Blackberry Way

February 27, 2011

If you want a blackberry, this is the place to come in summertime.

Blackberry bushes? Oh yes. Not a problem. They start at graffiti tunnel and stretch all the way past the Horse School to the railway bridge.

Blackberries? Tonnes of them. That’s what happens when you have blackberry bushes all over the place.  And that’s why I call it Blackberry Way.

Berries, berries, berries, berries. That’s pretty much the sum of it.

Blackberry way follows a long straight single lane road, used only as access by Lea Valley Park rangers and the occasional maintenance truck. At the weekend Blackberry way becomes a production line. The pickers stretch into the distance. Their arses protrude from foliage. Bushes shake as humans munch their way down the chain like slow-moving locusts.

You get furtive gypsy pickers with baskets and tied-back hair. Casual pickers who stop to pop a berry into the mouth and continue on their merry way. Family pickers treating the affair like a day out, sending the kids into the hard to reach nooks. Mega pickers, people who emerge with buckets full of berries. They can’t possibly all eat this food themselves. Either they run restaurants or bathe in large vats of them for fun.

Beyond blackberry way you can see pylons, train lines, and the back of a large industrial bakery. Bread and fruit. Here in this backyard of London are the basic ingredients for a decent crumble. Sneak into the Cow Sanctuary and you could probably squeeze out some cream to go with it.

On Sunday there’s a sense of heightened competition. People come to Blackberry way and panic when they see other pickers with their containers of fruit. As Londoners, not country folk, they think to themselves “EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF! GET IN NOW!” and race to find the juiciest supply.

Yet on Monday you walk past and see they’ve not made a dent. There are as many berries as before, it seems. When autumn comes there are still enough shrivelling blackberries to turn the bushes into a morbid pot pourri.

You feel guilty about the abundance, the waste. But remember that neither man nor woman can live on blackberry crumble alone.

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