Natural dyeing and food gathering at Forvie

Elaine Sherriffs, who previously worked at Forvie as the seasonal reserve officer and is now one of our stalwart volunteers, writes about how children visiting the reserve learned about some of the plants of Forvie and what they were used for:

The John Muir Award gives children a great  opportunity to learn more about their natural environment and develop outdoor skills with others.  The award consist of 4 challenges: 

  • Discover a wild place
  • Explore it
  • Conserve it
  • Share the experiences 

With this in mind a group of children from a nearby school have visited the reserve at Forvie to meet these challenges.  They tried natural dyeing on strips of wool.  The colours were beautiful – greens, yellows, reds and purples.  We used plants found at Forvie as dyes – crowberry, heather, blackberry and lichen.  Without using the chemical fix, alum, the dyes do not last very long but give an insight into how the plants can be used to produce subtle shades.

Testing out the dyes
The resulting colours

Another activity we tried was gathering wild food – berries, wild thyme, nettle leaves to make teas and also oats and kale and to make broth.  In the past when people still lived at Forvie, meat and fish and herbs would have been added to the broth. Some local people continue to gather the natural food resources from the water and land around Forvie – shellfish, salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, whitefish, wild fowl, rabbit, venison, pheasant, edible plants, honey and herbs.

We tried was milling barley and oats by grinding the grain between two stones, a lower, stationary stone called the quern stone and an upper, mobile stone called the handstone.  The flour was then mixed with water to make oatcakes, baked on a hot stone next to the camp fire on the beach.  The nettle tea and oatcakes went down well with some children, while others still preferred their sandwiches and crisps!

Grinding barley the old way