An autumn odyssey

It’s been a perfect autumn afternoon – warm sun on my back, cirrus in a blue sky, a cool breeze soughing in the hedge. I walked along on the sunny lee side, where I could hardly hear the ever-present hum of traffic on the coast road, but was aware of the cawing of a pair of crows playing in the air, and the dry snap of hogweed stems under my feet. The hedge is a tapestry of late colour – burgundy dogwood, glossy green hawthorn, pale barberry, silvery viburnum and many others, decorated with a few late flowers of campion, purple vetch, betony and gorse, and twined with glowing bryony berries. As I made my way, I disturbed hoverflies and a couple of butterflies – red admiral and peacock – feasting on the ivy nectar.

My nettle-stung and gorse-pricked fingers are now purple-stained and tingling – but I have a good kilo of late blackberries to go with the Bramleys someone gave us. I’ve already worked my way along a lot of the hedge, but the temptation is always just to go a few steps further and see what’s next! No, I must stop and get home to cook them. On the way back, there are always a few I missed to pick, the gentle ping of berries in the bucket almost completely muffled now by the bounty I’ve collected.

That’s one of the small pleasures of my familiarity with my home ground – knowing the best places to forage.

Wild blackberries and Bramley apple

Blackberries and apple are a marriage made in heaven, so I’m now spoilt for choice – stewed as a purée, made into a crumble or pie, flapjacks, or baked apples stuffed with berries. Then there’s chutney, jelly, curd or cheese to think about …

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