A FORMER humanitarian aid worker now dedicated to research into the nutritional value of sea buckthorn berries has expressed concern at the “obliteration” of the plant along Archerfield Links’ coastal boundary.

Kirstie Campbell, who founded social enterprise Seabuckthorn Scotland CIC, wants to talk to land managers at the golf club to “understand their position” on the cutting back of an approximately 100m by 10m strip of the nutritious plant, west of Yellowcraig beach.

Ms Campbell said: “We work in co-operation with the council’s Rangers in Gullane and also parts of Yellowcraig, foraging sea buckthorn for commercial purposes.

“We were checking on how the berries were doing in the different areas we were covering and that’s when I saw it [the sea buckthorn that has been cut down].

“It’s beyond where the council manages; I was quite shocked by the extent. It’s basically just been obliterated, and I thought, ‘I wonder why?’ I hope it’s for a conservation reason and not to give nice views of the coast from the golf course.”

The golf club was criticised by residents and nature lovers in 2011 for the “destruction” of a half-mile strip of sea buckthorn in the same area, a story reported at the time in the Courier.

Seabuckthorn Scotland has worked with Bangor University and the Edinburgh University virology department to explore the anti-viral properties of the plant’s berries, leaves and buds.

Ms Campbell said: “It’s such an amazing plant. It’s packed full of vitamin C, it’s very good for maintaining your immunity, it’s quite good for gut health and there’s so many things that can be done with it, rather than it being just cut back and burnt.

“We actually think it should be planted in other areas because it’s so good for taking the nitrogen out of the air, enriching the soil, and for using in fertilizer.

“I came from a background in humanitarian aid; 10 years of back-to-back work in war zones on the front lines in places like Syria, Namibia and Gaza, with the United Nations World Food Programme, the International Committee of Red Cross and the International Medical Corps, so having burnt out doing that but still passionate about food security, I was very surprised to come back and find there was this incredibly nutritious berry that’s not being fully utilised.”

Seabuckthorn Scotland juices the berries of plants its volunteers cut back along the East Lothian coast to make bottled juices that are sold to local businesses, including Wilson’s and Mycobee Mushrooms, and individuals.

Ms Campbell said she would like to be able to work with the golf club to make full use of the sea buckthorn that is removed, adding: “I’d love to speak with Archerfield, open up to stakeholders as wide as possible, understand everybody’s interests and needs, and try and find a balance.

“I’m sure there are things they can tell me to help me understand their position. But I hope there are things I can tell them about sea buckthorn that might help them see it’s a national treasure and not a national problem.”

A spokesperson for Archerfield Golf Club said: “The sea buckthorn has categorically not been removed. It has, in fact, been cut back in accordance with the estate management plan which was originally agreed with the council. The plan asks that the sea buckthorn is cut cyclically, which we have done.

“For the past 20 years we have worked very closely with the Council Ranger Service on many aspects around the property, from the conservation and enhancement of the wildlife habitat and the associated flora and fauna through to geological exposure of the area, and we will continue to do so.”

An East Lothian Council spokesperson said: “The council is aware of concerns around this matter and is working with NatureScot [formerly Scottish Natural Heritage] and [Archerfield operators] Caledonian Heritable to agree appropriate site management.”