Large areas of the Yorkshire Dales have never been visited by the Society and the opportunity was therefore taken during the Spring Meeting at Ilkley to visit some of the characteristic habitats of the Dales country where the mountain limestone in particular supports some rich bryophyte communities. Ilkley was well situated for this purpose, being only a few miles north of the Leeds/Bradford conurbation and yet giving easy access to Upper Wharfedale and the Craven Pennines, The headquarters for the meeting was the Ilkley Campus of Bradford & Ilkley Community College, which allowed the majority of participants to be accommodated together at a reasonable price, and with the further advantage that microscopes were available for evening use. The number attending exceeded 30 during the weekend part of the meeting but was lower during the earlier and later stages. We were pleased to welcome two of our foreign members on some of the excursions, Lillian Franck from West Germ any and Sue Studlar from Kentucky.
All the excursions were to the large vice-county of mid-west Yorkshire (64) which contains a number of classic and well-bryologised sites. It was possible to visit three of the major geological strata of the vice-county (millstone grit, carboniferous limestone and magnesian limestone), but the rich and interesting Ingletonian rocks in the north-west of the vice-county were rather too distant to come within the scope of this meeting.
7 April. The first excursion of the meeting was to the millstone grit in Nidderdale. Although this formation is viewed with some disapprobation by many botanists, the particular site visited at Skrikes Wood (Ravensgill) has a number of interesting features. It is a wooded ravine with the stream bed filled with large boulders and although situated on the eastern slopes of the Pennines, it supports a flourishing population of Jubula hutchinsiae, this being seen in at least three separate places in the stream bed. Isothecium holtii also occurs here but was not seen on this occasion. The sheltered boulders in the woodland had a good growth of hepatics, including Bazzania trilobata, Calypogeia integristipula, Tritomaria exsectiformis, Sphenolobus minutus, Mylia taylorii and Scapania umbrosa. There were, however, some surprising absentees: no Lejeunea was seen although both L. cavifolia and L. lamacerina are known from other, apparently less favourable, sites on the millstone grit in the county.
The woods were entered from the road near Yorke’s Folly, and on the descent to the stream members were delighted by the glow of Schistostega pennata shining brightly from the bottom of rabbit holes. Also seen were Tetrodontium brownianum on a wet underhang in an old rock cutting and Scapania scandica on a half-buried stone.
Later in the day the more open stream banks above Skrikes Wood were reached. Sphagnum girgensohnii, Blindia acuta and Jungermannia sphaerocarpa were additional species, and Andreaea rothii, a rare plant on the millstone grit, was seen on rocks by the stream.
8 April. On the day designated for a visit to Malham Tarn it was disconcerting to find the morning sky full of snow. Some of the lower ground was clear, but on arrival at the Tarn the party found the area living up to its reputation as an arctic-alpine refugium, being covered with an unbroken blanket of snow. A rapid retreat was therefore made below the snow-line to Gordale Bridge and the limestone woodland at Janet’s Foss. Some of the common limestone species were growing in luxuriance on the shaded rocks, along with Pedinophyllum interruptum, Plagiochila britannica, Porella cordaeana, Radula complanata, Cololejeunea rossettiana, Seligeria donniana, S. acutifolia, Rhynchostegiella teesdalei and Orthothecium intricatum.
After lunch at Gordale Bridge the party worked upsteam into the celebrated gorge at Gordale Scar. The extensive limestone scars and pavements give a barren aspect to the landscape, but Cololejeunea calcarea, Reboulia hemisphaerica, Encalypta rhaptocarpa and Mnium thomsonii were additions to the day’s list, and a small form of Isothecium striatulum was found at the base of a wall. The more persistent members walked up the Gordale Beck to look at the calcareous flushes near Mastiles Lane. Leiocolea bantriensis, Gymnostomum recurvirostrum, Amblyodon dealbatus and Orthothecium rufescens were on hummocks in the flushes and Scorpidium scorpioides was conspicuous in the runnels.
9 April. In spite of the previous day’s snow it was decided to persevere with the scheduled visit to Pen-y-ghent, the highest ground to be attempted during the meeting. In the event the decision was amply justified: only small patches of snow remained on the summit of the hill, and after a dull start the day grew bright and sunny and the limestone landscape was shown to great advantage. The morning was spent on the high Yoredale limestone cliffs below the summit plateau, where the splashes of purple saxifrage (Saxifraga oppositifolia) were a welcome sight after the moorland trek from the road at Dalehead. The party largely confined itself to the south-western cliffs. Pseudoleskeella catenulata is plentiful here and the rediscovery of Myurella julacea in its third English station was especially pleasing. Other species seen were Barbilophozia barbata, B. hatcheri, Distichium capillaceum, Encalypta rhaptocarpa, Barbula reflexa, Tortella densa, Pohl ia cruda, Plagiobryum zieri, Bryum elegans and Orthothecium intricatum. Pottia lanceolata and P. intermedia were recorded from soil on or near the cliffs.
After lunch the party drove the short distance to Giants Grave at the head of Pen-y-ghent (or Hesleden) Gill. Zygodon gracilis was an object of immediate admiration on the wall where it was first found, in fruit, by John Nowell in 1866. There is still a good quantity of the species here and there was a general feeling that it ought to occur on many such walls in the high limestone country. The Gill itself is fed by underground limestone streams which emerge near its head at about 350 m. altitude. The upper part is almost treeless and on the moist rock outcrops Orthothecium rufescens and Plagiopus oederi are particularly attractive and conspicuous elements of the flora. Other species recorded included Leiocolea alpestris, Tritomaria quinquedentata, Pedinophyllum interruptum, Plagiochila spinulosa, Cololejeunea calcarea, Seligeria trifaria, S. acutifolia, Barbula ferruginascens and some of the species already seen on the Pen-y-ghent cliffs.
A Council Meeting was held during the evening at Ilkley College.
10 April. This day produced the worst weather of the meeting, the morning visit to Grass Wood in Wharfedale being hampered by almost constant rain. This extensive wood has suffered much in the past from timber extraction but many of the characteristic mountain limestone species were seen, particularly on Gregory Scar: there was some fine Porella arboris-vitae, along with Cololejeunea calcarea, Seligeria donniana, S. acutifolia, Barbula reflexa and Hylocomium brevirostre. This was a good place for beginners, the commoner woodland species being fine and plentiful.
No single excursion was planned for the afternoon. On the departure from Grass Wood, one car-load called in at Linton nearby and found Tortula virescens on sycamore by the village green. Some members returned to Malham in a second attempt to examine the Tarn Moss area. However the weather was cold and uninviting and not many of the known specialities were seen. New records for this well-worked area were Sphenolobus minutus on the peat of the Moss and Plagiochila britannica on a limestone wall. A prolonged search was made for Dicranum flagellare in its only Yorkshire station in the woodland west of the Tarn House and resulted in Campylopus paradoxus with flagellae and a small amount of D. flagellare without them. The extensive areas of lead-mine waste on Grassington Moor at Yarnbury were visited by a third group. Lophozia excisa, Barbilophozia barbata and Weissia controversa var. densifolia were among the species they found.
11 April. This day, chosen for a visit to the Wharfe Banks between Bolton Abbey and Barden Bridge, proved cold with some heavy hail showers, but nonetheless bryologising in the sheltered woodland was both pleasant and fruitful. A combination of delightful topography, a rich and varied flora and easy accessibility from the industrial south made this a popular venue for botanists during the last century and it remains a superbly attractive piece of countryside. The rock here is millstone grit, but in parts it is highly calcareous and this accounts for much of the variety in the flora. A few species formerly known are apparently no longer present, including the once plentiful Antitrichia curtipendula, but this was still the richest site visited during the meeting, with some 140 species seen on the day. The route taken was from Cavendish Pavilion along the west bank to beyond the Stridd and back along the east bank. Species of the calcareous grit included Leioco lea alpestris, Pedinophyllum interruptum, Scapania cuspiduligera, Cololejeunea rossettiana, Distichium capillaceum and Mnium thomsonii, while the calcifuge flora included Calypogeia integristipula, Tritomaria exsectiformis, Harpanthus scutatus, Scapania umbrosa, S. scandica, Cynodontium bruntonii, Dicranodontium denudatum, Leucobryum juniperoideum and Bartramia pomiformis. Pohlia lutescens grew with Ditrichum cylindricum on some trackside ruts. Species confined to the flood zone, and often embedded in alluvial sand, were Dichodontium flavescens, Barbula spadicea and plentiful B. nicholsonii, with Orthotrichum sprucei and O. rivulare on tree roots and branches. Plagiochila britannica was also on alluvial sand at the base of a tree. At the Strid, Cinclidotus mucronatus was refound growing vertically downwards from the underside of rocks overhanging the river, and was thus confirmed to be in no danger from the trampling feet of visitors. The sheltered and ancient nature of the woodland has preserved relatively rich epiphytic communities along this part of the Wharfe. Lejeunea ulicina is here at the eastern limit of its distribution in the north of England. Metzgeria temperata and Dicranum montanum were seen on several trees (and both also on millstone grit boulders ), and there were other species such as T ortula laevipila and Radula complanata which would not be accounted remarkable in districts where the air is cleaner.
A number of interesting observation were made by members. Capsules were reported on Plagiomnium undulatum and Mrs Appleyard found galls on Rhizomnium punctatum and Scapania umbrosa. Much attention was paid to the fertile material of Dichodontium. At first confusion was caused by capsules of Barbula spadicea lurking in the Dichodontium tufts, but it became clear that both forms of capsule were present on gametophytes that appeared macroscopically indistinguishable, and it was thought that there was scope for further investigation into their taxonomy. A pleasant diversion from bryology was provided by some fine flowering plants of the Yellow star-of-Bethlehem (Gagea lutea) in sandy soil on the river banks.
12 April. The final day of the meeting brought a marked change in scenery with a visit to the low-lying magnesian limestone near Ripon. The magnesian limestone has a quite different character from the carboniferous and several species were seen which had not been observed during the rest of the meeting. The morning was spent at Burton Leonard Lime Quarries, recently acquired as a Reserve by the Yorkshire Naturalists’ Trust, and the Society was welcomed by representatives from the management committee. The lower quarry contains some small areas of short turf and semi-bare ground. In such places were seen Leiocolea badensis, Pottia lanceolata, Phascum curvicolle, Thuidium abietinum ssp. abietinum, T. philibertii and Entodon concinnus. Burton Leonard was one of the original British stations for Lophozia perssonii and on the present occasion the species was seen in two places, on calcareous soil under a turfy overhang at the top of a bank and on a moist part of the sheltered quarry face. The upper quarry has been largely filled in with rubbish, but there remain some shaded rock cuttings with Preissia quadrata, and a group of elder trees with a relatively well-developed epiphytic flora which included Orthotrichum pulchellum.
In the afternoon the party moved on to Fountains Abbey and the Skell valley. The richest ground was in the valley east of the Abbey at Mackershaw Woods. Tortula marginata, Gymnostomum calcareum and Mnium marginatum were on boulders in the wood, and Dicranum tauricum was on a log. Between the woods and the Abbey, Amblystegium compactum was seen in a known station on the vertical banks of the stream. The grassy slopes of the valley were beginning to dry out in the spring sunshine, but Pottia recta and P. lanceolata were still in evidence on calcareous earth. Leiocolea badensis was widespread.
In such well-bryologised localities, not many new records were either made or expected during the excursions, and there were no real surprises. However members were able to enjoy some splendid bryophytes in equally splendid surroundings and in particular to see such species as Zygodon gracilis and Pedinophyllum interruptum which are unknown or very scarce outside the Pennines. Moreover lists were made and reports are in preparation for a number of the Reserves and other sites visited. Thanks are due to the landowners and Reserve managers who gave their help and permission in arranging the excursions, but most of all to the members who took part in them and forwarded their results to the Local Secretary.
T. L. Blockeel