Aoife O'Riordain offers an array of culinary classes inspired by nature

Autumn is when Mother Nature's larder is at its most bountiful. With all of the focus on locally produced and sustainable food, it has never been a more apt time to learn how to put the best of our local raw materials to delicious use. And you can find out how with the help of an ever increasing assortment of courses, demonstrations, classes, walks and gourmet trips that will help you make the most of the riches that can be found among our hedgerows and fields, our rivers, lakes and surrounding seas.

Cast a line



Early risers will be rewarded with an atmospheric and hands-on grounding in the basics of seafood cookery at London's renowned Billingsgate fish market in Docklands. The day starts at 6.15am, when students will learn how to choose and identify the very best seasonal fish in the company of one of the school's resident experts. Following a hearty breakfast, the practical class begins at the Billingsgate Seafood Training School for lessons in filleting, descaling, gutting, preparing and cooking your fish. The next "Catch of the Day 1" with places available at the time of going to press is on 21 October, priced £185. For details, visit www.seafood training.org or call 020-7517 3548.



Veg out



Exponents of all things chic in the country, Daylesford Organic farm shop (01608 731700; www.daylesford organic.com ) in Gloucestershire has just launched its new cookery school, where the emphasis is very much on locally farmed, organic raw materials. "Growing, Harvesting and Cooking" is a one-day course designed to show students how best to gather and prepare their produce and to draw out the best flavours with an array of delicious recipes. It takes place on 25 September and 23 October, priced £95.





Wild harvest



Sign up for one of the popular "Foraging for Wild Foods" courses led by Miles Irving in Sheepbridge, Chesterfield. The day, which costs £90, starts at 8.30am on 2 October when participants will spend time collecting food to bring back to the kitchen to prepare and cook. For more details, visit www.cooking expert.co.uk or call 01246 453131.





Daily bread



Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage HQ (01297 630302; www. rivercottage.net) at Park Farm in Dorset offers a range of courses from bee keeping to foraging. "Build and Bake" is a one-day event at which, with the help of apprentices from Jamie Oliver's Fifteen restaurant, participants will learn how to build a wood-fired oven. The afternoon is dedicated to learning how to make and bake bread with Daniel Stevens, author of Bread: River Cottage Handbook No.3. The next course takes place on 28 September and costs £170.





Drink up



Bovey Castle (01647 445000; www. boveycastle.com) is an imposing hotel and sporting estate set in 400 acres amid the Dartmoor National Park. Its surrounding vegetation – blackthorn bushes and apple trees – has inspired its Sloe Gin and Cider Making mini-break. Guests are taken to pick berries among the breathtaking scenery of the moor, and return to the atmospheric surroundings of the castle's Long Barn for an instruction, which includes apple-pressing methods. The overnight stay costs £250 per couple, including breakfast and all activities.





Fowl play



Learn how to pluck and skin a variety of game birds and animals with Food Safari (01728 621 380; www.food safari.co.uk), a Suffolk-based company whose "Wild Meat in a Day" takes place on 3 October at The Anchor at Walberswick. Under the watchful eyes of Ray Kent and Robert Gooch of The Wild Meat Company, students will spend a day plucking and skinning locally shot game, such as rabbit, pheasant and venison, and will enjoy a themed tasting menu prepared by The Anchor's chef. The price is £150.





Sticky fingers



There are few things more satisfying than tucking into your own pot of luscious homemade jam. Learn the art of making your own preserves and jellies from seasonal fruits at The Kitchen Garden in the Thames Valley in Littlestoke, Oxfordshire. The next one-day class takes place on 8 October, priced £65.





Fungi forays



The rolling fields of Dorset, immortalised in the works of Thomas Hardy, offer great mushroom hunting. And who better to lead the search than one of the UK's most skilled wild food experts? On 10 October, John Wright will be guiding a fungi foray through the fields and forests that surround Summer Lodge Country House Hotel in the pretty village of Evershot.



The Forestry Commission is also holding several events at its properties throughout the UK to celebrate the mushroom season, including "The Deadly and The Delightful" at Kielder Forest Park in Northumbria on 4 October ( www.forestry.gov.uk).





The big cheese



Learn how to separate the curds from the whey and other basic skills on a five-day "Artisan Cheesemaking Fundamentals" course at The School of Artisan Food (0845-520 1111; www.schoolofartisanfood.org), which is set in restored 19th-century fire stables on the Welbeck Estate in the heart of Sherwood Forest. The course, which starts on 9 November, costs £585 and as well as providing a grounding in the basics of cheese making will give students an in-depth appreciation of one of the UK's most prized gourmet traditions. The school also runs short courses in a variety of subjects such as brewing, making cordials, cider, preserving and butchery.





Gourmet getaway



If you would like to immerse yourself in Scotland's rugged natural landscape and learn more about its delicious raw materials, Wild Green Travel (0131-478 6500; www.wild greentravel.com), offers the perfect break for the gastronomically inclined. As well as walks through some of Scotland's most inspiring landscapes, its seven-day foodie tour of the Highlands includes meeting a local butcher and learning about cuts of meat and how to make sausages. There's also time to acquire the basics of how to smoke salmon, do a spot of trout fishing and get an introduction to growing your own greens and herbs. Prices start at £598.

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