Spring meeting 1983: Okehampton, Devon

HomeEventsSpring meeting 1983: Okehampton, Devon

14 April 1982 - 21 April 1982

Meeting report

The Spring Meeting was held at Okehampton, north Devon (v.-c. 4) from 14 to 21 April. The northern half of Devon has been much less well explored and less well mapped than the southern. It was thought, correctly, that Okehampton being on the northern edge of Dartmoor would be in reach of a wide enough range of habitats to produce a varied flora and to attract a good attendance so that some useful mapping might be done. Well over thirty members attended the meeting and we were especially fortunate in the weather, enjoying almost continuous sunshine and having not a single drop of rain fall upon us, most remarkable when centred on a town with an annual rainfall of between 45 and 50 inches.

15 April. The Meeting started with a gentle introduction to Dartmoor. A short journey to Belstone, a couple of miles south-east of Okehampton, was followed by a walk a short way up the East Okement River. Flushes on the side of the valley had Cephalozia pleniceps and Pellia neesiana. Nardia compressa was in the river and *Plagiochila spinulosa on a tree by it. Other noteworthy finds were *Leucobryum juniperoideum, *Marsupella sphacelata and Bryum bornholmense. After lunch the party went a couple of miles east to examine some old copper mine workings at South Zeal. A good deal of Cephaloziella material was there. Most of it was, as so often, C. divaricata; but small quantities of C. stellulifera and C. nicholsonii were also found. After this most of us strayed into south Devon (v.-c. 3) and had a look at the heathland to the north of Buttern Hill, south of Throwleigh. A fairly long list of specie s included nothing rarer than Splachnum ampullaceum and Fontinalis antipyretica var. gracilis.

[* = New vice-county record]

16 April. As a contrast to Dartmoor there was a long drive to the north coast. The principal stop was at the wooded cliffs to the east of Clovelly. The flora here was not very rich. Fissidens celticus, present in some quantity was the best find. F. curnowii, Plagiochila punctata, P. spinulosa and Nowellia curvifolia were also seen. After lunch we split up, visiting different localities round the coast to the west. Hartland Point yielded Frullania microphylla and Pottia crinita. Hartland Quay had a richer flora, including fruiting Archidium alternifolium, Tortula canescens, Pottia starkeana var. brachyodus, Scleropodium illecebrum and Cololejeunea minutissima. Welcombe Mouth also proved profitable, yielding Fissidens celticus, Desmatodon convolutus, Bryum gemmiparum and Scleropodium caespitosum.

17 April. Back again to Dartmoor, this time up the West Okement River and to Black Tor Copse, one of the famous Dartmoor high level oakwoods. This is fascinating ecologically but only moderately rich in bryophyte species. The Society visited it in 1966 on the Tavistock meeting (Trans. B. B. S. 5, 426). Lophocolea fragrans was a noteworthy addition to the flora of the wood. The West Okement valley proved quite rewarding, with Rhynchostegium alopecuroides, Isothecium holtii, *Marsupella aquatica and Diplophyllum obtusifolium. Lower down the valley Heldon Quarry produced several calcicoles uncommon in the district: Aloina aloides, *Gymnostomum aeruginosum, Tortella tortuosa, Anomodon viticulosus, Camptothecium lutescens.

18 April. Being Sunday this was the traditional “free day”, presumably to allow members to go to church. Our devotions did not impede our fieldwork. Some members went to Lydford Gorge, previously visited on the Tavistock meeting. Most of the species seen then (though not Fissidens celticus) were refound, but there were no significant additions. Sourton Quarry, to the north of Lydford, had *Barbula reflexa, *Eurhynchium swartzii. var. rigidum and Bryum flaccidum. The valley of the River Torridge at Beaford Bridge, some fifteen miles north of Okehampton, was worth visiting just for the spring flowers. Bryophytes seen included *Barbula nicholsonii, Pohlia lutescens, Bryum sauteri and Orthotrichum rivulare. One member drove to Bolt Tail, on the South Devon coast, visited by the Society from Totnes in 1950. Species seen this time but not in 1950 included Weissia perssonii, Eurhynchium speciosum, Bryum dunense and Cololejeunea minutissima.

19 April. Again no formal excursions were planned, in the hope that members would disperse and map some of the less well worked 10 kilometer squares. Those who visited the Torridge yesterday tried the Taw today and found many of the same species. Cinclidotus mucronatus was at Lapford, Pohlia lutescens there and near Bondleigh – whatever did we overlook this as until fifteen years ago? Bryum donianum was found at South Tawton, *B. dunense and Fissidens celticus at Spreytonwood. Those who visited some of the ground in the upper part of the Teign valley, west of Chagford (v.-c. 3) were rewarded by the only Orthodontium lineare seen on the meeting as well as Isothecium holtii and many plants seen on other days.

20 April. On this, the last day, we went to Fingle Bridge, on the Teign (v.-c. 3). This beautiful wooded valley was visited by the Society on both the Totnes and the Tavistock meetings. We were pleased to see many of the rarities previously recorded, including Porella pinnata, Jubula hutchinsiae and fruiting Grimmia montana, and to find a few less expected plants – Cephaloziella turneri, Cynodontium bruntonii, Leucobryum juniperoideum and Zygodon baumgartneri.

It is always a little arbitrary deciding which species to pick out for mention. Many not mentioned at all in this account because they were seen in too many localities would be decidedly noteworthy in most parts of the country: Metzgeria temperata, M. fruticulosa, Saccogyna viticulosa, Atrichum crispum, Schistostega pennata, Epipterygium tozeri.

While those who hankered after the fleshpots of South Devon may have found the bryology a little disappointing, nearly 350 species and varieties were seen on the meeting, including many south- western ones of limited distribution in the British Isles. Not many new county records were made, that of Marsupella sphacelata, not known previously south of Brecon, being the only extension of range. The contribution to the mapping scheme was more substantial, about 1650 records being made in 14 squares. All those that participated in the meeting owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Michael Proctor for all that he did to organise it and make it so successful.

A. C. Crundwell


Okehampton, Devon