IT WAS such a simple moment: watching my six-year-old son pick brambles, then trying to resist eating them immediately.

The plan was we would make a bramble and apple crumble with the fruits of our foraging. But both my son and his sisters found them irresistible and so the final hoard which we took home was smaller than expected, despite many scratches and two hours of hard work. But there were more than enough to enjoy on their porridge the following morning.

But the quantity of saved brambles wasn’t the measure of success of our expedition to nearby Longniddry: it was the quality of the time spent in the splendour and abundance of nature’s autumn gifts. It was a show: hawthorns laden with haws, elder trees heavy with elderberries and a rowan tree was competing for attention with its vivid red berries.

We go brambling every year and this is a good time for it. According to legend, brambles should not be picked after Michaelmas Day, which now falls on September 29 (would have been October 10 in the old calendar).

The legend states that this was the date the Devil spat on a bramble bush and ever since the date marks the time when brambles become bitter to taste.

Why would he do such a thing? Well, according to the story, he had just been expelled from heaven and had fallen to Earth, landing in a prickly bramble bush. It cut and scratched him as he struggled to get free and so in his anger he spat on it.

I’ve heard variations of this tale in which the Devil is replaced by a bogle, a fearsome creature from folklore.

It can be a ghost, a goblin or hideous creature from the otherworld; not a character you’d want to meet in a dark alley at night, or indeed at any time. Their purpose is always malevolence towards humans.

The story goes that one of these unpleasant creatures was found gorging himself on brambles, his long fingers and mouth dyed purple with bramble juice.

It was reported to the laird, who sent his men to beat the creature, who was told the brambles were not for him. In his anger at such treatment, he peed on the bush, depriving humans of the fruit as well.

I told my son this version and he laughed at the image. But he also felt sorry for the bogle. He loves monsters and scary creatures, and he told me that it wasn’t fair to treat a bogle that way, even if he was a bogle, as brambles should be for everyone.

After this story, our son did find the self-control to resist eating all the brambles, for he kept some aside to later leave out for the bogle, in the hope he might see him. His seven-year-old sister was much less keen on this idea!

My son then asked me when September 29 was and happily continued to pick them when he realised he still had over three weeks before the deadline. Later, as we headed back along the old railway track, he asked about the other berries along the route which looked tasty.

It was a perfect moment to introduce him to the different trees and the name of their berries, and why they mustn’t be picked and eaten raw. It helped him recognise a bramble and distinguish it from other berries.

Later that day, he came in from the garden with a handful of late raspberries from bushes I had planted years ago and which still give us fruit in early autumn.

“These raspberries are OK to eat, dad, aren’t they? I’ve checked them for bugs and I know how to wash them,” he said confidently. “I just don’t know if the bogle peed on these too.”

I assured him the bogle didn’t pee on raspberries and that he’d made all the right checks. In fact, he’d chosen perfectly ripe ones.

I also explained he’d done the right thing to come and make sure by asking me before eating them. We looked at them carefully so he could identify them in future. Then he proudly washed them and ate them with genuine delight. For sure they tasted better because he had picked them himself, just like the brambles.

Later, I reflected on the importance of this simple experience, for there seems to be a fear these days of allowing children to pick berries, in case they pick something inedible or even poisonous. As a parent, I totally understand that anxiety.

But brambling, as well as picking other edible berries such as raspberries, should be a rite of passage, a magic time when the gifts of nature can be enjoyed. It’s also a vital opportunity for our kids, and ourselves, to make a lasting connection with the nature on our doorstep.

It can be done safely if our young people are taught how to identify which berries can be picked and eaten, and to double check with an adult just in case. And, of course, the adult needs the knowledge to give advice.

The sad truth is we have lost so much of our connection and understanding of the natural world. At a time of climate change and habitat destruction, the simple act of going brambling can be a way for us to appreciate and get to know nature better; to have simple joy in its beauty and gifts, and understand its importance to us. No classroom lesson can substitute for the actual experience of identifying, picking and enjoying a delicious gift from wild nature.

And, anyway, it makes for an enjoyable and often funny family time, as attempts to get the biggest, juiciest, but just-out-of-reach bramble will always require some team effort.

And for us it’s also a time for simple stories, such as that of the bogle who ate the brambles. As is often the case, there is a reason for such tales.

So you have three weeks left to get out there and find your special brambling place. There are hundreds of varieties, so it’s worth exploring the best sites.

We have other places we go, where they are always juicy at this time of year, but those locations are a family secret!