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13 November 2014

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You are in: Dorset > Nature > Nature Features > Living off the land on Brownsea

Martha Roberts and fish!

Martha Roberts and fish!

Living off the land on Brownsea

Martha Roberts from The National Trust was challenged to live off foraged-food only, for one whole day, on Brownsea Island. But was it feast or famine? She tells us how she fared.

One thing I love about working for the National Trust is that there's always someone who knows a great deal more than you.

So when I was challenged to live off foraged-food here on Brownsea Island I started asking around the Island for a wild-food guru.

Martha prepares her foraged-food

Martha prepares her foraged-food

It turns out that the residents of Brownsea know a great deal about what's out there to eat so with their knowledge and my enthusiasm I went bush on Brownsea.

The challenge came as part of my daily Brownsea blog during the two weeks that BBC Autumnwatch took over the Island.

So one chilly Wednesday morning, while the crew prepared for another day's filming, I took to the wild to see if I could feed myself for the day.

The day got off to a good start when I managed to track down the laying spot of the numerous chickens that roam the Island, having been brought here some time ago to sit on the lazy peacocks' eggs for them.

After my boiled-egg breakfast it all got a bit more tricky as I took to the woods in search of nuts, fruits and greens to accompany the Brownsea rabbit that I'd already lined up for lunch.

Hunter-gatherer = hard work!

I can tell you honestly that the hunter-gatherer life is hard work. A lot of walking - head to the ground, eyes scanning for any possible edible morsel that the squirrels have been good enough to leave.

Looking for lunch...

Looking for lunch...

After five hours rummaging in the leaf litter and frost-bitten bushes, I'd collected a total of 12 chestnuts, 2 acorns, 6 edible fungi, 8 rosehips, 12 blackberries and a bunch of nettles.

On the face of it that might not sound like much, but when the fungi and nettles were added to the pan-fried rabbit, and the nuts roasted and ground to make a fruity blackberry and rosehip flatbread, it was a feast!

I'd fully expected to be eating rather disgusting things during the day and here was rabbit stew and fruity bannock.

After a hard morning's foraging it tasted indescribably good and no doubt all the better for the hard work that went in to making it.

Waiting for a fish dish

After a little sit down (foraging is rather a tiring activity) I headed out again, this time to the seashore for my supper.

After a brief fishing tutorial from one of the Brownsea boatmen I began the long cold wait for a fish dish.

Having never really fished before my method was either complete genius or rather odd, drawing a fair few inquisitive looks from both the Island staff and the BBC dive crew preparing for Simon King's Conger Eel dive.

I concluded it was genius when just one hour later I landed a massive Pollack and less than two hours later was sitting at my kitchen table with the freshest, most delicious fish fillet in front of me.

What riches! Quite aside from eating mud and insects, I lived off Brownsea's best with three hot and delicious meals - the very best of local, seasonal and foraged food.

last updated: 12/11/2008 at 14:41
created: 10/11/2008

You are in: Dorset > Nature > Nature Features > Living off the land on Brownsea

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