Spring meeting 1990: Morecambe, Lancashire

HomeEventsSpring meeting 1990: Morecambe, Lancashire

3 April 1990 - 11 April 1990

Meeting report

Though small in area, Lancashire north of the river Ribble encompasses a remarkably diverse range of habitats. This reflects its varied geology and topography. Most of the Bowland uplands are within its borders, and land rises to over 2000ft on the Pennine massif. Substantial limestone exposures, partly wooded, occur in the northern part of the county, notably in the Arnside, Hutton Roof and Leck Beck areas. These contain important bryophyte sites. The Bowland uplands are composed mainly of sandstones and shales, ranging from strongly acidic to base-enriched, much of which is overlain by peat above the upland fence. The richest bryophyte habitats in this area include the upland mires, and the ravine woodlands on the northern slopes. It was in order to survey these and other habitats that the members of the Society foregathered in April 1990.

The headquarters for the week was the Belle Vue Hotel on the Morecambe sea front, and this proved to be good value. It was comfortable and warm, the food good, and the proprietors willingly accommodate our particular requirements. A total of 40 people attended the meeting for at least some of the time, and all but three came on field excursions. We were especially pleased to welcome an overseas contingent – Barbara Murray from Alaska, and Lillian Franck, Heike Hofmann and Johannes Vogel from Germany. The weather was generally kind. Apart from rain on the Thursday and the following Monday, the week was mostly warm and bright with much sunshine.

Wednesday 4 April.

Clougha Pike.

Three stalwarts attended the short afternoon excursion on the first day. We met at the car park below Clougha Pike. Though only three miles from Lancaster City centre, the area has much of interest. A rather small range of typical bryophytes was found in the stunted oak woodland which covered blocky gritstone talus at the base of the hillslope, though these were often in abundance. Dicranum fuscescens was notably common on boulders and as an epiphyte. Dicranum majus, Leucobryum glaucum, Campylopus flexuosus, Lepidozia reptans, Barbilophozia floerkei and Scapania gracilis were prominent members of the community. On open block talus screes above, bryophytes were often luxuriant. Most notable was the frequent occurrence of Lepidozia cupressina, which in Lancashire is most common on Clougha Pike. Other species noted included Sphagnum quinquefarium, Mylia taylorii, Kurzia trichoclados, Barbilophozia atlantica, Racomitrium lanuginosum and Calypogeia integristipula.

Thursday 5 April.

Dalton Crags and Leck Beck.

Two separate venues were planned for the first full day. Nineteen members assembled at Dalton Crags, an area of partly wooded limestone pavement, which rises to the limestone plateau of Hutton Roof. Torrential rain with hail engulfed us soon after entering the site, but fortunately lasted only a short time, and eventually the sun appeared. The bryophyte flora was rich and interesting. Common species such as Ctenidium molluscum, Isothecium myurum, Porella platyphylla, Thamnobryum alopecurum, Anomodon viticulosus, Tortella tortuosa and Fissidens cristatus covered boulders, and the clints and grikes. Rather more local taxa included Funaria muhlenbergii, Bryum elegans, Rhytidium rugosum, Barbilophozia barbata and Marchesinia mackaii. Peter Martin found Tortella densa*, new to v.c.60. Cololejeunea calcarea, C. rossettiana and Seligeria pusilla were found in small quantity on vertical rock faces , and thin peat over limestone supported such calcifuges as Leucobryum glaucum, Pleurozium schreberi and Racomitrium lanuginosum. Epiphytes on a few Elders included Ulota crispa var. norvegica, U. phyllantha, Orthotrichum pulchellum, Zygodon conoideus and Metzgeria fruticulosa.

In the afternoon, we made our way westwards to survey Springs Wood and part of the Leck Beck above Leck village. A good range of species typical of bouldery streams included Brachythecium plumosum, Hygrohypnum luridum, Schistidium alpicola, Amblystegium tenax, Cinclidotus fontinaloides and Thamnobryum alopecurum. The more interesting species of the wooded banks and rocks above were Plagiochila britannica, Thuidium delicatulum, Scapania aspera, Tritomaria quinquedentata, Taxiphyllum wissgrillii and Breutelia chrysocoma. Chris Preston detected Cryphaea heteromalla* new to v.c.60, and also on Elders were Orthotrichum lyellii, O. stramineum and Ulota phyllantha. On the west side of the Leck Beck, Springs Wood itself was, however, disappointingly poor. One or two members of the party ventured further up the valley and, inter alia, added the Lancashire rarities Bartramia ithyphylla, Fissidens osmundoides and Racomitrium ericoides to the day’s list.

Friday 6 April.

Ease Gill and Greygareth Fell.

We spent the whole of this sunny day in the extreme north-west of the county, where Lancashire attains its highest elevation. Mark Hill and a few others headed for the highest ground, and, having expressed a wish to survey the most species-poor tetrad in the area, spent the day exploring acidic habitats up to 2000ft on Greygareth Fell. In a small tally of species, there were, however, some interesting finds including Andreaea rupestris, Splachnum sphaericum, S. ampullaceum, and Calypogeia azurea, all rare in Lancashire. The rest of the party spent the day examining the bryophyte flora of the limestone scars, grassland and flushes bordering Ease Gill, and the adjacent heather moorland. This area is the richest bryologically in the county, and has a splendid array of species in abundance. Notable species seen today included Hylocomium brevirostre, Orthothecium intricatum, Plagiopus oederi, Seligeria acutifolia, Apometzgeria pubescens, Lejeunea patens, Plagiochila spinulosa, and Porella arboris-vitae. Jeremy Roberts and Nick Hodgetts rediscovered Bazzania tricrenata, which had not been seen since 1905. Nick and the local secretary independently found Pedinophyllum interruptum*. Cliff Townsend collected Tortula subulata var. graeffii* and also confirmed for v.c.60 was Mnium thomsonii*. Zygodon baumgartneri* was found on the base of an Ash tree growing from the limestone scar. Of particular note was the abundance of Cololejeunea calcarea in dry shaded crevices or under overhangs, as was the abundance of fruiting Neckera crispa above. The only disappointment on an otherwise most successful day (over 200 species recorded) was the failure to locate the small calciphilous mire in which Cinclidium stygium was found in 1906, and to confirm its presence.

Saturday 7 April.

Littledale, Foxdale and Wardstone.

Saturday was the best attended day, the sun shone, and 32 members and friends assembled at Littledale Hall above Caton. The objective was to survey Foxdale Beck and the surrounding woods and upland habitats. Most people did not venture far up the valley, being content to examine the fairly rich flora of the boundary stream and adjacent woodland in the first quarter mile. Species here included Seligeria pusilla, Brachydontium trichodes, Bazzania trilobata, Nowellia curvifolia on rotting logs, Hookeria lucens on a seepage bank, and an abundance of Lejeunea ulicina and Metzgeria temperata on tree trunks.

Others went further up Foxdale Beck, and recorded a hundred or so species on rock, heathery slopes, and in base-enriched seepages. Of particular note along the beck were Amphidium mougeotii, Blindia acuta, Fissidens taxifolius var. pallidicaulis, Bartramia ithyphylla, Gyroweisia tenuis and Oligotrichum hercynicum. The Calluna-Vaccinium covered hillslopes, supported the characteristic association of Dicranum majus, Rhytidiadelphus loreus, Bazzania trilobata, Barbilophozia floerkei, Lepidozia reptans and Plagiothecium undulatum. Here were recorded Calypogeia neesiana, Polytrichum alpinum, and Kurzia trichoclados in abundance. Several people remarked on the very fine show of typical Rhynchostegium alopecuroides which occurred locally in abundance in Foxdale Beck: one member said he was now “happy to believe in the species”.

The Presidential Party as usual headed for high ground, i.e. the summit of Wardstone, and provided lists for several tetrads. The acidic ground was poor in species and nothing of special note was found. Eleven species of Sphagnum included S. quinquefarium, S. russowii and S. tenellum. Nardia compressa was abundant in some rocky streams, and Tetrodontium brownianum was found in one or two deep crevices.

At the end of the day a few members visited the nearby Cragg Wood, and recorded Fontinalis squamosa in its stream.

Sunday 8 April

Whitendale and Dunsop Bridge.

Twenty-seven members attended today’s field meeting. We travelled south-west over the Trough of Bowland to Dunsop Bridge, and thence north along private estate roads into Whitendale. This was unknown territory bryologically, and it proved to be poor for a number of contributory reasons. The Whitendale river was strongly eutrophicated as evidenced by abundant algal growths, and bryophytes were few and sparse. The hillsides were heavily grazed, and bare peat locally exposed. The valley was south-facing, and almost all the ground was strongly acidic. However, after the riches of the previous days, the relative paucity of the flora did at least provide an opportunity for the common upland species to be studied at leisure. And it was good to take things easy on this cloudless and warm day. Roy Perry and Barbara Murray discovered a small quantity of Anastrepta orcadensis and new finds in the lower valley included Dicranella cerviculata and Sphagnum girgensohnii.

The more energetic made the long walk to the head of the valley and the plateau above. Despite the unpromising terrain, small basic areas were found, and the more interesting species included Anomobryum filiforme, Fissidens osmundoides, Philonotis calcarea, Sphagnum teres and Scapania umbrosa. David Long found Bryum riparium* new to v.c. 64 on a wet rock by the Whitendale River. Extensive rock scars on the upper slopes of the Bowland Fells look promising from a distance, but those of the party who examined them above Whitendale were inevitably disappointed. Aerial pollution has made them bryologically bald. The member for Twickenham, on examining the Great Bull Stones and finding nothing, professed “This is the worst place I’ve ever been!”

A survey of epiphytic species near Dunsop Bridge provided valuable records of Cryphaea heteromalla, Ulota phyllantha, U. crispa and Orthotrichum pulchellum.

Monday 9 April.

Warton Crag and Gait Burrows.

Limestone country was on the menu for today. The morning was spent at Warton Crag, a limestone hill overlooking Morecambe Bay. This hill has a series of scars and terraces, wooded below, which rise to areas of Sesleria grassland and limestone pavement above. A characteristic flora of the wooded scars included such species as Cirriphyllum crassinervium, Brachythecium populeum and Mnium stellare in abundance, and Eurhynchium striatulum was in huge quantity on shaded boulders and scars. Also recorded were Reboulia hemisphaerica, Metzgeria conjugata and Cololejeunea rossettiana. On the scars and pavements above, Funaria muhlenbergii was frequent, but F. pulchella, which was recorded here in 1902, was not refound. There were fine patches of Riccia beyrichiana in peaty hollows – sadly some was unnecessarily collected. Chris Preston discovered Bryum canariense, and Harold Whitehouse found Pottia lanceolata, which had not been recorded in Lancashire for 80 years.

For lunch and the afternoon session we moved to Gait Barrows National Nature Reserve, which contains the best single example of limestone pavement in Britain. The warden, Tony Aldridge, gave a much appreciated introductory talk on the reserve. Though extensive areas of pavement were removed for ornamental stone before the NNR was established (the huge quantity lining the Morecambe sea front, for example, bears testimony to the scale of past exploitation), large areas remain undamaged. Those of the party who had not hitherto seen limestone pavement, marvelled at the large area of massive, flat tubular limestone with “bonzai” Ash, Oak, Yew, Juniper and many other shrubs growing from its grikes. Of the large number of limestone bryophytes recorded, the most notable included Platydictya confervoides, Barbula reflexa in abundance, Ditrichum flexicaule, Pleurochaete squarrosa, Rhytidium rugosum, Thuidium recognitum, Riccia beyrichiana, and a second county record for Tortella densa. Of particular interest were the thin peat lenses which had developed on the flat limestone surface, which supported an intimate mixture of both calcicole and calcifuge species. Among the latter were Calluna vulgaris, Hypericum pulchrum, Potentilla erecta, Hypnum jutlandicum, Pleurozium schreberi, and Plagiothecium undulatum. Epiphytes included Orthotrichum stramineum on Elder, and Cololejeunea calcarea on a tree trunk. Hawes Water, a marl lake, was visited briefly, and Campylium elodes and Eurhynchium speciosum noted on its margins.

A cold wind with persistent light rain rather dampened enthusiasm at the end of the afternoon, and we were not unhappy to retreat to the warmth of the hotel.

Tuesday 10 April.


The last full day dawned overcast and remained so all day. A depleted party of 12 set out for Roeburndale to survey part of the valley upstream of the area visited by the Society in 1981. The morning was spent in Winder Wood, which is situated on a steep hillside bordering the river. Bryophytes were abundant on shaded and moist slopes by the woodland beck. Notable among them were Seligeria recurvata abundant on vertical sandstone faces, and the several square feet of Ptilidium pulcherrimum on a fallen tree. Cliff Townsend came across Campylostelium saxicola, and Bryum capillare var. rufifolium* new to v.c. 60. Tetrodontium brownianum occurred in dark places.

Further up the wooded valley at Haylotts, species characteristic of alluvial banks included Atrichum crispum, Pogonatum urnigerum, Dicranella rufescens and Pohlia camptotrachela. Shale scars had a typical flora including Fissidens pusillus, Jungermannia pumila, and Heterocladium heteropterum. Other species seen today were Philonotis caespitosa, Hookeria lucens, and Ctenidium molluscum woodland taxon in both sites.

Wednesday 11 April.

The Greeta gorge.

Just three of us remained for the final morning’s excursion. The first stop was a site by Morecambe Bay where the author found Bryum donianum in 1978, but we discovered that subsequent building operations had obliterated the site. A brief exploration was then made of part of the Keer banks at Carnforth, hoping to confirm historical records of one or two coastal species – but a complete blank, and not even Pottia heimii seen. Gressingham Bridge was the next stop, where we admired Orthotrichum sprucei which was common on silty tree-bases and branches in the flood zone of the river Lune.

However, the main objective of the morning was to re-find Campylostelium saxicola in the gorge of the River Greeta where Albert Wilson recorded it in 1905. We were lucky enough to find it fruiting well on two pieces of calcareous sandstone on the floor of a hazel coppice area close to the river. The bryophyte flora is well-developed in this beautiful wooded gorge. It included abundant Anomodon viticulosus, Porella platyphylla and Homalia trichomanoides on tree bases, Heterocladium heteropterum var. flaccidum, Mnium marginatum, Lejeunea cavifolia and Fissidens crassipes on rocks, and Cryphaea heteromalla and Dicranum montanum on tree trunks.

During the week 23 tetrads were visited and a total of 368 taxa recorded. This total represents some 68% of the taxa recorded since 1950 in Lancashire north of the river Ribble. Despite there having been intensive survey in this area since 1979 in preparation for a Flora, 8 new county records and a substantial number of 10km square records were made. Thanks are due to all owners and occupiers for allowing us access to their land, to staff of the Nature Conservancy Council for help in planning the meeting, and to Tony Aldridge for welcoming us to Gait Barrows. Our grateful thanks also to the proprietors of the Belle Vue Hotel for their hospitality in many ways: for altering their normal mealtimes to suit us, for keeping the television off and the bar open, and allowing a comprehensive rearrangement of the dining room for the Council meeting. Finally, I should like to thank all participants of field excursions who made this such an enjoyable and successful meeting.

M.J. Wigginton


Morecambe, Lancashire