My dad is British and a berry fiend, therefore, every year we go berry and cherry picking, after which my poor mother spends hours making jam and an assortment of bottled delights to ensure the cupboard is stocked up with my dad’s favourite things until the next picking excursion. It’s something we all highly anticipate, but none of us can match my dad’s picking fortitude and stamina – after an hour the rest of the family starts quietly sneaking away, leaving my father in the fields still picking to his heart’s content. He would be there all day if we let him!
Last year we ventured forth to Swellendam, to the lovely Berry Farm, which is tucked away between blue-tinted mountains, with a twinkling little lake and stream running through the estate. Berry plants twist and tangle as far as the eye can see, refusing to stay in their orderly lines and blossoming haphazardly in all directions.
We stayed in the charming little cottages provided, which are cute, simple and self-catering. Unfortunately, it rained relentlessly, but that didn’t stop my intrepid family (prompted by my father) from traipsing out into the valley to pick berries and frolic in the mud.
Much picking ensued – we immediately lost my dad in the shrubbery, followed by my mum; Laura and David ended up playing games catching berries in their mouths, and Tom and I meandered along a different path, with Tom doggedly dodging thorns to get the ripest fruit to win my dad’s approval and me half-heartedly munching berries behind him. Tom got a little bit overenthusiastic, nicknaming himself the ‘berry bloodhound’ and staying out picking with my dad long after the rest of us had given up. I laughed at him (a lot) but it was actually rather sweet.
Before it began to pour, my dad and brother also attempted the farm foofy slide, soaring from a high platform to an abrupt halt on the grass. It was very funny to watch, especially the extremely inelegant landings.
To round off the day’s hilarity, my brother got uncharacteristically drunk and tried to braai in the rain. That was quite spectacular to watch as well.
All in all, it was such a special, relaxing time away: my dad got his berries and I got to laugh at my funny family and bond with my boy. I came away with a happy heart and enough berries for many an apple and blackberry pie!
If you want to go berry picking, head to Swellendam between November and December, and make a weekend of it because it is a three hour drive away from Cape Town. Look out for the darker berries – they’re generally the riper ones, and take lots of your own containers if you’re an avid picker like my papa.