Acting as local secretary for an area I barely knew was daunting but Council contributed towards a hectic, three-day reconnaissance snatched in October 1992. This was vital in assuring the success of the meeting. Most important, it caused me to switch bases to the picturesque fishing port of Douarnenez rather than inland Quimper with its bad traffic congestion, scarce parking and less suitable hotels. Douarnenez had ambiance.
The party proved to be an ideal size for trouble-free bryological exploration in a land sans grid references. It also encompassed a blend of personalities which ensured that our evenings in pleasant harbour-side restaurants were a delight. Those attending included our sole French ‘guest’ Odette Aicardi, plus Jeff Duckett, Nick Hodgetts, David Long, Siobhan McDermott, Ron Porley, Michael Proctor, Celia and Gordon Rothero, Angela, Anton and Ivan Russell, Robin and Wendy Stevenson, Harold Whitehouse and myself. Most were comfortably accommodated at Hotel Le Bretagne. We were pleased to be joined on the excursions by Barbara (daughter of Ruprecht) Dull and her friend Jörg who were staying with friends at Quimper. Some people bryologized en route to Brittany. One of the best finds of the whole meeting was the discovery by David Long of Tortula fragilis on a shady wall top at Mont-St-Michel (Manche, Normandy) — a rare species in Europe and probably new for France. On entering the département of Finistère, where all but one of the days were spent, the streams were seen to be in spate although the weather elsewhere had been very dry. Later, we were left in no doubt about why Atlantic bryophytes are so frequent in Finistère compared to other départements. Nomenclature in this account follows Grolle (1983) for liverworts and Corley et al. (1982) with modifications by Corley & Crundwell (1991) for mosses.
Thursday 1 April
Tréfeuntec and Dunes de Ste-Anne-la-Palud
A bright but breezy early spring morning found us, at low tide, in the small rocky cove of Tréfeuntec about 6 km north-east of Douarnenez. A Little Egret watched as the ‘Caledonian’contingent headed with determination for the NE-facing slopes while others, with sights set on Mediterranean bryophytes, made for the warmer SW-facing slopes. Epipterygium tozeri, Fissidens curnovii, F. limbatus, Pottia crinita, Frlllania fragilifolia, Porella obtusata and Plagiochila killarniensis were seen only on the lusher NE-facing cliffs. The sunny slopes, with schist outcrops protruding from a community of Ulex gallii, Erica cinerea and Ruscus aculeatus, provided many of the anticipated Mediterranean-Atlantic taxa. Gongylanthus ericetorum grew sparsely on peaty soil under Erica with Entosthodon obtusus and Juncus capitatus at the top of the slope. Bare rocks and soil-filled crevices supported Campylopus fragilis, C. pilifer, Encalypta vulgaris, Grimmia laevigata, G. montana, Gymnostomum viridulum, Pleurochaete squarrosa, Pterogonium gracile, Tortula atrovirens, Trichostomum crispulum, Riccia crozalsii, Scapania compacta and abundant Hypericum linari. Interestingly, amongst these indicators of warmth and aridity, on some locally shaded or irrigated SW-facing slabs, were copious quantities of Andreaea rothii and Bryum alpinum, the latter with sporophytes. Repeatedly during the meeting, we were to observe the remarkable capacity of moisture-loving bryophytes to make a living in tiny ‘safe sites’ in otherwise exposed and unpromising localities on the sea-cliffs. Schistidium maritimum (rarely plentiful in Brittany), Tortella flavovirens and Trichostomum brachydontium occurred on rocks just above high tide level. Overall this proved to be one of the richest (76 taxa) of the coastal sites visited and an excellent introduction to Brittany. The softer schist rocks and associated ‘head’ deposits seem to provide a wider range of niches than the harder granites which form most of the exposed coastline.
After an hour or so, the party walked round on uncovered sand flats to the Dunes de Ste-Anne-la-Palud to the north. On a large dune system with familiar species such as Tortula ruraliformis, Homalothecium lutescens and Brachythecium albicans in abundance, we found that Pleurochaete squarrosa, Scorpiurium circinatum and Rhynchostegium megapolitanum were also plentiful. Most pleasing was a large population of Cheilothela chloropus, first found in October 1992, on a low grassy hummock in the south-west corner of the area with Didymodon acutus, D. fallax and Pseudocrossidium hornschuchianum. The only site for Cheilothela in Brittany listed by Gaume (1956) is Belle-lie (Morbihan). Damp ruts produced several Bryum spp. including B. pseudotriquetrum and B. inclinatum and Reboulia hemispherica. Patches of Sambucus scrub yielded the epiphytes Tortula laevipila, Orthotrichum tenellum, Zygodon conoideus and Z. viridissimus. Gathering clouds forced us back to the cars where lunch was taken during a violent shower.
Locronan and Forêt du Duc
In resumed sunshine a brief halt was made in the ‘showpiece’ village of Locronan which is built almost entirely from granite and has earth-capped drystone walls along the main street. In one wall hollow, a colony of Targionia hypophylla was discovered and immortalized in plane and ‘3-D’ photography by Michael Proctor and Harold Whitehouse among others. The main interest was provided by spectacular sheets of Leptodon smithii growing directly on the rough granite blocks constituting the south and west walls of the impressive church. Much fun was had photographing both the moss and those photographers who balanced precariously on buttresses to capture wet and dry states of Leptodon. Bryum radiculosum, Cololejeunea minutissima and Porella obtusata were also found on walls in Locronan, and a large Tortella which entirely lacked quadrate cells on the ventral face of the nerve and appears to be intermediate between T. tortuosa and T densa.
After congregating by an impressive outdoor granite pulpit of the chapel on Locronan ‘mountain’ (289 m) the party visited Forêt du Duc on its gentle northern slope. Predominantly a neglected Fagus sylvatica coppice with some Quercus petraea and Sorbus aucuparia, the wood has an understorey of Vaccinium myrtillus and a little of the character of Wistman’s Wood. This results from low stature of the beech regrowth, a smattering of granite boulders and an extraordinary abundance of Rhytidiadelphus loreus and other robust mosses such as R. triquetrus, Plagiothecium undulatum and Dicranum majus. The most productive habitats were acid banks and boulders along the track into the wood where Pogonatum nanum, Ptychomitrium polyphyllum and Plagiochila killarniensis were among the more interesting species noted. The luxuriant but relatively species-poor epiphytic vegetation included Lejeunea lamacerina, L. ulicina, Metzgeria temperata and Ulota bruchii. Hylocomium brevirostre occurred in a few places on stumps and, in one instance, at a height of about one metre on a Fagus stem but we did not see Leptodontium flexifolium which was once abundant here (Gaume, 1956).
Afterwards the group dispersed, some examining fallow fields. At Rosaguen (1 km west of Locronan) Bryum sauteri, Ditrichum pusillum, Entosthodon fascicularis, Pohlia camptotrachela, P. lutescens and P. melanodon were noted by Harold Whitehouse’s party. Gordon Rothero and David Long visited the Forêt de Nevet near Douarnenez and, among some common acidiphilous woodland bryophytes, found Leucobryum glaucum and L. juniperoideum both in fruit. A wonderfully varied day’s bryology was perfectly rounded off in a quiet seafood restaurant on the quayside where the patron’s wife almost went into shock at the unannounced arrival of 14 bryologists but who afterwards coped admirably.
Friday 2 April
On most days short stops were made to examine the epiphytes of village trees and species on church walls. At Ste-Marie-du-Menez-Hom, Leptodon smithii, Orthotrichum tenellum, Tortula papillosa and Ulota phyllantha, all common in Brittany, were found on Ulmus in the car-park. More Leptodon was seen on the granite church wall. A diversion was also made to the summit of Menez-Hom (330 m) which forms the western extremity of the Montagnes Noires range and from which we enjoyed a superb view of western Brittany intensified by distant rain storms. Menez is the breton equivalent to Welsh mynydd — a mountain. We did not bryologize seriously on the eroded, heathy top which is famous for Per Størmer’s original discovery of Campylopus introflexus in Europe and as one of the few localities in Brittany for C. atrovirens.
Bois du Loc
Bois du Loc is the ‘forêt domaniale’ of nearby Landévennec, a village at the mouth of the River Aulne. Steep north-facing slopes, at the base of the Crozon peninsula, are clothed with dense Quercus petraea-Fagus sylvatica forest almost down to the sheltered rocky shore of the estuary. Again, luxuriance of a few robust species such as Dicranum majus, Isothecium myosuroides, Pleurozium schreberi, Rhytidiadelphus loreus, R. triquetrus and Frullania tamarisci was the main feature. However, some commoner Atlantic bryophytes were seen, particularly associated with granite clitter, including Heterocladium heteropterum var. flaccidum, Hookeria lucens, Cololejeunea minutissima (a common epiphyte in Brittany), Lejeunea lamacerina, L. patens, L. ulicina, Plagiochila killarniensis, Saccogyna viticulosa, Scapania compacta and S. gracilis. Amongst a reasonable list of woodland bryophytes Leucobryum juniperoideum (c.spor.) was also noteworthy. Much interest was generated by the discovery of Ditrichum subulatum and Entosthodon attenuatus on a clayey bank just above the shore. Surprisingly, Gaume (1956) lists only one locality in Finistère for D.subulatum. Amphidium-like cushions on a shaded cliff on the shore misled most people and were in fact formed by Rhabdoweisia fugax. Schistidium maritimum and Frullania microphylla (one previous record for Finistère: Gaume, 1955) were seen nearby. Deserted picnic tables at the top of the wood provided an ideal site for lunch in warm and sunny conditions.
Cap de la Chèvre
The long drive to this southernmost prong of the Presqu’ile de Crozon took us through Crozon, Morgat and a long stretch of wind-clipped heathlands which, in autumn, are resplendent with flowering Erica ciliaris and Ulex gallii. This is typical breton granite cliff-top habitat and it looks extremely unpromising for bryophytes. In the eroded heathy peat the most conspicuous species were Campylopus introflexus, Entosthodon obtusus, Cephaloziella divaricata, Diplophyllum albicans, Frullania tamarisci and Scapania compacta. More careful inspection of sheltered granite outcrops, and particularly a line of scree below gentler cliffs on the west side of the semaphore, led to discovery of Scapania gracilis and Plagiochila killarniensis. Leucobryum glaucum turned up in a seepage patch in otherwise exposed salt-clipped heath. A small stream gully nearby produced Fossombronia angulosa and Sphagnum denticulatum. Gordon Rothero found Plagiochila punctata, Riccardia chamedryfolia, R. multifida and Saccogyna viticulosa in similar niches on the east side of the cape.
Afterwards several people bryologized further along the east side of the cape. Sunny cliffs around the Anse de St Nicholas near Keravel were notable for Campylopus pilifer, Grimmia montana and Plagiochila killarniensis plus Hypericum linariifolium and much Teesdalia nudicaulis. Groups of white-flowering Asphodelus albus enlivened the mats of dead Pteridium fronds on the cliff slopes and splendid evening views were enjoyed across the Baie de Douarnenez during the drive back.
Saturday 3 April
Montagne St-Michel D’Arrée
We left the cars in appalling conditions of wind and rain and were soon sheltering in a dripping huddle in the hilltop chapel (380 m). A meeting of eyes told us that this would not do and, as one, we ventured onto the relatively sheltered north-east slope where a Dartmoor-like clitter of granite boulders is the main interest. The hill is now badly abraded by tourist pressure but Dicranum scottianum, Grimmia trichophylla, Racomitrium lanuginosum, Barbilophozia attenuata, Lophozia ventricosa, Plagiochila punctata and Scapania gracilis were found with some commoner species during the briefest of searches.
The whole party halted momentarily in the nearby village of Brasparts where a brief respite in the rain enabled the detection of Habrodon perpusillus, Orthotrichum tenellum, Tortula laevipila and T. papillosa on Aesculus trunks outside the church. Aloina aloides and Didymodon luridus were found on a churchyard wall.
The considerable expanse of bog and wet heath called Yeun-Elez near Brennilis, in a depression in the Arrée mountains, now contains a large reservoir and associated nuclear power station which dominates the landscape ominously. The main objective, to find Sphagnum pylaisii, was soon satisfied, again in heavy rain. Small quantities of the curious Rhizomnium-like ‘sedoides’ form were present in a roadside runnel but vast quantities of the normal, blackish, branched form were present in shallow pools. These, it was presumed, dry out in summer but they were vengefully flooded during our visit. In trying conditions more than one person noted that a less attractive bryophyte than S. pylaisii would be hard to imagine. The other Sphagna seen were capillifolium, compactum, cuspidatum, denticulatum (including large ‘obesum’ forms), fallax, magellanicum, palustre, papillosum, subnitens and tenellum together with Campylopus brevipilus, Cephalozia bicuspidata, Gymnocolea inflata and Odontoschisma sphagni. Pogonatum nanum was found on a roadside bank nearby.
Forêt du Cranou
Lunch was taken on arrival in sodden condition at this extensive area of attractive ancient Fagus sylvatica forest and the rain stopped. Forët du Cranou has a similar ‘feel’ to the New Forest. A singular feature is an extraordinary abundance of Neckera crispa, often fruiting, on even quite young Fagus stems. There are no calcareous rocks to account for this phenomenon, just clean air and long continuity of the forest cover. Several trees in an area with picnic tables bore the large lichen Lobaria virens and one patch of L. pulmonaria was seen. Other bryophyte epiphytes were also luxuriant including Neckera complanata (c.spor.), N. pumila, Ulota crispa, U bruchii, Zygodon rupestris, Lejeunea lamacerina, L. ulicina, Metzgeria temperata and Plagiochila killarniensis. The ground flora was less luxuriant on the clayey soils than at rockier sites visited earlier but included Hylocomium brevirostre, Ctenidium molluscum ‘woodland taxon’ and Trichocolea tornentella. Marsupella emarginata, Metzgeria conjugata, Plagiochila spinulosa, Porella arboris-vitae, Fissidens dubius and Diphyscium foliosum were recorded on stone or earth-filled crevices.
Back at the car-park, Jeff Duckett’s birthday was celebrated with slices of tarte aux pommes. Later our President reciprocated by contributing a superb and much appreciated seafood spread to the evening’s feast. Brief halts on the return journey produced Habrodon perpusillus and Tortula papillosa at Châteaulin, Leptodon at Hanvec, and Leptodon, Tortella nitida and Porella plalyphylla at Le Faou where, on another day, Tortula pagorum was also found on town trees.
Sunday 4 April
Ile de Groix
A fine spring day commenced with an early drive to the docks at Lorient from where a small car ferry of the Compagnie Morbihannaise et Nantaise de Navigation took us across to Groix in about an hour. This island of Precambrian schist lies about 6 km from the mainland of Morbihan and is like a diminutive version (8 by 3 km) of Belle-lIe which was just visible on the southern horizon. After landing at Port Tudy we walked through the main town, Groix, and then to the exposed south coast at Locqueltas. Species of stone walls, hedgebanks, elders and stubble fields noted en route included Cryphaea heteromalla, Dicranella staphylina, Didymodon insulanus, Epipterygiurn tozeri, Phascum cuspidatum, Pseudocrossidium revolutum, Scorpiurium circinatum, Weissia brachycarpa, Riccia glauca and R. sorocarpa. A range of rocky and earthy habitats was examined during a leisurely walk westwards along the cliffs, and part way up a coastal vallon, until we reached Port St-Nicholas. Lunch was enjoyed in perfect conditions near Locqueltas amid sheets of the impressive non-British species Riccia ciliifera which was encountered in many places, usually on peaty earth receiving some seepage. On soil or rock in different niches on the cliffs were Acaulon muticum, Bryum alpinum, B. dunense, B. pseudotriquetrum, Campylopus pilifer, Entosthodon obtusus, Ephernerum sessile, Grimmia laevigara, G. trichophylla, Phascum cuspidatum var. piliferum, Pleurochaete squarrosa, Pottia crinita, P. recta, P. davalliana, Scorpiurium circinatum, Tortula atrovirens, Trichostomum brachydontium, T. crispulum, Weissia perssonii (probably new to France), Fossombronia husnotii, F. pusilla var. maritima (believed new to Brittany), Gongylanthus ericetorum (scarce), Riccia crozalsii, R. nigrella and Scapania compacta. Armeria maritima, Mibora minima, Plantago coronopus, Romulea columnae, Scilla spp., Trifolium subterraneum, T. suffocatum, Tuberaria guttata and Ulex gallii were among the commoner flowering plants. Scanty turf on the exposed Pointe de l’Enfer concealed confusing mixtures of stunted Pterogonium gracile and Scleropodium touretii. Nearby, a few bryologists descended into the dripping Trou de l’Enfer and found Fossombronia angulosa and Mniurn hornum. At the head of Port St-Nicholas some sheltered cliffs with seeps produced Campylopus fragilis, Plagiochila killarniensis (which we were all coming to recognize from its musty smell, nearly lacking in wetted P. spinulosa), P. porelloides and Saccogyna viticulosa. On the walk across the island back to Port Tudy further stubble fields near Kerloret yielded Anthoceros agrestis and Entosthodon fascicularis, and Scleropodium cespitans was found on a sheltered wall top near Port-Lay. On a vertical exposure of ‘head’ by the track just east of Port Tudy, David Long pointed out a large quantity of Tortula cuneifolia (c.spor.) which most of us would have overlooked. It was so comfortable socializing outside the harbour-side café that we almost missed the ferry back to Lorient. That evening we learnt that a relative of Odette had died and she had to leave us.
Monday 5 April
More rain and south-westerlies accompanied our visit to this granite tor (365 m) in the Montagnes D’Arrée a few kilometres north of Montagne St-Michel. First the party examined another tor to the south of Roc’h Trévézel which had a similar flora. These rocks arise from the surrounding heathland with much Luzula sylvatica about their bases and drapes of Silerie maritima. Bryophytes found on the granite surfaces included Andreaea rothii, Campylopus fragilis, C. paradoxus, Dicranoweisia cirrata, Dicranum fuscescens, D. scottianum, Grimmia ovalis, G. trichophylla, Hedwigia ciliata, Heterocladiurn heteropterum, Isothecium myosuroides, Mnium hornum, Polytrichum juniperinum, P. piliferum, Racornitrium aquaticum, R. heterostichum, Rhabdoweisia fugax, Barbibophozia attenuata, Diplophyllum albicans, Frullania fragillifolia, F. tamarisci, Lophozia ventricosa var. silvicola, Plagiochila punctata, P. spinulosa, Porella obtusata and Scapania gracilis. The robust mosses Dicranum majus, Hypnum jutlandicum, Plagiothecium undulatum, Pleurozium schreberi, Pseudoscleropodium purum, Rhytidiadeiphus loreus, R. triquetrus and Thuidium tamariscinum were common in sheltered heath between the granite outcrops. On the twigs of Prunus spinosa scrub near the summit one group found Colura calyptrifolia, Lejeunea ulicina and Ulota calvescens. The latter, collected by Nick Hodgetts, is believed to be new for France. Metzgeria temperata was plentiful on both sallows and slate faces in a small quarry on the north face of Roc’h Trévézel. Ulota phyllantha, Plagiothecium denticulatum and Sphagnum denticulatum were also seen here. Racomitrium ericoides was found on heathy gravel near the car-park.
Le Gouffre, Huelgoat
Huelgoat is the most famous place in Brittany for Atlantic bryophytes (but see below); I am assured the name is pronounced with hard Celtic syllables; -goat, is the same as Welsh -coed, a wood. The afternoon’s exploration was limited to Le Gouffre (‘the chasm’), a wooded ravine of the Argent river with several waterfalls. The wooded slopes to the north suffered terribly in the 1987 storm and the following clear-up, and tree cover had also been reduced in Le Gouffre. The bed of the river contains many large granite boulders and on the bank there are concrete steps and metal handrails at this popular tourist venue. One party crossed to the southern bank and explored a number of side valleys. Others worked the north bank and also examined a large area of carr beyond the ravine. On the boulders, banks and tree boles of the ravine were Blindia acuta, Brachythecium plumosum, B. rivulare, Cirriphyllum piliferum, Dicranum majus, D. scottianum, Diphyscium foliosum, Fissidens dubius, Heterocladium heteropterum vars. heteropterum and flaccidum, Hylocomium brevirostre, Isothecium holtii, Oxystegius tenuirostris, Racomitrium aciculare, R. aquaticum, Rhizomnium punctatum, Rhynchostegium riparioides, Sphagnum quinquefarium, Tetraphis pellucida, Adelanthus decipiens, Bazzani trilobata, Calypogeia arguta, Frullania fragilifolia ( Harpanthus scutatus, Lejeunea cavifolia, L. lamacerina, L. patens, Lophocolea fragrans (especially bases of large boulders in the river), Marsupella emarginata, Metzgeria conjugata, M. temperata, Nowellia curvifolia, Plagiochila porelloides, P. punctata, P. spinulosa, Riccardia chamedryfolia, Saccogyna viticulosa, Scapania gracilis, S. undulata and Trichocolea tomentella. David Long and Gordon Rothero discovered Jubula hutchinsiae in more than one locality in side valleys on the south side of the river. This species had not been seen at Huelgoat, its sole locality in Brittany, since 1878 (Gaume, 1955).
Downstream of the ravine, I guided Jeff Duckett to an area of carr where there was much Sphagnum palustre and S. angustifolium and enquired whether this was right for Cryptothallus mirabilis. He knelt down, peeled back the Sphagnum layer and there it was (new to France). A spectacularly luxuriant epiphytic flora was seen on the twigs of sallow and birch here including Neckera pumila, Orthotrichum pulchellum, Colura calyptrifolia and Lejeunea ulicina and the lichens Lobaria pulmonaria and L. scobiculata. Plagiothecium ruthei and Conocephalum conicum grew on wet litter and tree roots. On drier ground nearby Hylocomium brevirostre grew to the exclusion of all other species along a stretch of track bank. On the way back to the car-park, Andreaea rothii, Oxystegus tenuirostris, Rhabdoweisia fugax and Racomitrium aquaticum were recorded on dripping cliffs by the D769 road. On the return journey David Long recorded Tortula pagorum on Tilia at Cast.
At Huelgoat I noticed that planting with exotic oak species had been undertaken in some areas in place of the original storm-damaged beech and oak forest. Conservation of the Atlantic bryophyte and lichen species must surely deserve a high priority in the management aims at this rich breton site. Establishment of the original canopy species would seem to be an important prerequisite for the continued welfare of the bryophytes.
Tuesday 6 April
Fontaine and Vallon Saint-Pierre and Pointe de Leydé
On the final day three contrasting sites on Cap Sizun, the westernmost extremity of France were visited. We started in calm and hazy conditions on the north-facing, sheltered coast just west of Tréboul-Douarnenez. The cars were parked near Fontaine Saint-Pierre, a holy well in which luxuriant Riccia rhenana and Octodiceras fontanum were floating. Hilarity followed as several bryologists examining these plants were photographed on their knees before an effigy of the saint. We next descended a small vallon carrying the blessed streamlet to the shore. Several common hygrophilous species were seen (e.g. Fissidens dubius, Fontinalis antipyretica, Hookeria lucens, Oxystegus tenuirostris, Thamnobryum alopecurum, Chiloscyphus polyanthos, Conocephalum conicum and Riccardia chamedryfolia) but one of the best finds, by Nick Hodgetts, was of Marchesinia mackaii (rare in Brittany: Gaume, 1955) on the cliffs below. Further westwards in the vicinity of Pointe de Leydé some granite outcrops yielded Campylopus fragilis, Frullania fragilifolia, F. microphylla (rare or under-recorded in Brittany), Lejeunea lamacerina, the almost ubiquitous Plagiochila killarniensis, Saccogyna viticulosa and Scapania gracilis. Soil and rocks by the coast path produced Didymodon tophaceus, Fissidens viridulus, Schistidium maritimum and Weissia perssonii and several commoner species but the party soon craved a change of habitat.
Pointe de Lervily
A longish drive to the next site, about half way along the south side of Cap Sizun, was interrupted by halts to view village trees. Pointe de Lervily is a headland on the western side of Audieme composed of a low platform of ‘head’ material with a boulder beach. The landscape westwards is a sober prospect of abandoned fields marked by drystone walls of granite enclosing deep gorse. On sparsely-vegetated flat ground in front of the semaphore tower we crawled over an intricate crust of Archidium alternifolium, Barbula unguiculata, Bryum alpinum, B. bicolor, Campylopus introflexus, Ceratodon purpureus, Entosthodon obtusus, Fissidens viridulus, Pleuridium acuminatum, Polytrichum juniperinum, Pottia crinita, Scleropodium touretii, Tortella flavovirens, Trichostomum brachydontium, Cephaloziella divaricata, Fossombronia husnotii, Gongylanthus ericetorum, Lophozia excisa, Riccia crozalsii and R. nigrella. A local resident, puzzled and somewhat alarmed by our activities, relaxed when he discovered we were English! Lunch was taken watching a moderate swell roll in from the Bay of Biscay in overcast and misleadingly peaceful conditions.
Bestrée Port to Pointe du Raz
Raz is Brittany’s version of Land’s End and equally over-developed. On impulse, I thought it would be best to park short of it at Bestrée Port, a tiny ‘Comish’ fishing narbour in an impossible cliff niche, and walk around on the coast path. We started on the high cliff path in still, bright conditions, but presently a wall of fog moved in and the party immediately became enveloped and dismembered in a shroud of soaking drizzle. In the highly-exposed and summer-baked maritime heath only a few bryophytes were seen including Archidiurn alternifolium, Campylopus introflexus, a curious, attractive, golden form of Hypnum cupressiforme var. resupinatum (on granite), Polytrichum juniperinum, Pottia crinita, Tortula atrovirens, Trichostomum brachydontium, Weissia controversa, W. perssonii and Riccia sorocarpa. At one point, a party of workmen loomed surrealistically out of the mist as they excavated the course of the coast path. Until recently the ancien sentiers des douaniers were sadly neglected in France in comparison with Britain but, following legislation in 1976, local authorities now maintain them to a high standard. As we approached the last stretch of the Pointe Tortula atrovirens (c.spor.) remained the only prominent bryophyte. Few people ventured onto the final fog-bound prominence; most retired to the café before trudging back sodden along the road to the cars.
Several people had arranged to stay on in Brittany or travel to other parts of France after the meeting. Robin and Wendy Stevenson, Barbara Dull and Jörg stayed on in Finistére visiting, among other places, the Gorges du Coronc where they recorded Harpalejeunea ovata and Porella pinnata among other commoner Atlantic species. Four of us tried to visit the Chaos de St-Herbot near Huelgoat which the late Ted Wallace is said to have described as the ‘only good site in Brittany. We were refused access by workmen at the waterworks below the ravine but afterwards followed a path into an oakwood in the valley of the Ellez river above the reservoir. Here granite boulders carried a luxuriant flora including quantities of Adelanthus decipiens and other, commoner Atlantic bryophytes. In carr by the lake Climacium dendroides, Sanionia uncinatus and Zygodon conoideus were found. Driven by a desire to find Plagiochila atlantica at its only known non-British locality, David Long and I rapidly followed the path past the lake and dam and descended the Chaos. This is a steep ravine on a grand scale, filled with a tumble of gigantic granite boulders, much more impressive than Le Gouffre. We had no time for a thorough inspection but noted tremendous sheets of Hymenophyllum tunbridgense and large cushions of Bazzania trilobata, far surpassing those seen at Huelgoat. Conspicuous bryophytes such as Dicranum scottianum, Hylocomium brevirostre, Isothecium holtii, Sphagnum quinquefarium, Adelanthus decipiens, Plagiochila punctata and P.spinulosa were plentiful. Finally, after a breathless scramble, Plagiochila atlantica was discovered by David where he thought it might be; on a well-lit granite rock high above the stream on a SE-facing slope. This was a marvellous high point on which to end the week.
Besides the obvious social benefits of a meeting in France, it was a rewarding experience to compare the bryophyte flora of another part of the Atlantic coast with ones experience in Britain. I found myself making comparisons with Devon and Cornwall more often than with Wales and Scotland. Brittany is perhaps richer in species than Cornwall and its paucity of the choicer Atlantic bryophytes is partly offset by a greater number of warmth-loving taxa but there are some curious omissions. Our few excursions, which added two or three species to the French list and rather more to the flora of Brittany, suggest that significant additions could be made by anyone engaging in further work. I am grateful to all those who helped in the organization or sent in records, including Pierre Boudier (Chartres), Francis Rose, Tom Blockeel and Rod Stern for details of sites, and Michael Proctor and Odette Aicardi for moral and linguistic support. A formal account of the more important findings of the meeting is in preparation for publication elsewhere.
Corley, M.F.V. & Crundwell, A.C. (1991). Additions and amendments to the mosses of Europe and the Azores. J. Bryol. 16: 337-356.
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