Botanist Michael completes wild flower study

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A retired Hawick-based chartered accountant has written the first record of Berwickshire’s wild flowers in 160 years.

Since he retired more than 10 years ago, Michael Braithwaite has been a full-time, unpaid botanist, and over the past seven years he has covered 350,000 acres of Berwickshire countryside, inspecting “every flower, tree and blade of grass”.

“I have been absolutely everywhere in Berwickshire,” said Michael, who has been Berwickshire’s vice-county recorder for the past 37 years. “Up burns, over hills etc and everyone has been incredibly kind and given me permission to go to quite private places. It’s been unbelieveable how kind everyone has been. There isn’t anywhere else in the world where I could have had more access.

“Taking the population of the scarcest species in a ten-year period, 14 per cent have disappeared and that has been going on for a century or more.”

Michael’s studies have led him to believe that the problem goes back 200 years when farming changed and fields became enclosed.

“Since then the wild part of the countryside is the little bit that’s left over and they are awkward to manage – regulating fertiliser coming off the fields into the hedgerows is an issue. It isn’t that people have been doing anything wrong recently, it’s what we have inherited from the past.

“There are a lot of people who have tried things but it’s a really difficult subject.”

‘A Short Flora of Berwickshire’ launches at the Berwickshire Naturalist Club’s AGM next month and if you are interested in a copy, a form is available on the BSBI website under Berwickshire, or a cheque for £25 made out to M. E. Braithwaite may be sent to: Michael Braithwaite, Clarilaw Farmhouse, Hawick TD9 8PT.