ON THE WILDSIDE: Cocklawburn has many wild flowers

Drinker Moth at  Cocklawburn.
Drinker Moth at Cocklawburn.

The Berwickshire Group of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, held its first Field Meeting for this summer season when a group of enthusiasts explored the grasslands and shore at Cocklawburn, just south of Berwick.

For most people visiting Cocklawburn the miles of sandy beaches are the main attraction but, on the day of our visit the few visitors on the beach were all well wrapped up as quite a strong NW wind was blowing and the sea was cold and uninviting.

The grassland proved the main attraction for our group as here there is a very rich assembledge of wild flowers. The site has been much disturbed in the past. There is an old lime kiln right on the edge of the shore, just about falling into the sea and what looks like old military installations from the last war, with the result that many micro-habitats have been created and they have had plenty of time to be colonised by a wide variety of flowers.

The masses of Cowslips were probably the most outstanding flower as they occured by the thousand. On the thin dry soils they were small and stunted but where the soil was deep and rich they made big, bold clumps. It was wonderful to see them in such numbers and I cannot recall when I last saw so many growing wild. Primroses on the other hand were confined to one small patch in a damp ditch.

The Bloody Cranes-bill (Geranium sanguineum) was also striking. It gets its common name from the bright purplish-crimson colour of its flowers. The large flowers are certainly stunning. It was scattered through much of the grassland but especially common on the steep, sunny side of the ramp up to the pillbox.

This plant is often cultivated in gardens and there is a form with delicate pink flowers which occurs naturally in Lancashire.

On the steep, sunny slopes up to the pillbox Birds-foot Trefoil was also abundant and very showy with bright yellow flowers tipped with red. Growing alongside it were small plants of the Kidney Vetch, another pea with yellow flowers. This plant is often short lived and is a pioneer on disturbed habitats. A plant which can catch out the unwary botanist is the Duke of Argyll’s Tea Plant (Lycium barbatum). This is a shrub introduced from Asia in the 1730s by the Duke of Argyll and is occasionally found naturalised and here we found several plants about five feet tall with purple flowers. It is in the Potato family - Solanaceae.

Birds were keeping a low profile. Skylarks were singing high in the sky and Meadow Pipits were entertaining as they flew up high into the sky to come gliding back down again in full song. Stonechats were carrying food to a nest full of youngsters. As it was cold and windy the butterflies were nowhere to be seen but we did find a nice big hairy caterpillar which will eventually turn into a Drinker moth.