Spring meeting 1976: Knutsford, Cheshire

HomeEventsSpring meeting 1976: Knutsford, Cheshire

31 March 1976 - 7 April 1976

Meeting report

The Spring Meeting (8-13 April) was held at Knutsford, Cheshire (v. -c. 58), and attended by 33 members. Excursions were also made into Derbyshire (v. -c. 57) and Staffordshire (v. -c. 39).

8 April. The morning was spent in the rocky millstone grit Goyt Valley, (v. -c. s 57 and 58), where Schistostega pennata, Plagiothecium laetum (57), and Sphagnum robustum (58) were seen; all were seen again later on the meeting. At lunchtime the party removed to the Stanley Arms at Bottom-of-the-Oven. Each day’s excursion was planned complete with a suitable hostelry for lunch. Two members openly eating their packed lunches in preference to the pub sandwiches were bounced by the landlord, thus setting a pattern of surreptitious feeding for the rest of the meeting. After lunch, the Ridgegate and Trentabank Reservoirs in Macclesfield Forest were investigated, producing Riccardia incurvata and Ephemerum serratum var. serratum, and later the Teg’s Nose was assaulted whilst many of the party remained in the woods below. Grimmia doniana was recorded on the millstone grit boulders. The afternoon foray ended abruptly as members raced for Macclesfield Hospital, where Dr Foster, the Local Secretary, very generously provided copious refreshment, together with an excellent buffet.

9 April. The River Dane, upstream of Danebridge (39 and 58), was worked, yielding abundant Dicranodontium denudatum on rotten logs and damp sandstone boulders in the woods near the river. Lejeunea lamacerina var. azorica (39), Plectocolea paroica (39), Scapania umbrosa and Leptodontium flexifolium were also seen on sandstone boulders, and Discelium nudum on shaded clay banks. Shell Brook, the afternoon venue, was similar, but had Cephaloziella rubella on a rotten log and Nardia geoscyphus. On the way back to Knutsford, Weissia rostellata and Blindia acuta were collected at Bosley Reservoir.

10 April. Much of the morning was spent unsuccessfully searching lime beds at Plumley Nature Reserve (58) for Desmatodon cernuus, seen in October 1966 by the B. B. S. The more open ground appeared to have become drier and the lime waste more friable, although this might be attributed to the exceptionally dry winter. This disappointment was greatly diminished by the discovery of Aloina brevirostris in considerable quantity. Other interesting species included Barbula hornschuchiana c. spor., Campylium polygamum, Weissia rutilans and Preissia quadrata. Damp soil on the margin of the pool produced Pottia heimii and Tortula subulata var. subinermis. In the afternoon members scattered widely over Cheshire, some visiting disused caustic soda workings and more lime beds near Northwich, seeing Bryum intermedium and Aloina brevirostris again, and abundant Campylopus introflexus growing on the grassy banks of a salt-pan. The Peckforton Hills, Triassic sandstone outcrops near Tarporley, exhibited a typical sandstone rock flora, including Calypogeia neesiana var. meylanii and Lepidozia trichoclados. Dicranum strictum was seen with immature capsules, apparently the first British fruiting record. Mrs. Appleyard saw Amblystegium kochii on planking by the Shropshire Union Canal, north of Crewe. Dr Jones, examining the disturbed sandy margin of the mere at Rudheath, encountered an unusually robust Lophozia in great quantity, with both male and fruiting plants. This later proved to be L. capitata, not previously seen north of Essex. Mr Perry gathered Atrichum tenellum on slightly drier ground nearby. In the evening a Council Meeting was held at the Royal George Hotel, Knutsford, reputedly the most expensive hotel ever used by the Society. Many members found alternative accommodation, including the author, who ‘camped’ in a lay-by in his ancient van, becoming a constant source of interest and irritation to the Cheshire Constabulary, who visited him on three occasions.

11 April. Brookhayes Nature Reserve on the edge of the drained Carrington Moss, is an oak wood established over old marl pits. No marl had been extracted for a very long time and the bryophyte flora was disappointing, although Acrocladium cordifolium thrived in some of the wetter hollows. Subsequently a pilgrimage was made to Rudheath, where many bryologist-hours were spent in admiring Lophozia capitata. Pohlia bulbifera was also recorded. After lunch one party journeyed to the north-east corner of Staffordshire, working millstone grit areas close to the Derbyshire border at Hollinsclough. Others visited a variety of habitats between Alderley Edge and Macclesfield. Dr Whitehouse went north to the Lancashire side of the Mersey near Urmston, and on the bank of the river found a form of Pohlia lutescens with axillary bulbils.

12 April. The first visit to limestone, at Wyedale (57) was marked by a notable change in the epiphyte flora, from the assemblage of Orthodontium lineare, Dicranoweisia cirrata, Aulacomnium androgynum, Tetraphis pellucida and Dicranum strictum with which we had become familiar in polluted Cheshire. Although Derbyshire is scarcely less polluted, the bark was here mollified by limestone dust from neighbouring quarries, and the epiphytes consisted principally of Grimmia apocarpa, Tortula subulata and Encalypta streptocarpa, with Eurhynchium murale on rotten  wood. Dr Jones, while wetting up an epiphyte, took to the water, and was obliged to return to his car in search of dry clothing. The author forded the river without mishap and climbed the steep side of the valley to reach the upper part of the quarry in Great Rocks Dale, where Aloina rigida grew in great profusion. A small party, stepping out down Wyedale reached the bottom of the quarry, but had little time to examine it. Lunch was at the Rose and Crown, Allgreave, which proved to be that phenomenon of the outback, “a pub with no beer”, although the landlady had managed to secure an adequate supply of tinned Export ale. After this unusually dry lunch, the party made its way to the Black Brook at Gradbach (39), which flows into the River Dane near Allgreave. On and between damp sandstone rocks by the stream were seen fruiting Schistostega pennata, Tetraphis browniana and Brachydontium trichodes, while Atrichum crispum and Solenostoma sphaerocarpum were abundant by the stream. Above the woodland was moorland reputed to be inhabited by herds of feral wallabies, which were not seen, but great quantities of kangaroo dung was evident. A few people reached Lud’s Church, the spiritual home not of Luddites but of Lollards. This is a massive sandstone outcrop deeply cleft in two by a fault, harbouring Saccogyna viticulosa and Mylia taylori.

13 April. On the last morning, the Derbyshire side of the River Dove, south of Buxton, provided an extensive limestone flora, with Bryum elegans, Pleurochaete squarrosa and Porella laevigata at High Edge and Seligeria acutifolia and Amblystegiella confervoides at Tor Rock. The cliffs of the dry valley at Dowel Farm had Seligeria pusilla and Cololejeunea rossettiana. One car-load of members travelled south to Swallow Moss (39), but were not exploded by the army, neither were they able to find any bryophytes of note. Lunch was consumed in Hartington, where Stilton cheese from the local factory was on sale. Ecton Hill (39) is a limestone hill near Butterton, with old copper mines. Much of the copper mine waste was almost devoid of vegetation, but for much Bryum pallens and Cephaloziella hampeana and a little C. stellulifera and Leiocolea badensis. Seligeria pusilla was seen on shaded limestone rocks, and Leiocolea muelleri on damp limy soil. The first significant rain of the meeting fell during the afternoon, and members were generally happy to make an early return to Knutsford.

Although the selection of species seen in some of the sandstone and moorland areas and the epiphyte flora were generally rather limited and uniform, this was more than compensated for by the richness of the limestone and the lime beds and the remarkable flora at Rudheath. Even the most blasé experts were stimulated by some of the plants seen, and less experienced members found much to interest them. We are all most grateful to Dr Foster for all he work he put into making the week a success, and congratulate him on finding so many interesting localities in a district which many of us had feared likely to prove uncompromisingly dull.

M. F. V. Corley


Knutsford, Cheshire