If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise. You might just find The Cotswold Forager leading a group of willing participants, all staring at the floor. One of them might even be me. They’ve not gone mad though – Rob aka The Cotswold Forager will undoubtedly be showing them an interesting item to forage on the forest floor. He’s recently started a series of foraging walks in the Cotswolds area, hooking up with The Looking Glass in Charlton Kings to showcase the foraged bounty in a spectacular tasting menu for that day’s foragers. We went along on a warm Friday morning to check it out!
Foraging in the Woods
Welcome coffees finished, we headed up the road and gently strolled around Dowdeswell Reservoir for two hours. Although I would have unwittingly walked passed everything except the blackberries, Rob found a fantastic array of wild herbs, nuts and berries to show us. From Herb Robert to silverweed, he kept on producing the goods almost like we were in a rather leafy supermarket. Who needs Waitrose?
Handily, Rob is also an accomplished home cook and had plenty of recipes to bring out the best in the foraged finds, including pickling and making your own alcohol. By the end, he’d taught us enough that we were finding goodies for ourselves to take home and try out in our own recipes.
Lessons from The Cotswold Forager
Whatever your level of expertise, Rob is an exceptionally gifted teacher; his passion for sharing his extensive knowledge shone throughout the walk. He actively encouraged questions and gave insightful answers without a hint of being patronising. If you follow him on Facebook, you’ll see he often takes his young son out foraging. This is undoubtedly great training for taking a bunch of adult beginners out to play. The conversation flowed freely throughout the walk and covered all sorts of foraging issues such as the legalities, and useful books and resources. Most importantly, we also learnt how to avoid eating dog wee.
We’d previously done some bushcraft courses which included a small amount on foraging but Rob took it to a whole new level; most importantly we’re both now confident enough to take a walk in the woods and see what we can find. Admittedly we’ll need to keep a foraging guidebook to hand and it will be a while before we stray from the most obvious ingredients in nature’s bountiful larder; knowing not to be too confident is perhaps the most important lesson that Rob gave us. Who wants to be that person who confidently picked some berries only to find themselves in the hospital?! Definitely not us!
The Tasting Menu at The Looking Glass
We then headed back to The Looking Glass in Charlton Kings. Although it only opened a year ago, it has fast developed a strong reputation for excellent and interesting cooking, and has become one of our favourite spots to visit. Leon, the head chef and owner, had prepared a fabulous feast showcasing some of our foraged finds. We enjoyed bread with wild garlic and Herb Robert emulsion to start, followed by six courses of utter delight. It’s hard to pick a standout dish but for me the roasted onion in wood aven with preserved onions, malt vinegar and silverweed salad was exceptional. Simple, sweet but with a bitter caramel depth, I could have eaten it again and again. I guess I’ll just have to head out into the woods to find some more!
Perhaps the most interesting thing, as someone who eats out a lot, was to try so many new ingredients. Nothing was there just for the sake of it and all the foraged ingredients brought individual flavours that you’d struggle to recreate with more conventional ingredients. The Looking Glass works with Rob to find interesting local additions for their standard menu and whilst not every dish is foraged, it gives the more adventurous eater something to look forward to. There are also plans for foraged spirits and kombucha in the future which is definitely something I’m keen to try. Cherry plum gin anyone?
Final Thoughts on The Cotswold Forager
The Cotswold Forager offers an amazing and unique experience whether you are a keen foodie, like the idea of being more sustainable or just fancy a more interesting walk in the woods. It’s suitable for all ages and abilities, and was genuinely one of the most enjoyable and interesting days we’ve had out for quite a while. If you aren’t very outdoorsy, you’ll be pleased to hear that Rob is planning to offer urban foraging walks too. I’ve seen what he has found previously on industrial estates and it is astounding!
When you throw in the superb foraged tasting menu at The Looking Glass, the walks are incredibly good value; it cost just £55 all in. There are very few other experience days you could have at that price, let alone with a fancy meal included. It would make a very affordable gift for family or friends.; who knows, maybe it will even become the next fashionable corporate away day for local businesses!
If you are interested in finding out more, check out his Facebook page for more details of upcoming events.
Payment: none but The Cotswold Forager and The Looking Glass gifted us the foraging walk and meal
Obligations: social media and a blog post but neither Rob nor The Looking Glass had editorial control over the content
Other: we have voluntarily paid to eat at the The Looking Glass previously and plan to continue doing so
Here’s a post detailing our thoughts on transparent and honest blogging if you are interested in finding out more.