritwise Herbs, a medical herbalist who leads Herb Walks and harvests wild Borders herbs for some of his own preparations.
Mike Perks, of Forest Research, who knows a surprising amount about tree sap and syrup.
Emma Chapman, who runs Reforesting Scotland's Wild Harvests Sector Support project, maintains the ForestHarvest website, and worked with Charlie Fulton and Scottish Borders Council to organise this event.
Ann Miller, of Anne Miller's Speciality Mushrooms, who spoke briefly on mycelia and then spent the rest of the afternoon ensuring that everyone who wanted went home with their very own inoculated mushroom log.
Reforesting Scotland - see the rest of this website!
Scottish Working Woods label - for woodland products made in Scotland, by businesses based in Scotland, from woodland materials harvested from Scottish trees and woodlands
The juices we drank were all kindly donated by Scottish producers:
Laprig Fruit (Hardacres, Greenlaw, Duns, TD10 6UN) make single-variety apple juice in the Borders from English apples. They have also sourced a Borders-grown variety to try in the coming season, and are looking into using wild elderflowers, rosehips and hawthorn berries to flavour some of their juices.
The Cuddybridge Apple Juice we tried was made from mixed apples grown around Innerleithen, Peebles and Walkerburn. Most of them would have gone to waste otherwise. Cuddybridge Apple Juice is the brainchild of Graham Stoddart, Leithen House, Innerleithen, EH44 6HY. Telephone 01869 830410 or email to find out more.
Apple juice - a woodland product? (PDF file 62KB)
Bouvrage raspberry and wild blaeberry drinks are made by Ella Drinks Ltd of Alloa.
Bouvrage searching for Scottish blaeberries (PDF file 59KB)
Fletchers of Auctermuchty gave us some of the Wild Rowan Jelly from their wildlife-rich venison farm, and we were also treated to some home-made preserves from Fi Martynoga and Gordon Downie. Charlie Fulton let us try some maple syrup which he'd made himself from the sap of local Norway maples.
These were supplemented by forest honeys, Scottish blossom honey, and Scottish wild berry jellies found in shops and stalls around Edinburgh.
The marmalade was not wild, but we couldn't resist trying it, because it was made so very locally - at the Buccleuch Arms itself. Thanks!
If you were there that Sunday, you probably wondered what on Earth the chewing gum and the artificial sweetner were doing there. Xylitol is a hi-tech manufactured product, but it really is made by Finns, from birch trees (PDF file 60KB).
You might also have noticed the unusual choice of teas. Drew McNaughton let us try some of his locally-gathered meadowsweet - we had to resort to a wholefood shop in town for the other woodland teas (PDF file 59KB).
Last but not least, the Buccleuch Arms Hotel in St Boswells - a venue which received us with an abundance of creative hospitality.
All photos by Doon of May - thanks!
The Woodland Bounty meeting was funded by the Scottish Borders Woodland Partnership, which was formed to take forward the aims of the Scottish Borders Woodland Strategy. The Borders Woodland Partnership is supported by Borders Forest Trust, Forestry Commission Scotland, Leader+, Scottish Borders Council, Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Government, Scottish Natural Heritage. The project is part financed by the European Union.