5 March 2013

Tuesday Talk. Brambles.

I am not particularly keen on brambles. Not after yesterday’s stand-up fight!

In the UK brambles are any rough, usually wild, very tangled, very prickly shrub. Strictly speaking, the bramble is a blackberry bush (Rubus fruticosa).

Blackberries when made into jam (jelly in the US? Right term?) is Bramble Jelly, not Blackberry Jam. (Ok in this instance 'jelly' in the UK as well!) 
The ripe, black, fruits are harvested in early September and can be delicious to eat. Blackberry and apple crumble with custard... lovely!

Brambles are important for their wildlife value: the flowers attract nectar-feeding butterflies and hoverflies.

Bramble leaves are used as a main food source for captive stick insects.

Birds such as blackbirds, and some mammals, will feed on the nutritious fruits in autumn.

Split bramble stems are traditionally used as binding material for straw in production of basketry and bee skeps, and sometimes used to protect other fruits (strawberries).

Brambles grow abundantly throughout Great Britain. Particularly, it seems, in our bottom field. The wretched stuff has overtaken the hedge in places. Where we plan to leave the field as a “conservation area” this is fine, but I was attacked yesterday as I was filling the horses’ water buckets. Fearing that they could get scratched (the horses, not the buckets!) maybe in their eyes, I marched down to the house, fetched the secateurs and attacked back.

Brambles send up long, arching canes that do not flower or set fruit until the second year of growth, they have trifoliate or palmately-compound leaves, and thorns. 
Lots of sharp, vicious thorns.

And they are an absolute b*gger to cut back!

You cut one stem, it clings to its co-thorn-terrorist friends.
You cut another, it clings to your skirt, your sleeve, your ankle, your skin… 
You pull that one off and you have another taking its place.
You try taking the bundle you have cut to the bonfire-heap. It refuses to come. It claws at the ground, refusing to budge, then grabs your skirt again...

The photo was actually of the daffodils in Bottom Field -
but see those arcs of bramble thorns on the right hand side of the photo?
And the brambles behind the fence....
After half an hour I was considering buying a flame-thrower!

Now, the reason I am mentioning all this (apart from trying to get some sympathy for my scratched hands) is that as most of my friends know, I usually wear long skirts. I find them comfortable (& I do have a nasty scar on my leg, so this is hidden away.) Plus on occasion I find a long skirt useful for research purposes – how did women manage in certain circumstances with wearing long skirts? (I've experienced wet, muddy hems, negotiating a companion-way ladder on a ship while trying not to lift your skirt too high, or trip over the hem.)

Well I have come to the conclusion that in the past any walk down a country lane, or climbing over a gate or style would have been a nightmare for any woman. 

Because of the ruddy brambles!

First you get caught. Then you try to carefully prise the clawing bramble tendril from your skirt without getting scratched or tearing the material. You manage it – only to find another thorny-nightmare has grabbed hold of the other side of your garment. They even cling to the inside of your skirt – believe me trying to free yourself with dignity from a bramble trying to grab the seat of your knickers is not fun!

My conclusion?

Let the blokes do the bramble-bashing and blackberry picking!

for more about my adventures living in Devon, Uk - you might be interested in my Leaning on the Gate Devon Diary


  1. That certainly brings back memories of when I used to live in England as a child and getting all caught up in the Bramble while trying to pick and eat the berries! ...I can picture you in your long skirt fighting for your freedom with your war wounds to show for it!...quite right, let the men do that, while you make the jam/jelly and pies in the comfort and safety of your kitchen! Love your posts Helen!

  2. you are doing it wrong :) to tame a bramble.. tether your goat so that it can reach them.... and once they are low enough, let your pig root out the roots! Simple!


  3. Gollygirl - not that making jam is all that appealing to me either as I am a hopeless cook. Vara - I knew I'd missed something vital: the goat and the pig! (goat is a possibility, but we've enough brambles to keep a herd of goats fat for a few years!


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