Foraging for food in the UK

Foraging for food in the UK
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Foraging & the Law in Britain

Foraging is a favourite hobby among the British population and could even be considered a lifestyle by some. With an abundance of tasty wild foods along the hedgerows that you can pick on long countryside walks, it is impossible not to be drawn in. 

Some people might remember picking and eating ‘bread and cheese’ in some parts of rural Britain when they were kids. The name’Bread and cheese’ refer to the young spring leaves from a Hawthorn bush that taste nutty and favourable. 

Foraging is a common practice that has relatively lax in its laws. However, it would be best to consider some official and unofficial laws when picking wild foods from common ground, farmland, or private land. The majority of laws that apply are the same across Britain, with only minor differences in some by-laws for some provinces such as Wales and Scotland.

What are the rules for foraging?

Generally, you can forage for ‘the four F’s’ across England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland in places where you have ‘open access’ and can exercise your ‘right to roam’The four F’s represent the types of foods you are allowed to take for personal use, which are as follows:

  • Fruit
  • Fungi
  • Flowers
  • Foliage

Areas of land where you can exercise your right to roam and forage from in the United Kingdom are:

  • National Trails
  • National Parks
  • Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
  • National Nature Reserves
  • Local Nature Reserves
  • Rights of way
  • Green space

You may need the landowners’ permission to cross farmland, and you should always ensure not to upset any livestock you come across. You were allowing people to cross much of the countryside with minimal restrictions.

Across the UK, some areas are not accessible to the public, most of which should be obvious. The following areas do not allow public access in Britain;

  • Private land
  • Schools, College or University campuses
  • Farmyard buildings
  • Farmland that is in use
  • Golf courses (unless crossing)
  • Airfields
  • Visitor attractions
  • Railways
  • Telecommunication sites
  • Military bases and installations
  • Working quarries
  • Construction sites

Always get the landowner’s permission.

How to find open access land in Britain

You can use the list above to guide open-access land in the UK. There are National Trust sights dotted all over the place in Britain, and you probably walk past them every day. 

If you would like to find more areas with open access, you can use the search tool on, which will help you find areas you can happily forage in without worrying about breaking any laws.

Is it illegal to pick fruit from public trees in the UK?

No, picking fruit from public trees in Britain is not illegal. Fruit is one of the 4 F’s. Therefore, you can take them personally because Britain’s four f’s are part of common law.

‘A person who picks mushrooms growing wild on any land, or who picks flowers, fruit or foliage from a plant growing wild on any land, does not (although not in possession of the land) steal what he picks unless he does it for reward or sale or another commercial purpose.’  -Theft Act 1968

Do I need a licence to forage in Britain?

No, you do not need a licence to forage for wild food in the UK, as long as it’s for personal use. It is its citizens’ right to forage wild edibles in Britain if not for commercial use, although you may need a licence to use your foraged foods for commercial use, such as in a restaurant or to sell online.

Commercial foraging 

The only way to forage for commercial use is to do so on private land, with the land owners permission. If you want to sell your foraged produce, you must either buy some land or seek the land owner’s permission to take their land produce.

Due to a rise in the popularity of wild foods in restaurants and at home, some forested areas have negatively impacted their ecosystems. Over-foraging has caused restrictions in Epping Forest, Richmond Park, Wimbledon Common, and Windsor Great Park, with some areas fining up to £500 for foraging one mushroom.

Types of wild food you can forage

The general rule of thumb for foraging is you are allowed to forage for ‘The Four F’s’ on open access land. The four F’s are fruit, foliage, flora and fungus.

Foraging for wild fruit

Wild fruits are primarily available in the summer when plants prepare for winter. Always ensure you have several points of reference for identifying a wild food before eating it (such as leaves, stems and fruit), especially when eating wild berries and other fruits.

Foraging for wild foliage

Wild foliage can be a good form of sustenance in a foraged meal. There is an abundance of wild foliage to choose from, like dandelion leaves and wild garlic, which are two examples you can forage for and use to make a free meal straight from nature’s table.

Foraging for wild flora

Wild flora consists of any plant life and its flowers. Not only are many plants edible, but you might be surprised that many flowers are also edible – and delicious! Always be careful when foraging and eating wild foods, be sure you have several points of reference before consuming anything. If you cannot positively identify something, do not eat it.

Foraging for wild fungus

When we say fungus, we usually refer to mushrooms in the foraging world. Mushrooms and other fungi can be excellent sources of protein and nutrients, including copper, potassium, magnesium, zinc and some B vitamins such as folate.

If you cannot positively identify a fungus, DO NOT consume it, there are many dangerous fungi in Britain, and it is best to undergo some training from a mushroom or foraging expert before attempting to forage any wild edible mushroom or fungus.

Your responsibilities to the environment

Although it should be common sense, some things are expected of you when you forage from any environment. You should not cause any damage or destruction to the environment and always adhere to the countryside act. Leave areas as you found them, granted a few plants may be missing some leaves or fruit and always take your rubbish away with you.

The law on uprooting plants 

It is legal to forage for the F’s by taking fruits, trimming leaves or mushrooms. It is actually against the law to uproot plants on common land in Britain. To be able to uproot a plant, you must be able to obtain the land owners permission. Some delectable wild edibles can be hidden underground, such as dandelion roots. Therefore, The law can be annoying.

Foraging Calender & monthly foraging guide

For an excellent month-by-month foraging guide, go to the Woodland Trusts website. The Woodland Trust are a British institution with significant authority over woodland areas in Britain. You can find the majority of information and advice that you might need for foraging in the 

Technology that can help you in the field

In this day and age, you can also rely on some technological field tools to help you identify your foraged foods. Your humble mobile phone is the most powerful, as there are now many apps to help you identify plants out in the field. Hands-on experience is the best form of identification, but anything that can help you confirm your find further is positive.

Foraging and the Backyard Farmer

The Backyard Farmer is all about reducing our negative impact on the planet. Foraging is another way to supplement your diet and reduce your dependency on carbon-heavy supply chains such as supermarkets.

You can reduce your negative environmental impact by foraging and growing your food and sourcing food from local suppliers. Food production and transport cause a large part of society’s carbon footprint.

Related Articles: Foraging for beginners UK, 10 Edible plants you can forage, Can I feed birds apples?

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