Despite the repeatedly reported rising level of obesity in the UK there is undoubtedly a parallel surge in health awareness, seen in its extreme through the increasingly popular trend to forage.

I caught up with expert Matt Normansell to find out what all the foraging-fuss is about prior to his appearances at the Great Missenden Food Festival next week.

He explains: “People come to foraging from very different angles, from botanists and mycologists, academics, environmentalists, foodies... It's a broad church.

“For me it’s about learning to connect with your environment and enjoying the bounty it can provide. The simple act of foraging really connects you with the land around you and I find is a great stress reliever as well as having the benefit of consuming what I find.

“It's free, highly nutritious, sustainable and low impact. It also connects us and teaches us to value our environment. Wild food are nutritionally some of the best foods for you. Something like stinging nettle is abundant and very similar in nutrition to something like a cultivated black kale or other in-vogue superfoods.”

Growing up in the countryside in Cambridgeshire before moving to a slightly less rural village in Cheshire, Matt paved his own way into the field.

“I have always foraged to some degree from a child onwards and it just slowly built as an interest over the years until it permeated all corners of my life. Once you develop the foragers eye you are never switched off, it’s a bit like a game of botanical, mycological hide and seek.

“Personally I am mostly self-taught, both from books, practical experience, working with other foragers and exchanging knowledge. You are always developing ideas and knowledge all the time. It’s why it’s such an exciting field.”

If you are a city-dweller do not be misguided by thinking this is an eating adventure unavailable to you, says Matt.

“In an urban environment you will still find all the usual edible ‘weeds’ and plenty of fungi in parks. I would also pay attention to amenity planted shrubs and trees. I have found almonds, saskatoon berries and apricots, all in an urban setting which you won’t find as wild natives in the UK.

“The best places really are wherever you have access to. Learn to identify what grows locally and how you can use it and it will benefit you the most. In terms of biodiversity, Cornwall is one of my favourite places for foraging and anywhere coastal or with an estuary. but any good hedgerow or woodland will have many species of edible food you can harvest.

"With regards to the most prolific plants you have to look at things like stinging nettle, jack-by-the-hedge, wild garlic and bittercress that are coming into season now.”

However Matt warns: “Take an approach of being inquisitive but cautious, never eat anything unless you can identify it 100 per cent and ideally until you've learnt and seen it a few times first without eating it. Courses with someone familiar with the plants and fungi would be my first step, but there are very good books and online materials that can help you identify things yourself.”

Matt runs foraging courses and will be hosting talks and walks at The Great Missenden Food Festival across the Easter weekend.

This four-day, family-friendly festival promises to be the biggest and best yet, also boasting celebrity demonstrations from Simon Rimmer from Channel 4's Sunday Brunch and Ian Cumming, finalist on the BBC’s Great British Bake Off 2015.

Free events include a cook-a-long barbeque, masterclasses in filleting and cooking fish, cooking preserves and curds at home and making mascarpone from scratch, as well as Matt’s sessions.

The Great Missenden Food Festival is located just off the roundabout at Great Missenden, on the A413 between Amersham and Wendover. Friday, March 25 and Monday, March 28, 10am to 5pm also Saturday, March 26 and Sunday, March 27, 10am until 6pm. Details: 02476 451355