We’ve done a lot of cycling this holiday, particularly over the last ten days since we wound down the llama trekking for the summer. But the last few trips have been very slow. Are we all tired? Have we overdone the exercise? Do we need a quiet, restful day to recuperate? No – we’re going slowly because we keep stopping to pick up fruit. Every other tree we pass is a fruit tree that is dropping its load on the ground. Plums, apples, peaches, greengages, sloes – and soon there’ll be pears, hazelnuts and walnuts too. It is unbelievable that it’s all left to rot. So we help ourselves. Our first year here we didn’t touch any, not wanting to upset anyone by taking their fruit, even though it was on the road and verges. After all, these trees must belong to someone. But we know now that no-one bothers with it. Round here ancient orchards overgrown with brambles are ten a penny. We’re envious as Les Fragnes’ orchard was grubbed up by the farmer who rented here before we bought it. What an awful thing to do – destroy those beautiful fruit trees that had been here as long as the houses probably, just for the sake of a few extra square metres of crops. We’re planting our own new orchard, but it will be a while before it’s very productive. So in the meantime, we’ll glean from the hedgerows and roadsides.

I made some rather good hedgerow jam today from roughly equal quantities of blackberries, elderberries, plums and apples, and matched the weight of the fruit with sugar. I boiled it well for about ten minutes and it’s the best jam I’ve made for ages! My jam tends to be a disaster which is why I usually make chutney, but we have a backlog of pumpkin chutney and apple chutney from last year, and I do love a dollop of jam on my breakfast croissant. So I’ve gone back to the sticky stuff. But given the quantities of fruit lying around, even I can’t eat that much jam, so I’ll be stewing and slicing for the freezer. For quite a while …