IT’S not quite The Island with Bear Grylls but then why would you want it to be?

This foraging expedition is a much more sedate affair run by Colchester-based Outdoor Hire Centre, which organises various trips up and down the River Stour from Sudbury all the way down to Cattawade throughout the year.

Foraging paddles are the group’s latest offering utilising the talents of Ray Chin, an experienced and qualified wildlife expert who introduces you to a smorgasbord of delights along the river bank.

We got a slot on the trial run for 2018, which involved a gentle paddle up from Ballingdon Street Bridge towards the up reaches of the River Stour, and within minutes we were finding out something very useful indeed.

That if you get stung by a nettle, it’s the nettle itself that will help you, not a dock leaf.

As Ray demonstrates, a gentle flattening down of the tiny bristles and then squeezing the nettle leaf to extract the juice is how you get the real antidote.

And the best bit is you can eat it afterwards.

As it turns out there’s plenty to munch on by the river but the first rule of foraging, not surprisingly, is if you’re not a hundred per cent certain of what the plant is, don’t eat it!

Fortunately we had our very own Ray Mears to help us as we moved on from nettle to hawthorn, which is good for heart and circulation issues, and then my favourite, garlic mustard, yum!

As well as what to eat, and what not to devour, Ray fills you in on all the other great uses for plants such as making twine and shelters.

The Outdoor Hire Centre are running several foraging trips this year.

There’s a one day forager paddle in which you can canoe various parts of the Stour from Bures to Lamarsh, Sudbury, Dedham and Flatford with Ray learning about plants and finishing up with a foraged feast.

They also run an overnight foraging paddle with woodland campcraft which includes two days of foraging with an overnight stay in a woodland campsite.

For more information on hiring canoes and their trips on the River Stour call the Outdoor Hire Centre on 01206 700707 or email