19-20 March 2016 – Exmoor Meeting

The meeting was attended by 18 people across the weekend, including Andrew Branson, Sharon Pilkington, Alan and Marion Rayner, Peter Martin, Claire Halpin, Roy Jeffery, Matt Stribley, Tim Rayner, Paul Bowyer, Gary Powell, Anne Hand and members of her Exmoor survey team: Elaine Drewe, Andy Glendenning, Anne Rivett, Prue Grant, Liz Gowen and Sue Helm. We had the use of the National Trust’s Education Centre at Pile’s Mill as a base, for which we are very grateful to Neil Garnsworthy. The weather was dry but cold.

As there was a good attendance, we split up into three groups for both days and tackled a series of squares. On the Saturday, Sharon led one group right over to the county border with Devon to look at some steep coastal woods and heath (Coscombe to Yenworthy Wood). Peter led another group to the coast east of Porlock, along Bossington Hill. Andrew led the third group in the east of Horner Wood, along the East Water Valley (this group was later joined by Roy Jeffery). Tea and cake (thanks to Anne Branson) was ready on our return, when we also had a chance to determine some of the material with our microscopes. Several members of the group had an enjoyable meal at ‘The Ship’ in Porlock later than evening. Some went all the way back to Gloucestershire, to return the following morning!

On Sunday, we again split into three groups. Sharon’s group tackled an interesting area of the Horner Wood complex to the south-west, which included wood edge, wet scrub, and heath with flushes (Wilmersham Common and Dady Coombe). Roy led a group to the west of Horner Wood (Pool Bridge and Wilmersham Wood) and Andrew’s group went south to explore the Exe Valley, south of Exford.

Many thanks to all who attended and particularly to the group leaders for an excellent and highly productive weekend. We shall have to return!


We recorded across 16 monads (1km squares) and made a total of 708 species records. A grand total of 187 taxa, of which 46 were liverworts, was recorded at the meeting. For just two days in the field, this is excellent and testifies to richness of the area and the hard work of all the attendees.

Plagiochila spinulosa 0916 reduced

Plagiochila spinulosa

Rare and interesting species (I have included the monad ref. in brackets) A good range of locally rare and scarce species were noted, including two new vice-county records for South Somerset (VC5): Tortula viridifolia (a ‘debracketing’) by the coastal path at Hurlstone Point, and Ulota calvescens on the branch of an oak by the car park at Webber’s Post in Horner Wood, discovered, sadly, after the main group had left. While T. viridifolia, a coastal species, appears to be declining, U. calvescens is turning up more and more outside its stronghold of north-west Britain and Ireland. A potential third new VC5 record, Nardia compressa, was also recorded (see below).

Other excellent records were:

Aulacomnium androgynum (SS8742): a species whose core area is further east, with few recent records in VC5.

Brachytheciastrum velutinum (SS8538): another species with a more easterly core range which seems to be on the decline.

Diphyscium foliosum (SS8744): a scarce western species.

Fissidens bryoides var. caespitans (SS8642, SS8538): formerly treated as a separate species, F. curnovii, this western taxon is on the edge of its range here.

Fissidens celticus (SS8642): another western species on the edge of its range.

Fissidens rivularis (SS8049): a scarce moss with a south-western distribution and few recent records for VC5.

Hedwigia stellata (SS8636): a mainly western and northern species of acid rock, which is scarce in the south-west (recorded as S. ciliata in Perry’s Bryophyte Atlas).

Jubula hutchinsiae (SS8049): a scarce western liverwort of wooded ravines, growing well here near the county border and with only a handful of records for VC5.

Jungermannia atrovirens (SS8049): another scarce liverwort growing here above the beach among dripping rocks covered with Palustriella commutata (the only site for this tufa-forming moss in Exmoor).

Lepidozia cupressina (SS9043): a beautiful and scarce species, in VC5 confined to a few western oak woods, growing here on decaying oak stumps and trunks.

Loeskeobryum brevirostre (SS8742): a scarce species in VC5

Metzgeria conjugata (SS8049): a scarce liverwort of water-splashed rocks

Nardia compressa (SS8642; SS8742): a rare liverwort in the south-west and potentially a new VC5 record, but Sharon didn’t realise this at the time. So, this will be an excuse to go back to this excellent site and collect a voucher specimen!

Plagiochila spinulosa (SS8636; SS8742): an infrequent western liverwort near the edge of its range.

Ptilidium ciliare (SS8943; SS9048): an attractive liverwort of heaths and scree, infrequent in south-west England.

Ptychomitrium polyphyllum (SS8636): a western species with few recent records in VC5.

Racomitrium aquaticum (SS8742): a western species with few recent records in VC5.

Racomitrium fasciculare (SS8636): a western species with few recent records in VC5.

Scleropodium touretii (SS8949; SS9049): a mainly coastal species with few recent records in VC5.

Tortella flavovirens (SS8949; SS9049): another coastal species with few recent records in VC5.

Tritomaria quinquedentata (SS9049): a rare species in VC5 and absent from most of the south-west, also found on Bossington Hill in 1997.

Trichostomum tenuirostre (SS8744; SS8742; SS8049): a western species with few VC5 records.

Andrew Branson, 12/08/2016

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