So, armed with a bag, three empty ice cream tubs, a bottle of water and a walking stick, I tucked my jeans into my boots and set off.
Through our little part of the village and down the path that we have nicknamed Gruffalo Alley
Down the steps
Through the kissing gate (all alone, so no one to kiss this time)
Stop to admire the view
Then set off down the hill with eyes peeled for the bounty in the hedgerow to the right
But, not just blackberries; also elderberries
and (what I believe to be) cobnuts; you might just be able to make out the cobnut on the tree in this photo - centre, about two thirds of the way down
I found this one on the ground underneath the tree
So, I'm now Googling elderberry, rosehip and cobnut recipes/uses and wondering whether to go back and collect some more hedgerow goodies.
But, back to the main event; over the stile
Slightly distracted by the cow parsley
And the ever-present stinging nettles
Watch out for the electric fence - definitely on as I could hear it tick-tick-ticking away
Admire the view again
And finally decide that enough's enough, when all three ice cream tubs are full to the brim and my hands are a lovely shade of pink
Back over the stile
Struggle up the hill
but at least there's a bench at the top where you can admire the views again
Through the church yard
Down the path, turn right, and make it home
Weigh the blackberries - 3lbs to add to the 4.5lbs already picked and made into 18 jars of jam and 6 crumbles (along with apples from the garden)
And if you put the blackberries together with some other items 'harvested' from the back garden this morning, it looks as if we can live like kings today!
I'll not claim to be an expert forager, but I do have a few tips for blackberrying that might come in handy:
- take empty tubs or bags in a messenger-style bag or rucksack so you can sling it over your shoulder while picking; these types of bags are also much easier to carry when you are homeward bound and laden down
- take a bottle of water and some snacks if you think you'll be out for a while - I was gone for nearly two hours this morning and was grateful of a drink
- if you have a walking stick take it along - it can be very handy for pulling high branches towards you (the best blackberries always seem to be just out of reach) or moving brambles, stinging nettles, etc out of the way. You can also use it as it was intended when you are trudging up a hill or over uneven ground
- don't go out dressed up as if you're modelling in a feature for Country Living. You will undoubtedly get that brand new Joules tunic top caught on a thorn and drop the juiciest blackberry ever down your sparkling white pedal pushers
- wear long sleeves and long trousers; tuck your trousers in your boots; you might even want to wear gloves to avoid the 'purple finger'
- crouch down slightly and look up and under the blackberry bush; it's amazing how many of the best ones are hidden from view under the leaves
- if you work from right to left when picking, turn back and work from left to right when you've reached the end of the brambles - you'll spot plenty of blackberries you missed the first time round
- but, do be kind and leave some blackberries for the foragers who didn't get there as early as you
- keep looking down at the ground; lots of the best blackberrying seems to be in places where people walk their dogs...
- and talking of which, don't pick blackberries that are too near the ground - dog wee is not an added flavour you really want
- blackberries make fantastic jam and crumble filling, especially when combined with apple, but if you don't have the time or inclination to make or bake when you've picked the berries, freeze them as soon as you can as they have a tendency to go mouldy quite quickly. We just freeze ours in the pots we picked them in, without washing, but you may have higher hygiene standards. You may want to freeze them on baking sheets and then bag them up if you don't want them frozen in a great lump