Yes, you can pick mussels off the beach in the UK.
However, you need to be very cautious!
In the UK, the general rule of thumb is that you should avoid harvesting them during any month that doesn’t have an ‘r’ in it.
So, refrain from collecting them in the warmer months of May, June, July and August.
The reason for this is that algal blooms are more likely to be present during these summer months and as mussels are filter feeders, they can ingest these algae, which can be toxic to humans if we then go on to eat them.
The 5 golden bivalve rules
These are unashamedly stolen from John Right’s book – Edible Seashore and are a great set of rules to keep in mind when foraging for filter feeders (bivalves).
It’s also a great book to grab if you have an interest in coastal foraging.
1. Consult the locals
Talk to local fishermen and check with local authorities about the water quality in the area where you are looking to pick mussels.
2. Only collect from obviously clean areas
This sounds fairly obvious, but it needs to be said…don’t collect from narrow estuaries, harbours, marinas, or outflow pipes.
Mussels are filter feeders, so use your common sense on this one.
3. Only collect shellfish (mussels) when there is an ‘r’ in the month
Whilst not relevant to every situation, this rule does have good reasoning behind it.
If the month doesn’t have an r in its name, then it is one of the summer months and is when the mussels are most active (filtering lots of water), as well as the warmer water causing algal blooms and more bacteria being in the water.
As mussels are filter feeders, the above does not exactly help matters.
The mussels are also not at their peak condition at this time of year, so all things considered this old adage has a bit of truth behind it and you are usually best off waiting for the cooler months (with an ‘r’ in).
4. Always thoroughly cook the mussels
Unless you are 100% certain that your mussels have come from grade A waters, the only way of being sure that you have killed all bacteria and viruses is the cook the mussels thoroughly.
Cooking will not however remove any algal toxins, which is why you need to be very careful about the time of year you collect and know the waters.
Simply put, don’t eat mussels raw unless you are 100% sure of the water quality and even then you are risking it.
Cooking your mussels minimises the risk.
5. Always check for signs of life before cooking
Check that the mussels shut when you tap them on the side of the cooking pot. If not discard.
Equally, once cooked, only eat the ones that have their shells open.
Can you take mussels from the beach legally?
Yes, as long as local bylaws allow, you can take mussels from the beach in England and Wales without having to worry too much about permissions.
You still need to make sure that you collect them from an area where they are regularly covered by the tide (known as the intertidal zone), and ensure that the water quality is good before harvesting.
It gets a bit more complicated in Scotland as technically all mussels are owned by the Crown.
If you are following the rules, then you should seek permission from the Crown Estate before gathering them.
In reality, if you are just harvesting mussels for your own use, then you are very unlikely to find yourself in trouble and the collecting of wild mussels for personal use is generally tolerated.
Oysters are a different matter though, so it may be a good idea to follow the rules in Scotland if you are collecting these.
How do you harvest wild mussels?
Check with your local authority to see if any kind of license is needed.
Once you know you have permission and once you have found some, whether that be on some rocks or other structure, it’s as easy as getting hold of one and gently twisting it off.
Try not to dislodge the others in the process and just select the mussels that you want.
Is there a size limit on mussels?
This varies depending on the area and local authority, but generally speaking, the minimum in the UK is 45mm, which should be taken along the longest section of the shell.
Any smaller than this and you are damaging the next mussel generation and there is not going to be much meat inside either, so keep your collecting to the adult sizes.
How do you clean mussels from the beach?
An alternative method for processing mussels is soaking them in salt water for 20 minutes and then discarding any that float to the surface.
As mentioned below though, live mussels can potentially have air trapped in them, so this method errs very much on the side of caution.
You can then also tap any open mussels on the side of the pan/bucket etc and they should close up.
If not, then they are dead and should be discarded.
You can use a knife or similar utensil to pull the mussel beards away, leaving you with some nice, clean mussels ready for cooking.
> Protein – Mussels are a high-quality, high-protein food, with similar levels to that of red meat.
> Iron – Mussels contain a healthy dose of iron, which is known to be good for your blood system.
> Vitamin A – which is great for your skin, immune system and eyes.
> B12 – an essential vitamin for your heart and overall health.
So yes, all in all, mussels are a great addition to your diet and have many health benefits.
How can you tell if mussels are fresh?
Assuming you have collected them from a clean water area, then follow the below.
If any float discard them and then tap any open mussels on the side of the pan/bowl and they should close. If not, discard these also.
Once cooked, eat only the mussels that have fully opened.
If you follow the above you shouldn’t go too far wrong, but do make sure to check out the 5 golden rules towards the top of this article.
Can you pick mussels off rocks?
Yes, you can pick mussels off the rocks; that is where you are most likely to find them.
One of the best times to collect them is a low spring tide when the water drops considerably.
You obviously need to be very wary of your surroundings though and take all necessary precautions.
Can you pick mussels in June? Can you eat mussels in the summer?
Although you technically can pick mussels in June in the UK, it is not advisable.
Remember the advice of not picking mussels when there isn’t an R in the month.
So May to August.
The reason for this is that the mussels are generally in poorer condition due to spawning during the summer months, as well as the warmer weather usually bringing in the algal blooms.
These can then be taken in by the mussels filtering system, with the risk of this toxicity then being passed on to you when you eat them.
It must be said that this risk is low, but it is a risk all the same.
So the safest bet is to keep it to the colder months when the mussels are in better condition and the algal blooms have disappeared.
Do mussels float in water? Should I discard mussels that float?
They can do if they have air trapped in them, however, they will usually sink.
There is an old method of checking mussels whereby they were soaked in water and if they floated they were discarded as they were thought to be dead, but as you can see, this is not always the case.
Live mussels can float too.
This does provide a belt and braces approach though.
How do you open mussels?
If you want to open up live mussels for cooking via an alternative method, such as frying them etc, then, as long as they are large enough, you can open them up with a knife as shown in the video below
Can You Pick Mussels Off the Beach in the UK? Yes, you can! But you need to be aware of the risks.
Follow the 5 Golden bivalve rules above and treat your harvest with care and you shouldn’t go too far wrong.
If you are interested in coastal foraging, then be sure to also check out our popular article on Limpets, which can be found here.
Also, I would recommend taking a look at John Wight’s book (River Cottage), Edible Seashore.
It has lots more info and facts for the coastal forager to get their teeth into.
The mussel season in the UK runs from September, through to April.
These are the colder months of the year.
Remember the old adage about not collecting/eating mussels when there is an ‘R’ in the month.
Do you eat the whole inside of a mussel?
Yes, you can eat the whole inside of a mussel. Even the black bit!
All of the insides are edible, so, as long as the mussel is fresh, don’t think too much about it and enjoy the flavours.
What is the black stuff in a mussel?
The ‘black sack’ is the undigested plankton and other microscopic creatures that are still within the mussel’s digestive tract.
As long as you are collecting from a clean area, then this black stuff is perfectly safe to eat and just adds to the flavour.
Don’t think about it too much and get stuck in!
Are mussels freshwater or saltwater?
In the UK, there are both freshwater and saltwater varieties, although similar, they are different species.
Saltwater mussels (Mytilus edulis) are usually found on rocky shores, submerged structures and occasionally attached to seaweed.
This article focuses on the saltwater variety (UK).
There are however multiple freshwater mussel varieties in the UK.
> Duck Mussel (Anodonta anatina)
> Swan Mussel (Anodonta cygnea)
> Painter’s Mussel (Unio pictorum)
For more info on the freshwater mussel varieties (UK) the Nature Spot site has some good info here.
Is it cruel to cook mussels alive? Do mussels feel pain?
This is a matter of opinion.
Although some would argue that it is cruel to cook anything alive, the fact is that unless you intend to eat them raw (in which you will kill them by eating), in order to eat them in the standard way, you need to cook them somehow.
What happens if you eat mussel beard?
Nothing happens! Mussel beard is edible, if not that tasty, so don’t worry if you eat any.
However, the best bet is to clean them off beforehand.
Do mussels have eyes?
No mussels do not have eyes as such, but they are thought to have sensors that can tell the difference between light and dark, so as to be able to close up if they feel threatened.
Collecting mussels bring with it its own set of dangers, both from environmental conditions, such as tides, wind, sun etc as well as the risk of getting it wrong and giving yourself food poisoning etc.
Please treat the above as a general guide only and cross reference with other trusted information sources, before you harvest and eat any mussels.
There are thought to be a few different varieties of Marsh Samphire in the UK, the most common type you will find is the bright-green Salicornia europaea.
If the Marsh Samphire you are collecting has a purple tinge to it, it may well be the variety Salicorniaramosissima.
Both varieties are edible and tasty.
Where does samphire grow? Does samphire grow in the UK?
Marsh Samphire grows all around coastal areas of the UK.
You will usually find it wherever you have salt marshes and/or mud flats.
It is not a particularly hard plant to find or identify and when you find some, there will usually be much more of it around.
I can vouch that it is very prevalent in Norfolk and Suffolk, so if you are nearby, it is worth exploring.
It is also quite prolific in Wales.
Is picking samphire illegal?
It is technically illegal to uproot samphire without permission.
You don’t want to do this anyway, as you don’t eat the root of the plant, only the tips.
Uprooting also damages the habitat, so please try not to do this.
How to harvest Samphire
Take some robust scissors with you and snip the tender tops off of the plant and store them in a basket or bag.
Other than paying attention to the safety aspect of being out on the marshes, it’s as simple as finding a decent patch and snipping off the tops.
Although you can store it, like with all wild foods, only take what you need.
You can always come back another day!
Is samphire seasonal? Is samphire available all year round?
No, as above the UK season runs from approx June through to September.
Outside of these months, samphire disappears, usually with the frosts in autumn.
You may be able to purchase samphire in the shops outside of the traditional UK growing season, but this will likely have come from abroad.
Is samphire good for your health? How healthy is samphire?
Yes. Marsh Samphire contains a number of vitamins minerals and antioxidants that are considered to be especially good for your health.
These include minerals magnesium, potassium, sodium and calcium, along with vitamins A, B and C.
Samphire also contains fucoidans, which are anti-inflammatory and have antioxidant effects.
Do I need to cook samphire?
No, you do not need to cook Marsh Samphire.
It can be eaten raw. However, it is also very tasty when cooked.
How to cook samphire
Steaming for around 5 minutes is the best way to cook samphire.
Once served, it benefits from having a dob of butter melted over it, but is by no means essential.
If you have a younger plant, or just have the more tender tips, then you can just eat whole and enjoy.
If you have a more mature plant, you will find that it has a stringy/woody middle section along most of its length.
You can easily deal with this by running the steamed samphire through your front teeth while holding on to the base.
This strips off all the tender flesh and leaves you with the stringy fibrous part in your hand which can be discarded.
Can you eat samphire raw? Can you eat samphire cold?
Yes, Marsh Samphire can be eaten raw (cold).
If you are going to eat it raw, make sure you go for the tips of the plant only, as these won’t have the stringy central fibre in them.
You can eat there and then, on the marsh, or save for later.
One of the best ways to consume samphire tips is to add them to a fresh salad.
The samphire gives the salad a new dimension, of saltiness and iodine, but you can overdo it, so just use a few.
Is all samphire edible? Can you eat rock samphire?
In the UK, both types of samphire are technically edible, these being Marsh Samphire which we are discussing here and Rock Samphire.
Although linked by name, they are actually very different plants and species.
Marsh Samphire is usually the variety Salicornia europaea and rock samphire Crithmum maritimum.
However, although Rock Samphire is deemed edible, most will not like the flavour as it contains aromatic chemicals, one of which is pinene, which is an ingredient of turpentine, hence why it tastes so awful!!!
If you are after good samphire for eating, go for Marsh Samphire, as this is the variety that is known for its culinary credentials.
Is samphire a seaweed?
No, samphire is not a seaweed.
It is actually a member of the goosefoot family, and looks more like a small cactus without the spines!
Marsh samphire generally grows on tidal mudflats, sometimes quite prolifically, and looks quite different to seaweed.
This extremely meditative video from Andy Ballard shows him foraging for Marsh Samphire on the Bristol Channel.
What does samphire taste like? Does samphire taste like seaweed?
No, samphire does not taste like seaweed. It has its own flavour, which is actually very pleasant.
It’s more like salty asparagus, which is delicious, but the salt can be overpowering if you eat too much of it, so take it steady.
How many calories does samphire have?
Samphire contains around 25 calories per 100 grams consumed.
This is for samphire when served on its own, such as when steamed/boiled or eaten raw.
If adding other ingredients, then this will obviously change accordingly.
How many carbs are in samphire?
Samphire contains around 1.5g of carbohydrates per 100 grams consumed, which is pretty much made up of dietary fibre.
Therefore, there are hardly any carbs in Marsh Samphire.
Is samphire the same as sea asparagus?
Yes, in other parts of the world, Marsh Samphire is known as sea asparagus.
In other locations, it is also known as samphire greens, sea beans, crow’s foot greens and beach asparagus.
Does samphire have iodine? Is samphire high in iodine?
Yes, samphire does contain iodine.
However, it doesn’t contain anywhere near as much as some seaweeds do, so samphire wouldn’t be classed as high in iodine as seaweed – although it’s a pretty decent level.
For comparison, samphire contains approx 90 micrograms per 100 grams.
Some seaweed contains approx 250,000 micrograms per 100 grams.
However, it must be noted that adults recommended daily iodine intake is 140 micrograms per day, so a decent portion would easily get you up to this.
Does samphire contain iron?
Yes, samphire contains iron. It also contains vitamin C and calcium.
Samphire also contains antioxidants, which in combination with the other vitamins and minerals make it an extremely healthy plant to eat and a great addition to your diet.
Is samphire good for you?
Yes, as long as it has been collected from a clean environment, samphire is very good for you.
As mentioned above it contains:
It is low in fat, low in carbs and makes for a delicious and nutritious foraged find.
Where to buy samphire in the UK
Not liking the sound of all that mud? You can always purchase some samphire first to see if you like it.
Samphire has become quite a trendy thing to eat over the last few years, so you may see it on the menu at good restaurants.
If you live near the coast, you may be lucky enough to have it available at a local shop or stall.
Failing that, some supermarkets now stock it, including Waitrose, so you should be able to get hold of some one way or the other.
So, when is samphire in season in the UK?
Usually between the months of June and September. with Midsummer’s Day being the traditional start of the season.
Keen to pick up some more free foraging goodness???
Are you looking for some easy camp dutch oven recipes for your next backyard or wilderness adventure?
Here we have compiled a selection of 4 easy and tasty recipes to get you started, for both the main course and dessert.
All these recipes are tried and tested and you can pick up all of the ingredients at your local grocery store.
If you need some dutch oven and guidance on how to use one, we have put together a comprehensive article here.
Regardless, let’s get into the recipes…
Dutch oven cowboy baked beans from scratch
A classic, hearty recipe that's easy to cook and tastes delicious!A lot of these ingredients are staples that you will probably have in your kitchen and the rest are easily purchased in your local store.
Light a suitable fire and let it die down to a good base of embers.
Place your dutch oven in the embers and wait for it to get up to cooking temperature.
Whilst the oven is getting up to temperature, finely chop your onions, chillies and peel and crush your garlic.
On a seperate board, chop your bacon into mouth size pieces.
Pour in the vegetable oil and heat until ready to fry on.
Add the onion, garlic and chillies and fry until softened.
Add the bacon and fry for around 1 minute until slightly coloured.
Add the minced beef and fry until both the bacon and beef are both nicely browned.
Now add the remaining ingredients (don't forget to drain the kidney and butter beans ) and stir thoroughly and cover with the lid.
Place a layer of embers on the lid and cook for around 30 minutes, replacing embers as necessary.
Once ready, remove lid and serve. Ideally with some fresh, buttered bread.
Although this recipe is intended for a camp dutch oven, on an outdoor open fire, there is no reason why you can’t use this recipe indoors, in your kitchen oven.You will want the temperature at approx 350 degrees Fahrenheit / 180 degrees Celcius.A camp dutch oven without legs would be perfect, or a Le Creuset pot.
Keyword authentic, best ever, with bacon
Campfire dutch oven bread
This is a delicious, easy to make, dutch oven no-knead bread. Just be careful not to burn it.
Light a suitable fire and let it die down to a good base of embers.
Place your Dutch oven in the embers and wait for it to get up to cooking temperature.
Whilst the oven is getting up to temperature, peel and crush the garlic, chop your peppers, onions, and carrots.
Peel and cube potatoes. Peel shallots.
Pour in the vegetable oil and heat until ready to fry on.
Add garlic and onion. Fry until softened.
Add venison and brown.
Add remaining ingredients in order.
Place the lid on and cover with a good layer of embers.
Cook for 45 – 60 mins, checking periodically.
Remove lid – serve – enjoy!
Although this recipe is intended for a camp dutch oven, on an outdoor open fire, there is no reason why you can’t use this recipe indoors – in your kitchen.
You can fry the ingredients on the hob and then transfer to the main oven for the rest of the cooking process.You will want the temperature at approx 350 degrees Fahrenheit / 180 degrees Celcius.A camp dutch oven without legs would be perfect, or a Le Creuset pot.
Keyword Hunters, Venison
Camping dutch oven peach cobbler recipe
A delicious and easy dessert to make over the campfire. The simple ingredients also make it an easy one to do.
We hope you decide to get out there and try our 4 easy camp dutch oven recipes.
They are all relatively simple to do and you will no doubt have a lot of fun while cooking them.
As mentioned above, we would recommend you have a look through our dutch oven cooking article, which goes into the history as well as more practical matters, such as how many coals you should use and how you should care for and season your oven.
The great thing about dutch ovens is they are extremely versatile and the more experienced you become with one, the more confident you will be as a cook and the world really is your oyster (in cooking terms).
You can bake, boil, fry steam in a dutch oven, so you really are covered for most types of camp cooking.
How do you bake in a camp oven?
If we are talking about baking things such as breads and desserts, then we have two recipes here and this gives you a simple process to follow.
You can also see our charcoal guide here for more precise cooking.
However, aside from climbing, the prusik knot is also very handy for bushcraft and outdoor purposes.
One of the most common bushcraft/survival uses is for stringing out and tensioning a tarp whilst using a ridgeline.
How to tie a prusik knot:
Create a loop, known as a prusik loop, by tying two of the paracord ends together. You can use a double fisherman’s knot for this or similar.
Next, take the opposite end to the knots and form a bite.
Assuming your chosen pole/branch/rope (that you want to tie onto) is laying horizontally, take your bite end and place over the top of this and then back underneath, so that your bite end and knot and are on the same side and pointing towards you.
Take the knot end and place through the bite end.
Dress towards the pole/branch/rope.
Take the loop that is on top (that was the bite) and take it back over and around again, mimicking the first step.
Again, take the knotted end and place through the loop.
Dress this down to create the prusik knot. You should be able to count four wraps in total.
How it works:
When loaded, the knot tightens securely around its subject. It does this as it is a friction knot.
This allows the user to tighten and secure against this knot, allowing them a fixed point to secure to.
When the knot is unloaded and the tension released, the prusik should loosen, allowing the knot to slide along the rope and re-grip at the next intended point.
This allows the user to move the knot along the rope, to the next required point and then load again.
This allows for a very useful knot, that can be secured and quickly moved as required.
The Clove Hitch
The clove hitch is used to tie onto a pole or branch and is a handy knot to start a lashing or binding with.
It’s not the best of knots if used on its own, as it slips quite easily and needs to be combined with another knot or lashing to be properly secure – but it is a handy knot to know nonetheless.
How to tie:
Take the end of your cord and place over the top of the pole of or branch that you want to secure to.
Take underneath and back around, so that the working end crosses over the first wrap of cord.
Go around once more and feed the end underneath the ‘cross over’ loop that you just formed, so that the cord runs parallel with the tail end.
Dress together and you will have a clove hitch. This can be confirmed by checking that you have a cross formation, as shown in the above image.
The Bowline Knot
If you want to tie a fixed loop at the end of your paracord, the bowline knot is a solid choice.
This knot is great as it locks the loop in place and stops it slipping.
How to tie a bowline knot:
Take the working end of your cord and form a loop in it, where you want the knot to form – the loop should follow an anti-clockwise direction, with the working end should sit on top, and should now be facing downwards, towards you.
Take the working end and thread back through this loop, on the right-hand side, passing it behind the standing end and bringing it back around through the loop again.
Pull tight to form your fixed loop.
You now have a bowline.
The Alpine Butterfly
If you want to create a loop in a length of paracord, without having to get the ends involved, then the alpine butterfly knot is a good choice.
It enables you to tie a strong loop that you can tie onto, whilst maintaining the strength of the main line.
This provides a variety of possible uses, one example would be to provide the loops for a trotline, to tie your mono-filament hook-lengths onto.
All in all, a very handy knot to know.
How to tie the alpine butterfly:
Take some slack and wrap the cord around the palm of your hand 3 times.
Take the middle section and tuck it underneath the right-hand section.
Bring it around the front, to the left, and over the original left-hand section.
Take it underneath the other two sections, and bring out on the right-hand side.
Grip the loop on the right and pull the two rope ends to form the fixed loop.
You now have the alpine butterfly.
And now the video run-through of the above…
I hope you find the above article useful for learning and tying your paracord knots. Please let us know how you get on in the comments below.
Bushcraft backpacks are essential for carrying all your gear, in a comfortable and safe manner.
If you want a large pack, then there are also good options for you as mentioned below, but for this article, we are going to focus on a standard size daypack that is ideal for everyday bushcraft purposes.
So, what is the best bushcraft backpack for your needs? Here’s our favourite 3…
5.11 Tactical Rush 24
The Tactical Rush backpack from 5.11 is a good all-round pack for activities such as hunting, fishing, camping and the like.
It can also be used as a grab bag if necessary, ensuring all your essentials are ready to go and in one place.
5.11 kit is known for being tough and this pack doesn’t disappoint.
The bag features a MOLLE system, that you can attach kit to as necessary.
It also incorporates the Rush Tier System, which lets you add an extra bag if required.
If you want something that’s going to stand up to a beating and will last for years to come – then this is the pack for you!
When all 3 elements of the fire triangle combine what can occur?
Well, if you have the correct proportion of heat, fuel and oxygen present and you have a source of ignition, such as a spark, or flame – then you have a good chance that a fire will start, as it has all the required elements.
This could be a good thing if you are looking to start a fire…It could also be a very bad thing if you are not.
Always be mindful of potential ignition sources and keep things such as tinder and stored wood well away from anything that could ignite it.
What are the Three Parts of the Fire Triangle?
The three parts of the fire triangle are heat, fuel and oxygen.
Most of us will be aware of the fire triangle from those school science lessons.
However, it is worth briefly going over again though, to reinforce its importance when lighting a fire in the field.
Let’s take a look at each of the 3 components.
The fuel needs heat in order for it to release its combustible vapours, which in turn, ignite from a flame or spark.
This heat also dries out the surrounding material, causing that to release combustible vapours also and is how a fire spreads and takes hold.
This is why a wood fire will start slowly at first but start to blaze, once the correct conditions for it to do so are met.
A fire needs fuel to burn. This is pretty obvious, but the type of fuel needs to be considered.
The most common fuel that we use in bushcraft is wood, as it is freely available and for the most part, sustainable.
You can’t usually just set fire to a large log though, as you need to build the fire up in stages.
To light an all-wood fire, we generally need 3 grades of wood fuel:
Tinder: This takes your ignition source and transforms it into a flame or ember.
Kindling: These are small pieces of wood that have either been collected in that state, ie small twigs or that have been chopped down to size from a larger log.
Main fuel: Anything larger than kindling – usually large branches and logs that are dry and form the main fuel source.
A fire requires 16% oxygen to burn.
Oxygen acts as the oxidising agent for the chemical reaction that produces the flame.
A flame will not form without it.
Therefore, oxygen is vital to the success of a fire.
Fresh air contains approximately 21% oxygen, depending on your altitude.
Therefore, as long as you maintain a good supply of fresh air to the fire, it should continue to burn, as long as the other conditions are met.
Elements to create fire
Without all 3 parts of the triangle present, you will not achieve a sustained fire.
If you have fuel and fresh air for example, but not enough heat to ignite and sustain it, your fire will go out.
Equally, if you have heat and fresh air, with wet fuel, such as very damp wood – your fire will not start.
The fuel element has not been satisfied and the triangle implodes.
An example of not meeting the oxygen requirement would be that you load too much fuel onto the fire, too quickly, in which case you smother the flames and kill off the airflow.
To be successful, you need to keep all 3 elements in balance, ensuring a sustained and controlled fire for you to warm yourself and cook with.
Keeping all 3 parts in mind will ensure greater success.
The video below from Coalcracker Bushcraft explains this visually:
What are the 3 stages of a fire?
Generally speaking, a fire has 3 stages:
Growth stage: when the fire is building and gathering heat and voracity. In this stage, the fire is very much dependent on the oxygen and fuel supply that it has.
Fully developed: this is the stage when the fire has reached its peak and is now giving out a good amount of heat.
You should also have a good bed of embers now to keep the fire sustained.
Decay: once you stop feeding the fire with fuel, the fire will enter the decay stage and start to burn down.
The embers are still extremely hot at this stage though and will likely ignite any fresh fuel that you put on.
If left alone, however, the fire will die out on its own.
The fire triangle is a very simple concept, but quite often forgotten about when trying to get a fire lit.
Next time you do light a fire, try and bear all the elements in mind and you should have more success
Want more??? We have loads more articles for you to read in our fire section here.
They are usually spotted at low tide clamped to rocks and should you try and pick one up, will nearly always clamp down and become immovable. They are seriously impressive in this regard.
In this clamped state, they don’t really do a lot, but once the tide returns, and they have submerged once again, they ‘spring to life’ and start going about their business of feeding on their chosen home.
There are two main types to be found in Britain, the common limpet and the slipper limpet.
Today we will focus on the common limpet.
What do limpets eat?
At high tide, the limpet feeds by slowly moving around its chosen rock, feeding on algae and similar vegetative marine life.
Although classed as herbivores, they are also thought to eat small creatures like young barnacles etc.
What is the scientific name for limpets?
The scientific name for the common limpet is patella vulgata.
Patella vulgata are the European common limpets and as the name suggests – are of the Patella genus
Can you eat common limpets? Are common limpets edible?
Yes, you can eat common limpets providing you follow the advice below.
Although I can say with confidence that there are certainly tastier wild treats to be had, the limpet is certainly worth knowing about from a wild food perspective, even if that said food does sometimes resemble the texture of pencil rubbers.
Are limpets healthy to eat?
Yes, as long as they were a healthy limpet when you collected them and you have stored and prepared them correctly, limpets are a high protein snack, with many many other vitamins and minerals to boot.
Do limpets have eyes?
Yes, the common limpet has a left and a right ‘eye‘, but there is little research on what they can actually view with these.
They also have two antennae for feeling their way around and sensing. The combination of the two helps them build up a picture of what is around them when hunting for food.
Can limpets swim?
Juvenile limpets spend the first part of their lives as free-swimming planktonic creatures and therefore do technically swim.
Once they mature though, they find a home that they like and stay put.
Fully grown limpets do not swim. They use their foot to travel across surfaces.
Where are limpet shells found?
The common limpet can be found in coastal areas all over the British Isles
They are not usually hard to find and are generally located in shallow water, on rocks or cliffs that are within the intertidal zone.
What is unique about the intertidal coastline?
The intertidal coastline or intertidal zone is unique in the fact that it is submerged by seawater around 2 times a day.
It is essentially the section of shoreline that is between the high and low watermark.
This area is fully submerged at high tide and then dry again at low tide.
Creatures and plants must therefore be able to survive in both of these states.
This makes for a special environment that supports many different creatures including limpets, starfish, sea anemones, sea stars, mussels, winkles, crabs and many more.
How do you identify a limpet?
What does a limpet look like?
The common limpet is cone-shaped and easy to identify. There will often be many limpets attached to one rock, in varying sizes.
Their shape and ability to tightly attach themselves to rocks allows them to remain in place – even whilst getting pounded by strong waves.
Do limpets bite?
No, well they wont bite you anyway.
Limpets have a super tongue which they use to feed with. This is known as a radula.
The radula is similar to a tongue, but has rows of tiny ‘teeth’ attached.
As you can probably imagine, this radula is extremely tough, as it needs to be able to scrape food off rocks when feeding.
Limpets will generally stay in a localised area and not stray too far from their home, which they will always come back to when the tide goes back out.
Over time, this can cause an indentation on the rock which is known as a ‘home scar’.
The limpet clamps down on this section of rock, using its powerful ‘foot’ and remains there until the tide comes back in and it’s ready to move and feed again.
How do you forage for limpets?
Common Limpets can be collected all year round.
Ensure that the area you intend to forage from has a regular and strong tide to ensure that the limpets are regularly submerged.
Also, check that the local area has good water quality and is free from pollutants.
The common limpet is an important part of the ecosystem, keeping the rock’s algal growth in check.
It is vital therefore that you do not gather too many from one area, as an imbalance can occur.
Good practice would be to take only one from each rock or immediate area, leaving the others to carry on their good work.
If there is only one on a rock, then leave it be. Do not over-collect in one area.
Fill your bucket or collecting vessel with fresh seawater and place some carefully collected seaweed in as well if available.
This will help to keep your limpets fresh.
How do you remove limpets from rocks?
A variety of tools can be used to prize the limpet away, including an old chisel or sharp implement such as a knife etc, but a rock will usually do and is usually readily available.
One thing to know when collecting limpets is that you only really get one good chance at them.
Although they will be stuck to the rock when you approach them, they are not usually ‘fully clamped’.
A sharp whack from one side will usually dislodge them.
If you do not manage to dislodge them on the first whack, or they sense you coming, they will fully clamp down on the rock and you will have a hard time getting them off the rock, no matter how hard you try.
They are unbelievably strong.
You can follow up with a second strike very shortly after the first one, but if this fails, leave them alone or you risk damaging them, as they will now have fully clamped down.
Your best bet is to go and find another to work on.
When collecting them myself, I generally have one hand holding the dislodging rock and my other hand is placed on the opposite side of the limpet, ready to catch the dislodged morsel before it disappears into the brine below.
In a good area, it is not hard to quickly collect a bucketful. Remember, do not take more than you need.
If your camp is based nearby, you can always return if necessary, or visit another spot.
Can you eat a limpet raw?
The common limpet is edible and can be eaten raw, but you’re probably going to want to cook it.
Check that the limpet is still alive, especially if it has been a while since collection.
You will see it moving, so it’s not hard to check this.
Are limpets tasty?
I’m going to get straight to the point here and say that limpets probably aren’t going to on your top 10 list of bushcraft cuisine.
The fact is that they are usually chewy, really chewy – no matter what you do to them!
The flavour isn’t bad, it’s like a chewy mussle, but the texture isn’t always great – well never great actually!
Some say not to cook them for too long, but they seem to be chewy whatever you do to them, so just expect that to be the case.
One way to combat the chewiness is to finely chop them and add them to other dishes so that they are more easily consumed.
This can be done after they are cooked and then added to a curry or stew etc.
They will certainly add a new dimension to the dish!
Caveats aside, they are definitely worth a try and can form a great addition to other foods if prepared in a certain way.
If you want to cook them on their own, try cooking them upside down, straight on the embers of your fire.
If you have the luxury, try adding some olive oil and some garlic to add some flavour and cook until the oil starts to bubble.
Remove from the shell, remove the black part if you wish and enjoy.
I can guarantee you will remember the experience.
What do limpets taste like?
Limpets have a taste of their own, but to give you a rough idea – they taste a bit like a chewier version of a mussle and are equally sweet in taste.
Can you fry limpets?
Yes. You can fry them in their shells, or for a more direct method, you can remove them from their shells, tenderise them with a meat hammer or similar and then fry.
You can fry them as is, or coat them in a flour mixture first, depending on your preference.
Safety whilst common limpet foraging
As with all foraging, there is a degree of risk involved.
Coastal foraging brings additional dangers.
Apart from the food safety side that is mentioned above, the actual collection part can be risky in itself.
You are usually stepping on or wading through rocky areas when foraging, contending with slippy, jagged surfaces and possibly waves.
Common sense goes a long way here.
Take great care with your foot placement and move slowly and deliberately.
A wading stick may prove useful.
Wear appropriate footwear, something that will protect your feet from the sharp rocks and provide you with some grip.
Avoid standing on rocks with a slimy green surface. The last thing you want is a fall in this environment.
Be aware of the tides. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the moment, only to realise that the tide is a lot higher than you thought, with your access back to dry land now cut off.
Using a bivvy bag is a great idea if you are sleeping out. They provide you with some extra protection from the elements, increasing your chances of a good night’s sleep.
They can, of course, be used on their own, with your sleeping bag inside, using the bivvy as your sole outer protection.
This is great for sleeping out under the stars, in good conditions.
They are also great when used in conjunction with a tarp or basha – which is the preferred method if you are expecting rain or snow.
This can be done straight on the ground, or in a hammock setup.
You may even want to use one inside a tent, affording you a bit extra warmth when needed.
Most are breathable and waterproof, but the quality does vary.
British Army Bivvy Bag
One of our favourites is the no-nonsense, British Army Gore-tex bivvy bag that is pictured above.
As with most equipment designed for the military, these are solidly made with fully taped seams and a drawstring hood section.
They are heavy compared to others, but this is made up for by the excellent, bomb-proof quality that they afford.
They will last you for years.
There is no zip on these, so you have to slide in and out, but on a plus point, this means there is less to go wrong.
As they are made with Gore-tex, they are relatively breathable, while still providing a good degree of all round water protection.
They are designed to be used underneath a tarp as the hood does not completely cover you, but you can sleep out in them on their own if the weather is dry.
If it does start to rain though, you can always roll over and sleep on your front if necessary.
The only problem is that these bags are not easy to come across these days, especially new.
If you can get one though, we would recommend them for a heavy-duty bag.
Due to the sourcing problem, we will recommend another which is more widely available, this being the Snugpak Special Forces Bivvi Bag.
These are not Gore-tex, but do incorporate Snugpak’s Paratex Dry Fabric, which is designed to do a similar thing, in that it allows moisture from your body to escape, while not letting any outside moisture in.
They feature a central zip, which helps with getting in and out of them, as well as being very lightweight and packable.
Some users find that they get a condensation build-up in these bags, but this will depend on the conditions and sleeping bag used etc.
They are ultimately, a well-made bivvy bag for a reasonable price – that you can actually get hold of!