The guide to foraging in the Cheshire countryside

More and more of us are turning to the free food available on our roadsides, as Paul Mackenzie reports

James Wood doesn’t often pay for his vegetables. Instead, what he doesn’t grow on his allotment he collects from parks and road sides. James is one of a growing number of foragers who find food for free all over the Cheshire countryside and he said: ‘People would be amazed by what there is out there. You can just walk down a street and find all sots of things. I quite often pick the salad and veg for my tea on the way home.’

The 22-year-old artist from Bollington can often be seen striding through his home town, or around the Goyt Valley collecting berries, elder, nettles and other leaves. And this is a great time of year for foragers, with many fruits and berries coming into season.

‘There is so much that grows wild that can be picked and eaten,’ James said. ‘And you just can’t beat it for freshness. Simply pick it, wash it and eat it. You know exactly where it came from and for some reason things always seem to taste better when you’ve picked them yourself. And it’s cheaper too.’

Whether the recession is a driving force or not, James has seen more people showing an interest in roadside food and even if passers-by don’t stop and harvest some as well, he says they nearly always stop to ask what he’s collecting and how to cook it.

And James will be sharing some of his foraging tips with members of Food4Macc when he leads the bilberry picking this month.

The group, which was set up in 2009, aims to encourage people in Macclesfield to grow their own fresh food, or at least to buy it from someone nearby who did. James will be taking members up Tegg’s Nose, one of the best places to find wild bilberries, on Saturday August 3rd.

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But monthly events like that are just a part of what Food4Macc does. The group has created community gardens and has launched a garden share scheme which pairs people with a plot but without the time, ability or knowledge to use, with keen growers.

They have recently relaunched Food4Macc Direct, which sources and sells fresh local produce including meat and fish, baked goods and grocery items, most of which was grown, reared or produced within 12 miles of Macclesfield. Produce can be ordered online and collected from points around the town or in some cases can be delivered.

The group are now hoping that over the next 12 months they will be able to double the number of people using the scheme.