I was wondering if there were any places in or around Greenwich where you can go blackberry picking? I have seen the odd scraggy bramble here and there, but nothing properly abundant or suitably far from a busy road. Is there anything in Eltham Forest, perhaps? It would seem like the logical place to look. Any thoughts very much appreciated…
Sadly, the Phantom can’t bring too much excitement to James’s berry-picking world. The place where I used to just about manage a bowlful of good specimens was on the bit of the Thames Path that’s closed until further notice just just beyond the old Syrol plant. They must be quite abundant now, but we can’t get to them. Besides, they’re probably covered in cement dust from the dead silos.
Trouble is, there are a lot of people after a very few berries in this area. Even when you do find something, invariably someone’s beaten you to it with their stick and basket (my dad always used to use a broken golf club with a nail stuck in it for reaching down the really far-off branches.)
There are usually one or two at the little path leading down to Hyde Vale from Chesterfield Walk, but not enough to make it worth a trip. I’ve seen some good ones on the Angerstein railway line, but the anti-climb wooden slats beat me and after slithering around for a good ten minutes, I gave up. Shame, as there are some fabulous elderberries there too.
My favourite place for elderberries is the dips at the top of Maze Hill, which is one of the very last pieces of unspoiled Blackheath – all of the heath used to be like that before they filled it all in (that’s why it’s so important to nip in the bud any evil development plans there…) The best elderberries are on the east side of the dips, but you’ll have to fight the parrots for them. I have never noticed blackberries there, but according to those enjoyably nutty gentlemen at London Forager there are some around the edges of Blackheath. As always the real problem is finding them in large enough quantities to make them worth gathering.
I don’t have any real experience of Eltham, though our good friend Capability Bowes might know a good place (if he’s telling…) Further afield you might try Bexleyheath, but by that point you may as well just head out into Kent and find your own little patch.
But am I missing something? Is anyone brave enough to spill their own secret blackberry patch? I’m told by BadWitch who kindly provided the pic at the top of the page (and who is not local, so can’t suggest anywhere good, chiz) that the season’s been early this year, so we need to be quick about it – or start looking forward to the chestnuts…
Sorry to be gloomy. Just to cheer you up, I leave you with my favourite-ever piece of Western Swing, by the fabulous Tennessee Ernie Ford:
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