IF YOU go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a tasty surprise...

Foraging experts are urging more people to take up the hobby as a cheap and healthy activity.

And with food sites sprouting up across East Lancashire this autumn, it is the best time to find fruit, mushrooms, blackberries and nuts.

Towneley-based foraging expert Joevanka Gregory said the age-old skill is currently experiencing a renaissance.

She said: “It was something many people did regularly until World War II, then the skills have disappeared.

“It is the healthiest way to eat, and the most sustainable.

To get the maximum vitamins, food should be eaten soon after picking, it’s how we have evolved.

It’s also natural to eat foods that are in season.

With the recession, people are also rediscovering how good it is to go out into the countryside and learn how to find food for yourself.”

Joevanka, based at Offshoots Permaculture Project in Towneley, has recently been running food foraging tours in Hyndburn thorugh environmental charity Prospects.

Taking a group across the Baxenden Jubilee Walk, she had no trouble finding food, despite being a stranger to the area.

She said: “There are lots of hazlenuts at the moment because of the long winter we had which has given the trees the rest they need.”

Participants also discovered trees they walked past every day in St John’s Churchyard on Manchester Road were filled with yellow and red bullaces, which are wild plums.

Mushroom hunters such as Nick Martin are also teaching how to distinguish between the poisonous and the delicious at Foxhill Nature Reserve in Oswaldtwistle.

He said: “It is actually much easier than people think, there are excellent books on the subject.

“To gain confidence, coming on courses are a good idea. The main thing is learning which ones to avoid as only a few are poisonous.

"Once you know how, paying for food seems silly.”

For more information on food foraging courses contact Offshoots on 01282 450270 or Prospects on 01254 380 675.