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Anglesey Forage Weekend. July 2017

The gang going fishing
Part 1. Saturday 22nd July.
There are many fantastic locations around the UK for foraging - I'll not delve into all those but I'll write a little something up at a later date - and whether you choose to start on your doorstep (always a good place), head to the woods, meadows and waste grounds, eventually, hopefully, you will explore the joys of coastal foraging. For me, personally, all foraging has it's place. I generally avoid pinning myself to 'favourites', as all aspects of foraging have something to offer and coastal, avoiding favouritism here, has a certain air of 'special' about it. I wrote a bit of info in the, introduction, on my coastal recipes page, you can read that here:

Anglesey has an energy, allure and delight that just appeals to the visitor, whether you are there for adventure, relaxation, nature immersion, history, culture, or whatever. In the spring of 2016, I joined forces with my friend, fellow foraging tutor and respected medical herbalist, Jesper Launder, for a 13 hour foraging marathon on Anglesey. That 13 hour session was exhilarating, intense and magical: there's definitely a time and a place for such an all encompassing experience. From a foraging viewpoint and despite it's small size, Anglesey rocks, hence the decision to host a lengthier, more relaxed weekend foraging course! Seaweeds, herbs, fungi, molluscs and fish, their habitats and their seasonal diversity, make for 'any time of the year' foraging excitement and that is certainly what we wanted to offer and that is what we all experienced...

The weekend began with a short introduction and some time finding out what levels of experience
everyone had, what they were interested in and what they were hoping to learn from the weekend. Afterwards, we started the weekend by exploring our 'doorstep', the campsite itself. Doorstep foraging is often overlooked, yet can be fun and rewarding whether you live in the city, the countryside, at the coast or a combination of. There is often a fantastic range of useful and tasty herbs right beneath our feet. One of the highlights, on this local exploration, was the discovery of, Fig Leaved Goosefoot, a plant more familiar in southern climes of the uk, exciting for all, the campsite owners were thrilled to learn of it's whereabouts and thrilled at the prospect of showing it to their botanist friends that reside on the island. We could have spent hours exploring the campsite, it was awash with
wild edibles; vetch, chickweed, sorrel, apple mint, plantains (overlooked by many but tasty and useful medicinally), wintercress, japanese rose (the best of the roses in my opinion) and many more to boot but time and tide dictated the agenda and both myself and Jesper were itching to head to the sea and take the gang sea fishing. Cue a short session on the basics of sea fishing what everything is, how it works and how to cast safely and in a straight line: a size 2/0 fishing hook slotted into the top of your friends ear along with the force of a 3oz lead isn't going to be a particularly pleasant experience! Within the hour, casting was confident, accurate and in Phils case, amazing, reaching a field, bordering the campsite and way beyond...

A rod for all, waiting patiently by
the yurt...
Decisions, decisions...

The choice of location, for the shore fishing session, was key, ample room to accommodate 11 inexperienced anglers and rods was essential, not only for safety reasons but for experiential reasons too, a cramped, potentially injurious 'first time fishing experience' isn't going to galvanise any kind of appeal and it certainly isn't going to provide a worry free time for me or J. Also, we wanted to maximise catching potential for the gang and the bay we took them to, is as sure-fire-guaranteed as any: the added bonus of some exciting coastal plants and seaweeds there made the decision easier.

Matt was the first to catch, reeling in a handsome species of Wrasse, a fish deemed by many to be, poor, regarding edibility, how wrong they are. Sea bass were once regarded as peasant food, they now command a high price and status. Believing without experiencing could deny a very tasty meal. If I had a 1-10 list of the best fish I've eaten in recent years, then the Ballan Wrasse would be on it. In 2016, I was on Anglesey with my then step-daughter. Various folk appeared repulsed when I asked if they had eaten wrasse, they told me, 'it tastes like shit mate and it's full of bones', well, it will have bones, it's a fish. Anyway we caught a big ballan wrasse fishing from some rocks. We returned to camp, descaled, gutted, prepped said fish with herbs and fruit, wrapped it in foil and cooked it on a bbq, once perfectly cooked, we opened the parcel, split the skin, separated the flesh from the bones (it had them but they were no problem), had a tenuous nibble, stared at each other wide eyed and delighted and properly tucked in, absolutely delicious! Anyway, everyone, barring Pete caught a fish (sorry for the name drop Pete, writing 'one' after 'everyone' seemed like one 'one' too many.... 😏).

We spent some time doimg a spot of seaweed gathering and identifying, given they were beneath our feet, it would have been rude not to and some truly lovely species were present at the location such as Kelp (Laminaria digitata), Sea Spaghetti (Himanthalia elongata) and Serrated Wrack (Fucus serratus). One seaweed highlight, for me, was the unintended by-catch of a species of desmarestia (see image on right)a species described as poisonous due to the sulphuric acid content in its cells, we (Jesper and I) ventured a tasting of this species and were pleasantly surprised, tart, citrus like and mildly acidic, I wouldn't consume large quantities of this species, that exploratory nibble had a peculiar effect on my teeth, a bit like the calcium was being gently eroded.

We'd booked a private sea fishing charter out of Camaes Bay for Saturday evening and that's where we headed next...

What a magical evening, the sun was blazing, the wind had dropped, hardly a ripple disturbed that beautiful blue ocean, it was the perfect evening. Everyone was excited, even more so when we realised that to get on the boat, we had to get to it by boat! David, a former 'school master', as he put it, was our skipper for the evening and Stingray was his boat. I'll not go into too much detail here but despite the tides not being particularly favourable we still caught 6 fish, 3 unfortunately were undersized so had to go back. That fishing trip was most memorable, we didn't catch many fish but the atmosphere, scenery, vibe, weather, everything, was ace! David used his keen knowledge of the area and maybe the awareness of him knowing the tides weren't favourable, took us on a cracking journey, quiet bays with semi-derelict brick works, pods of porpoises, miniature islands clad with sea birds and racing, ripping, tumultuous tidal flows, bubbling, swelling and upsurging around them, so glad we were on a boat, and all the time we were out, the sun was out, it was warming and smile producing.

On returning to the campsite, we all gathered in the yurt we'd hired, a plethora of really lovely foraged and unforaged foods and drinks were shared, we sang happy birthday to Pete and generally milled around and chatted, it was the perfect end to the perfect day.


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