Just south of Chirnside, the River Whiteadder at the Bluestone Ford is a nice pleasant spot for an easy walk and an ideal location to observe a wide range of our local wildlife.
The river meanders through woodland and farmland, with small cliffs and bankings rich in wild flowers. When the river is low it is easy to cross the ford in a vehicle and there is a strong footbridge well above the river for those on foot.
There are large patches of the Water-crowfoot Buttercup growing in the river. The white flowers are held just above the water, whereas the leaves and stems are submerged and spread down stream in the current, below the point where the root grows in the river bed. It is amazing how this plant can remain attached to the river bed when the river is in flood and descending in a torrent and how the seedlings can establish under the fast flowing water.
In the river close to the banks the Flowering Rush (Butomus umbellatus) has become established. This plant is not related to the true rushes (Juncus) and unlike the rushes has a large showy head of lilac-pink flowers on a stem about a foot above the water level.
Growing alongside are Bur-reeds with round heads of green flowers quite unlike any other flower. Although held just above the leaves the flowers are easily overlooked.
In the spring it is a nice walk down the north bank, through the Pear Bank wood to Edington Mill, but be warned, this path can turn into an impenetrable jungle in the summer, as the giant leaves of Buterbur (Petasites) and other plants can grow six feet tall.
In the spring the Buterbur has cones of pinkish-white flowers and they attract early butterflies which sup their nectar.
In the Pear Bank wood are small patches of the white flowered Meadow Saxifrage and shrubs of the greenish-yellow flowered Daphne laureola.
Look out for Comma and Speckled Wood Butterflies on sunny days.
Along the riverside can be found a selection of red, green and blue Damselflies. The Banded Demoiselle is a specialty here. It is a southern species reaching the northern edge of its distribution on the Whiteadder. The males are very distinct with their metallic green or blue body and wings with a dark blue patch on the outer half. Watch out for them flying amongst the waterside flowers searching for a mate.
Common birds are Dippers and Grey Wagtails. Mallard, Goosanders and sometimes a Cormorant are found on the river and Herons stand patiently on the bankings awaiting an unwary small fish.
The next field meeting of the SWT is tonight (Thursday, June 11) when we meet at Nisbet Hill Farm, on the A6112 just south of Duns, at 7pm.