I find it astonishing that so few people go blackberrying! One of the most accessible and plentiful wild bounties in our countryside, blackberries are a versatile fruit that you can use in as many ways as say, raspberries or blueberries.
Your friends may be a little possessive about their picking grounds, but in Highworth these hedgerows are not so hidden that you need to trek for days searching. Take your children or granny and granddad, lots of containers, plenty of time and really enjoy yourself.
We live in such a non-stop society that you may find it gives you time to contemplate and relax too. Meditate on the treasures our lands have to offer and just spend a few purple-hazed moments taking it all in.
September, to me, is the optimum time to pick. You can spot fruit from August until November, but the well-known old wives tale tells us not to pick after 10th October due to the Devil vandalising the crop. Realistically, this can be attributed to early frosts or dogs!
Use your berries straight away. Freeze on trays and bag once frozen. Make into a beautiful jam using equal amounts of sugar with added pectin or boil with some sugar to make a syrup to pour over ice-cream or baked custard. A feeling of satisfaction will ensue.
Using store cupboard ingredients, try this cake that doubles up as a scrummy pudding. Grease a 9inch/23cm springform cake tin or equivalent. Melt 225g butter and 175g light soft brown sugar together and stir in 200g oats and 125g wholemeal flour. Press half of the mix into the tin. Lay 2 peeled and sliced apples and 300g blackberries evenly on top and sprinkle the rest of the oat mixture over the fruit. Press down really well and bake for 35 minutes at 175c/350f/gas mark 4. Serve warm with some ice-cream or wrap up and pop in your picnic basket.