The Wild Side of Life


Artists bracket


  • Autumn Foraging Season Update... 'What's up?' 2018: Porcini / Ceps!

  • Mushroom Conference Update - with full speakers list

  • Fred the Forager - BBC Wiltshire, 'Into the Wild' with Sue Kinnear
  • COURSES & EVENTS DIARY - Foraging Courses, Herbal Medicine Workshops, Medicinal Mushroom Workshops and Courses for the Crafty

  • Thank you!

Greetings Wildsiders!

As we hurtle headlong into autumn I thought another little update may be due as we are receiving a lot of requests from people via email to identify what must be one of the best of all gourmet mushroom species... the cep, Boletus edulis. There really have been a lot of them this year! We also have the autumn Medicinal Mushrooms Conference fast approaching us with less than 3 weeks to go - and with it a chance to meet and go foraging with Roger Phillips, author of "Mushrooms and other Fungi of Britain and Europe" (this has long been a staple book on every forager's bookshelf).

The conference attracts many foragers, both as speakers and delegates, as people are very much realising the health giving benefits that edible fungi have to offer us, and Roger is no exception. We are very grateful for his continuing support which is something that we look forward to every year!

Autumn Foraging Update... or 'What's up?'

2018: A year for ceps!
Cep - Boletus edulis

Depending on where you are from, some of you may know this mushroom as the penny bun (England), cep (France), porcini (little pig - Italy), steinpilze (stone mushroom - Germany), or even Karl-Johans-svamp (Sweden)... in fact there are dozens and dozens of recognised names for this species around Europe, which attests to its universal popularity throughout history. Between 20,000 and 100,000 tonnes are harvested globally for the commercial market per year, commanding high prices, yet this is not an uncommon mushroom.

In England, the cep or penny-bun can fruit in two waves if weather conditions are correct. This year in our local south-west woods we saw a heavy fruiting of ceps in the vicinity of oak trees during late August and into the first week of September. Things then went very quiet with regards to ceps for a while... in fact things paused for a whole month until the second week of October when we are now seeing the second wave of cep sightings, some in huge quantities, this time predominantly in the beech woods of our region. This is the typical pattern it seems with the cooler conditions triggering this second 'wave of ceps' off a week or so earlier further to the north. A combination of acid soils, underneath oak or beech with birch and holly both present, seems to produce the best results, although spruce plantation woodland and underneath pines can also be very good.

Each year we pray for that vital autumn rain that will produce this magnificent second harvest across the region!

Cep - Boletus edulisCAP: Yellowish brown to reddish brown... but predominantly brown, looking just like a bread bun on a short, swollen fat stick - hence the name 'penny bun'.  Often there is a paler margin around the edge. 

SIZE: typically 10 to 30 cm across - that's over a foot in old money! Underneath there are no gills but instead (like all of the mushrooms in the bolete group) a sponge like layer, comprised of the tubes, which are only visible when you cut the mushroom in half, and the visible surface of 'pores'. The pores of this mushroom are very small, round, very pale yellow when young - almost an 'off-white' colour, ageing later to a dingy olive brown.

FLESH: All parts of the cep's flesh smell a little sweet. The flesh tastes sweet and nutty, young specimens can even be sliced and eaten raw, something that is very unusual for most wild mushrooms. Eaten in this way they are delicious with a restrained drizzle of lemon juice and a little salt. The cep's white flesh does not change colour when cut or bruised. many other similar boletes do go through distinct colour changes, particularly to blue, but not this one!

Cep - stem detail
STEM: The stem of the cep can be very very fat indeed, often with more usable flesh in it than the cap itself! The upper stem surface is covered in a very fine, pale/white, raised fishing-net pattern or 'reticulum'. This white fishing reticulum is a distinctive feature...
if it doesn't have it then it's not a cep. If it isn't at least white-ish then it's not a cep. No reticulum, darker brown reticulum or reddish-brown reticulum all indicate other species,
not all of them are edible, so beware!

FACT: The tasty cep contains lovastatin, so can help to lower cholesterol. It also contains mood stabilising compounds such as serotonin, melatonin and tryptamine that are found in the human body and could possibly help to alleviate depression.

This year's UK conference sees an action packed programme of talks and workshops with speakers coming from medical herbalism, permaculture design, pharmaceutical development, myco-culture (mushroom farming) and those who specialise in sourcing gourmet foods.

Roger Phillips at UK Medicinal Mushroom Conference

Roger Phillips teaching conference delegates some of the finer points of fungus ID in Savernake Forest, during the UK Medicinal Mushrooms Conference in 2016

Our scientists, mushroom growers, health practitioners, foragers and mushroom experts are going to give us all a unique snapshot of the latest cutting edge developments in mushroom research! Fungi have always shaped our world behind the scenes but they are beginning to take centre stage, as we develop techniques for working with fungi that can digest waste materials, treat deadly diseases and clean up contaminated watercourses. The worlds of nutrition and medicine in particular are focusing on fungi and a new understanding is taking place... a re-evaluation of our relationship with the fungal kingdom... which is set to be a total game changer for our species.

This year's conference venue is set in 173 acres of ancient woodland and there will also be a 2 hour medicinal mushroom foray led by Roger Phillips and a team of field mycologists. The conference delivery is set at 'popular science' level, so if you can enjoy reading articles in New Scientist or Scientific American, then you will enjoy this too!

The full list of our speakers, with the topics they will be covering and their biographies are here.

This conference is unique, something of which we are very proud, and on behalf of the entire conference team of speakers and staff we do hope you will come and visit us!


There will be a chance to purchase medicinal mushroom supplies, edible wild mushroom risotto kits, wild mushroom grow kits and signed books written by the authors (perhaps you could even bring your own copy of 'Mushrooms' if you promise to ask Roger nicely to sign it). The original artwork and limited edition prints of Andrew Brooke will be for sale. His work is both stunning and accurate, and he will be on hand to take commissions if you would like a particular favourite msuhroom painted. These make stunning Christmas gifts like no other.

For more information or to book your delegate place, please contact Natascha;

Please note there is a special discount available for those who can demonstrate that their household collectively is on a low income or who are currently studying in higher-education. CPD certificates are available to healthcare practitioners and therapists who attend the conference, upon request.

Fred the Forager goes "Into the Wild" with BBC Wiltshire's Sue Kinnear!

Sue Kinnear - BBC Wiltshire

On October 3rd Fred spent an enjoyable hour in the BBC studios being interviewed by BBC Wiltshire's Sue Kinnear, live and on the air! Find out about what inspired Fred to become a forager, what indispensible item of equipment he takes with him into the wild and even a little about his favourite taste in music... Listen here, (move the slider from1:03 to 1:59)




"Thank you for such an exciting and useful weekend! I feel that I have learned so much and I have been really enjoying making more tinctures and salves from the hedgerows near where I live since I got home"

23rd & 24th February 2019 - Avebury, England. Cost - £180.00
We are offering a day workshops in Avebury, Wiltshire, where we will explore the therapeutic / medicinal potential of mushrooms. In recent years research has demonstrated that certain mushrooms can provide measurable beneficial effects in managing blood sugar levels, cholesterol metabolism, appetite and immunity as well as providing a superb range of nutritional benefits.

 Turkey tail mushroom

Turkey tail mushroom - Trametes versicolor, deep in the woods 

Mushrooms have long been a part of traditional medicine in many cultures and they have a special affinity with the immune system. Medicinal mushrooms are being used around the world in the treatment, management and/or prevention of a wide range of conditions, as diverse as cancer, diabetes and sciatica!

Each workshop will be a balance of learning practical mushroom identification skills and practical mushroom medicine making along with the supporting theory. To book your place, contact

CPD certificates worth 15 hours are available to therapists / health care practitioners on request but this course is open to anyone with an interest in their own health!


Just because you can - and these make a great gift for someone too... 

Ancient Pewter Smithing, 30th March 2019, Wiltshire

Together we will be exploring the cuttlebone casting technique that is thought to have originated in ancient Egypt. You will learn to design and prepare a mould from cuttlefish and then smelt and purify scrap pewter before pouring and watching the magic take place in front of your eyes. Put flesh and bones on your imagination with this fun and easy to learn technique!

Finishing of the resulting pieces will take place around the campfire using hand-held tools and you will each have something very special of value to take home with you. Every piece created is a "one-off", totally unique, totally you!

Contact to book a place or to purchase the course as a gift for that special someone next year! Cost £85.00 for the day, take home all that you make!

Coracle Building Long Weekender 26th to 28th April, 2019, Wiltshire... A wild woodland challenge!

...for the crafty among us who love a bit of adventure in the wild!

Our Coracle Courses include free introductory membership of The Coracle Society. 
You can buy a gift certificate for these courses here or contact to book your place. Cost £320.00 including coracle to take home! £400.00 gets you a 2 person team build - ideally suited to a couple - and a unique camping experience in the woods!

Craft courses 

The official dates for our spring, summer and autumn foraging days and foraging 'club' intensives like the Spring Forager's Club and Secret Sunday Mushroom Club, as well as all of our 2019 herbal workshops, will be released in the festive season mid-winter newsletter... 3rd week of November, 2018.

I hope you are having a wonderful autumn, I wish you the joyful crunch of autumn leaves beneath your feet! 

best wishes,
Fred the Forager!

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