For southern England, Sussex is extremely rich in its bryophytes. The promise of a varied programme of trips with a wide range of species to be seen and most attractive countryside, prompted nearly 50 members to attend all or part of the meeting. Sites to be visited were restricted to the western part of the county (v.c. 13) which reduced the amount of daily travelling to a minimum. The meeting was based on Bishop Otter College in Chichester where we were housed in student accommodation which we had to ourselves for the majority of the week. The food was excellent, although the ingeniously designed plastic packaging for the packed lunches proved quite a test for all but the most mechanically minded members.
Despite the fact that the area is comparatively well recorded, 8 new records for West Sussex were found and we added more than 75 plants to the 10 km squares we visited. Indeed, the meeting was set off to a good start when George Bloom discovered Marchantia alpestris* lurking in the grounds of Bishop Otter College on the day before the organized trips began.
[* = New vice-county record]
18 April. In the morning Dr Francis Rose led the party to the Nature Reserve on Heyshott Down. This is an area of chalk grassland, scrub and mixed woodland on the steep north-facing scarp of the South Downs which includes some interesting overgrown quarry works. The sparsely wooded grassland areas yielded Rhodobryum roseum and Hylocomium brevirostre, while Racomitrium lanuginosum was seen on more exposed areas. The search for Antitrichia curtipendula, which had been recorded near the top of the slope many years ago, proved fruitless, but the quarry site compensated for this with a rich bryophyte flora including Pleurochaete squarrosa and Entodon concinnus. Several members looked rather pink on the backs of their necks after the unaccustomed sunshine.
The afternoon’s site was Ambersham Common. This is an area of heathland on the Folkestone Beds of the Lower Greensand, much frequented, as it turned out, by adders. Braving the zoological guardians of the site, we found quantities of Dicranum spurium, which was as splendid as had been promised, and several Sphagna including S. magellanicum. Perhaps the richest finds were among the hepatics with Cladopodiella francisci, Kurzia sylvatica and Calypogeia sphagnicola as well as Jean Paton’s two vice-county records, Calypogeia neesiana* and Lophozia ventricosa var. silvicola*.
19 April. Rewell Wood and the associated gravel pit were the venue in the morning. We were disappointed not to re-find Atrichum angustatum in the wood or Ditrichum pusillum and Funaria fascicularis in the pit, but nevertheless it was a successful morning. The gravel pit, in which we were treated to a demonstration of motor-cycle scrambling, was particularly good for Fossombronias with both F. husnotii and F. incurva in some quantity as well as Lophozia bicrenata, L. excisa, Bryum bornholmense, B. sauteri, and B. gemmiferum. What with the motor cycles and Martha Newton on the lookout for potential speakers at the AGM, members found they had to keep their wits about them.
A quick sortie across the A27 to the reported site of a number of Nicholson’s old records proved disappointing, but spirits were rapidly raised by the main venue for the afternoon, the Sussex Trust for Nature Conservation’s reserve at Hurston Warren. This had been billed as one of the best bogs in West Sussex and it lived up to its reputation with another two vice-county records from Jean Paton (Drepanocladus fluitans var. falcatus* and Riccardia latifrons*) as well as ten species of Sphagnum, Cephalozia macrostachya, Calypogeia sphagnicola, Cephaloziella hampeana and Aulacomnium palustre with sporophytes.
20 April. The weather turned against us on the Saturday with drizzle and low temperatures. The morning we spent in Verdley Wood which is an extensive area of deciduous woodland, largely coppiced, on steep rocky slopes of the Lower Greensand Hythe beds. Several of the tree bases supported Plagiothecium latebricola while Bazzania trilobata and Kurzia sylvatica were also found in the coppice wood. Flushes yielded Marsupella emarginata while one or two rocks in the valley bottom were colonized by Heterocladium heteropterum.
Northpark Copse, the afternoon’s site, has Dicranum as its speciality: six are recorded. We managed to locate five, including D. flagellare, but failed to spot D. tauricum on that occasion. Other interesting finds included Martha Newton’s discovery of Pellia neesiana*, Hookeria lucens, Trichocolea tomentella and Barbilophozia attenuata.
21 April. The northern part of West Sussex has much Weald Clay and Sunday’s visits were to two Forestry Commission woods on the clay near Plaistow. The first was Kingspark Wood, well known to entomologists as one of the best butterfly sites in southern England, and also a good area for the Violet Helleborine. Part of it is now an SSSI. The main interest at the site is along the rides and tracks; the party examined these as well as the stream valleys. Three Scapanias were seen: S. irrigua, S. nemorea and S. undulata, as well as Amblystegium varium and Hypnum lindbergii. Martha Newton found Pellia neesiana again. Altogether, more than 80 species were recorded.
A similar number of species were seen in the afternoon at Hog Wood, where the party was allowed as far as the vice-county boundary but not across into ‘Jack Gardiner’s territory’ in Surrey! Hog Wood had rather more water than Kingspark Wood, and more broadleaved trees as well, with associated epiphytes. Interesting finds included Calliergon cordifolium, Fissidens exilis, Rhytidiadelphus loreus and the woodland form of Ctenidium molluscum. On the trees the bryophyte flora included Radula complanata, Orthotrichum lyellii, O. affine, O. pulchellum and O. stramineum; Martin Corley found Lejeunea lamacerina.
22 April. Monday morning was spent on Climping Beach and Littlehampton sand dunes. The party made its way via the rather derelict boat mooring area at the estuary of the River Avon, where Pottia heimii was found, and across the Golf Course, to the astonishment of several players. Bryum inclinatum was not seen, but Rhynchostegium megapolitanum was on the dunes and both Aloina aloides and Zygodon conoideus were discovered as we made our way to some impressive large elder trees. With military precision, members were ferried back to their setting- off point and thence to Arundel where Leptodon smithii was found on trees overlooking the car park at the Wildlife Reserve. After lunch we made a circuit of Swanbourne Lake in Arundel Park. Cephaloziella baumgartneri was there, but only in tiny scraps, the colony having been much reduced from former glory by ivy invasion of the site. Other interesting species included Eurhynchium swar tzii var. rigidum, Fissidens incurvus, F. limbatus and Tortella inflexa. A couple of members later admitted to rounding the afternoon off with a cream tea in a local cafe.
23 April. The morning of the last day was spent in Duncton Chalkpit, a six-acre reserve managed by the Sussex Trust for Nature Conservation. The site includes an old limekiln (with Gyroweisia tenuis and Tortula marginata) as well as bare chalk and scrub. Eighty species were recorded in an hour and a half, including Seligeria calcarea on the quarry face and S. paucifolia on detached pieces of chalk with Tortella inflexa and Fissidens pusillus var. tenuifolius. Nowellia curvifolia was seen in shaded places and Chris Preston and Angela Newton found more Leptodon smithii on an ash tree. As the party was about to move on, Eustace Jones appeared with Platygyrium repens – only the second record for v.c. 13, it having been found by Rod Stern for the first time in another locality earlier in the year. A short stop in a narrow lane at Barlavington with steep Upper Greensand banks enabled the party to see Rhynchostegiella curviseta and luxuriant Eurhynchium schleicheri.
After lunch the party was joined at Iping Common by Miss Anne Griffiths, the ecologist from West Sussex County Council. She explained their management policy for this local nature reserve whereby heather is maintained at the expense of invading Scots Pine which has eliminated so much heathland in south-east England. Several species of Sphagnum were seen on the wetter ground, together with the usual hepatic associates. Apart from Drepanocladus exannulatus var. rotae (in its second v.c. 13 locality), all the plants had been recorded earlier in the week, but those who had missed the first couple of days were able to see Campylopus brevipilus, Drepanocladus fluitans var. falcatus, Dicranum spurium and Lophozia ventricosa var. silvicola.
At nearby Chithurst, the party bade farewell to West Sussex with a flourish –Targionia hypophylla in its only v.c. 13 locality, growing on a stone wall with Reboulia hemisphaerica.
All in all, it was a most successful meeting which was thoroughly enjoyable both bryologically and socially. This was in no small part due to the excellent organization by the local secretary, Rod Stern. Shepherding so many wilful and unruly bryologists about is no mean task and we were all most grateful to Rod for his friendly and efficient leadership. I am also very grateful for his help in preparing this account of the meeting.