• Joey Amato

Orkney Foraging Fortnight Reveals Virtual Event Program

From cookery workshops and foraging walks; Orcadian music and foraged beer, the line-up for this year’s Foraging Fortnight has been revealed with a host of virtual events that are accessible from home but provide the skills to forage independently and responsibly afterwards. The LEADER-funded festival has teamed up with Orkney International Science Festival to design a program that includes everything from foraging walks and seaweed workshops to herbal wellness and virtual feasts.

Confirmed events in the growing line-up include:

Outing: Foraging the Old Road

A virtual walk through Binscarth Woods and over the hill to the Loch of Wasdale, on a section of the St Magnus Way. Orkney wildlife guide Megan Taylor looks out for wild plants with ethnobotanical researcher Anna Canning who describes their traditional uses for sustenance and health. Workshop: Papermaking from Natural Materials

An opportunity to learn the basic elements of the craft, as artist Lin Chau leads you through the process of mould and deckle making, preparing plant pulp fibre, pulling a sheet and couching it, then pressing the paper. Participants will be sent out a pack in advance containing everything required to take part. Talk: The Way Back Home

Could life after lockdown provide an opportunity for reflection, and a return to a healthier relationship with the natural world? We are an intrinsic part of it, says Elizabeth Woodcock, walk leader, horticulturist and writer. She interweaves the work of writers, poets and scientists with images of the surrounding landscape of the Cumbrian Fells, to explore gardens, brains, lanes and life.

Talk: The Botany of Beer

In the days before hops, flavour was balanced in beer by foraged plants like angelica and meadowsweet, and by spices brought from the East on new sailing routes. Master brewer Ken Duncan tells the story.

Talk: Seaweed from the Arctic Circle

The cold clean waters around the Norwegian island of Træna produce fine seaweed, which are harvested by the Northern Company. The company’s founder describes its work in a small fishing community of less than 500 people, amidst spectacular scenery and northern lights.


Virtual Walk, Supper & Musical Evening: A Hoy and Rackwick Evening Take a virtual ferry crossing from Stromness to Moaness pier, and walk up the brae to the Hoy Kirk for seaweed soup for supper, with a recipe to prepare at home in advance. Then sit back and enjoy some music and memories from the family of a local fiddle-player. The evening will be completed with a guided walk at Rackwick Bay with archaeologist Dan Lee. Talk: Along the Tide-Mark Gathering Drift Beaver-chewed timber from North America, a sea heart from the rainforests of the southern Caribbean and a lobster creel tag from Newfoundland: Martin Gray, who runs the Orkney Beachcombing page, describes the wealth of treasures that wash up on an Orkney shore and the searching and foraging quest that has taken Orcadians to the shore since Neolithic times.


Workshop: Riches of the Shore

A creative family-friendly session of shore-inspired fun for all ages. It’s hosted by artists, foragers and a marine ecologist and will be streamed from Warebeth and Birsay on Orkney. The team reveal how to make plant brushes, and paint with shore-sourced pigments; forage along the coastline and feast on your finds; get up close to shore creatures; and photograph seaweed. This will be rounded off with foraged food around a beach fire.

Alison Barclay, Development Officer at Orkney LEADER said:

“I’m delighted that LEADER has been able to support this carefully curated programme of events as part of Orkney International Science Festival. Foraging Fortnight has always been planned as a way of encouraging people to get out and engage with their natural surroundings. This virtual programme really reflects this and I’m sure it will spark enthusiasm amongst all those who take part, furnishing them with the tools and knowledge to get out and explore nature regardless of where they’re based. And of course, it’s a wonderful showcase of Orkney’s beautiful and varied landscape so we hope it will encourage people to visit in future years.”

The foraging events will be streamed live on www.foragingfortnight.co.uk and just about all of them free of charge. Many talks and sources of guidance will remain on the website – though those participating live in the events will have the opportunity to interact directly with the host. One or two events may incur a charge to cover the cost of sending out activity kits in advance.


Foraging Fortnight aims to encourage people of all ages to participate safely and responsibly in different foraging activities, and to become more aware of the benefits of wild plants around us. With restrictions in place for large events due to Covid-19, the Fortnight has transformed into a virtual event, which is hoped will bring it to an even wider audience.

Foraging Fortnight is being run in partnership with Orkney International Science Festival, as part of the rich programme of talks, outings and activities that mark the Festival’s thirtieth anniversary.


Foraging Fortnight events encourage adherence to Scotland’s Outdoor Access Code and organisers have put together foraging guidelines to ensure that those taking part are doing so in a safe and responsible way.


The full program will be announced on www.foragingfortnight.co.uk.


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