When summer is drawing to an end and you can feel the first hints of autumn in the air, blackberry picking is the perfect way to enjoy the last warm days of the year.
From the end of August and through September, blackberries can be found growing in hedgerows up and down the country. My favourite spot is along the old railway line from Knott End to Preesall, which used to serve the Pilling Pig locomotive transporting passengers from Knott End to Pilling and onwards to Garstang in the early 1900s.
The Knott End to Pilling stretch of the line closed in 1950 and a section from Hackensall Woods in Knott End to Park Lane in Preesall is now a footpath. It’s about a mile long and you’ll experience both the shelter of woodland and the full force of the elements as you cross wide open countryside.
From the top of the steps at the Preesall end (which is well hidden at the roadside), you can see much of the footpath laid out before you (pictured). There are a number of points to veer off the line and change course, including a six mile route that picks up the Wyre Way.
Blackberries line much of the footpath and I have wonderful memories of picking them with my grandparents as a child. I still follow my grandad’s advice: select berries at the same height as you (higher are for birds, lower may have been watered by dogs), wear something long sleeved and leave some for everybody else!
Taking advantage of nature’s offering and the chance to eat ripe, seasonal fruit for free is a must! The dog comes too, meaning we both get our daily quota of exercise and fresh air (and she’s partial to a blackberry or two).
So what to do with your haul? My nana made big pans of blackberry jam but for me, nothing signals autumn like crumble. My favourite recipe is Deliciously Ella’s Apple and Blackberry Crumble (pictured), which uses only a handful of ingredients to make a wholesome and nutritious version.
The smell as it bakes and the delicious mouthfuls that follow are the fruits of your labours to be enjoyed. And with this virtuous recipe, you can enjoy cold crumble for breakfast the next morning!
From hedgerow to bowl in hours – soul food indeed.