BBS Southern Group: Shipton Bellinger Down, Hampshire

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6 April 2024 (10:30 - 15:30)

Shipton Bellinger is a village at the extreme west of North Hampshire, and to the east of the A338 is a west facing chalk escarpment that could be considered to be at the eastern edge of Salisbury Plain. Like much of the Plain, it is MOD land with a network of wide and deep rutted tracks. It was virtually unknown bryologically, but we were hoping for a good chalkland flora. The participants were Jonathan Sleath. Sharon Pikington, John Norton, Sarah Grinstead, Pete Flood, Billy Dykes, Dave Pearson and Mike Wall.

We parked at SU235462 and made our way up the left of the two wide tracks that run up the hill. Almost immediately we came across plenty of Abietinella abietina and Entodon concinnus, which proved to be a good omen for the day. Higher up, Weissia angustifolia was plentiful on the eroded soil ledges. There was vegetative material of other interesting-looking pottiaceous species, but frustratingly it appeared that we were too late for the capsules. There were a few patches of a good candidate for Bryum torquescens, which was later confirmed on dissection of the synoicous inflorescence.

Heading south down a track with exposed chalky banks we noted abundant Weissia brachycarpa var obliqua and the ubiquitous Dicranella howei. Deep ruts had been created by military vehicles, the sides of which proved to be excellent habitat for Oleolophozia perssonii and a Mesoptychia which was later confirmed as Mesoptychia badensis. Both Seligeria calcarea and Seligeria calycina were present on exposed chalk. Lunch was taken at the site of an old chalk pit that had a good epiphyte flora, just alongside an area of mature beech woodland, Shipton Plantation. We were hoping to find Campylophyllopsis calcarea at this location and were not disappointed, as a great many trees had fruiting colonies at the base of the trunk and on exposed roots. Another interesting find was Brachythecium velutinum on one of the tree bases, demonstrating that old beech plantations can be very rewarding.

We then turned north along the top of the escarpment alongside woodland and were able to clock up more epiphytes including Lewinskya striata and Orthotrichum stramineum. Brachythecium mildeanum was found beside a tarmac track. Finally, we ended up at a motorcycle scrambling course on the edge of the chalk escarpment at SU237466. The disturbed ground appeared to be good habitat for Oleolophozia perssonii again. There was an area of mixed woodland here and Sharon, sniffing the air, could sense Herzogiella seligeri nearby. In full bloodhound mode she disappeared off and returned with some shoots from a small patch on a rotting log, which proved a fitting climax to the day.

This was a fascinating area with a rich chalkland flora and we had a most excellent excursion in good company and dry weather. 85 taxa were recorded.


Shipton Bellinger, Hampshire.