Date Tags foraging

Foraging, it should go without saying, needs to be legal. It should also be fun. And no hobby, surely, could be cheaper. More often than not a carrier bag folded in the pocket and open eyes are all you need. The law on foraging is the proverbial minefield, but the essentials are:

  • The digging up of any native plant is illegal, unless ‘authorisation- The digging up of any native plant is illegal, unless ‘authorisation’ (permission) is first granted by the landowner.

  • Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) it is illegal to uproot, dig up or otherwise interfere with certain endangered species wherever located. The list of these plants (and molluscs) can be consulted at www.jncc.gov.uk.

  • Special permission is required to forage in national parks and nature reserves, and land owned by the National Trust, Ministry of Defence and the Crown.

  • Certain species belong to the Crown. This applies to native Oysters in Scotland.

  • A plant is the ‘property’ of the landowner on which it grows, so permission is necessary to take it or parts of it.

  • By the law of trespass, you need permission to enter upon private land.

  • Shellfish in some localities belong to commercial enterprises, and if you ‘forage’ them you are open to the charge of theft.

  • Many Shellfish are also subject to closed seasons and rules governing the size they must have attained to be eligible for harvesting, the so-called ‘Minimum Landing Size’ (MLS). In localities where MLS rules apply, it is an offence (open to prosecution) to take any Shellfish that are smaller than the MLS. The scientific rationale behind MLS is to protect against overfishing, by ensuring that each individual mollusc is allowed to grow to maturity and has a breeding opportunity before being landed.

  • Many places have byelaws which ban or control the collecting of wild plants or animals.

  • If you go foraging in public with a fixed blade, or a blade longer than 75mm, you are committing a criminal offence with a maximum detention in Her Majesty’s prison of four years. Equally, if you have some specialist kit that appears to have been developed for illegal picking you may be considered to be committing a criminal offence. Take a small folding penknife, a modest pair of kitchen scissors and a walking stick instead.

Despite all the above, foraging plants for your private use is legal under common law. The ‘waysides’ of roads, paths, canals are generally fair game for foragers, as are parks, commons and tidal waters.’ (permission) is first granted by the landowner.