It's a rule of fruit picking that the best fruit is either too high or protected by nettles and brambles. Still, it's that time of year when the blackberries are ripening and high on my list for this morning was to go a-gathering in Reach.
I've written about Reach before. It's a village near das Boot with a perfect pub and a perfect organic farm. Most of my blackberry gathering over the last four summers has taken place there. Not all the berries were ripe. Some were still at the flowering stage, so should I get back within the next month or so there's a good chance I shall get a second crop.
I foraged for an hour or so, enjoying the birdsong, the gentle warmth of the day. Although my route was less than five minutes from the village centre I saw only one other a person, a dog walker who strode past the fruit while I lingered and ambled.
The sheer abundance close to houses made me wonder if anyone local bothers to pick them at all. That lead to musing about my childhood when such seasonal pastimes as blackberry picking were the norm. Sometimes we went as a Brownie pack. I remember coming home once filthy from top to toe wth the precious fruit in some sort of a container. My mother took one look at me and I was swiftly guided from the back door to the bathroom to be scrubbed clean before being allowed anywhere else in the house. You get stung by nettles when you pick blackberries. Some bushes definitely have a thing going with nettle plants. You get scratched too. I felt one thorn drag at my hand, but it was only when I put the lid on my first of two containers that I realised my whole hand was covered in blood. But all the same it's something I look forward to as summer blends into autumn. Something I miss if I don't do it, just as spring is marked by the sighting of the flowers and the hushed thrill of a bluebell wood as summer beckons.
There were lots of sloes too. When I first started walking with the Ramblers I remember people eyeing the bushes by the path and remarking it was a good year for sloes. I silently respected their superior knowledge. But it seems to me every year is a good year for sloes. Their bluish purplish fruit dangles by so many paths. A neighbour for whom I gathered lots of sloes on one such walk thanked me by giving me some of the sloe gin she made from them. It nearly took my head off, and seemed to me the sort of alcohol that renders one sightless. I passed it on to more appreciative friends who drank the lot and can still see.
Red hawthorn berries hung elegantly against the green; rosehips made me think of primary school and itching powder.
I followed a slightly different path to the route I usually take and suddenly found myself at the edge of a huge field, the stooks evidence that it had already been harvested. There was a way mark saying this was part of the Earthworks Way, a route I shall look up.
I was tempted to go in and have a grapefruit and soda, maybe even treat myself to one of their lovely meals, but MasterB was back at das Boot where most of the windows were closed and the day was getting warmer. So I climbed back into the car, my hands looking as though they might belong to Lady Macbeth, and returned to the marina.