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A “Ray Mears” night

AS part of the Natural History Consortium’s Bristol 99 project we held a gentlemen’s evening. So what could I do to make this exciting I thought to myself. “I know” a bit of a Ray Mears’ night. We all gathered in the fields and I did an introduction talk and then I gave everyone some clear bags. “what’s this for ” one man asked.

” It’s to put your supper in,” I replied, “we’re going to collect some wild foods.”


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We set off in the hay meadows and found lots of common sorrel around which isvery tasty too a bit like apple peel.

We all spread out across the field searching once again and the bags were filled with goodies.

Then into the woods where someone said ” I smell garlic.” The bags soon filled with garlic.

Next phase was to identify and collect materials for lighting our fires in the campsite.

“We need to look for Tarzan’s swing,” I said, explaining there is a vine which grows in our native woodlands called wild clematis or Old Man’s Beard.

It has a rope-like stem and the skin, which is used to start the fire, peels away very easily.

The next challenge was to find a fungus on a dead tree to take a spark we managed to find some very small ones that were dry.

Next we collected some leaves to eat. The look on people’s faces when you say this is amazing.

” Are you serious one,” I was asked. I was, explaining the tree was a lime which has edible and tasty leaves.

Ten minutes, and a few more bags of leaves later, two fires were going which as always has the hypnotic effect. It’s called the ‘bushman’s TV.’

The group all sat round on benches as we all prepared our wild salad meal, also incorporating some soft cheese and fresh lemons to give the salad a lift.

Then we all sat down and ate away. It was fantastic because everyone could not believe that what they had just collected could taste so amazing.


” Enjoy your salad,” I say, ” the worm eating challenge is next.”. I’ve never seen so many eyebrows raised at the same time in my life. It was hilarious.


Steve England is an (RHS) horticulturist, amateur naturalist and chairman of the Stoke Park steering group. He lives in Lockleaze and has spent his whole life at Stoke Park from playing there as a boy to studying its history, wildlife, and pre historic past.
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