Top 3 for outdoor fun in west London in September

Are you feeling sad about the end of the summer?  Don’t worry there is still time to get outside and enjoy the last sun. Every month has it’s own special highlights, here are my top 3 activities for September, along with where to find the outdoor fun in west London:

Pick blackberries

Wild blackberries are much more fun and tasty than the giant ones some shops have started selling.  The main problem with blackberrying is what do you do with four buckets of them!  I have some recipes suggestions right here.

  • Where to do it?  To get the cleanest juiciest blackberries look for a sunny location away from roads.  The fields near Ruislip Lido are a favourite location.  The plants in the sun will have bigger earlier berries so keep looking if the first bush you see is not ripe yet.
  • What do you need?  Brambles are certainly spiky and sometime grow near nettles, so long trousers, closed toe shoes and long sleeves are recommended to minimise the prickles.  Bring boxes or buckets to keep your berries in.
  • How to do it  Bramble bushes with blackberries are easy to recognise, though you need to be careful that your child isn’t picking anything else along with it.  Pick the blackest ones that pull off easily, though if they fall to bits when you touch them they are overripe – leave those for the birds!  You’ll find most of the biggest blackest ones always grow just out of your reach, so if you are really serious bring a big stick to hook them down!
  • What next?  Recipes!  Once you’ve eaten your fill of fresh blackberries there are plenty of other recipes to make, here’s two of our favourites:
    • Blackberry crumble – the classic!  Use either just blackberries or mix in cooking apples as well, with a crunchy crumbly topping.   Here is a classic recipe.
    • Blackberry upside down cake – an excellent way to liven up a plain sponge with blackberries.  Serve upside down!  Here is a recipe.

River dipping / Fishing

The biggest little fish we have caught in our nets this summer was about 4cm long, but it didn’t stop my sons asking if we could turn it into fish fingers!  Don’t worry, it was returned to live happily under the stones in Denham Park, until the next river dipping child comes along of course.  Lakes and rivers are at their warmest this time of year as the summer has heated them up, so as long as this ‘Indian summer’ continues this is a great activity.

  • Where to do it  River dipping is encouraged outside the Colne Valley visitors centre at Denham park, they can provide trays and identification charts, as well as instructions on the best way to river dip.  The river is shallow and slow at this point.
  • What you need  You’ll need a fishing net, nets are for sale at the Visitors Centre too if you don’t have one yet.  Take a bucket to admire your catches or borrow a tray. I find that though the river is shallow it is often deeper than tiny children’s wellies, so rather than fill the wellies you might prefer them to wear crocs or sandals.  Done right they don’t have to get wet but take spare clothes!
  • How to do it  Wade in, go brr until your feet warm up!  Then dip!  The advice is to keep the net still, and standing upstream kick the stones about on the bottom with your feet so that the little creatures underneath float into the net.  Empty the result into a tray and see what wiggles. At the least you’ll get some fresh water shrimp and insect larvae in your net.  I also found stalking the tiny fish then a quick swoop of the net could work, but they are pretty tricky to see, look on the bottom near the banks.
  • What next? Recipes?  No, no eating these babies!  Make sure you don’t keep your catch too long and let them go back where you caught them.

Collect conkers

  • Where to do it  Under any horse chestnut tree.  Eastcote house gardens has quite a few.
  • What you need  A big bag.
  • How to do it  If the conkers are ripe they will be falling from the trees and the green spiky case usually cracks open on hitting the floor.  If you have to make a lot of effort to open the case you will usually find that the conker is still white inside, and though it will go brown it won’t be nice and shiney.
  • What next?  Sadly Conkers are not edible by people, though the squirrels will enjoy them.  If you manage to find the related sweet chestnut tree you may collect yourself a feast!  The main use for conkers is to play the game ‘conkers’ where two children swing conkers on strings at each other.  Introduce your children to this at your own risk, it has sadly been banned in most schools!

So as we move into Autumn you can still find outdoor fun in west London!  And don’t forget the camera!

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