Cumbria park’s wild side thrills foraging fans

Keep your mushroom location secrets under your hat advises Henry Wild (above) of Skelwith Fold holiday park

Keep your mushroom location secrets under your hat advises Henry Wild of Skelwith Fold holiday park

Visitors have been mushrooming at Cumbria’s Skelwith Fold holiday park this autumn as wild food fought for top place on the menu of guest pastimes.

Park owner Henry Wild said that the season had produced a bumper crop of holidaymakers thanks to a fast-growing interest in foraging in the park’s 130-acre grounds.

The popularity of questing for free produce from nature’s larder, says Henry, could be a spin-off from TV shows such as MasterChef in which wild food often features.

As well as edible fungi, he said, guests also gathered blackberries, elderberries and sloes to take back home for turning into jelly, wine and gin.

Guests roaming the grounds for free pickings were given the thumbs-up for their activities by the park – but with a few words of caution from Henry:

“We asked people not to gather more than they can make use of themselves, and not to strip plants or decimate areas entirely as many of our wildlife residents feed on fungi and berries.

Tasty stuffed mushrooms: one of the rewards of foraging

Tasty stuffed mushrooms: one of the rewards of foraging

“We also suggest that visitors learn to tell the difference between similar looking edible and deadly varieties of mushroom, and never to send children out alone to forage,” he added.

Henry advised too against using social media to tell others where the best gathering areas are to be found, and to keep these secret to avoid over-foraging.

He said the warning was prompted by a recent report of uproar in France after an online map disclosed the best spots for finding fungi.

Traditionalists say the move runs counter to the clandestine nature of mushroom gathering, and could result in hidden sights being invaded by pickers from across the country.

“I think that my concern is more that the pleasure of foraging is all about making your own discoveries in the wild, and not just following an online guide,” said Henry.

“We’ve also advised guests that such information could prove fruitless because mushrooms don’t always grow in the same place from year to year.

“But with these provisos, we’ve been delighted to welcome so many guests this autumn with a taste for mushroom omelettes, blackberry pies and sloe gin,” said Henry.

Skelwith Fold has now closed for the season, and will re-open in March next year to welcome caravan holiday home owners and guests with touring caravan and motorhomes.

The park also provides two-person luxury Hideaway pods, fully furnished with heating, a bathroom, full-size bed – and kitchen area for preparing both wild and shop-foraged food.

There is more information about the park at www.skelwith.com

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