Wild Wafflings

sparrowhawk at nest

In defence of brambles!

  • Nick Martin

The bramble is a much maligned plant but throughout the year it is a vital part of the countryside

We curse them as we snag ourselves on the thorny stems of bramble that seem to be reaching out across the footpath determined to grab us! Bramble is a rampant and vigorous plant that can dominate an area and quickly colonise an abandoned garden or woodland clearing. I have heard it described by some as a thug amongst plants but I would love to prove its innocence so here follows the case for the defence!

In the spring the bramble forms a defensive cradle around a huge number of birds nests. Dunnocks, song thrushes, long tailed tits and many warblers build in the dense heart of the bush knowing that most foxes, cats and crows won't reach their precious youngsters. Wild boar, roe and muntjac deer seem to melt into the thorns resting out the day away from disturbance from enthusiastic labradors and spaniels.

Dormouse In Bramble 1

The sunny edges of the bush is where the nectar rich flowers welcome butterflies, bees, moths and a myriad of other insects. These are a welcome boost for species that are courting and generating eggs and larvae on nearby nettles (another much misunderstood 'weed'). In a woodland ride or forest edge a bramble bank could attract so many species of butterfly that it would compete with any foreign (but not completely unwelcome) invading buddleia.

As the summer moves on the aforementioned deer look for young tree saplings to browse and many woodlands are lacking in young trees as a result of overgrazing. Guess what though, the acorn that falls amongst bramble has a far better likelihood of growing to a tree as it benefits from the same thorny fortress that the birds chose to utilise. Long before plastic tree guards and chemical spray protected young trees, bramble was doing that job. It creates a tree nursery, free from grazing and reducing exposure to the harsh winter elements.


And of course finally for the jury to consider....the bounty of the late summer. Blackberries; a welcome hit of natural sugars and vitamins just as animals and birds need to lay down fat for the winter ahead. Foxes, thrushes, bank voles and dormice all feast on the abundant fruits and the lure of sticky sweet treats is even enough to lure human families into the lanes and paths, plastic boxes in hand! I personally freeze a kilo or so each summer so that I can avoid the need to buy force grown and plastic packaged strawberries and blueberries from Spain and Chile. Half a dozen on my cereal starts the day well and means that each morning I am grateful for brambles.

So with that your honour I rest my case for Brambles! Not a 'thug' but a valuable part of the British countryside and one that should be celebrated!


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