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Home » Enjoying » Activities » Foraging

Sustainable foraging Q&A

Foraging for wild grown produce is becoming increasingly more popular and areas where wild plants can grow undisturbed are fewer than ever. It’s important to strike a balance between our enjoyment of foraging and ensuring that the wild plants and places we call ‘nature’s larder’ are still here for generations to come, for people and for the wildlife that depend on them.

1. What is foraging?
Foraging generally refers to the collection or harvesting of wild grown plants or plant material (in this case it doesn’t include the collection of live land, sea or river animals).

Many of us will have memories of blackberry picking and this is a great example of a foraging activity most of us have indulged in at some point in our lives.

More serious foraging can involve collecting a wide variety of plant materials from sorrel, samphire and seaweed to edible fungi and plants used for dyestuffs or medicinal purposes.

Many of us will have memories of blackberry picking
Many of us will have memories of blackberry picking.

2. Why do we need guidelines?
Foraging for wild grown produce is becoming increasingly more popular and areas where wild plants can grow undisturbed are fewer than ever. It’s important to strike a balance between our enjoyment of foraging and ensuring that the wild plants and places we call ‘nature’s larder’ are still here for generations to come, for people and for the wildlife that depend on them.

For foraging to be sustainable, the plants you harvest must be present every year in the same or greater numbers than they were when you first picked there.

3. What does the law say?
You may pick mushrooms, flowers, fruit or foliage (including seaweed) growing wild on open land and along footpaths without breaking the law*, elsewhere you should have the permission of the landowner, otherwise you may be trespassing.

*The Theft Act 1968, for England and Wales, states that: "A person who picks mushrooms growing wild on any land, or who picks flowers, fruit or foliage from a plant growing wild on any land, does not (although not in possession of the land) steal what he picks, unless he does it for reward or for sale or other commercial purpose."

4. Can I dig up plants?
No, it is an offence to uproot (dig up) any wild plant under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 without the Landowner’s permission. If you take the whole plant including the roots you are reducing the wild population. In some instances it’s an offence to dig certain plants even with the landowner’s permission (for example, it’s illegal to dig bluebells for sale). 

5. Can I forage anywhere where there is public access as long as I don’t sell the produce?
Not necessarily. It is an offence to collect plant material from protected sites such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (much of our open coast and heathland is designated as SSSI or Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

In some instances there may also be byelaws protecting certain land for example on Nature Reserves, Ministry of Defence property and National Trust land.

6. Can I sell the produce I forage for if I collect it with the landowner’s permission?
Yes unless it is a protected site. If you are foraging commercially you must get permission or a licence from the landowner or you will be breaking the law.

7.  Aren’t some plants protected?
Yes some are, however there are many more scarce plants that are not protected and should not be collected either. If you are not sure take a photo rather than pick the plant. 

Photos last longer than picked flowers and unless you know what you are collecting and have a very good reason for doing so, photos are a much better way of enjoying our countryside.

Bluebells are protected
Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) are protected by law.

Below is a list of some of the plants that you might come across in Pembrokeshire which are protected by law against deliberate picking, collecting, cutting, uprooting, destruction and sale. Regulations apply to all stages in the biological cycle of these plants, so seeds and spores are protected as well as mature specimens.


  • Early gentian Gentianella anglica
  • Floating water-plantain Luronium natans
  • Killarney fern Trichomanes speciosum
  • Shore dock Rumex rupestris
  • Pennyroyal Mentha pulegium
  • Spiked speedwell Veronica spicata
  • Small restharrow Ononis reclinata
  • Bluebell  Hyacinthoides non-scripta
  • Liverwort petalwort Petalophyllum ralfsii
  • Slender green feather-moss Hamato-caulis vernicosus
  • Golden hair-lichen Teloschistes flavicans.