Join myself and co-host Arthur Dyer on a journey of food, fire and folktales: 4 seasonal weekends of foraging, fire by friction, cooking food and conjuring tales.
As a story is woven from key moments, the craft of foraging arises from the sustainable gathering of roots, fruits, seeds, and leaves.
In both these spheres, we need to cultivate an awareness of our place in the physical and imaginative landscape. Preparing for and marking the transitional moments that connect each story scene, or the seasonal shifts in a plants developmental journey, is essential.
In both storytelling and foraging, we learn that an appreciation of transitions or threshold moments bring exciting new possibilities.
Weekend by Weekend: what to expect
(Note, hosted at Emerson College which reopens in September. Copy and paste this link for a detail of Covid 19 safeguards put in place: http://www.emerson.org.uk/covid-19-student-information)
1st Weekend- Autumn
This is the season of fungi, the arch-communicators and storytellers: The world wood web mycelially whispering beneath our feet.
Fungi, roots, and seeds: These are the key botanicals of autumn.
Using some excellent fungi identification keys, we will learn how to distinguish the edible and medicinal from the inedible and poisonous species, all the while taking creative inspiration from the incredibly diverse, ephemeral, and beautiful forms of the fungi themselves, as well as their often hidden nature.
Key botanical characters of the season: Hairy Nuts Disco, Slippery Jack, Destroying Angel, Devil's Fingers, King Alfred's Cakes, The Flirt, Dead Moll's Fingers, Plums and Custard.
An Introduction to the Art of Storytelling. During this weekend, you will become more aware of your
innate storytelling skills; you will develop a starter tool kit to help you learn and connect with a
seasonal folk story, and to craft and share it in your own authentic way. You will learn: how to recall
the story in time and space; how to bring your own colour and imagination to the tale; how to
launch and land with clarity.
2nd Weekend- Winter
This is the season of inwardness, reflection, stillness and the gathering of lessons hard won, and hard foraged throughout the year.
Roots, fungi, and bark: These are the key botanicals of Winter. Winter foraging is a time for
reading the natural world for both tales of what has been, but also what is to come. We will gather
and eat as well as craft tales accordingly in terms of times past, time present, and times future.
Key botanical characters of the season: Yellow Legs, Blushing Brackets, Hairy Curtain Crust, Ale
Hoof, Coltsfoot, Alexanders, Rosebay Willow herb, Ox-eye Daisy, Tiger's Eye
Through reflective games in nature, and winter-time musings, we will draw out a fond old memory. It may at first seem of value to no-else, but dust it off and polish it a little, share it round the fire and it may just contain a nugget of soul protein for its listeners. During this weekend, we will learn some tips for biographical storytelling, creating a little distance between us and our story to allow its universal appeal to shine through.
3rd Weekend- Spring
This is the season of rising sap, growing light, and awakening senses.
Through sampling the wild delights of the Spring, we will feed our bodies and our imaginations.
Leaves, flower buds, and flowers: These are the key botanicals of spring.
When foraging, our visual sense is key for accurate identification but our senses of touch (e.g: appreciating the texture of fine hairs and veins), smell (e.g: the pungent aroma of garlic), taste (e.g: sharp apple-skin sour of sorrel) and even hearing (e.g: subtle sounds of plants), all play an important part. Using all our senses, we will continue to develop our learning of the 2 vital skills of identification and culinary usage, separating the delicious from the poisonous, and creating pickles, syrups, salads and vegetable side dishes: Some to take home and some for fireside sampling.
Key botanical characters of the season: Hogweed, Bristly Ox-tongue, Silverweed, Bear's Garlic, Pineapple Weed, Goosegrass.
Drawing on the tastes, smells and sounds of Spring and through flexing our imaginative muscles, we will breathe life into a story. We will explore our senses through different playful games and exercises, refreshing our relationship to the emerging bounty of spring. We will then work on putting words to these experiences, striving to close the gap between the living moment and the re-telling. We will then apply this to a selection of creation myths, adding richness and texture to the stories by crafting sensory passages at key moments.
4th Weekend- Summer
This is the season of warmth, light, and flowers in their fullness , but it can be hot, dry and unpredictable. Will there be ripe fruit? Are the leaves and roots still good to eat? Perhaps this time calls for spontaneity and foraging flexibility.
Fruit, flowers, pollen, seeds, and bulbs: These are the key botanicals of summer.
When foraging, it is best to embrace and learn to love the elements of wind and rain. Nevertheless, the summertime is an opportunity to relax and play in the sun. This can often bring forth a more creative combining of ingredients too, as well as a more ambling and carefree wandering of forest, stream and hedgerow.
Key botanical characters of the season: Sticky Bob, Jack-by-the-hedge, Ladies Bedstraw, Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon, Jack-in-the-pulpit, Mugwort, Elder, wild roses.
Through movement, play and exploration of nature, we will plunge into the world of the unknown, unveiling stories thus far untold. Fun, Fear and freedom come into play but with unexpected helpers on the way, you will explore the edges of things, seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary and vice versa, learning to embrace what emerges, whatever form it may take.
Although the focus of the course will be on exploring the arts of foraging and of storytelling, how they connect, cross pollinate and enrich one another, there will also be other rabbit holes to peer down. Each weekend will involve some fireside sharing and we will gather and bring necessary tinder, while exploring different fire lighting methods, including the bow drill method of fire by friction. The fire is a source of inspiration and warmth with transformative potential for both our wild food and our emerging stories. Songs and nature games will weave their way into the tapestry of our time together, so come along with an open heart and lets make this a delicious journey through the seasons and a story worth the telling.
This course is suitable for both beginner foragers and storytellers as well as those with considerable experience.
INCOME BASED CONCESSION PRICE £250 (£30 SAVING PER SESSION)
INCENTIVE (TO BOOK THE YEAR PROGRAMME) CONCESSION PRICE £900 (SAVING £200 IN TOTAL)
The standard course fee is £280 per weekend (£250 concession or early bird booking, based on booking before September 2020).
Note: Individual days can not be booked, only the 2 day weekend as it is a full programme. This is important as the skills learned build on each other.
If finances are preventing you from booking the course but the course speaks to you, please be in touch, as we may be able to make an arrangement
Accommodation And Food:
Both of these can be booked and paid for separately via the Emerson College link below. Single rooms are available, as well as camping pitches.
During the weekend, we will enjoy a wild food-based dinner together around the fire. For lunch please book this when booking accommodation.
Foraging is a life-long learning process, and Fergus has been at it for 30 years. Not only does he have great depths of knowledge in all the key aspects of identification, processing, use and best sustainable practice, but he combines it with a fun and engaging manner that brings the craft to life and makes it accessible to all. He has been described by his foraging instructor peers as "the Starship Enterprise of foraging". Forager Mark Williams enthused: "We need gastronauts like Star Fleet Commander Drennan to chart new worlds..." His favourite was when he was described as "Heston Blumenthal, Rene Redzepi, and Pascal Bauder, rolled into one.”
Having run wild food courses since 2003, Fergus has naturally told many stories during that process. During 2013 he developed that skill further through completing The Art and Craft of The Storyteller, The International School of Storytelling's flag ship 3 month full-time storytelling course.
Having completed the full time 3 month Storytelling course with The International School of Storytelling in 2008, Arthur has since applied and developed these skills in educational, care and community settings, as well as performing at clubs and festivals. He has been running successful courses on the Art of Storytelling for many years.
In 2014, Arthur trained with WildWise in Environmental and Outdoor education, developing Bushcraft and Firecraft, while deepening his relationship with nature through song, poetry and fireside storytelling. Arthur went on to work as a mentor and Storyteller with various Outdoor Learning providers.
He has since completed a 4 year part-time training in Imaginative movement, play and spatial dynamics. He currently works as a Steiner School teacher, specialising in Games and imaginative movement but also runs storytelling courses for adults, sometimes collaborating with Dramatists and Puppeteers.
Arthur has a love of foraging, fermenting and wild food. Some of his favourites include: Wild Garlic Flower fritters, Elderflower champagne and chicken of the woods sautéed with ginger.
Strengths you may develop
Public Liability Insurance
First aid training
First aid kit
Please note it is the responsibility of the booker to satisfy themselves about the adequacy of the safety measures. This platform is merely an introducer and does not verify the items listed here.
My experience consists of a leisure activity, on a specific date(s), and therefore the 14-day ‘cooling off period’ under the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 does not apply.Cancellation process
If you need to cancel up to three weeks prior to the start of the course, we'll be sad to lose you, but can offer a full refund. There after the full fee is forfeited. If paying up front for the whole year and cancel up to three weeks before the course commences, again, a full refund will be provided. If cancelling less than three weeks before the start, payment will be taken for the first of the four sessions, but the fee for the remaining four will be refunded.
Wild food experimentalist, course faciliator, forager, the ever-curious Fergus Drennan, aka Fergus The Forager, has been gathering and learning about wild plants, seaweeds, and fungi for over 40 years, beginning on Wimbledon Common, aged 3 years, collecting dandelions for the family’s pet tortoise. Since those early days, and through much creative and experimental exploration he has continued his foraging practice, not only as a means to understand and to discover the practical relevance that foraging has in the modern developed world, but also in terms of what it means to be an environmentally conscious human in relation to the natural world. “Can foraging ever be considered a truly sustainable practice, and if so how?”, is a question that always orchestrates his foraging activity, as does a pursuit of foraging’s playful and creative possibilities, whether they be found in novel recipes using plants, fungi, and seaweeds, or unlocking the possibilities that wild botanicals offer for other non-food-based creative pursuits. That includes, among other things, the making of baskets, mushroom paper, and natural dyes and pigments. Fergus has a huge amount of wild food knowledge to share, and an array of imaginative ways of doing so. After even only an afternoon with him, the natural world around you will never look the same again.