This weekend I threw back the years and done something that I’ve not done in a very long time – I went brambling. I also asked my son if he would care to join me. “Go what?” he said. So we covered the basics. Make sure they are nice and black, make sure they are juicy, don’t bother with any ones that has grubs on them and certainly avoid the ones splattered with bird poo. Once my finest brambling togs had been donned (I selected a loud multi coloured shirt and burgundy trousers on the basis that any juice stains would be unseen) it was straight to the shed to mount our bicycles. Oh yes, we were riding for our brambles. But where to go looking for them? All of a sudden I realised that I had no idea of where the good spots were in town. So, passing some likely bramble spots en route, we headed off to an area of managed wild ground, a flood defence area that is carefully maintained to grow wild but there were no brambles in sight. At least none that were easily accessible on our side of a stream. We did have a super bike ride however, enjoying the wild life, the scenery and each others company. So where to next? Laddo remembered a prime spot from an Autumn walk we did last year when we lived in a different house. So we decided to check there. Allowing Laddo to make decisions about the day was very important to me. I was impressed with the way he wanted to take charge.
He was right – we struck brambles! I couldn’t help but share his joy as he discovered his first bramble, glistening like a jewel in the hedgerow. “Can I try one Dad?” “Yes, make sure it’s a really ripe one as they are the sweetest” and he was as smitten with the fruit as I was when I was a eight year old boy. The harvest continued at a pace now – we exhausted that particular bush but more than doubled our load as we crossed to the other side of the road. Working as a team we reached the top branches to get the juiciest fruit. My son then said that “this was so much fun! Much better than sitting at home watching telly or playing with lego! And we’ve had a brilliant bike ride too Dad and seen so much nature!” This day was as magic for me as it was for him, especially after that statement.
The next stop for collection was closer to home in Chivers Road, so named as it was once the site of soft fruit fields for the jam company. This provided us with some very rich pickings indeed despite the fact we were probably a week early for the finest fruit this bush had to offer. Some kids walked past us with their Gran, the kids couldn’t believe we were fruit picking, almost as though we were doing something wrong. The Gran said that she remembered doing this as a little girl with her parents to the astonishment of her brood. Without prompting my son offered the kids some of the brambles we had picked for them to taste. Not for the first time that day I was bursting with pride in my son.
Finally back home to turn our bounty into treats. I’d love to take the credit here, but I wont. I handed bramble control to the good lady wife. We opted for a blackberry flapjack recipe as we had everything in the house for with the exception of some caramel. For ease sake I went down to Sainsbury’s for a tin (and to be honest this is the quantity the recipe asked for so she wasn’t going to start boiling sugar up at this stage!) and whilst Laddo and I were hunter gathering for the second time that day I decided to have a quick look on the soft fruit shelves to see how much they were being sold for. £2.00 for a 150g packet. That equates to £13.33 per kilo! And yet we had collected that volume for nothing. Free food! The real value was the father and son time though. Doing something fun together, introducing him to something I did as a lad. For that reason alone a bramble is priceless.