Bramble Chaos in Primrose Hill!

Brambles sold at Fitzroy Florist in Primrose Hill (Photo by Gayle Selby Bradley)

Dear Readers, a bit of a schmozzle has broken out in Primrose Hill, the leafy former home of Kate Moss and dwelling place of many luminaries. A visitor from Warwickshire was astonished to see a florist selling bunches of brambles for £9.95 a pop, and took to the airwaves to complain that you could pick them yourself, for free, any old day of the week. The owner of the florist involved retorted that these were no ordinary brambles but florist’s brambles, imported from Holland and hence she had to cover her costs. There was an undertone of ‘stupid Londoners with more money than sense’ on one side, and ‘I’ve got a business to run and people like to buy these brambles’ on the other.

It is clear that these are particularly fine brambles – the fruit is large, the leaves aren’t ratty like they often are ‘in real life’ and I suspect that they don’t have any of those skin-tearing thorns for which they are famous. And they do look very pretty, I must say. Personally I wouldn’t pay a tenner for them, especially as they don’t even have flowers, something you might expect to see in a florist’s shop.

I wonder if there’s something deeper going on here though, to do with both a disconnect from nature and a yearning for it. Does anybody look at these plants and think, “hmm, they look familiar from my childhood, maybe I’ll buy a bunch and remind myself of years gone by”? The berries look like something that could feature in a children’s book, preferably with an attractive harvest mouse reaching up to grab one of the fruit with its little paws. And don’t brambles just reek of autumn, of falling leaves and horse chestnuts and hot chocolate sipped while reading a good book?

And yet, I suspect that the berries on these plants will never ripen, and even if they did they will never taste as good as a blackberry snaffled from a bush lit with late August sunshine, the warmth bringing the juice to the surface so that you can’t resist gathering handfuls and getting the juice over the white teeshirt that you so rashly chose to wear. The florist’s berries are a kind of simulacrum for an experience that so many people no longer know how to have. During the lockdown, I saw parents and their children out gathering blackberries for what looked like the first time, and looking around sheepishly as if they weren’t sure if it was ok. And this year the berries are early, and fat, and look juicy, and there are lots for everybody – birds, foxes, mice, grubby small children, ladies who still remember how to make jam, people who are just learning about how sweet a wild berry can taste.

When I was in Walthamstow Wetlands last week there was a sign next to one bramble bush, saying ‘no foragers – please leave for the birds’. And right enough, we have to ensure that there is enough for the migratory birds that will soon be passing through, and for our native birds as winter comes. But in many places the excess berries will just rot, untasted by any sentient being, and that is a shame. Can we learn to reconnect with nature without taking too much? Can we learn that there are some experiences that money can’t buy, without shaming the people who look at a bunch of brambles in a florist’s shop and find themselves inexplicably drawn to them, even at £9.95 a pop? How hungry we are, and how difficult it is to find something that satiates us.



5 thoughts on “Bramble Chaos in Primrose Hill!

  1. Mary Gillender

    Blimey, Bug Woman, this was an elegant piece, and really struck a chord. It’s up there with anything I’ve read on Slate, the Guardian, and whatnot. Just saying.

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      Gosh, thank you Mary! Much appreciated. Sometimes things just flow, and sometimes they don’t, but I did enjoy writing this, and for once I think it said what I actually wanted it to say.

  2. Jay

    That is both very sad and also a wee bit encouraging. If people are noticing the disconnect and reaching for something that brings them a little bit closer to wild nature, that has to be a good thing. The sad thing is that public green spaces in towns and cities are all too often over manicured and sanitised.

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      So true, Jay. It’s been interesting to witness so many people throwing their toys out of the pram during No Mow May, and when churchyards, verges etc are left uncut. We seem afraid of a bit of wildness…


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