6th December 2015 – Lambert’s Castle and Fishponds.

6th December 2015 Lambert’s Castle and Fishponds

Leader: Andrew Branson 

On a grey misty day, a small party of Sharon Pilkington and Jenny Bennett joined Andrew Branson to record mosses and liverworts with John Newbould doing the paperwork. During the day we made 105 records of 70 species. In the morning session, we surveyed the perimeter of the hill fort. Lambert’s Castle has a beech plantation on the north and east slopes probably planted around the time of the First World War. Many of the branches and trunks of the beeches were covered with the moss Hypnum andoi. Cryphaea heteromalla was seen on bark along with liverworts such as Cololejeunea minutissima, Frullania dilatata, Microlejeunea ulcina and Metzgeria furcata and M. consanguinea. Dicranella heteromalla was found on woody banks with Lepidozia reptans and Pseudotaxiphyllum elegans. The epiphytes Orthotrichum pulchellum and O. lyellii were found on the southern margin of the hilltop enclosure.

The grassland at Lambert’s Castle is one of the few places in Dorset where mat-grass Nardus stricta is found together with the acid grassland mosses such as Rhytiadelphus squarrosus, Walking along the exposed, short grassland along the southern ridge in square SY3798, Polytrichum juniperinum, P. piliferum and an invasive alien species Lopholocolea semiteres were pointed out. This last species from the southern hemisphere was first seen on the Scilly Islands in 1955, and has been spreading across southern and eastern Britain in recent years.

Fishponds:

Fishponds

Part of the group at Fishponds.

After lunch, we moved to Fishpond Bottom, located on the hill slopes to the south of the hill fort. In particular, we were keen to visit three fields of purple moor-grass Molinia caerulea mire north-west of the Church.

The first moss of interest Sharon pointed out was Bartramia pomiformis on a hedge bank just inside the gate. This attractive moss has a decidedly western distribution and appears to have declined from many of its former localties in southern England and is rare in Dorset.

The mosses and liverworts recorded here are amongst quite dense purple moor-grass with an interesting mix of vascular plants including: marsh violet Viola palustris whose Dorset stronghold is on the acid wetlands of west Dorset in 10km squares SY39 and ST09; pale butterwort Pinguicula lusitanica whose Dorset stronghold conversely is Purbeck, and marsh pennywort Hydrocotyle vulgaris. Other higher plants included devil’s-bit scabious Succisa pratensis, bog asphodel Narthecium ossifragrum. bog pimpernel Anagalis tenella, bog pondweed Potamogeton polygonifolius in wet flushes, sharp-flowered rush Juncus acutiflorus and common cotton-grass Eriophorum angustifolium.

Bartramia pomiformis

Hedges consisted mainly of willows but also holly and silver birch, with hard fern Blechnum spicant frequent on the hedge banks. These hedges are important for epiphytes – both as lichens and bryophytes with Neckera pumila, Zygodon conoideus and liverworts Cololejeunea minutissima and Frullania dilatata amongst the species present. Hookeria lucens, a moss of wet flushes on wood banks and streamsides was present along the northern hedgerow.

Amongst the purple-moor- grass five species of Sphagnum were recorded: S. capillifolium subsp. rubellum, S. inundatum, S. palustre, S. papillosum and S. subnitens, with the moss Warnstorfia exannulata found amongst the sphagnum. Three species of liverwort were seen with the Sphagnum including: Kurzia pauciflora, Calopogeia fissa and Cephalozia connivens. Aneura pinguis and Calopogeia arguta were also present. Finally, we visited the small churchyard (SY36889833) where we recorded ten species including: Barbula convoluta, Dialytricia mucronata and Didymodon insulanus.

Sharon and Andrew were concerned at the lack of grazing on the mire with purple moor-grass tussocks starting to shade out the more demanding mire species. Tussocks reached 750mm in one field and were somewhat smaller in the first field at about 400mm. Light grazing with cattle would greatly benefit the first field, whereas the second field with the larger tussocks it may be better to have a burn. Although it was agreed that this might be difficult given the enclosed nature of the site and the nearby houses. The leaders also recommended a more detailed survey on this important West Dorset site.

Report: John Newbould

15th November 2015 – Leigh Woods, Bristol

Present: Jenny Bennett, Andrew Branson, Claire Halpin, David Morris, Sharon Pilkington, Gary Powell, Alan Rayner, Marion Rayner, Carol Taylor, John Taylor.

Ten keen bryologists investigated Nightingale Valley, a wooded mini-gorge at the southern end of Leigh Woods on the south (Somerset) side of the Avon Gorge. The topography offered a welcome respite from high winds and provided much bryological interest from species of limestone rocks and cliffs, woodland and decaying fallen wood. Together, the group added no fewer than 16 new species to a list for the area made in 2014, edging the total number over 100. Highlights included the ‘black graffiti liverwort’ Marchesinia mackaii, thriving in several places on shaded natural rock outcrops on the side of the valley, Plasteurhynchium striatulum and Mnium stellare. Marion made the best find of the day when her sharp eyes picked out a small but dense patch of the humidity-demanding liverwort Riccardia palmata growing on a single decaying log at the bottom of the valley. This very western and northern species has not been found in North Somerset before.

Marchesinia mackai

Later we risked life and limb dodging speeding cyclists on the river path to search habitats below the famous Clifton Bridge for additional species. Here we found a wall and limestone outcrop which harboured typical light-demanding species such as Trichostomum crispulum. On a wall a large patch of Scorpiurium circinatum was nearly dismissed as just another anonymous-looking pleurocarp as it was wet from recent rain and its shoots lacked the distinctive worm-like appearance that normally attract the eye.

Sharon Pilkington

 

25th October 2015- Duck Hole Bog, New Forest

This is area in the south part of the New Forest includes a mire on the Forest’s calcareous Headon Beds, with records for species such as Sphagnum contortum, S. teres and S. molle. It also has the only Hampshire record for Cephalozia pleniceps, made in 1956 by Jean Paton. There are few recent records from this part of the Forest, so it could be interesting.

Meet at the car park at Wilverley Plain, on minor road west of Brockenhurst, at SU 256012.

Leader: John Norton.

6th December 2015 – Lamberts Castle, Dorset

This is an Iron Age hilltop fort on a greensand plateau overlooking the West Dorset coast owned by the National Trust. This and the nearby Coney’s Castle have a heathland flora unlike most of the surrounding area. There is also a good mire at Fishpond Bottom with a good range of Sphagna. The site has not been surveyed in detail for some years.

Meet at the National Trust car park at SY365988, off the B3165 between Marshwood and Raymonds Hill.

Leader: Andrew Branson.

21st February 2016 – Salisbury Plain, Sidbury Hill

Sidbury Hill is a prominent hill fort near Tidworth that is rich in calcicolous bryophytes. On its slopes and in the dry flinty valleys nearby we should see plenty of Pottiopsis caespitosa, Didymodon acutus and Abietinella abietina. Populations of Weissia sterilis, Pleurochaete squarrosa, Encalypta vulgaris, Lophozia perssonii and Aloina rigida have also been seen recently in the same area.

As this is a military area, we will have to restrict numbers and places will be reserved on a first come, first served basis. To book, please email Sharon at sharon.pilkington1@btinternet.com.

Leader: Sharon Pilkington.

19th-20th March 2016 – Exmoor

A weekend meeting to explore some under-recorded sites in this exceptional area. We will meet at 10.30am on Saturday morning at the National Trust study centre at Piles Mill, near Allerford, Minehead TA24 8HP; GR SS 905465. We will then move on to some of the National Trust’s Holnicote Estate, with a view to updating records for this western part of Somerset. We will meet up after the day at Piles Mill to review the day and look at material, so if you wish to bring microscopes National Trust have kindly agreed to allow us to use the study centre for Saturday evening. On Sunday we will again meet at 10.30 at Piles Mill and then go on to look at some of the sites further south along the River Barle, finishing at around 4pm. If enough people attend we will split into two parties on each day.

Those wishing to attend for the whole weekend or just for a day should contact Andrew at andrew@3alpacas.co.uk.

Leader: Andrew Branson.

17th April 2016 – Brown’s Folly, Bathford, near Bath

Brown’s Folly lies on the Wiltshire – Somerset border and is the site of a major complex of disused Bath Stone (Oolitic Limestone) mines. Much of the area is now wooded with shaded rock exposures and there is also a tract of interesting limestone grassland in a disused quarry. It has not been surveyed in any detail but there are previous records of Seligeria pusilla, Entodon concinnus and Tortella nitida.

Meet in the free car park off the minor road between Bathford and Monkton Farleigh at ST797663.

Leader: Sharon Pilkington.

April 19th 2015 – Hambledon Hill, Dorset

This chalk hill overlooking the Blackmore Vale is capped by a spectacular series of ancient earthworks and has a rich vascular plant flora. There are also records for a good range of chalk specialist bryophytes, such as Ephemerum recurvifolium, Pleurochaete and Entodon. The site has recently been acquired by the National Trust, so now is a good time to see how the bryophytes are faring on this iconic site. Steep slopes and slippery ground.

Parking is limited near the hill so we will initially meet at the car park at Child Okeford Community Centre, Station Road DT11 8EL; ST 833123.

Leader: Andrew Branson.

February 15th 2015 – Ebbor Gorge, Wells, North Somerset

Ebbor Gorge National Nature Reserve is a spectacular wooded cleft on the scarp of the Mendip Hills, with dramatic limestone cliffs, species-rich grassland, ancient woodland and a stream. It was visited by the BBS in 1991 but has received little attention since despite a very high diversity of species. Attractions include Marchesinia mackaii, Cololejeunea rossettiana and Plasteurhynchium striatulum (not recorded since 1959). The gorge is accessible on foot only and has numerous steep paths and slippery ground.

Park in the large public car park off the minor lane (Deerleap) between Priddy and Wookey Hole at ST 5208 4844.

Leader: Sharon Pilkington.