It’s a bumper blackberry year! Time for inky fingers cracking crumbles… here are some of our favourite blackberry picking spots in Oxon and Bucks.
If you park at the Icknield Plantation (very limited parking) between Ewelme and Swyncombe just off Chiltern Way, then head west along the Chiltern Way footpath back towards the village of Ewelme you’ll find hedgerows groaning with blackberries (as well as sloes) all the way on 3km stretch back towards the village. You’ll also pass some adorable piggies along the way.
To the north, near Watlington, at Christmas Common, there’s a bounty of blackberries near Queen Wood. Stop in at The Fox & Hounds for a well-earned refreshment while you’re at it.
At Port Meadow, very close to Oxford centre, there are hedgerows aplenty to fill your crumble dish. If it’s hot you could even cool off with a river dip, or should the weather be a little more autumnal, there’s always Jacob’s Inn at Wolvercote.
Out to the east of Oxford, Shotover Park is a vast swathe of wild woodland in squinting distance of the city. Aside from hidden paths, mossy logs and fairy doors, you’ll probably also find a fair few blackberries.
We also love Boars Hill and Foxcombe Hill for a spot of blackberrying. And while you’re there you could pop in at The Fox Inn.
Word has it that close to the rather fab gastro pub The Mole in Toot Baldon, is also a good start for a blackberry picking walk heading directly south on the footpath. You might even catch a game of cricket on the green.
Over in Bucks, you’ll want to head over to the big field behind Haddenham church, a frequent local dog-walking spot, for berries aplenty. It’s a bit ditchy in places, and you might want to wear wellies for manoeuvring the nettles, but you’ll get a great haul. The perfect opportunity to reward yourself with a big coffee (and a cheeky rootle through beautiful homeware) at NORSK.
Or, hot-foot it to Kimbers Copse in Marlow Bottom for a big crop of the good stuff along the path into the woods. And while you’re there, don’t miss the excellent coffee and home-baked goods at Tin Town Coffee (so named because when Marlow Bottom was established all the houses had tin roofs). You’re gonna want to order a bacon roll — promise.
If you want a guaranteed harvest, but still the fun of picking, there’s always blackberries at the PYO farms in Bucks and Oxon – usually Millets, Peterley Manor and Rectory Farm all have blackberries available from August, but sadly this year, all three have finished for the season. Fear not – there’s still some to be had at Home Cottage Farm in Iver, along with raspberries, plums, pears and apples. Fill your boots!
Know a secret spot we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments and we’ll add in to the list.
The best crumble recipe ever from Oxfordshire’s chef supremo, Raymond Blanc
Through trial and a lot of error, I’ve discovered the best crumble recipe ever. I’ve tried so many different recipes over the years (crunchy toppings kids hate, gooey crumbles adults don’t like) but this is the one all ages seem to love: Raymond Blanc’s classic apple and blackberry crumble.
For the crumble topping
120g plain flour60g caster sugar60g unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into pieces
For the fruit compote
300g Braeburn apple30g unsalted butter30g demerara sugar115g blackberries¼ tsp ground cinnamonvanilla ice cream, to serve
STEP 1 Heat oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Tip 120g plain flour and 60g caster sugar into a large bowl.
STEP 2 Add 60g unsalted butter, then rub into the flour using your fingertips to make a light breadcrumb texture. Do not overwork it or the crumble will become heavy.
STEP 3 Sprinkle the mixture evenly over a baking sheet and bake for 15 mins or until lightly coloured.
STEP 4 Meanwhile, for the compote, peel, core and cut 300g Braeburn apples into 2cm dice.
STEP 5 Put 30g unsalted butter and 30g demerara sugar in a medium saucepan and melt together over a medium heat. Cook for 3 mins until the mixture turns to a light caramel.
STEP 6 Stir in the apples and cook for 3 mins. Add 115g blackberries and ¼ tsp ground cinnamon, and cook for 3 mins more.
STEP 7 Cover, remove from the heat, then leave for 2-3 mins to continue cooking in the warmth of the pan.
STEP 8 To serve, spoon the warm fruit into an ovenproof gratin dish, top with the crumble mix, then reheat in the oven for 5-10 mins. Serve with vanilla ice cream.