Ramblers, walkers, cyclists and horse riders often have the advantage over more sedentary types, when it comes to making sloe gin, because they already know where the best blackthorn bushes, and sloe crops are! As early as March and April, the sloe blossom is the first to appear in the hedgerows... and is a clue to the best location of sloes in the autumn.

Ordnance Survey maps are great for researching the smaller lanes and bridle paths where the best sloes are often to be found; and hand-held GPS units are also useful for navigating the countryside, and marking the location of your sloes.

Here's a selection of sloe photos to help with identification.

April blossom is an early indicator as to where to look for your sloes later in the year. August sloes look tempting, and already show their distinctive bloom, but wait another month or two for best results. One benefit of picking 'after the first frosts' is that the leaves drop and the sloes stand out clearly on their naked branches.