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Local Directory

Picking Whinberries in Church Stretton

 

Picking Whinberries for jam or a tart

There are lots of local names for Bilberries and Whinberry or Winberry is used in Shropshire: it is a smaller wild version of the cultivated Bilberries we buy in supermarkets. It grows on high moorland, often among heather and is a low shrub with bright green oval leaves and pink or greenish - pink flowers. The edible fruits appear in July and August and can be distinguished from other berries by their purplish - blue bloom which rubs off as you pick them.

Carry plastic boxes - ice cream boxes are useful - in your bag or rucksack and set the whole family to work on picking. When you get home, wash the berries in cold water and pick out any leaves and twigs. If you do not want to cook them straight away return the berries to the plastic box and freeze them.

Where to Find Whinberries

With fewer sheep now grazing on the Long Mynd you can find whinberries almost anywhere on the high moor but you are more likely to get a good picking where sheep are fenced out. Try these two places:

Handless Plantation

Park on the roadside near the Gliding club and walk south on the signposted Port Way. The public right of way goes in front of the clubhouse but if the gliders are active use the permissive path that goes behind the clubhouse on the west side. After a mile go through a gate where a Forestry Commission conifer plantation appears on your left but along this exposed ridge the trees grown poorly and there is space and light for whinberries to flourish. On a clear day the view west into Wales from here is to die for.

Stiperstones

This nature reserve is fenced and whinberries grow well. If it is a poor berry season just enjoy the spectacular walk among the quartzite tors and the all-day pub at Snailbeach or the pub at Bridges.

Sheep Gardens

Sheep love to nibble the young shoots of whinberry and in places where it grows well, with little competition from heather, they graze it to form distinctive low oval mounds. You can see them by the side of the path near the middle top of Ragleth Hill and alongside the path that climbs the Long Mynd steeply behind the Long Mynd Hotel. The gardens are near the saddle between Ashlet and Yearlet hills where the gradient of the path eases and you look down into Townbrook Valley.

Recipes

Whinberries make excellent jam or tarts and can be used as one of the fruits in Summer Pudding. Here is a Scots recipe for a dessert that is easy to make.

Cranachan

· 3 to 4 oz oatmeal

· 4 to 6 oz of fruit (whinberries, known as blaebrrries in Scotland , or raspberries or blackberries)

· Half pint double cream

· 1 oz castor sugar

· 1 tablespoon whisky or rum.

Toast the oatmeal in a fry pan gently until lightly browned. Half whip the cream and add the sugar and whisky or rum. Fold in the oatmeal and most of the fruit. Put into 4 tall glasses and decorate with the remaining fruit. Yummy.