The Wild Side of Life


Fred the Forager 


  • Summer foraging season update - what's coming up?
  • Pickled walnuts recipe link 
  • What we're celebrating this year!
  • Charity work
  • Fred the Forager - BBC Radio 4, Farming Today link
  • Booking The Wild Side of Life for your team build or private group
  • 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 summer I thought it was time for a little update as well as thanking you all for supporting The Wild Side of Life for the past year. I would also like to re-assure you that we NEVER share your email address with anyone. If you would like to stop receiving our occasional (twice yearly) updates then please click the button above or at the bottom of this newsletter to unsubscribe or email with an unsubscribe request.

Summer foraging season update...

'What's coming up'?

After the summer scarcity of the 'June Gap' period, when bees and humans alike must work hard for their wild food and most of the spring wild food plants are past their best, the first soft fruits and ripe seeds are now becoming ready to harvest and we declare the summer foraging season to be fully open! It looks like it is going to be a good season for fruit. You may be finding ripe raspberries and cherries in the hedgerows already. Most soft fruits are beginning to ripen and by the end of July the cherry plum, Prunus cerasifera will be ready to pick - it is one of my favourites - perfect for jams, chutneys, wine making and it is one of the best of all fruits for making fruit leathers. 

Oregon Grape

Oregon grape - Mahonia aquifolium

Take a look in planted parks and gardens too. The oregon grape, Mahonia aquifolium, though tart is rich in vitamin C and anti-oxidants and makes a good accompaniment for ice cream. Very soon the first mulberries will be ripening too. Although they don't keep very well and are best used up quite quickly, once you get a taste for them you wont be able to stop eating them so that wont be too much of a problem! Fruit is very good for you but obviously be careful not to eat too much in any one sitting - too much soft fruit in particular can be a little laxative!

Ripe mulberry

Ripe mulberries are tasty!
Photo reproduced courtesy of 'Beko', CCA-SA4.0-I

After the occasional sprinkle of rain it is worth exploring the woods for mushrooms too. Big old tree trunks and fallen trees are the places to look. In the past week I have found chicken of the woods on oak and plenty of delicious summer oyster and grey oyster mushrooms on fallen beech trees. The beefsteak mushroom should also start appearing fairly soon on oak and sweet chestnut, particularly if we have a period of rain. Green nuts are worth investigating at the moment.

Summer oyster mushrooms

The summer oyster, Pleurotus pulmonarius,
fruiting on a fallen beech tree

Hazelnuts and beech nuts can be eaten in their shells before they harden off and walnuts can be pickled in malt vinegar whole - including the fleshy outer 'fruit', providing that the nut shells have not hardened. They are best left for a year once pickled to mature. 

I like this fine recipe from the Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook page. You may like to give it a try!

<Scroll down for our courses and events diary>
What we are celebrating...

  • The Wild Side of Life has been awarded 'Best Foraging Education Provider: UK South' in the 2017 Food & Drink Awards
  • Our Devon Forager's Retreat has also been awarded best in category for our fully wild-food catered 5-star coastal foraging weekend 
  • As if that wasn't enough excitement, The Wild Side of Life has also been granted The Acquisition International Award for Business Excellence! 
We take pride in our work of enabling and facilitating people to re-connect with the natural world through food, medicine making, healthy exercise, working with natural materials and developing an interest in nature conservation.

We would like to thank all of you who have been involved in this journey so far from the bottom of our hearts, to you who have supported us with special thanks to those of you who nominated The Wild Side of Life for these awards!! A HUGE thank you also goes from me to my team. To Natascha, without whom the Forager's Retreat and the UK Medicinal Mushroom Conference simply could not happen, and to Abi who has generously put in so much time behind the scenes on courses enabling them to run smoothly, not to mention providing her own valuable herbal expertise! 

Charity work

Did you know that our work also supports a number of charities? Here is a list of the charities that we worked with in some way, whether with charity rate courses, guided walks, free talks, offering course places as prizes to raise funds or through partnership working:
  • Childline
  • BBC Children in Need
  • Swindon Ecofest
  • Richard Jefferies Museum
  • The Chiltern Society
  • Bath & North East Somerset Carers
  • Toolbuzz Travelling Museum Project
  • The National Trust
  • Marlborough Downs: A Space for Nature 

Increasingly over the past two years I have found myself teaching groups of herbalists from the various professional bodies around Britain and Ireland about the latest developments in the field of medicinal Mushrooms and how they can be used in synergy with both herbal and conventional medicine. If you would like to learn more about this fascinating field then you could attend the 4th UK Medicinal Mushroom Conference in November, which will be opened by mushroom author and personality (ok - an all round 'fun-gi') Roger Phillips. This conference generally sells out fairly early on so grab your tickets soon to avoid disappointment. More information here and below.

Fred on Farming Today

As Fred The Forager I have also been busy putting in appearances in the media over the past year or so, including national television and radio 4 (Farming Today - listen here) to promote the ethos of sustainable wild food foraging as an activity that promotes wellbeing and healthy eating, as well as enhancing enjoyment and appreciation of the natural world and the land around us.

Thought for the day: Our food supply - not the stuff we buy in the shops - but our natural biological food supply as a species of animal - is the product of the natural environment around us. If we destroy our habitat then like all animals we will suffer the consequences as the food chains that support us will break down... we may one day wonder where all that food we once bought in the shops has gone.



Building each year on our successes, this year's UK conference sees an action packed programme of talks and workshops with speakers coming from a wide range of backgrounds; from pharmaceutical development to permaculture design, we have scientists, mushroom growers, health practitioners, foragers and mycologists who are going to give us all a unique snapshot of the latest cutting edge developments in mushroom research. Take a look at the conference page here. 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 experienced field mycologists, including Roger Phillips. The conference delivery style is set at a 'popular science' level, meaning that the conference is suitable for all comers... if you can enjoy reading articles in New Scientist or Scientific American, then you will probably enjoy this too!

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

Wood blewit

Wood blewit, Clitocybe nuda, both common and delicious!


Starting 16th September (Group A) and 23rd September (Group B).
Field trips take place over 4 non-consecutive Sundays in the autumn.

People have literally travelled from all over the country to join this course, which I think is due in part to the sheer depth of teaching given! The Secret Sunday Mushroom Club takes place in Wiltshire and the New Forest and comes recommended by BBC Countryfile Magazine in the Top 10 UK Foraging Courses. Members not only receive extensive course notes and expert mushroom identification tuition in the field but they are also able to bring a guest along on one of the days. To hear what one participant had to say, read this article published in Wiltshire Life Magazine. On the final day we will have a mushroom feast out in the forest, and all members receive email support with identification of their finds from Fred the Forager for one year from the start of the course via the exclusive course mailing list. Cost for 2018 - £160.00, gift vouchers available from here or to book, simply contact


Mushroom Discovery Days - 2018
Exciting Saturdays in some of the most stunning locations for the gourmet or naturalist alike... discover the world of wild mushrooms and how to identify and harvest them - sustainably! You will receive expert tuition from Fred the Forager who brings 36 years of foraging experience to your table. Fred himself eats around 160 species of wild mushrooms. Identification of a range of excellent common species will be discussed and after a few hours of supervised mushroom foraging in the forest a taster session will be held with the wild mushrooms that you have picked, crusty bread and a couple of glasses of foraged wine or spirits among the trees! Cost £90.00 per person. These days make ideal gifts for the foodie, naturalist or photographer in your life - vouchers available here or to book a place contact 

Our educational days in the New Forest are fully supported by The Forestry Commission, and our Chilterns dates are also fully supported by The Chiltern Society, a charity who carry out important conservation work in the Chilterns. 

Mushroom Discovery Days 2018
New Forest - 8th September
Chilterns / Henley - 22nd September
New Forest - 20th October
Chilterns / Henley - 27th October
New Forest - 10th November


Private tuition is available for all aspects of wild food foraging and cookery, mushroom identification and herbal preparation as well as woodland survival skills. This can delivered on a one to one basis to private individuals and groups but it can also make for a lively and interesting corporate team building event!

We can travel to your area and research suitable venues for you or you can travel to our venues in Wiltshire.

We can also create unique presentations for your event and have addressed live audiences of up to 2,500 people.
Prices are based on a day rate plus travel.

Previous satisfied customers have included: 

Charlie Bighams
Square Mile Coffee Roasters
Greencore Foods
The Rex Whistler Restaurant, Tate Britain

"I can't say thanks enough to you and Natascha. The whole experience was so so great! The information and the passion for wild foraging that you shared with us was spectacular. It was truly inspiring to everyone and I am so pleased to see the team enjoyed it every bit. Some of us even went foraging yesterday, including myself!! The tasting was very impressive and tasty too!
Thank you both for being so kind and generous."

Gem Diep, Square Mile Coffee Grinders
Foraging Team Build Day (including herbal coffee tasting)

In October 2017 we were proud to be asked to create the content for the Tate Britain, Celebration of Truffles & Mushrooms dinner event in the Rex Whistler Restaurant. We foraged and provided a colourful array of super fresh gourmet wild mushroom species and truffles (with the assistance of our truffle hunting colleague Melissa at

The Whistler's great chef, Garrett Keown worked his magic for the diners while Fred the Forager gave an address to the audience about the mushrooms and truffles that they were eating, their unique flavours and culinary culture, and not least about their place in the natural world as a vital link in the 'Wood Wide Web'... fittingly both the food and the atmosphere were pure magic too!

"Pleasure to have you here at Tate, excellent to hear you enjoyed yourself. Thank you for supplying such an amazing product, excellent experience for me and my team. Very happy customers all round last night, thank you. Next time me and Matthew will have to go with you and forage our own!"

Garrett Keown, Rex Whistler Restaruant, Tate Britain
Celebration of Truffles & Mushrooms event

Contact Fred Gillam directly for a quote and to create a unique team building event, group presentation or to purchase a mentoring gift for someone special:


Herbal Courses

Our herbal weekends are well established and very popular. They have received excellent reviews from health practitioners and lay people alike.

"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"

Herbal First Aid - 2 Day Workshop

14th & 15th July 2018 - Hurry, last bookings! This course will focus on creating a toolkit of remedies to relieve common complaints from bruises and sprains to bites, stings, cold sores, pet allergies, aching joints and muscles, stomach upsets and insomnia. instead of resorting to over the counter medicines we will seek for herbal solutions. Ingredients will be foraged from meadows and hedgerows around the course venue and crafted into tinctures, teas, balms, oils, capsules, essences and elixirs for you to take home.  Contact to book a place or purchase the course as a gift. Location: Avebury World Heritage Site. Cost £180.00 for the whole weekend including remedies to take home. CPD certificates are available on request.

NOTE: If purchased together with the Medicinal Mushrooms Weekend in February (described below - not the conference) the combined price is £330 for both courses.

Winter Remedies - 2 Day Workshop

12th & 13th September 2018. It's summer and it's time to gather the herbs we need and learn to make the remedies that will get us through the winter! Many of us tend to suffer a bit in the winter in our temperate climate. Coughs, colds, influenza, chilblains, aches and pains brought on by damp. You will learn to identify many historically useful medicinal plants from the English hedgerows and make lots of remedies to help you through the common winter ailments. You will take home cough remedies, immune enhancing mushrooms, anti-inflammatory teas, elixirs, capsules and salves to stock up your medicine cabinet at home. Contact to book a place or purchase the course as a gift. Location: Avebury World Heritage Site. Cost £180.00 for the whole weekend including remedies to take home. CPD certificates are available on request.

NOTE: If purchased together with the Medicinal Mushrooms Weekend in February (described below - not the conference) the combined price is £330 for both courses.

Remedy Making

Medicinal Mushrooms - 2 Day Workshop

27th & 28th July 2018 - West Cork, Ireland. Cost - E200.00
23rd & 24th February 2018 - Avebury, England. Cost - £180.00
We are offering 2 day workshops in West Cork, Ireland and in Avebury, England, 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 medicinal mushrooms are now being used around the world in the treatment, management and/or prevention of a wide range of conditions, for example type 2 diabetes, hypertension, psoriasis, herpes and even sciatica.

Globally mushroom products are increasingly being employed in mainstream medicine to assist the body to fight serious illnesses such as tuberculosis and some cancers side by side with more conventional modes of therapy.
 Each workshop will be a balance of learning about some of the applications, medicinal mushroom identification skills and practical remedy making. Cost £180.00 per person including mushroom based remedies to take home. To book your place, contact CPD certificates are available on request.


Just because you can... 

Ancient Pewter Smithing utilises the cuttlebone casting technique that is thought to have originated in ancient Egypt. The next course is planned for June 2019 so keep an eye out in our next newsletter for the final details. You will learn to design and prepare a mould from cuttlesfish bone and then smelt scrap pewter before pouring and watching the magic take place in front of your eyes as your imagination is given flesh. Finishing of the resulting piece will take place around the campfire using hand held tools and you will have something very special to take home with you. Every piece created is a "one-off" and totally unique. 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 Weekends for the crafty among us who love a challenge... We have finished running these now for the 2018 season and the next one will be in Spring 2019. Watch this space for details in your next newsletter! Coracle Courses include free introductory membership of The Coracle Society. You can buy a gift voucher for these courses here or contact to book a place. Cost £320.00 including coracle to take home or £400.00 for a 2 person team build - ideally suited to a couple!

Craft courses 

Have a Wonderful Summer and may you find inspiration in nature wherever you may be! 

Simply get in touch if you would like to come to any of our exciting courses and events and I will be happy to create gift vouchers for your friends and loved ones on request too. 

best wishes,
Fred the Forager!

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