A colourful walk along the banks of the Ettrick


With little prospect of an improve-ment in the weather, I took the dog for a wander up my usual riverside route last Saturday morning.

The swallows and martins were busy catching flying insects overhead and the swifts, although still around, were noticeably dwindling in number.



There was no sign of common sandpipers or oystercatchers on the river, but families of young wagtails were scuttling through the shallow water running over the face of the cauld, picking off insects which had been carried over the weir from the pool above.

Also using the cauld as a source of food was the resident heron and a pair of lesser black-backed gulls.

The most prominent flower in the riverside woodland was the stunning giant bellflower, with its clusters of white bells growing up a tall spike, similar in stature to the foxglove.

Usually such showy riverside plants are garden escapes, but this one is surprisingly a true native of the area, unlike some of the others I came across.



One of the most striking was the Martagon Lily, which is gradually gaining a foothold in the shaded woodlands by the river.

It is also known as Turk’s Cap Lily and although it is a spectacular flower with a strong scent, it is easily overlooked due to its liking for deep shade.

Another obvious garden escape which has been growing happily in the same spot for decades is Astrantia.

It is a native of central, eastern and southern Europe but has happily set up home by the banks of the Yarrow.



Its pink pincushion-shaped flower head is prized by gardeners as it dries well.

At this time of year, it is hard to miss the presence of rosebay willowherb, which seems to thrive everywhere.

In the 18th century it was considered a great rarity, but it seems to have colonised the country using the expansion of the rail network in Victorian times.

During the war it became known as “bombweed” due to its liking for the disturbed ground caused by bomb craters. The lovely yellow-flowered monkey flower or mimulus is another foreigner I encountered on some waste ground.

It hails from America and is usually found in damp places or by stream sides. It can be invasive in some places, but it seems to know its place on my patch.

Thankfully, my local patch is relatively free of the more troublesome interlopers such as giant hogweed, Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam, but they have been there in the past and removed.

Complacency is not an option.

z If you have taken a nice shot of Borders flora and fauna, and would like to share it with Southern Reporter readers, you can email me at corbie@homecall.co.uk