How much nature can you cram into 24 hours? A lot, as it turns out – as long as you’re willing to get up early.
My wild adventure starts with a night at Tudor Farmhouse in the Forest of Dean. It ticks all my coddled millennial boxes. Locally sourced menu? Tick. Instagrammable roll-top bath? Tick. So why am I wide awake at 4.45am? I’ve left my duck-feather duvet to observe a ‘dawn chorus’ – not the symphony of groans as my hangover kicks in, but the birdsong that greets each morning.
Most of us aren’t awake to hear it, but my guide Ed Drewitt knows exactly where to cop the best seats in the house. ‘It all comes down to sex,’ he enthuses as we walk among the trees to the coos of wood pigeons. ‘The females are most fertile in the morning. Her mate doesn’t want other males to come in. They’re singing, “I’m here, keep out!”’ As blackbirds and robins chime in, the trees throb with the sound of an orchestra in full swing.
After a full English, I’m introduced to Raoul van den Broucke, a forager who used to supply Borough Market with wild delights and the sprightliest 77-year-old I’ve ever met. As we wander, Raoul points out wild garlic, sorrel and bittercress – all ready for harvesting. Then the mother lode: we spot morels (‘the most expensive mushroom in the world!’). We haul them back to the hotel kitchen to be sautéed in butter. They’re surprisingly substantial and utterly moreish – much like my 24-hour plunge into the Forest of Dean. Zing Tsjeng