The spring meeting was based at Weymouth, on the Dorset coast. We were comfortably lodged in the Hotel Norfolk, which is situated on the Esplanade, with splendid views of the sands and of ships approaching Portland Harbour. All excursions were in Dorset (v.-c. 9).
Thursday 24 March
Bracketts Coppice (31/50)
The morning’s excursion was to Bracketts Coppice near Corscombe, a DTNC (Dorset Trust for Nature Conservation) reserve, consisting of woodland on neutral clay with a calcareous stream running through it. The attractive ground flora with many primroses and bluebells was complemented by a good range of typical woodland bryophytes, including Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus (abundant and one patch c.fr.), Neckera pumila on ash and hazel and Lejeunea cavifolia on some logs. There was a small patch of Hylocomium brevirostre on a bank. On rocks in the stream and on banks beside it, grew Dichodontium pellucidum, Hygrohypnum luridum, Mnium stellare and Rhynchostegiella curviseta, all of which are uncommon or rare in Dorset.
Melbury Park (31/50)
We lunched beneath a Lucombe Oak in Evershot and in the afternoon went into Melbury Park, a deer park famed for its lichens. Its ancient oaks were liberally covered with Frullania tamarisci, and there were smaller quantities of Leptodon smithii, Leucodon sciuroides, Orthotrichum lyellii and Zygodon baumgartneri c.fr. Humphry Bowen refound Pterogonium gracile on oak (including Quercus frainetto) and Acer sp. Many participants went downstream from Lodge Farm, recording Plagiothecium latebricola on Carex stools and Dichodontium pellucidum, Fissidens pusillus and Rhynchostegiella teesdalei in the stream. Ron Porley, going uphill, discovered limestone rocks with Cololejeunea rossettiana (its second Dorset locality), Trichostomum brachydontium and plentiful Pterogonium gracile mixed with Anomodon viticulosus and Porella platyphylla. Plagiochila porelloides, a rare plant in Dorset, grew on a mossy bank nearby.
Friday 25 March
Stokeford Heath (30/88)
First stop was the ARC area office on Higher Hyde Heath. Here we were kitted out in fluorescent yellow vests and conducted to disused quarry workings on Stokeford Heath about 1.5 km away. Members were interested to see Brachythecium mildeanum growing copiously on disturbed basic ground by the road. Restored dry heathland had little bryological interest other than Campylopus brevipilus, but an area of unrestored pools and mounds produced Pogonatum urnigerum, Pohlia annotina, Cladopodiella fluitans (male), Diplophyllum obtusifolium* and Lophozia excisa*, as well as a splendid stand of Lycopodiella inundata.
Briants Puddle Heath and Oakers Wood (30/89)
For lunch we went to Culpepper’s dish and spent the first part of the afternoon in a bog on Briants Puddle Heath north of Oakers Wood. Here we found Calliergon stramineum, Sphagnum magellanicum, S. pulchrum, Cephalozia connivens, Kurzia pauciflora, Mylia anomala and Riccardia latifrons. Bryum pallescens* was conspicuous on zinc-contaminated concrete at the base of a pylon. Under birches at the edge of Oakers Wood, David Long uncovered Cryptothallus mirabilis. In the main part of Oakers Wood grew Cryphaea heteromalla (on hazel), Dicranum majus, Orthotrichum striatum, and Cephalozia lunulifolia. Walking back by a large wet bog on the east side of the wood, we saw many hectares of Sphagnum pulchrum but otherwise the bog was bryologically poor.
Saturday 26 March
Wool Heath near Clouds Hill (30/89)
We stopped at a tank-viewing car-park between Bovington Camp and Clouds Hill, and went onto Army land where a fine new tank road had been constructed. I told the party that the road had obliterated a colony of Lophocolea bispinosa, recently discovered by Humphry Bowen. We did not see the Lophocolea, but found Archidium alternifolium c.fr., Campylopus brevipilus, Pohlia annotina and Diplophyllum obtusifolium. David Long discovered Fossombronia incurva* and Riccardia incurvata*, two of the best finds of the week, on damp gravelly ground.
Creech Heath (30/98)
We proceeded to Creech Heath, south of Wareham. In old china-clay workings we saw Racomitrium lanuginosum and Scapania compacta; Martha Newton found Campylopus fragilis and Weissia rutilans. Lunching near a Pilularia pool, we saw Campylium chrysophyllum, which was temporarily submerged and caused some speculation in the field. Woodland and shaded sandy banks produced Drepanocladus uncinatus c.fr., Orthotrichum pulchellum, Cephalozia connivens, Lejeunea cavifolia, L. ulicina, Lophozia ventricosa var. ventricosa* and, on steep shaded sand, a particularly fine carpet of Tritomaria exsectiformis. Funaria obtusa was found on wet heath, and Brachythecium glareosum and Seligeria calcarea on some chalky spoil used to make a road.
Knowle Hill and Stonehill Down (30/98)
In glorious weather we went to the chalk ridge of Knowle Hill and Stonehill Down. Leptodon smithii was seen on a field maple by the lane. Orthotrichum tenellum and Cololejeunea minutissima grew on elders on the down. Chalk grassland produced Bryum canariense, B. radiculosum, Encalypta vulgaris, Neckera crispa, Pottia lanceolata, Scorpiurium circinatum, Seligeria paucifolia and Porella arboris-vitae. Howard Matcham refound Weissia tortilis, not seen in the county since 1960 when Francis Rose recorded it in the same place. Tim Blackstock found W. longifolia var. angustifolia and W. controversa growing intermixed and with some hybrid sporophytes.
Sunday 27 March
On the free day, two parties went to Portland. One group went to Church Ope Cove and found Cephaloziella baumgartneri, Southbya nigrella, Bryum canariense c.fr., Eurhynchium meridionale and Gymnostomum viridulum. Another party visited an old quarry at West Cliff and saw Desmatodon convolutus, Eurhynchium meridionale, Gymnostomum viridulum and Southbya nigrella.
Valley of Stones (30/58) and Hardy’s Cottage (30/79)
They then turned their attention to the sarsen stones of the Valley of Stones near Littlebredy, finding Grimmia trichophylla, Hedwigia ciliata, Pterogonium gracile (its second Dorset station), Frullania tamarisci and Porella obtusata. Satisfied with their bryophytes, they visited Hardy’s cottage at Higher Bockhampton; their literary ardour was excellently rewarded with Leptodontium gemmascens* on decaying thatch.
Kingcombe Meadows (30/59)
A third party went to Kingcombe Meadows, a large and remarkably varied nature reserve of the DTNC, situated on the R. Hooke near Toller Porcorum and on adjacent hillsides. Moist open ground produced Archidium alternifolium, Brachythecium mildeanum, Campylium stellatum var. protensum, Calliergon stramineum, Drepanocladus exannulatus, Pseudephemerum nitidum, Sphagnum recurvum var. tenue* and Weissia microstoma var. brachycarpa. Redholm Coppice, fiercely protected by barbed wire, was a good locality with Hookeria lucens, Plagiothecium latebricola, Rhytidiadelphus loreus, Cephalozia connivens, Scapania undulata and Trichocolea tomentella. A stone, probably Upper Greensand, by Mary’s Well Lane had Tortula marginata. The reserve was also notable for its epiphytes, almost all of which we saw elsewhere on the meeting but were here especially varied, including Anomodon viticulosus, Cryphaea heteromalla, Homalia trichomanoides, Leptodon smithii, Neckera pumila, four species of Orthotrichum, Zygodon conoideus, Cololejeunea minutissima, Lejeunea ulicina and three species of Metzgeria.
Monday 29 March
Ringstead Bay and White Nothe (30/78)
We went to Ringstead Bay, parking at Ringstead and descending the cliffs after a 2-km route-march to White Nothe. A furious wind battered us on the cliff-top, where Cryphaea heteromalla, Tortula papillosa, Ulota phyllantha, Zygodon conoideus and Cololejeunea minutissima grew on elder. With trepidation we descended the steep path; fortunately no bryologist was blown away. The undercliffs themselves looked most promising, but the promise was not fulfilled. The best finds were Aloina aloides var. aloides, Bryum dunense, Neckera crispa, Pottia caespitosa, P. starkeana var. starkeana, Scorpiurium circinatum, Tortella tortuosa, Weissia longifolia var. angustifolia and W. microstoma.
In the afternoon we went to Tadnoll, a DTNC reserve with wet heath, dry heath, wet meadow and swamp carr. Climacium dendroides in the wet meadow and Bryum bornholmense on a fire site on dry heath were the only bryophytes that we did not see elsewhere on the meeting. However, it was good to see Plagiothecium latebricola on Molinia tussocks, and five species of Orthotrichum, Cololejeunea minutissima, Metzgeria fruticulosa and M. furcata on sallow in carr. I telephoned Jim White of English Nature in Wareham. He told me that I was quite wrong about the Army having obliterated Lophocolea bispinosa; it was on the other side of the road.
Tuesday 30 March
Maiden Castle (30/68)
First stop was Maiden Castle, a large Iron Age earthwork on the chalk by Dorchester. Ted Wallace had found Weissia sterilis here in 1952, but we saw nothing so interesting and not a single species of liverwort. The best finds were Fissidens adianthoides c.fr., Plagiomnium affine, Pottia recta and Seligeria paucifolia.
Clouds Hill revisited (30/89) and Briantspuddle (30/89)
We went, again, to look for Lophocolea bispinosa at Clouds Hill. It was in good heart, forming a large patch on a damp track with Polytrichum juniperinum, Peltigera sp., Epilobium sp. and Juncus effusus. Rod Stern, visiting Clouds Hill separately from the rest of us, went on to Briantspuddle, where he found another colony of Leptodontium gemmascens.
Lulworth Cove (30/87)
Finally we went to West Lulworth. Just west of Lulworth Cove was the best ground for coastal species, including Campylium polygamum, Pottia crinita, P. heimii, P. starkeana var. brachyodus, Scleropodium tourettii and Tortella flavovirens. Cliff Townsend found Pottia lanceolata near the beach in the Cove, and there were good quantities of Cololejeunea minutissima on scrubby trees above it.
Dorset is a relatively well-worked county, and it was pleasant to make new vice-county records of six species and two varieties. Several members were sorry to miss Lophocolea bispinosa, but Fossombronia incurva and Riccardia incurvata were good substitutes. The meeting had an average attendance, with 32 bryologists in the field on the Saturday and four others joining excursions on other days.
We were helped by many people. It is a particular pleasure to record the guidance given by the local botanists Bryan Edwards, David Pearman and Robin Walls; by Richard Squires, keeper of the deer at Melbury Park; by Tim Linnington, Environmental Manager of ARC South Western; and, before the meeting, by Humphry Bowen (Winterborne Kingston), Lt-Col. A. Gordon-Hall (RAC Centre, Bovington Camp) and Jonathan Pitt (Unit Manager, ARC South Western). Finally I thank the land owners and land agents, who gave permission to visit their land.
Vice-county records resulting from the meeting
- Bryum pallescens
- Diplophyllum obtusifolium
- Fossombronia incurva
- Leptodontium gemmascens
- Lophozia excisa
- Lophozia ventricosa var. ventricosa
- Riccardia incurvata
- Sphagnum recurvum var. tenue