Stow & Torsonce Wood
9 April 2022 10:30 – 15:00
Leader: David Adamson
Three of us travelled from Edinburgh by train, and one by car, to meet David Long and Kate Bisset at Stow Station. Although the day was sunny, we needed the bryophytes to help distract our attention from the unrelenting cold breeze. Our main aim was to record the bryophytes of Torsonce Wood which lies just south of Stow village and straddles two monads. It covers a hillside above the A7 and the Gala Water, with conifers at its north end and mature deciduous trees to the south. We started by visiting the field that leads to the wood, and ended the walk in the old Stow churchyard.
In the field our first notable find may have been at the base of an old ash tree where David noticed a moss resembling Scleropodium cespitans but atypically growing on the tree roots. In total the mixed substrates of bare soil, old tree bark, and a rotting log in this field produced around 30 species. Entering the wood we soon saw the debris of fallen conifers blown down by Storm Arwen in late November. However our path was unimpeded and we continued to record as we moved from NT4544 to the next square. Torsonce wood lacks any water course and is quite dry in places, so the bryophyte abundance and diversity tended to be greatest on tree trunks, rotting logs, and under the shade of rocks and wood. David introduced us to Heterocladium flaccidum which was locally abundant on stones but a totally new species to me. He also found the liverworts Nowellia curvifolia and Riccardia palmata on the same rotting log, while other logs were smothered by Rhizomnium punctatum. Another rotting wood specialist was Tetraphis pellucida, although in too dry a state to show its gemmae satisfactorily.
By the time we emerged from the wood most of us were a bit “mossed out”, as Alison put it, and our attention had dwindled. The churchyard and “bishop’s palace” added a few species to our list, and we then met with the members of the Edinburgh Natural History Society whose outing had coincided with our own, and with whom we travelled on the train home. They produced some Border biscuits which were much appreciated and quickly snaffled.
Thanks to all for their contributions, enthusiasm, and patience, and to David Long in particular for providing the expertise to which the rest of us aspire.