This small informal group was formed in 2008 by Sharon Pilkington and Andrew Branson to encourage the recording of mosses and liverworts across the counties of Somerset, Wiltshire, Dorset and parts of Hampshire. We hold regular meetings, usually once a month, from October to May each year. Each season we aim to include meetings in most of the vice counties in the area and in as wide a range of habitats as possible. We are fortunate in that this area has some superb habitats for bryophytes, from the heaths, mires and woods of the New Forest to the hills of Exmoor and the Mendips. We have also found that there are many relatively unexplored gems in the region, including Iron Age hill forts, hidden valleys in the Quantocks and remote woodland flushes in the Blackdown Hills. The area also includes Salisbury Plain, the largest remaining tract of species-rich chalk grassland in north-west Europe.
Mosses and liverworts may be tiny plants, but with the help of a hand lens you can quickly discover their surprisingly beautiful and intricate world. Because many of these plants have very specific habitat requirements they can tell us a great deal about the places they inhabit, from ancient woodlands to newly colonised quarry workings. Learning about their natural history and how to identify them can be great fun. Come along and give it a go.
Sharon Pilkington is based in Wiltshire and is a professional botanist and bryologist with many years’ experience of the British flora. She is vice-county recorder for bryophytes for North Wiltshire and North Somerset. She is also VC recorder for Wiltshire for vascular plants. As a vice-county recorder of plants and bryophytes, she spends a lot of her spare time leading field meetings and training events and is an experienced tutor. She is currently undertaking a systematic survey of Somerset for a forthcoming county bryophyte flora and is also managing a team of voluntary botanists in Wiltshire to collect records for the next BSBI atlas of plants in the British Isles.
Andrew Branson is a retired publisher. He founded and ran British Wildlife Publishing for 25 years and has worked with and advised conservation NGO’s for many years. He lives in Dorset and is vice-county recorder for bryophytes for South Wiltshire and South Somerset. He is also Chairman of the Dorset Flora Group and is currently spending most of the summer months surveying for the BSBI Atlas. The winter is spent recording for the Somerset Bryophyte Atlas.