Autumnal Seasonal (un)foraging: Richmond Park, nature walk

The first Autumnal Kitchen Buddy Nature Walks & Foraging expedition took place last Sunday, in South West London, in Richmond area. Our site of choice was the Richmond Hill (& ideally river side area) by and in Richmond Park https://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/richmond-park . However due to foraging flora & fauna restrictions, we weren’t able to legally forage in that area, so observation and identification powers were more useful. For this purpose, I had brought out a collection of literature from my library; books and tree identification cards for the children (& adults) to enjoy!

After enjoying lunch of a super spicy-chickpea curry at the Hollyhock Cafe http://www.tidetablescafe.com/  in the terrace gardens, I went up to meet the group of 10 adults & children … we all later met at the park gate and went out from the park to explore the area beneath the trees and by the public toilets, where we discovered a huge array of fungi, hiding beneath the leaves of the Plane (Platinus) and Cob nut trees. The children took great delight in gently moving the leaves around with their sticks, supervised by their parents and uncovered a great array of mushrooms inc. Chanterelle, Bolettes, Jelly Ear and possibly a Chaga mushroom formation. These were met with great delight and I tried to identify the species without disturbing their mycelium \ roots beneath the ground.

We went up to King Henry’s Mound, one of the main historical sights inside the park, with a view over SW towards Windsor and NE to the city and St Paul’s Cathedral. Despite it being a rather overcast day, we saw a very clear view of the Cathedral through the trees, through the use of the telescope on the mound. This mound dates back to when King Charles I and King Henry VIII were in residence and the park is still a royal residence today. It was sad to see the Deer Cull signs up indicating that their numbers are still being controlled in the area.

As dusk approached, we went on towards Richmond Hill site, to find an array of Nettles (Urticae Dioca), Mallow (Malva), Plantain (Plantago) and Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) plus a further family of fungi in a cluster, by the pathway leading back towards the cafe. In the terrace area itself and at the entrance of the Cafe, stood several, huge, old Yew (Taxus baccata) trees laden with bright red berries (containing toxic, black pips). We collected several each and noted the slight sliminess of the outside berry; it too has a mucus benefiting digestion; spitting out the seeds (like cherry stones) to avoid any poisonous effects.

Discussing the 5 Humors in Greek Medicine, lemon-distinctive flavours of sorrel, the various uses for medicinal Mallow to sooth the digestive tract and ease heart-burn by wrapping canape style morsels with the leaves and decorating with the pink flowers. Nettle leaves for relieving arthritic cramps (if you’re bold!) and Iron rich tea, soup, juice and even risottos! Seeds for a protein garnish and in pesto. Yew Berries are best eaten individually to remove the poisonous seed from their centre.

 

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