Foraging on the South West Coast Path
Posted by Rachel - 6 November 2014
630 miles of coast line.
That’s 630 miles of pathways, steps, beaches, cliffs, pebbles, sand, shingle or boulders.
630 miles of potential coastal plants, as well hedgerows, fields, even woodland growth.
That’s 630 miles of varied and possible foraging ground.
I’m a forager, a walker, a stalker of plants and a lover of sea views and varied landscapes. I live in Cornwall, and like many Cornish (or settlers here) I’m content holidaying here too.
Taking a chunk of time out to walk part of the Cornish coastal path is something I’ve wanted to do for a while. Embarrassingly, I’ve never done this (for more than 1 day at a time) in Cornwall. Though I have done several walking trips in the Himalayas, Scotland and Austria – up to 3 weeks at a time, just walking.
So this summer, this was it: 8 days, 80 miles, various companions and a new pair of walking sandals. Traveling light, I had pockets and bags to forage with and left the cumbersome, though beautiful and often useful, basket behind.
Coastal foraging is rich pickings – there is a good reason that many communities originally settled on the coast line or nearby, and this wasn’t just for the fishing, or the view.
Fish and seafood are wonderful sources of nutrition, particularly protein and good oils, yet the plants and seaweeds that grow in these areas are equally of value. Actually, I wouldn’t choose one over the other, though together the combination is sublime, as well as nutritionally balanced.
Starting from St Ives and finishing in Padstow, I was fascinated by how much the foraging available would vary on this stretch of coast path. Whether I’d be seeing much variety, or just seeing the same plants again and again.
There are over one hundred plants and seaweeds that I, and you too, could be foraging, easily and regularly while walking the South West Coast Path. I know if I’d have walked further, perhaps the whole of the coast – from Minehead to Poole – then I would have experienced a greater diversity of edibles and landscapes that they thrive in. However, as much as I am an explorer, I am a home girl too, and being able to look back along that coast path, and see the distance that I had traveled by foot, felt -for now- far enough away from home.
If you’ve ever done long distance walking, or indeed walked the South West Coast Path, you will probably know these two things;
- You can burn quite a lot of energy walking, especially when it’s up and down, rocky and challenging, and especially if you’re carrying a ruck sack too.
- Despite the considerable improvement in food choice in Cornwall, i.e. good quality, local ingredients, simply cooked. In some areas of the coast path, it’s trickier to access much more than fish and chips and sandwiches.
Perhaps I’m just justifying my food and calorie choices for this journey! However, snacking on forageables definitely broke up my walking and monotony of meals. While camping, I was able to add wild greens to dishes, introduce walking companions to wild tastes and enjoy the beauty of the coast through my taste buds as well as my feet and eyes.
If you know much about sailing and the fate of many sailors one hundred years or more ago. You’ll know that scurvy – a condition caused by vitamin C deficiency was an unpleasant, unsightly and far too common disease. Many of the plants I was picking were rich in vitamin C, and used by sailors in the past for this very reason.
Rock Samphire, Scurvy Grass, Sorrel, Ox-Eye Daisy, Sea Spinach – are all good vitamin C sources. No oranges or lemons did I carry in my rucksack, my nutrition was hedgerow and coast path sourced, well, ok, with the occasional Cornish apple juice to quench my thirst too.
To find out more about walking the South West Coast Path, go to; http://www.southwestcoastpath.com/
Baggage transfer can lighten your daily load and this company is hugely friendly and helpful, see; http://www.luggagetransfers.co.uk/south-west.html
If you would like to have a 1/2 day foraging guide, during your walking (please note I average 1 mile an hour for this), please do contact me
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