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


Having lunch at Duckhole Bog in the New Forest. Photo credit: Andrew Branson

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.

View from Lambert’s Castle. Photo: Andrew Branson

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.

WBG Sidbury Hill in April 2009. Photo: Sharon Pilkington

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.

Plagiochila spinulosa. Photo: 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.

Tortella nitida. Photo: Sharon Pilkington

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.

December 7th 2014 – Golden Cap and St Gabriel’s, Dorset

Mixed woodland, acid grassland, heath and soft cliffs with springs. A fascinating complex of habitats owned by the National Trust which should produce a wide range of species including perhaps Phaeoceros laevis, which has previously been recorded in the area.

Meet at car park at Langdon Hill at SY413931, accessed by minor road off A35 west of Chideock.

Leader: Bryan Edwards.