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In praise of the Tresco Bramble…or Bumly Kite or Gaitberry or Thilf

In all the years that I spent as a gardener on Tresco, I never had much of an inclination towards the bramble as a plant.

I have always appreciated the fruit, of course, but I would have chosen never to eat a blackberry again had it meant an end to digging out brambles.

This year, however, I have found myself admiring this former foe. It may be the result of the heavy rainfall earlier in the season but the bramble seems to be looking particularly good this year. At the moment, there is a notable stretch of flowering bramble mixed in with marram grass along the road behind the dunes of Green beach.

My change of attitude towards this plant has caused me to do a little reading on the subject. The bramble may have pretty flowers but it has some splendid names as well. Rubus fruticosus is the official title but the bramble has all sorts of common names such as Country Lawyers (“When once they gets a holt an ye, ye doant easy get shut of ‘em.”), Bumly Kites and Mooches. Let us not forget the Brimmle, Bullbeef, Cock-brumble, Gaitberry, Garten Berry, Lady’s Garters, Thet-thorne, Thevethorn or the humble Thilf.

Scaldberry is another alternative name for the bramble. Apparently in Cornwall the leaves were once used to treat scalds by dipping them nine times in spring water, with the following charm repeated three times:

“There came three angels out of the East,
One brought fire and two brought frost;
Out fire and in frost
In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.”

The Cornish also used the season’s first blackberries to get rid of warts. It is my fervent wish that I will never have the need to try either of these remedies but at least it’s further proof that the bramble has much to offer and to admire.

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