On the wildside: Dismay at Giant Hogweed find

The bridge over the River Blackadder at Fogo.
The bridge over the River Blackadder at Fogo.

Monday, July 13, was a miserable, drizzly evening, but a small group still turned up for a wildlife walk around Fogo led by Andrew Mitchell.

One of our party, Major Trotter, who owns the Charterhall estate (and was Andrew’s father’s Major in the Scots Greys), informed us that the bridge over the Blackadder Water had been originally built as a single span pack horse bridge in the 1640’s and had been rebuilt in the 1840’s to accommodate Horse carts, there is a plaque on either side giving the relevant dates.

Looking across the river we were dismayed to spot a very large and healthy Giant Hogweed plant growing in the island - it has been reported to the Tweed Forum (who deal with invasives) - but we might have to take prompt action ourselves.

The sap of Giant Hogweed contains toxic chemicals known as furanocoumarins. When these come into contact with the skin, and in the presence of sunlight, they cause a condition called phyto-photodermatitis: a reddening of the skin, often followed by severe burns and blistering. Even once they have died down the skin can remain sensitive to light for many years.

Following the Blackadder back to the footbridge, Heather, Andrew’s sister, spotted and identified a Dipper in the middle of the water. Bobbing and weaving she was unaware of our inspection but, then spotting us, went into covert mode – probably protecting a nest of babies well hidden under cover!

Pulling Himalayan Balsam from the water edge I missed poor Margaret losing her footing and doing a sky scan, but rallying, with no damage done, she rose to espy black strings of Peacock caterpillars on stinging nettles.

On the walk from the footbridge back to the Kirk we went through what Andrew called the ’Little Wood’ for obvious reasons, where he recalls spending an entire day digging out one of his father’s terriers that had managed to get stuck down a rabbit hole.

By the end, the sun had decided to peep out at us to close out what really was a great walk and I would like to thank all who joined us.

The next evening walk is tonight (August 6) meeting at 7pm at Houndwood, on the south side of the A1 at the north west end of the dual carriageway. This is a circular walk along the side of the River Eye where there are lots of wild flowers. If it’s wet wellies and waterproof trousers are recommended. For more information contact Ron McBeath 01289 308515.

The Scottish Wildlife Trust is a Scottish registered charity, No SC005792 based in Edinburgh.