Pumpkin Soup

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5 November 2007

Mushroom hunting

On Saturday I got a call from my gorgeous French friend inviting me to go mushroom picking with her. She does this quite often and was taught by her grandmother how to identify different mushrooms so she’s a very good person to go with. You know, from a safety point of view.

We drove out to Wootten Wawen, parked up and headed for a promising-looking wood we’d found on her map, complete with public footpaths (no trespassing for us!). It was a gorgeous day, very mild and sunny, the countryside was beautiful and I was very excited to be on my first foraging trip as an adult.

hunters’ wood

As we were about to enter the wood, we saw a group of off-road vehicles parked in a field (what is the collective noun for a group of 4x4s, I wonder?) and we joked about shot-gun totin’ country types, without seriously thinking that we would encounter any. A few steps into the wood we came across electrified fences to the left and right of the footpath and after a few minutes we heard the unmistakeable and, frankly, terrifyingly close-sounding noise of shotguns being fired. So, a public right of way in the middle of a wood where game birds are hunted. Surely I’m not the only person who can see a problem with this.

We beat a hasty retreat. As it turned out the ground seemed to be too dry for mushrooms, but our pleasant walk in the woods spotting pheasant was somewhat curtailed. Still, all was not lost. As we walked back to the car we found bushes full of sloe berries and picked a couple of pounds to make sloe gin with. Now that’s what I call foraging.

Filed under: Seasons - autumn — Clare @ 6:05 pm

3 responses

  1. Greenmantle

    Actually pretty much all woodland and arable areas that are used for shooting in this country are criss-crossed with bridleways and footpaths. And so are a lot of army firing ranges.

    I’ve been involved in country sports for 30 years, and I can’t think of anywhere I’ve been other than huge private (ie Royal) estates where this isn’t the case. New shooters always get a saftey briefing on where to expect walkers, as the onus for saftey is on them, rather than Joe Public. Although it is a slightly grey area if the rambler has strayed off the designated, mapped footpath. In my experience everyone usually get along fine. A courteous good morning and the acknowledgement that both parties have the right to be there goes along way in the countryside. There are of course some rude people in life alas, and these get the rest of us a bad name.

    Responsible shoots also often post signs warning of shooting in progress, and the need to stick to the path. But in an area that might encompass tens of sq miles it’s invariably impossible to cover them all. The other thing to remember is that shooting only takes place in any given spot probably no more than 1 hour a fortnight, so 99% of the time there is no conflict. But in your case you probably did the sensible thing by steering clear. Especially if you don’t know the lie of the land that well…. After all, you can hear them a lot sooner than they will see you.

    I never personally heard of any walkers or riders being injured. Such occasional accidents that do get reported usally always involve other shooters or shoot followers, somehow getting in the field of fire. But thankfully, it’s very, very rare.

    And if it’s any consolation, gunfire always sounds much closer than it really is. The effective range that a shotgun can seriously hurt you at is not much more than 40yrds. I’ve been hit twice at about 50 yards when I was young and foolish, and never had anything more than a slight bruising….. and a sobering wake up call to keep in line!

    The law states that you cannot fire a gun within 50 feet of the centre of a public highway, but this does not include footpaths as it is accepted that shooters and walkers have to co-exist.

    This the code of practive issued to shoot managers by the BASC, and also I beleive these days, with shotgun licences, and public liability insurances.

    1. Shoot managers and Guns must ensure that shooting does not obstruct, cause danger or alarm to users of the public highway, including roads, bridleways, footpaths and other rights of way.

    2. In particular, care should be taken when siting Guns near public highways. Section 161 of the Highways Act 1980 (England & Wales) makes it an offence to discharge a firearm within 50 ft of the centre of a highway having vehicular rights without lawful authority or excuse, if as a result a user of the highway is injured, interrupted or endangered.

    3.The Highways Act does not apply in Scotland but Procurators Fiscal may use common law offences of ‘culpable and reckless conduct’ and ‘reckless endangerment’ in situations in which the 1980 Act would be contravened in England and Wales.

    4. To shoot across a footpath or bridleway may constitute a public nuisance or wilful obstruction. There may also be a liability in negligence if it is known that people are on, or likely to be on, the path.

    4. Information signs, if appropriate, should be erected on shoot days on footpaths or bridleways.

    5. The siting of release pens near highways should be avoided. Game managers should collect and dispose of road casualties where possible.

    6. Shoot managers must not position Guns in such a way that spent shot or birds might fall onto the road.

    7. Shoot managers and Guns must have special regard to the safety of riders and their horses. Noise from gunfire, beaters working in cover adjacent to bridleways or the sound of falling shot can all cause a horse to bolt.

    8. Where possible shoot organisers should liase with local riders or yards, informing them when shoots are taking place.

    9. It may be appropriate for shooting or beating to pause to allow horses or other rights of way users to pass.

    10. All Guns should be made aware of bridleways and other rights of way as well as any fields in which horses are kept. Drives should be organised with this in mind.

    ….There are of course, sdaly no corresponding guidelines for walkers and riders.

    (05.11.07 @ 10:06 pm)

  2. Greenmantle

    …and sorry for the shocking number of typos in the above. I blame the the Guinness myself.


    (05.11.07 @ 11:36 pm)

  3. OyaD

    First time I saw a “shoot”, I couldn’t believe my eyes: a bunch of people shooting at birds so tame they tend to be milling around the feet of people holding the rifles – or get some poor sod with a giant white flag to scare them up into the air solely for the pleasure of killing them? Jeez… Just grab one, wring their necks and take them home.

    And before the “Carebear liberal” thing starts, I used to bowhunt in the US – I was taught by my grandfather, who would outshoot most Native Americans in their rez competitions. I’ve been a hunter, but I did it because i needed it. And I don’t care how many rules there are in place…there’s always that one chance, that one time, when someone wasn’t careful or too inexperienced – and with a young son with autism, I have to be extra careful. He doesn’t understand rules. If he hears a loud sound he runs straight for it…or he’s terrified and doesn’t recover for days. So I guess my option is to never go into the country for fear of “interfering” with someone’s tradition of killing tame animals.

    Of course I’m just an ignorant American and my nationality tends to automatically make whatever I say moot, but I may as well add my tuppence, as all the shoots where we used to live was the prime reason we moved out of New Forest…I didn’t want the risk.

    (07.11.07 @ 7:11 am)

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