Blackberry Boogie

James asks:

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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12 Comments to “Blackberry Boogie”

  1. M says:

    There’s LOTS around the edges of Blackheath. Certainly on the Lewisham side. And yellow plums, though it may be a bit late for those now.

  2. Mike Scott says:

    It’s a couple of miles from Greenwich, but there are blackberries in Stave Hill Ecology Park in Rotherhithe.

  3. Peter says:

    we have grown our own thornless variety of blackberry in our garden this year and got quite a good crop from just one plant.

  4. will says:

    There is quite a bounty to be found along Woodlands Park Road against the train ine – particularly in the corner with Earlswood Street.

    There are also quite a lot of brambles in the Park…

  5. Benedict says:

    If your brave enough you could go Norf to Mudchute, where there are tons of damsons and round by the allotments oodles of blackberry bushes….well they’re used to be loads but its been a couple of years since Ive been.
    This year I have filched some of my neighbours Quinces and turned it into the most wonderful jelly/jam.

  6. RogerW says:

    The best place I’ve found, locally, has been at the southern end of Woolwich Common, close to Shooters Hill Road.
    If you know the area, the easiest way to describe the best area to visit would be to say “behind the old Telephone Exchange”

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  8. Mrs Bins says:

    I don’t live there now, but I always used to pick loads from the hedges growing on the south side of Kidbrooke Station. Last year’s was a bumper crop!

  9. *Gosh, fame at last! Mentioned in a Phant post!*

    Indeedy – Eltham has a couple of good blackberrry places. The first is in what I call the “back churchyard” at Eltham Church – there is a more overgrown bit of the cemetery tucked away behind a wall which you can only really see once you put the big Yew tree behind you. There’s also a couple of scrubby lanes at the very top of the High Street near the Pippenhall stables – and down the path that leads around the perimeter of Eltham Palace, leading in from the Chaundrey Close end it gets quite countrified, although I admit that I havent been down there for a couple of years.

    And for elderberries – ask me in August next year and you can have as many as you want as long as you bring a stepladder. Theres a tree just on the edge of our alley thats usually laden before the pigeons get there. I gave away as many bucketsful as I could on Freecycle!

  10. Matt says:

    There are loads in Mudchute. Around the perimeter fence of the farm. Lots of paths to walk along and find them. Good Luck

  11. Alan Palmer says:

    As kids we’d go blackberrying in the north-west corner of Maryon-Wilson Park, where there were several bushes. I’ve no idea if they’re still there, though; I’ve not been that way for decades.

  12. Sarah says:

    I second Roger W’s entry – Woolwich Common is amazing for blackberry picking but you’ll have to check it out next year if you haven’t already. They are away from the roads so they are clean, huge and very sweet and abundant (in 2008 they were anyway)