Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Life, death and blackberries

Blackberries are serious business.

No, not for farmers, although I'm sure they are if you happen to be the UK's largest supplier to the crumble industry.

But I'm not talking about them (him? her?). I'm talking about me. 

To start off there's the whole what do you call them thing.  Turns out that if there's one sure way to prove I'm not from round here it's calling them blackberries in the first place.  Och no.  In this neck of the hedgerow they're brambles.  How that separates them from the plant on which they grow I don't know, although as I don't have a different word for a raspberry bush or an apple tree, some might argue my insistence on calling the twigs and leaves a bramble and the fruit a blackberry is somewhat indefensible.

Nonetheless I am sticking to it, and doubtless will meet fierce resistance from my children in years to come.  But then they think the fat man who comes down the chimney is called Santa, so clearly they know nothing.

Anyway none of that matters, because the important thing is not what you call them it's where you find them.

And having found them whose patch is it?

Because it turns out that blackberrying (brambling?) is a little known and under-reported turf war, rife with bitterness and controversy.

I should have known.  I should have realised last year when we were in the Lakes.  We went for a nice walk along a country lane.  There were blackberries, lots and lots and lots.  We were seen nibbling on one or two by a very pleasant, very smiley, elderly gentleman standing on his front doorstep as we went by.   We went back a day later to find nary a blackberry in sight.  Hedges denuded of all but the slightly hairy green ones that even I won't turn into jam.  And though I didn't see him at it I just know he was out there in the rain the night before defending his patch...

I've asked around and it's not just in Cumbria that people get proprietorial about their tangle of thorns, wasps and fruit.  Oh no! say friends who live up rural lanes.  Those are OUR brambles. (They're locals.  You can tell).  I can come and take some when invited, I'm told, but not too many and only under close supervision.

So now I've got a problem.  Because I'm new here (still. ish).  And we live in a town.  So I haven't got a patch.  And I want one.  And (here's the secret) I've found one.   Heavy with fruit and more ripening every day.  I've got ice cream tubs full in the freezer and I'm going to go off and get more tomorrow; hiding in the hedge every time a car goes past so as not to make eye-contact.

And no. I'm not telling you where it is.  It's mine.  As long as no-one catches me.


  1. Have you got a black balaclava and a DPM jacket? If not, I think an immediate purchase is in order. Good on you. As long as the bush in question is not actually in someone's garden (it isn't, is it?) then Go Forth And Harvest. And please could you keep some for when we see you next? xxx

    1. No. It's in their greenhouse...

      And do you think customs would let me send you jam?

  2. Our neighbour has a blackberry bush. Some of the branches come through the fence on to our side and my children often come in with purple smudges around their mouths (and in the case of my son down his shirt). Yum!

    It's not stealing if the branch is on your property right?

    1. I think (and this is my considered legal advice obviously) if something's growing on your side of the fence then you can have it...

      Of course that may be totally different on your side of the pond...

    2. I'll just go with what you say. Helps that our neighbours are really quite lovely and there's not a big chance that we'll be landing in court... fingers crossed :)

  3. Logan berries is the way to go, just plant a bush at home, grows fast, no thorns, huge fruit, simples :)


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