On the wildside

Sea Kale at Linkim Bay.
Sea Kale at Linkim Bay.

We in Berwickshire are fortunate to have nearby one of the most beautiful stretches of coast on the eastern seaboard of Britain, and its coastal footpath provides lots of options for interesting walks at any time of year.

On a recent walk we parked at Coldingham Bay to follow the path southwards, enjoying the autumn sunshine. The beach was very quiet except for a few hardy surfers in wet suits enjoying the waves driven in by the east wind, but after that we met only a few people. Our destination was Linkim Bay, one of our favourite walks.

First we crossed the Milldown Burn, where new signs alert the visitor to the rare Northern Brown Argus butterfly whose caterpillars feed on the locally abundant Rockrose (Helianthemum nummularium), but to see them flying one has to come here in June.

At Linkim Bay the sea banks were now developing their autumn tints with splashes of red from the rose-hips and hawthorn berries and shades of brown from the bracken, and a few Linnets and a single Buzzard (mobbed by crows) flew by.

The foreshore has a broad expanse of rocks exposed at low tide, with Rock Pipits, Oystercatchers, Redshanks and Curlews feeding amongst the seaweed and a solitary Heron stalking in the rock pools. Just off the rocks we could see a raft of Eider ducks and many gulls, while Shags were sitting upright on the small sea stacks at Linkim Kip beyond the bay itself.

Linkim Bay was formerly a stronghold of the Yellow Horned Poppy (Glaucium flavum), so-called because of its large yellow flowers and long curved seed pods. Although it still grows further up the Berwickshire coast it has not been seen at Linkim Bay for many years. However, there are many other strandline plants in evidence, particularly the abundant Sea Milkwork (Glaux maritima) and Sea Rocket (Cakile maritima) with several plants still in flower

What caused great excitement were two young plants of Sea Kale, Crambe maritima.

This is a very conspicuous plant with large rosettes of leaves, and the absence of records for the Berwickshire coast for over 170 years was probably a genuine extinction. However, it suddenly reappeared at Yellow Craig just north of Linkim Bay in 2008, and the small colony there seems to be expanding, and now it appears to have spread southwards to these new places.

Like many other strand-line plants, the seeds are probably salt-resistant and carried by the waves to new localities. Perhaps some day the Yellow Horned Poppy will make a welcome return.