We were comfortably accommodated at Ellesmere College on the outskirts of Ellesmere where we had the 6th form girls’ residential block to ourselves. This provided just enough bedrooms to give members a single room if they wanted one and had a good lounge with kitchen and bar leading off which contributed to the social success of the meeting. We enjoyed excellent food in the college dining hall with wine being provided on the final night and generous lunch packs. Forty members attended as residents and a further eight joined us in the field plus one or two representatives from local organisations. We were pleased to welcome Dr Massimo Mastrachi from Italy and Donal Synnott who somehow managed to motor over from Dublin.
The excursions were divided between North Shropshire (v.-c. 40) and Montgomeryshire (v.-c. 47). The area around Ellesmere is an extension of the Cheshire Plain, an area of glacial drift, now mostly farmland with few trees but interspersed with bogs and meres both being relics of the Ice Age. Rainfall is low and pollution is or was high so the trees are bare of epiphytes. By contrast the hills and varied geology of Wales coupled with high rainfall provide a much richer habitat for bryophytes although on occasions a less comfortable one for bryologists. In the account which follows, first county records are marked with an asterisk * and the figures at the end of each main habitat are the total numbers of mosses and liverworts recorded.
Thursday 9 April.
The day of the general election depleted our numbers and only eight of us set off on a warm sunny day. En route to the main site we made a brief stop on the canal near Ellesmere (v.-c. 40) and found Barbula trifaria, Bryum ruderale and Orthotrichum cupulatum. 20 & 2.
Llanymynech Quarry (v.-c. 47).
We were joined by non-residents who doubled our number. This huge disused limestone quarry has high and quite dramatic cliffs facing in all directions of the compass and with grassed-over spoil-heaps, patches of scrubby woodland and a few damp areas. It has in recent years suffered erosion from rock climbing so the cliff face vegetation is sparse except for some refuge areas where danger notices exist and these could not be explored. Aloina aloides var. aloides was common. Nine Barbulas were found which included B. trifaria and both varieties of B. convoluta. There were also Encalypta vulgaris, Fissidens incurvus and F. viridulus, Campylium chrysophyllum, Rhynchostegiella tenella, Phascum cuspidatum and Zygodon viridissimus var. stirtonii. There were not many liverworts but a fair amount of Porella platyphylla in a shaded area. 61 & 5.
Gaer Fawr Woods (v.-c. 47).
A few more members joined us for the afternoon meeting. The woods are a Woodlands Trust Reserve on a hill rising to 220 metres and comprise mixed deciduous trees and open areas on a sandstone base. There are some less acid areas which yielded Brachythecium populeum and Ctenidium molluscum. Five species of Orthotrichum were found including O. stramineum and O. pulchellum, and there were also Zygodon conoideus, Bryum flaccidum, Ulota phyllantha and two varieties of U. crispa. Liverworts were well represented and included Frullania dilatata, Jungermannia gracillima and Metzgeria fruticulosa. 52 & 14.
Friday 10 April.
New Bridge over River Vyrnwy (v.-c. 47).
On another fine Spring day and with numbers up to thirty, the morning venue offered river and canal banks with locks and an aqueduct. It lay across two 10 km squares so the party divided with the main group keeping to the river bank and canal near the aqueduct. The river was disappointing owing to absence of trees and scouring of banks from flooding. Records included Bryum radiculosum, Fissidens osmundoides, Myrinia pulvinata, Tortula subulata var. subinermis, seven Orthotrichums including O. sprucei, Plagiothecium latebricola, Pottia intermedia*, Scleropodium cespitans and Tortula latifolia. 66 & 6.
The other group went to Carreghofa Locks and quickly found ten species of Barbula including B. trifaria, B. fallax and B. tophacea. There was also a good growth of Gyroweisia tenuis on the vertical walls of the lock, and Dichodontium pellucidum, Amblystegium tenax and Lophozia excisa. 36 & 3.
Whixall Moss (v.-c. 40).
This area of lowland bog has recently been acquired by English Nature and we were met by the warden, Joan Danials, who gave us an interesting introduction to its history and the objectives now that it has been rescued from peat-cutting. In spite of enrichment from adjoining farmland, Sphagnum magellanicum was found together with nine other Sphagni. Dicranella cerviculata was present on the peat cuttings and Dicranum undulatum, known from many years ago, was still present in a number of places. In a wet copse, fruiting Calliergon cordifolium was found. Aulacomnium palustre was fruiting abundantly. Among the liverworts were Calypogeia neesiana*, Cephaloziella rubella, C. divaricata, Gymnocolea inflata, Kurzia pauciflora and Odontoschisma denudatum. A bonus for many was a good quantity of Andromeda polifolia, flowering here and there. Bryum gemmiferum was found along the nearby canal. 31 & 10.
Saturday 11 April.
Ironbridge Gorge (v.-c. 40).
The morning was spent in Bentall Edge Wood which is a steep north-facing ancient wood rising from the banks of the Severn. There are clay and silt at the base and pure Wenlock Limestone at the top with a number of old quarries. A disused railway runs along the bottom from Ironbridge to the Power Station, and near the base of a wall along this Leptobarbula berica* in fine condition occurred as well as Gyroweisia tenuis. This diverse range of habitats produced a large number of species, the rarest of which was Pottia caespitosa* which had not been recorded north of Hereford before. Other species included Barbula nicholsonii, Bryum flaccidum, Campylium calcareum, Dicranella staphylina, Entodon concinnus, Fissidens exilis, F. incurvus, Hennediella stanfordensis, Mnium stellare, Oxystegus sinuosus, Eurhynchium schleicheri, Plagiothecium laetum, and Scleropodium cespitans with liverworts Jungermannia atrovirens, Leiocolea badensis, L. turbinata, and Riccia sorocarpa. Rhynchostegium riparioides was found unusually on a wet bank of sticky clay. 86 & 17.
After lunch, members broke up into smaller groups. One went downstream to Coalport – an area of glacial drift and industrial waste. Records included Barbula nicholsonii, B. trifaria, Brachythecium salebrosum, Bryum radiculosum, Eucladium verticillatum, Eurhynchium schleicheri, Hennediella stanfordensis, Rhynchostegiella tenella and Tortula latifolia. 34 & 2.
Another group went to a small reclaimed mining area at Stoney Hill where a few years ago an artificial pond was formed with landscaping around with the object of forming a nature reserve. It was hoped that some interesting pioneering species might have colonised the bare ground but this has not happened. At a higher level adjoining the site there is a large back-filled rubbish tip and leachate is giving some plants an unhealthy look and pond life is dying. Of interest were Fissidens viridulus, Weissia microstoma, Hylocomium brevirostre and Fossombronia pusilla and just off the site on the edge of a roundabout, Funaria fascicularis. 32 & 6.
A few miles up river where the Tern joins the Severn, a search was made for previously recorded Platygyrium repens but the old trees on which it was growing had been felled. Myrinia pulvinata was found nearby and this is present along the river at Attingham and Buttington.
Sunday 12 April.
Breidden Hill (v.-c. 47).
The weather forecast of strong winds and rain did not augur well for our trip to Breidden Hill but the rain held off. We approached it through some attractive mixed woodland and past a eutrophic pond. The hill is largely composed of dolerite, a basic rock thus allowing a good diversity of species to flourish, in contrast to the adjoining hills which are species-poor. The woods produced five Orthotrichums including O. pulchellum and O. stramineum, Archidium alternifolium on the ditch sides, Plagiothecium laetum and Cryphaea heteromalla, the pond Sphagnum auriculatum var. inundatum and Calliergon cordifolium. Most of the day was spent on the hill and records included Bartramia ithyphylla, Bryum flaccidum, Dicranum bonjeanii, Hedwigia ciliata, both varieties of Heterocladium heteropterum, Polytrichum alpinum, Philonotis arnellii, Pterogonium gracile, Rhabdoweisia fugax and Weissia microstoma. Liverworts were plentiful, among them Frullania fragilifolia, Lejeunea lamacerina, Lophozia excisa, L. incisa, Metzgeria fruticulosa, Radula complanata, Riccia glauca and R. subbifurca. 99 & 29.
Again there was a dispersal in the afternoon. The river bank at Llandrino yielded Cinclidotus fontinaloides and at Alberbury in v.-c. 40,Funaria muehlenbergii.
Monday 13 April.
The Berwyns at Tre-rhiwarth (v.-c. 47).
The weather was awful when we headed for the Berwyns, cold wind, heavy rain and low cloud, but by the time we had reached our rendezvous the cloud had lifted and the rain stopped. We were there with the kind permission of Mr Jones of Tre-rhiwarth Farm where among the sheep pasture and acid heath was a site made for bryophytes – a steep north slope with a mountain stream tumbling over a waterfall and into a deep ravine. The following is a selection from a high species count: Bartramia ithyphylla, Brachydontium trichodes, Racomitrium aquaticum c.fr., Cynodontium bruntonii c.fr. in quantity, Coscinodon cribrosus, Diphyscium foliosum, Fissidens osmundoides, Grimmia donniana, Isopterygium pulchellum, Oxystegus tenuirostris, Plagiobryum zieri, Pohlia camptotrachela, and Ulota drummondii. Among the liverworts were Anastrepta orcadensis, Frullania fragilifolia, Jungermannia hyalina, J. paroica, Lejeunea lamacerina, Plagiochila spinulosa, Riccardia multifida and Tritomaria quinquedentata. 120 & 38.
In the afternoon we moved down to Llangynog village to a large disused slate quarry with signs of old lead mining. This is an area which would repay a more detailed inspection. Records included Brachythecium glareosum, Grimmia donniana, Philonotis caespitosa, Pohlia annotina, Tetraplodon mnioides, Tortella nitida and Barbilophozia barbata. 38 & 7.
Tuesday 14 April.
Tyn-y-coed near Trefonen (v.-c. 40).
This excursion led us to a conifer wood on sandy soil with old quarries and rocky exposures and the approach was across an open valley with a nice clear stream. Before we entered the wood we had a brief look at part of Offa’s Dyke where part of the 1100 years’ old earthworks are still exposed but nothing of interest was found. The wood and stream produced Barbula cylindrica, B. spadicea, Fissidens pusillus var. pusillus, Oxystegus sinuosus, Heterocladium heteropterum var. flaccidum, Orthotrichum stramineum, Zygodon viridissimus vars. viridissimus and stirtonii. Bryum flaccidum was found on a rock – a much rarer habitat in Britain than on the continent. Liverworts included Porella arboris-vitae, P. platyphylla and Tritomaria exsectiformis. 48 & 14.
By lunch time heavy rain had set in and this sent most members scampering for home so only three were left to explore the last venue of the meeting which was Colemere Country Park. This was probably as well because it was most disappointing and only an hour was spent there. Climacium dendroides flourished in the meadow. 15 & 1.
Two good finds were made by members ranging further afield. Octodiceras fontanum at Grindly Wood, v.-c. 40 and Hennediella stanfordensis on the river Dee in v.-c. 50.
Ron Shoubridge & Cliff Townsend