Probably the most common criticism I face as a keen forager is over the environmental impact of gathering wild foods. This is a reasonable concern. Foraging within the law can often fall some way short of responsible foraging. Respect for nature and consideration of others – animal or human – that may use wild food resources is fundamental to sustainable gathering. Commercial harvesting – especially of wild mushrooms – is gaining a lot of unfavourable coverage nowadays. Many such reports are knee-jerk, simplistic and poorly researched. Many foragers are passionate about their quarry and recognise that their interests and those of the edible species are indistinguishable. Habitat loss poses a much greater threat to diversity than occasional over-picking. Having said that, commercial pickers that know only a few species tend to be ignorant of the impact of their picking and can earn all foragers a bad name.
Having made money from foraging in the past, both as a seasonal sideline and full time job, I have now chosen not to sell any wild food. I find foraging to feed my family, share with friends and occasionally exchange bumper crops with businesses to be better suited to sustainable foraging and much more satisfying all round. As foraging grows in popularity, I hope more people will see it as a means of living in harmony with nature, rather than exploiting it.
The following articles cover some of the conservation issues I have come across and my reaction to them.
Conservation Areas and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI’S)
Galloway boasts a lot unusual habitats, many of which support rare or environmentally important species. Most of these areas are protected to some degree and foragers should familiarise themselves with the sensitive flora, fauna and fungi within them and restrict their activities accordingly.
That is not to say that these are no-go areas or that nothing should be picked. Collecting brambles in Torrs Warren, wild garlic in the Fleet Valley or samphire in Wigtown Bay is unlikely to impact on any sensitive species, so long as it is done carefully and in small quantities.
For a general overview of sensitive areas that emphasises the positive nature of protected areas, check out this excellent leaflet by Scottish Natural Heritage.
Generally speaking, Conservation Areas and Protected Areas cover larger areas and are intended to safeguard rare and sensitive habitats that may include specific threatened or rare species, while SSSI’s tend to be focussed on a specific species or ecosystem – and can be designated within larger protected areas. For example, Luce Bay and Sands Special Area of Conservation is intended to safeguard a range of unusual habitats, from sand dunes to mud flats which are home to the rare Great Crested Newt.
National Scenic Areas are more general-purpose designations, focussing on aesthetics and promoting responsible recreational use and sensitive approaches to development.
The following is a list of all the protected coastal areas in Galloway – I suggest you do a little research before visiting them with foraging in mind!
Luce Bay and Sands Special Area of Conservation
Mull of Galloway Special Area of Conservation
Upper Solway Flats & Marshes Special Protection Area
Nith Estuary National Scenic Area
East Stewartry Coast National Scenic Area
Fleet Valley National Scenic Area
Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve
Wigtown Bay Local Nature Reserve
Upper Solway Flats & Marshes Site of Special Scientific Interest
Royal Ordnance Powfoot Site of Special Scientific Interest
Port O’Warren Site of Special Scientific Interest
Auchencairn & Orchardton Bays Site of Special Scientific Interest
Abbey Burn Foot to Balcary Point Site of Special Scientific Interest
Torrs Warren to Mason’s Walk Site of Special Scientific Interest
Shoulder O’Craig Site of Special Scientific Interest
Borgue Coast Site of Special Scientific Interest
Ravenshall Wood Site of Special Scientific Interest
Cree Estuary Site of Special Scientific Interest
Cruggleton Bay Site of Special Scientific Interest
Isle of Whithorn Bay Site of Special Scientific Interest
Back Bay to Cairghidown Site of Special Scientific Interest
Torrs Warren – Luce Sands Site of Special Scientific Interest
Scare Rocks Site of Special Scientific Interest
Mull of Galloway Site of Special Scientific Interest
Pot Logan Site of Special Scientific Interest
Grennan Bay Site of Special Scientific Interest
Morroch Bay Site of Special Scientific Interest
Salt Pans Bay Site of Special Scientific Interest
Corsewall Point to Milleur Point Site of Special Scientific Interest
Work in progress…please check out this page again soon