Tyntesfield, a splendid Victorian mock-gothic mansion set in extensive mature grounds, was purchased by the National Trust in 2002 and is still managed as a working estate. WBG members had special permission to visit and explore the bryological interest of the estate, which had not been surveyed before.
Being keen to get started, we began recording even before we made it through the turnstiles and in trampled turf near the café Claire picked up Microbryum davallianum, with its distinctive tuberculate spores.
Many epiphytes were found in the arboretum, although the consensus seemed to be that young Orthotrichum capsules were later than usual in developing in response to the exceptional summer of 2018. A very good range of species was recorded here and elsewhere in the estate, including Orthotrichum striatum, O. tenellum and Cololejeunea minutissima.
Moving on, a strange-looking pleurocarp on limestone boulders in woodland generated much discussion, especially when it turned out to be atypical Cirriphyllum crassinervium. Growing nearby were Anomodon viticulosus, Porella platyphylla and the nationally scarce Plasteurhynchium striatulum, which is not infrequent in limestone woodland in this part of Somerset. Brachythecium mildeanum was found on the cracked concrete lining of a small lake but the masonry around the house itself yielded disappointingly little.
Our quest for a sunny lunch spot took us up onto the steep wooded slope above the house. Although the woodland lies mainly on limestone, a small outlier of quartzitic sandstone added a more acidic flavour to the bryophytes and here we recorded a number of common calcifuges, including Dicranella heteromalla, Hypnum jutlandicum and Pseudotaxiphyllum elegans.
Moving downhill again, we explored the kitchen garden and old glasshouses. Here we were delighted to find hundreds or even thousands of rosettes of Riccia sorocarpa (what is the collective noun for a mass of Riccia?) growing alongside Marchantia polymorpha var. ruderalis and Lunularia cruciata. A Tortula-like acrocarp growing nearby turned out to be Tortula protobryoides and Gyroweisia tenuis and Bryum radiculosum were spotted on soft damp mortar of the greenhouses.
Returning to plantation woodland, we climbed up to the top of the slope, eventually reaching a play area within a stand of mature conifer plantation. Of course we were searching for Sematophyllum substrumulosum, which is now known to be quite frequent in coniferous woodland in North Somerset, and we were not disappointed. Several well-decayed fallen trees supported splendidly fertile populations, the masses of neat capsules attracting many attempts at photography. Nowellia curvifolia was also seen in the same area.
By now the light was dwindling fast and we made our way back downhill toward the exit through a small wooded combe. We couldn’t ignore a massive, well-rotted tree lying on the ground which supported a number of additional species, including Campylopus flexuosus, Lepidozia reptans and Orthodontium lineare. A leafy liverwort collected from the same tree turned out to be fertile Cephalozia connivens, more familiar to most of us from mires. A VC6 rarity (but possibly overlooked), it was a long way from its other sites on the Somerset Levels.
In total, 107 bryophyte taxa were recorded from Tyntesfield, a highly respectable number for the area. We are very grateful to the National Trust for permitting and facilitating our visit.