Spring meeting 1981: Stowmarket

HomeEventsSpring meeting 1981: Stowmarket

8 April 1981 - 14 April 1981

Meeting report

Strategically placed astride line of longitude 1°E, the dividing line between the Vice-counties of East (Vc 25) and West (Vc 26) Suffolk, Stowmarket provided a central base for the Spring Meeting (8-14 April) facilitating ready access to all corners of the county. Thirty-two members attended the meeting and between them contributed some 1,480 records for 28 of the Suffolk 10 km squares, and some 32 new Vice-county records. We were pleased to welcome several new members from Suffolk, and the laboratory at Coombs Middle School, a short walk from the Cedars Hotel headquarters, made possible some instruction in microscope techniques during the evenings. Each morning the party kept together, exploring well known sites and giving instruction to beginners, and after lunch split up to explore underworked squares in the vicinity, with the impending deadline for the mapping scheme very much in mind. In the following account * refers to confirmed new Vice-county records.

9 April (Vc 26). In the morning members explored several Breckland heath remnants, under the guidance of Dr Whitehouse, in delightfully warm sunshine. At Icklingham Plain, Rhytidium rugosum, Racomitrium canescens var. canescens, Rhynchostegium megapolitanum, Climacium dendroides and Ptilidium ciliare were seen, and among others Bryum inclinatum and Campylopus introflexus were added to the list for the site. Members were also shown Pleurochaete squarrosa on a roadside bank. Sadly, as the party left to make its way to Cavenham Heath, Derek Foster had to return home owing to ill health, the last many of us were to see of him. In Ash Plantation at Cavenham Heath *Pellia neesiana by a swamp stream was a welcome surprise, but Trichocolea tomentella was not refound. One party devoured the first of their packed lunches from the Cedars by a patch of Crassula tillaea in full flower at Temple Bridge, and then carried on down the track to visit Tuddenham Heath. Although nothing was added to the list for the site, Lepidozia reptans with sporophytes and Rhizomnium pseudopunctatum are worth a mention. The rest of the party consumed their packed lunches at the back of a rather busy nearby pub., and then went on to seek (but not to find) Dicranum polysetum in the conifer plantations at Brandon Park. Beginners were, however, very pleased to find an extensive patch of Polytrichum longisetum with borders so wide that the leaves appeared striped from some distance away. The party then subdivided to explore nearby squares; the churchyard and castle moat at Lidgate yielded Frullania dilatata, Metzgeria fruticulosa and *Fissidens pusillus var. tenuifolius; the churchyard at Hawstead *Rhynchostegiella ten ella var. tenella, *Barbula cylindrica and *Brachythecium populeum; and a rape field at Bradfield Combust Sphaerocarpos michelii and *S. texanus.

10 April (Vc 25). Members arrived in force at Notcutts Nurseries in Woodbridge and competed for attention with customers inspired by yet another delightfully warm spring day. After being retrieved from a seed patch with handfuls of the delightful Mibora minima (fortunately regarded as a weed) the party was let loose on some fallow beds to the north-east of the main centre and quickly fell upon hands and knees. The search was rewarded by finding both Sphaerocarpos michelii and S. texanus (plus an annoyingly similar gregarious alga) together with Riccia glauca, R. sorocarpa and an abundance of *Marchantia alpestris. A brief look at a potted-plant enclosure revealed very little, but the discovery of Barbula rigidula carpeting the trunk and branches of a Malus sp., heavily encrusted with lime and sopping wet from a continuous spray of water from a hose fixed above it, provoked learned comment of an ecological flavour. The party then proceeded to explore a stream that ran through the gardens, suitably furbished with a variety of rocks, and found Barbula tophacea, B. trifaria, B. vinealis and *Gyroweisia tenuis, before reclining on the lawns to demolish a well-earned packed lunch and to pose for a group photograph. After lunch the Cherry Tree beds to the south-west of the main centre were explored. Nothing exciting turned up, but a voucher of *Pellia endiviifolia was collected for Vc 25. The party then split into groups and dispersed to investigate five different 10 km squares, all returning with reasonable lists (including *Tortula subulata var. angustata, from a wood near Shottisham); except for the group that ventured into some roadside woodland at Seven Hills, Nacton and were seen off by the estate manager in no uncertain terms. The y were, however, rewarded with better pickings later in the afternoon. After a long hot walk down to the shore at Levington beginners were pleased to see Fissidens incurvus, F. exilis, F. bryoides and F. taxifollus growing together in nearby woodland. On returning to the cars Sphaerocarpos michelii was found growing abundantly with a yellow-flowered Amsinckia in a beet field.

11 April. Having been rather spoilt by the unseasonable warmth and smarting from incipient sunburn, members did not look very happy as they assembled in driving rain on the Norfolk side of Redgrave Fen and were not even amused as our guide’s map, sketched in fibre-tipped pen, dissolved before their eyes. The rain soon eased off, however, and exploration began. These watershed fens have suffered in recent years from excessive extraction of water from the chalk aquifer that normally tops up the fens throughout the drier months, and the list of species found was but a vestige of its former richness. The fens yielded little other than * Eurhynchium speciosum (Vc 26), Ctenidium molluscum, Drepanocladus aduncus and Chiloscyphus sp. In some scrubby woodland along the southern margin an attempt to make Dicranum scoparlum into D. majus proved ill-founded. Despite extensive forays into the dense rain-soaked sallow beds of Middle Fen (Vc 27), the only epiphytes found were Dicranoweisia cirrata, Orthotrichum diaphanum, O. affine and a few scraps of Ulota crispa. The latter is apparently on its way out in this area, having already been largely exterminated further south, probably the result of a steady increase in rain acidity. After lunch the skies cleared and warm sunshine inspired the exploration of Market Weston Fen (Vc 26), where younger members were able to see the sort of bryophyte flora that used to be found at Redgrave. Plagiomnium elatum and Eurhynchium speciosum abounded around the base of sedge tussocks; Fissidens adianthoi des, Campylium elodes, C. stellatum and C. polygamum were found in the open fen to the east of the main track; and Ctenidium molluscum and Sphagnum subnitens to the west of the track. Homalothecium nitens, recorded here in 1979, was not refound and despite careful searching could not be found by the parties that went on to visit Hopton and Thelnetham fens (both Vc 26). At Hopton Fen *Dicranum tauricum was found on a willow and *Tortula virescens was also new; and at Thelnetham Fen Calliergon giganteum, Campylium polygamum and C. stellatum were recorded. On the way back from the fens a brief visit to Knettishall Heath (Vc 26) revealed the presence of an abundance of Ptilidium ciliare (and little else), but as most parties converged on Wortham Ling (Vc 25) hoping to see Leptodontium gemmascens, found there on rotting grass by Peter Wanstall and Alan Harrington a few weeks before, the day was made by finding it in abundance over a wide area of the heath. Although mostly confined to a black sticky paste formed by rotting grass the Leptodontium was also found growing up the stems of gorse, and despite its apparent rarity in Britain several people managed to establish cultures from the abundant gemmae, suggesting that its requirements may not be that exacting and it may well have been overlooked in this type of habitat.

12 April. Billed as a free day, members nevertheless visited the suggested venue of Mickfield Meadow Reserve (Vc 25) to see the Fritillaries coming into flower in the morning and then went on to work no less than eleven 10 km squares during the afternoon. New Vcr’s for the day were *Tortula virescens by the Gipping at Stowmarket (Vc 25), *Gyroweisia tenuis at Ringshall Churchyard (Vc 26) and *Fossombronia pusilla plus *Isothecium myosuroides for the Bulls Wood Reserve at Cockfield (Vc 26).

13 April ( Vc 26). Members assembled at Felshamhall Wood (Bradfield Woods) in the morning in a biting wind and added several species to the list from the asbestos cement roof of the hut, including Orthotrichum diaphanum and O. anomalum, while waiting for Oliver Rackham to show the party round. Along Shady Ride a large diameter oak stump was carpeted with Tetraphis pellucida sporting abundant capsules, a rare site in eastern England. Most of the effort was concentrated on exploring a damp area in Plantation Fell. Although Herzogiella seligeri could not be refound, Plagiothecium latebricola was abundant on tree bases and *Dicranum montanum was found on oak stumps and a hazel stool. In all fifteen species were added to the list for the wood. During the day several parties converged on Arger Fen, an area of marsh and woodland belonging to Col. Heyland, and the nearby (Sabre-toothed) Tiger Hill, the last of the south-Suffolk heathland s. At Arger Fen a swampy stream drained into an Alder swamp in the valley among abundant Chrysosplenium alternifolium. Plagiothecium latebricola was found here, and Calliergon stramineum further upstream. At Tiger Hill a small grazed area of heathy grassland over glacial gravel, with little of note other than Dicranum scoparium, descended into the remnants of Tiger Hill Wood. *Pohlia lutescens was found in rabbit holes and on bare ground under bushes, and *Metzgeria fruticulosa in abundance on an old elder.

14 April (Vc 25). A biting cold wind again greeted the party, now somewhat depleted, on their arrival at the Walberswick Bird Reserve. but spirits rose as we penetrated Fen Covert, an extensive area of swampy secondary woodland with several acres of Sphagnum carpet. Although S. teres was not refound, there was an abundance of S. squarrosum, S. fimbriatum, S. palustre and scattered patches of *S. auriculatum var. inundatum. As the party penetrated further to the east the going became very swampy and much older woodland was encountered; here were found *Rhizomnium pseudopunctatum, Dicranum bonjeanii, Cephalozia connivens and *Hypnum mammillatum. An abundance of Thuidium tamariscinum growing among Sphagnum palustre made for the unusual. Out in the keen wind again, Ptilidium ciliare was searched for in vain amongst the heather, but Bryum bornholmense was winkled from the car- park area. In the af ternoon, fortified by the last of the Cedar’s packed lunches, most members headed for home, but one small intrepid party ventured south to Westleton Heath, to find little other than Orthodontium lineare and Cephaloziella divaricata (starkei) on peat among the heather; and thence to an equally boring Dunwich Heath where, despite having had to pay to enter onto the heath, everyone other than Eustace Jones rapidly returned to the cars rather than face the wind. Once down by the dyke that separates the heath from Minsmere, however, the sun could be appreciated; Riccia fluitans was found here growing with Hypericum elodes. On the way back to Stowmarket a final stop was made at Framlingham where the castle walls and the river floodplain were explored adding 46 species to the card for the square.

Once back in Stowmarket the survivors made for the Magpie, hoping for a quick enjoyable meal at the only place in town that appeared able to rustle-up food in less than an hour, – only to be disappointed – it happened to be their one night off! Had the Cedars been able to deliver meals at a reasonable price and in a reasonable time the Spring Meeting would have been a far more pleasant and congenial gathering. Fortunately the fine weather more than compensated for the inconvenience. Thanks are due to Dr Whitehouse, Richard Woolnough (Suffolk Trust), Colin Ranson, John Shackles and Geof. Radley (NCC) for helping to arrange the itinerary at such short notice.

Kenneth J. Adams