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Where to find good foraging spots
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness – the time of the year when it is worth stuffing a couple of plastic carrier bags in your pockets if you go for a walk, because even in areas within the city there are treasures waiting to be harvested if you know where to look.
This is the time of the year when blackberries are ripening, sloes are fattening up and rose hips and rowan berries are almost ready to pick and turn into wine, jams, jellies and cordials.
Despite the cold snap during the early stages of the year, the hedgerows are now groaning with an abundance of wild fruits, which are proving fatter and juicer than they have been for years. Nature’s wild harvest is being particularly generous this year.
A walk into the countryside with a container to fill with your spoils is well worth the effort, especially if it is blackberries that you come across. Remember however to be a responsible forager, never taking a third of the crop you discover, as the birds and our wildlife rely on many of these fruits to get them through the winter.
Also, do remember that not all these fruits are there for the taking: permission from the landowner is sometimes necessary if foraging on their land. It is advisable not to pick fruit growing near a main road and therefore contaminated with petrol fumes that will affect its flavour and the health of those who eat it.
Shotover Park, situated east of the city, is a wondrous place to forage as it offers almost 300 acres of diverse terrain, with hidden valleys, twisting paths and unexpected wild patches where blackberries flourish. If you have a walking stick do take it with you, if only to pull down those high branches where the fattest, juiciest fruits try to hide. Take your camera too, as the autumn is a beautiful season and the fruits it produces well worth photographing.
Take a trip to Church Hanborough near Witney and you should discover a wonderful crop of sloes that can be found on bushes along Pigeon House Lane that stand virtually opposite The Hand and Shears pub. The lane beside the pub will lead you to Pinsley Wood, and it’s here you will find blackberries.
Boars Hill and also Foxcombe Hill are both heavy with fruit this year, particularly blackberries. If you take a left hand turn to Marsh Baldon and Toot Baldon when travelling the A4074 in the Henley direction, you will also discover some glorious countryside riddled with footpaths.
At this time of the year, footpaths often mean hedgerow and hedgerow means blackberries.
This is an area of Oxfordshire which offers some fantastic walks that come complete with both views and a wild harvest.
By beginning your walk by the newly reopened Seven Stars public house at Marsh Baldon, and making your way in an easterly direction towards The Mole, a highly esteemed gastro pub at Toot Baldon, an autumn harvest is assured.
And remember – as half the fun is in finding your own secret harvest, don’t just rely on areas that others know of – go find your own.
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