I am not sure if this is a moral question or a legal one - probably both. But I am sure a Horticultural reader out there will know the answer.
We've decided against a Christmas tree this year - with a newly-crawling baby in the house who is attracted to anything sparkly and likely to topple over, it seemed like a sensible move. My substitute is going to be a Christmas bouquet-type thing featuring stems of scarlet and lime Dogwood from the garden, some teasels I picked (possibly sprayed silver), rosehip branches, and some holly - with red berries, of course. (Yes, I know I've left it late, but I don't believe in jumping the gun on festivities. That's my excuse, anyway).
I've heard that the price of holly is high this year because of a poor harvest, but I know where I can get some for free. There's a thick holly hedge bordering a public park in my town, loaded with lots of lovely berries. But am I free to gather some? It's accessible from the pavement, so I won't have to trespass ... but who does the holly belong to? I looked at this advice on foraging on the law on Fergus Drennan's Wild Man Wild Food site but really am none the wiser. It certainly seems from this piece in the Guardian and this on the Newsnight blog that it's a bit of a legal minefield.
Bearing in mind that I won't be trying to profit from the holly, Grundy family-style*, I'd love to know whether you think I'm within my rights to take a few sprigs. And I will, of course, put them outside for the birds once Christmas is over.
*This is a reference to the BBC Radio 4 soap The Archers - just ignore if you're not a regular listener. it'd take too long to explain. If you are, tell me this - is Adam and Debbie's bio-digester scheme good or evil?