As I parked up at Kemple End little groups of bending figures dotted the fell side, they are clutching plastic containers and their purple fingers announce their activity – bilberry picking. We are all eating a lot of BLUEBERRIES these days, they are commercially grown, are widely available in our shops and keep for several days. Their close relative the BILBERRY [WHINBERRY or WHORTLEBERRY] Vaccinium sp. grows wild and being much softer doesn’t keep so is better known by the foragers amongst us. From July onwards on Longridge Fell the low bushes are covered in purple berries which I must admit are fiddly to pick but are delicious to eat.
In southern France they are known as myrtille, in Italy mirtillo and are commonly found in local markets and delicious tarts. Professional collectors are seen out in the hills using wooden combs to quickly harvest large amounts which are pooled in large canisters which are carried down later in the day. It all looks hard work.
I drop down into the quarry where the other collectors don’t venture and am able to pick at leisure on laden bushes. I quickly fill a small container before a spot of bouldering on rather damp rock this morning. Mouthful’s of berries intersperse problems. The bell heather is just coming into flower and the flowering blackberries promise abundant fruit in a month or so.
I remember summer days’ climbing in the Lakes on multi pitch routes where every belay ledge was covered in ripe bilberries, scrumptious.