Expert forager and former mayor of Chepstow Henry Ashby has died.

Mr Ashby, 63, had been foraging for more than 50 years and supplied some of the country’s top restaurants with fresh ingredients taken straight from the hedgerow, coast or forest floor.

He was also a regular speaker at food festivals around the area, including Abergavenny Food Festival.

His business, Wild Food 365, supplied Chris Harrod, the Michelin-starred chef patron at the Whitebrook, near Monmouth, with a variety of foraged goods.

Posting on his Facebook, Mr Harrod called Mr Ashby a ‘larger than life character’.

“From the day he walked in the back door of my kitchen six years ago with a basket of stunning cep mushrooms and freshly picked estuary herbs, Henry’s passion and enthusiasm helped develop the food that we serve at the restaurant. I shall miss my old friend and his stories that kept us all amused,” Mr Harrod said.

Mr Ashby previously supplied other chefs around the area with his foraged ingredients including Michelin-starred chef James Sommerin, when he was in charge of the kitchen at the Crown at Whitebrook.

Mr Ashby, a former submariner and Chepstow town councillor, who lived in Garden City, Chepstow, with his wife Tanya, started foraging with his grandfather when he was a young boy and he used the skills he had learned to hunt out the delights of the Monmouthshire countryside not only for top restaurants in the area, but also on guided walks and foraging events for the public.

Mr Ashby was one of the Monmouthshire characters to be featured in the BBC television series Border Lives.

Local Assembly Member Nick Ramsay paid tribute to Mr Ashby, who died on Sunday morning.

Mr Ramsay said: “Jennifer and I are shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of our dear friend Henry Ashby. Henry was a warm-hearted and generous man who only wanted the best for people. He excelled in his role as Mayor of Chepstow and was always passionate about ways of improving the town.

“The outdoors was his first love and he gained a formidable reputation locally as an expert forager, supplying some of Monmouthshire’s most well known restaurants and helping in no small part to put our county on the map as an international food destination. Henry was also very knowledgeable about the sea having served as a submariner in his younger days.

“He was one of a kind. I shall miss our chats very much. Our thoughts are with Tanya and Henry’s family at this difficult time.”

South Wales Argus journalist Jo Barnes, who used to edit Monmouthshire County Life magazine, said: “I was so sad to hear that Henry has died. We featured Henry a number of times in the magazine and I got to know him really well. He was always larger than life and had so many great stories to tell.

“When my son turned 18 he wanted to go foraging, and Henry very kindly took us out to one of his secret locations near Chepstow to see what we could find. He then helped Ollie create a delicious wild mushroom risotto using the ingredients he had picked.”