THE children are back at school, Malton has just had its Harvest Food Festival and it’s dark at pub closing time – it must be September.

Poets have waxed lyrical about this time of year since Shakespeare bemoaned the passing of his youth, “…when yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang…”

I’m with Keats, though, in seeing this as a season to be celebrated, and his description of it as “a time of mists and mellow fruitfulness”, could not have been more accurate for my visit to Raindale near Pickering last week.

Longer nights are allowing morning temperatures to drop lower; enough for moisture in the air to condense into mist above hillsides, which then slides into the valley bottoms like dregs down the inside of an empty beer glass.

Newtondale was full of this cottonwool-effect on the morning in question, and I could just about see my breath in the chilly air.

The sun was out, though, and doing its best to dry out the dew that coated everything… grass, leaves, cobwebs and fruit.

And what fruit – it was everywhere, hanging from the trees, festooning the hedgerows and even sprouting from the ground on a cuckoo pint stalk.

There were sloes, crab apples, haws, elderberries, bryony berries honeysuckle and rowan fruits and, best of all, blackberries by the ton.

I don’t think I can remember a better year for brambling. I couldn’t resist collecting a Tupperware box full (see later).

Despite the profusion of common and familiar hedgerow produce, what particularly caught my eye, and interest, were a couple of unusual trees bearing fruits.

The first was a species that I had seen before so knew what I was looking for and that was the spindle tree.

Taking its name from the fact that its hard, white wood was once used to make the spindles that wool was spun on, this small and unassuming tree occasionally turns up in Ryedale hedgerows.

Most of the time it tends to be completely overlooked, but at this time of year it’s unique fruits give it away.

Not only are they shaped bizarrely like a piece of exploded popcorn, but they are coloured in a couple of shades that no self-respecting fashionista would dream of combining – orange and pink.

You are very unlikely to pick and eat a spindle fruit mistaking it for something else, and don’t be tempted to experiment as all parts of the tree are toxic.

Baked and powdered the fruits were once used to treat mange in cattle and headlice in children.

The other tree I found on my walk was a mystery at first. I needed to take photos of its maple-like leaves and a sample of the brown/green fruits, to identify it later at home.

It turned out to be a wild service tree, a rarity in North Yorkshire.

Ryedale is further north than the service tree’s native range so my tree was probably either a garden escape or planted by the Forestry Commission alongside the nearby conifer plantations many years ago.

Incidentally, its fruits were once called chequers and were used to flavour alcoholic drinks.

It is thought that the pub name “The Chequers” was taken from this fruit. Does anyone remember the old Chequers Inn on the fellside above Osmotherley? Apparently it’s a B&B now.

So, what did I end up doing with my box of blackberries? An apple and blackberry pie, of course. There are loads of good recipes for pies and crumbles online but my top tips would be…go easy on the cinnamon so it doesn’t swamp the flavour of the blackberries and, instead of putting sugar in the fruit mix before baking, pour honey over the top in your bowl before the custard or cream – yum.