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On March 19 we went on a walk with a difference, noting trees, both native and ornamental, within the area of Berwick.
Malcolm Hutcheson was our guide, a retired horticulturalist who had long thought that the group should have a record of notable trees in our recording area.
Setting off from Tweed Street, looking across the back gardens, we immediately noted a pollarded eucalyptus gunnii. On to the viewpoint over the Tweed we noticed flowering myrobalan plums, prunus cerasifera, on the embankment amongst the main canopy of ash and sycamore. This is a common, small tree, often used by local authorities as a roadside plant, and is often mistaken for blackthorn, which flowers several weeks later.
A stop by the lily pond noted a good specimen of wych or Scotch elm, ulmus glabra, with its swelling round flower buds about to break open. We also saw good specimens of Lawson’s cypress, weeping ash and a fine male holly.
Going down the steps to the Tweed, we were directed to a small Turkey oak, quercus cerris, and with the aid of a tree guide book, The Trees of Britain and Northern Europe by Alan Mitchell, noted the detailed differences between it and our other two ‘native’ oaks.
In addition to the trees, as we walked along the shore towards Castle Hills House, we saw a group of displaying goldeneye on the rising tide and a little egret roosting on the edge of Yarrow Slake.
Plenty of noise was coming from the large rookery at Castle Hills, as amongst the established ash, beech and sycamore we saw a fine group of English yew, taxus baccata. Evidently, most were male plants as they were in full flower and giving off clouds of golden pollen if touched or shaken.
Further along was a group of pines, with Austrian pine, pinus nigra var. nigra, and Scots pine, pinus sylvestris, together with a specimen of Weymouth pine, pinus strobus, amongst them (showing needle damage due to the winter effects of cold, and salt air). The Weymouth pine got its name having been introduced by Lord Weymouth into his Longleat estate in Wiltshire, in the early 18th century.
A lone noble fir, abies procera, also stood in this group, with an interesting underplanting of butcher’s broom, ruscus aculeatus. This strange plant, with its spiny cladodes (false leaves) carrying the small true leaf and a single flower in the centre of each blade, is native to southern England and would have been introduced here as a garden plant.
At Chateau Pedro, we noted a group of mature beech as we headed up the Askews Walk to the old Duns Road. Here we saw a good specimen of a mature crack willow, salix fragilis, in catkin, which we compared with some pollarded goat willow or sallow salix caprea at the roadside.
Making our way down Castle Terrace, in the large gardens we recorded mature specimens of ornamentals, including monkey puzzle, araucaria araurcana, Atlantic cedar, cedrus atlantica, mountain pine, pinus uncinata, and a fine specimen of the evergreen holm or holly oak, quercus ilex, near the Old Vicarage.
Finally our walk ended noting a group of flowering winter heliotrope, petasites fragrans, flowering in the Old Vicarage garden. This relative of the Coltsfoot has small, pale mauve flowers and is very sweet scented, bringing our walk to a pleasant conclusion.
Our next walk, entitled Bridge to Bridge, will be a natural history walk, led by Malcolm Hutcheson.
It will be going in an upstream direction to East Ord on the south bank of the Tweed, beginning at the Riverside Road car park (next to Tweedmouth Bowling Club), at 10am, on Saturday, April 16, with a fall-back date of Sunday, April 17 in case of bad weather.
The likely duration of the walk is three hours. Stout shoes and refreshments are advised.