8 of us plus Bess the dog met at the car park on a cloudy but mild and dry day. The weather had been so dry of late that even the muddiest of paths were cracked and dry, and the seepages and springs that are normally a feature of the site were sadly all dried up. Nevertheless we managed to find and, with the aid of spray bottles, identify a fair number of bryophytes.
Alan and Marion led us on a circular route taking in the main features of the site.
Firstly we checked out a few Oak trees on our way to the woodland which were surprisingly good for epiphytes. Ulota bruchii, Plenogemma phyllantha (formerly Ulota phyllantha), Lewinskya affinis (Orthotrichum affine), Pulvigera lyellii (Orthotrichum lyellii) and Cryphaea heteromalla were amongst the mosses found, and Frullania dilatata, Metzgeria furcata and Radula complanata the liverworts.
We studied some Hypnum species, definitely H. cupressiforme var. resupinatum and H. cupressiforme and/or H. andoi – difficult to be sure without capsules.
Moving on, Alan found us a stone wall with Tortula muralis, Homalothecium sericeum, and a couple of Didymodons – D. rigidulus and D. sinuosus.
In the woodland, new member Nina was introduced to Thamnobryum alopecurum, and we looked at a couple of Fissidens species – the common F. taxifolius and some tiny plants growing on stone which were probably F. pusillus*. One of the highlights of the day spotted by Sharon was Tortella inflexa* growing on a stone in the path, not previously recorded from this site. This species grows on oolitic limestone and looks a bit like a Weissia growing on rock!
* to be confirmed.
The footpath was hard, dry clay and was host to a small Dicranella (probably D. varia although we had hopes of finding D. howei), and a lot of Pohlia melanodon.
In one of the slightly less dry areas, we found quite a bit of Myriocoleopsis minutissima (Cololejeunea minutissima) with its star-shaped perianths growing on Ash trunks amongst larger liverworts including Metzgeria violacea.
Heading out of the woodland, we spent a little time looking at ant hills on ‘butterfly bank’ but there was little to be found. We visited the site of an old quarry which Alan and Marion had surveyed in 2015, but was now sadly overgrown with scrub. Nevertheless Pete and Sharon managed to re-find Eucladium verticillatum and Encalypta streptocarpa hanging on under all the brambles and scrub. By this point the sun had come out and we were all rather flagging so decided to call it a day and headed back to the cars.
Our final highlight of the day wasn’t a bryophyte at all, but attracted much interest. Here is the beautiful female Wasp spider (Argiope bruennichi) which has recently been spreading throughout the south of Britain in suitable habitats. It likes unmanaged rough grassland, and is adversely affected by grass cutting.