The northernmost part of East Cornwall (VC 2) has been somewhat neglected by bryologists. Most of the previous records result from Jean Paton’s county-wide surveys during the 1960s. It is distant from the homes of resident bryologists and it has not been the focus of any previous BBS meeting. Over the past decade the region has remained poorly covered by the ongoing tetrad survey of Cornish bryophytes that has now achieved good coverage in West Cornwall (VC 1) and patchy coverage in some areas of East Cornwall (VC 2).
The ‘north-east corner’ differs from most of Cornwall, and resembles large areas of north Devon, in being underlain by Carboniferous rocks, including coal measures (‘culm’). These culm rocks form coastal cliffs of shale, slate and sandstone, some of them high, but inland there are only rounded hills and much gently sloping ground which supports poorly drained pasture. However, several days of the meeting were spent further to the south-west, giving opportunities to see the prevalent Devonian slates interrupted by intrusive igneous rocks on the coast around Tintagel and Boscastle, and the rather uniform granitic uplands of Bodmin Moor.
Our base was the Burn Court Hotel in Bude which was large enough to accommodate most participants. The meeting was well attended, with 47 present in all, of which no fewer than 25 remained for fieldwork on the last morning.
In the following account, tetrads are indicated in the standard fashion, i.e. labelled A-N, P-Z within each 10-km square, with A being in the SW corner of the square and Z in the NE corner.
Thursday 13 April
St Gennys (SX19N) to Scrade Water (SX19P)
A wide range of habitats, including cliffs, coastal heath, streams, sallow carr, deciduous groves and walls near the church, were searched, resulting in a splendid list for the St Gennys tetrad of 106 mosses and 34 liverworts. The most significant finds were from the cliffs: Coscinodon cribrosus (the first of a series of new records obtained during the meeting for this scarce moss) and Weissia brachycarpa var. brachycarpa c.fr. Other species of note included Brachythecium mildeanum, Bryum donianum, B. dunense, Cephaloziella stellulifera, Ephemerum serratum var. minutissimum, Epipterygium tozeri c.fr., Fissidens exilis, F. limbatus, Frullania fragilifolia, Orthotrichum tenellum, Pleuridium subulatum, Scleropodium tourettii, Syntrichia laevipila (including var. laevipilaeformis) and Tortula viridifolia.
Penfound Manor (SX29J)
Late in the day a small group made an unsuccessful attempt to refind Phaeoceros carolinianus at its only Cornish locality to the south of Penfound Manor, recording 23 mosses and 12 liverworts mainly from a wet track and a field.
Friday 14 April
Rocky Valley and Bossiney (SX08U)
Another dry and bright day led to high hopes as a large party of bryologists followed a small river down to the coast. The first Willow Warbler of the year was singing, along with the Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs that often overwinter in Cornwall.
The variety of habitats, ranging from laneside banks and deciduous woodland to river edges and coastal cliffs, resulted in an impressive bryophyte list by Cornish standards with 103 mosses and 33 liverworts. The best find was of Fossombronia maritima* by Jean Paton. The rare Dumortiera hirsuta found on the river bank by Bob Finch was a new record this far downstream. However, a small patch of Lophocolea bispinosa near the cliff top was a less welcome discovery as this alien now appears to be spreading so rapidly in East Cornwall that there are fears it will become invasive. Other significant finds were of Amblystegium serpens var. salinum, Amphidium mougeotii, Anthoceros punctatus, Bryum donianum, Epipterygium tozeri c.fr., Fissidens osmundoides, Fossombronia angulosa, Frullania fragilifolia, F. microphylla var. microphylla, Gymnostomum aeruginosum, Rhabdoweisia fugax, Riccia crozalsii, Tortula atrovirens, Weissia brachycarpa var. brachycarpa and W. perssonii.
Tintagel Church to Tintagel Haven (SX08P)
By afternoon the weather had become cool and windy for the cliff-top walk. Several of the bryophytes found were new records here of uncommon species, notably (more) Coscinodon cribrosus found by Cliff Townsend, Fissidens rivularis found by Sam Bosanquet, and (more) Fossombronia maritima. Other noteworthy finds were of Amblystegium serpens var. salinum, Brachythecium mildeanum, Bryum donianum, B. dunense c.fr., B. violaceum, Cephaloziella stellulifera, Gyroweisia tenuis, Microbryum starckeanum, Scleropodium tourettii, Tortula atrovirens and Weissia perssonii.
SE of Trewarmett (SX08T)
Several visits to the vicinity of disused quarries here failed to refind a 1960s record of Philonotis arnellii. However, recording by Christine Rieser and Frank Lammiman disclosed that Fossombronia husnotii was still present. Lophocolea bispinosa was discovered on china-clay spoil at the edge of the track into a public car park.
Saturday 15 April
Rusey Cliff (SX19G, SX19H)
A very large party of about 40 bryologists swarmed down a lane from the roadside car parks and provided saturation cover for searching the rich rocky and heathy slopes of Cornwall’s highest cliffs.
Most of the scarcer species recorded here in the past were refound, including Bryum donianum, Campylopus pilifer, Coscinodon cribrosus, Cynodontium bruntonii, Diphyscium foliosum, Hedwigia stellata, Marsupella funckii, Pogonatum nanum and Scapania scandica.
Seán O’Leary made the best find of the day, of a patch of Tritomaria quinquedentata*, a species new to Cornwall. Furthermore, it was growing intermixed with Plagiochila punctata, a new record from the coastal cliffs.
The Strangles (SX19H)
After lunch, forces were divided between the slaty coastal cliffs further north around The Strangles and wooded valleys a short distance inland (see below). The coastal group worked hard to refind Cornwall’s only (1969) record of Gymnomitrion concinnatum, but without success. Existing records indicated that several of the scarcer species found at Rusey Cliff extend to The Strangles, and of these Campylopus pilifer, Coscinodon cribrosus and Cynodontium bruntonii were refound. Other finds included Bryum dunense c.fr., Frullania fragilifolia, F. microphylla var. microphylla, Pogonatum nanum, Scapania scandica and Scleropodium tourettii.
East of Trevigue (SX19H, SX19M)
Stream edges and deciduous woodlands inland were searched by another large party, resulting in numerous records from two tetrads. Characteristic species found included Cirriphyllum piliferum, Dichodontium pellucidum, Lejeunea cavifolia, Lophocolea fragrans, Neckera pumila, Orthotrichum pulchellum and Tetraphis pellucida.
Jeff Duckett, Howard Matcham and Ron Porley explored the Bynorth Cliff end of the coastal woodlands at Dizzard. A substantial list of bryophytes recorded there included Chiloscyphus pallescens, Cryphaea heteromalla, Entosthodon obtusus, Fissidens celticus and Zygodon conoideus.
Sunday 16 April
Morwenstow (SS21C), along coast (SS11X) to Stanbury Mouth (SS11W), and back by way of Stanbury (SS21B)
A fine sunny day provided ideal conditions for this long coastal walk and return along footpaths inland. The vicinity of Morwenstow produced records of Amblystegium tenax, Bryum donianum, Dichodontium pellucidum, Fissidens curnovii, F. exilis, Lejeunea cavifolia, Lophocolea fragrans and Pellia neesiana. Coastal slopes from Higher Sharpnose Point southwards held Cephaloziella stellulifera, Coscinodon cribrosus, Cynodontium bruntonii, Fissidens limbatus, Scleropodium tourettii, Tortula atrovirens and Weissia perssonii. A flushed area along the Tidna Valley produced a confusing mixture of similar Weissia taxa growing in close proximity to each other that was eventually found to include both W. brachycarpa var. brachycarpa and W. rutilans.
The route back inland past Stanbury provided numerous records from yet another tetrad. Cephaloziella turneri was found on a laneside bank by Nick Hodgetts, adding to the few records of this very uncommon species from the northern part of VC 2. Other finds in the same area included Fissidens incurvus, F. limbatus, Lophocolea fragrans and Philonotis arnellii.
Sandy Mouth (SS20E)
Late in the afternoon an attempt was made to record bryophytes in this ‘unexplored’ area. Sandy Mouth seems inappropriately named as it has low cliffs rather than sands, and these are backed by bryologically rather dull farmland. Nevertheless, energetic recording on the cliffs revealed Acaulon muticum, Bryum dunense, Tortula atrovirens and T. viridifolia. Just inland, a thorough search around the edges of a field of bean stubble revealed Ephemerum serratum var. minutissimum along with a few commoner species.
Lee Wood, Stowe Wood and Stibb Wood (SS21A and SS21F)
Frank Lammiman and Christine Rieser spent the day inland in SS21 covering mainly woodland habitats in two previously unrecorded tetrads. A good range of bryophytes found there included Cirriphyllum piliferum, Ctenidium molluscum, Dicranum majus, Hookeria lucens, Lepidozia reptans, Neckera pumila, Plagiochila asplenioides and Scapania nemorea.
Monday 17 April
Rough Tor (SX18K)
Unfortunately, our day reserved for long walks on the exposed hills of Bodmin Moor was cold and windy with heavy showers, often of hail. Nevertheless, there were bright sunny spells between the showers that produced song from newly arrived Wheatears. The coming of spring was also in evidence from flowering Round-leaved Crowfoot Ranunculus omiophyllus in flushes.
The granitic tors and boulder-covered slopes high on Rough Tor form some of the richest bryophyte habitats in Cornwall, with several locally rare species. A visit by such a large group of skilled bryologists provided a good opportunity to check on the continued presence of the more important species, and it is pleasing to report that almost all of them were refound (notably Antitrichia curtipendula, Barbilophozia barbata, B. floerkei, Cynodontium bruntonii, Dicranum scottianum, Douinia ovata, Nardia compressa, Plagiochila punctata, P. spinulosa, Plagiothecium denticulatum var. obtusifolium, Polytrichum alpinum and Ptilidium ciliare). Only Grimmia curvata was not refound, but it might yet be refound lurking in a rocky crevice somewhere on the hill. Antitrichia curtipendula appears to be maintaining its status on Rough Tor, with three strong patches.
On the way up the hill Cliff Townsend found a pair of somebody else’s spectacles which served well as a replacement for his own that had been lost on a previous day. Indeed, they quickly enabled him to make a new record for Rough Tor of Lepidozia cupressina, a rare plant in Cornwall. Other new finds for Rough Tor made by various members of the party were of Bazzania trilobata, Frullania fragilifolia, Lejeunea cavifolia and (on a low wall) Rhynchostegium murale.
Although it has been known here for many years, most visitors to Cornwall were surprised to see the ‘calcicolous’ Tortella tortuosa (a rarity in the county) forming several large patches on granitic crags and even more surprised to notice that a few capsules were present. Likewise, a small patch of Orthotrichum pulchellum c.fr. on an exposed granitic boulder was a surprising find of a plant on the ‘wrong’ substrate in the ‘wrong’ habitat.
Besides bryophytes, Fir Clubmoss Huperzia selago was refound at one of its few Cornish localities and large quantities of both species of filmy-fern (Hymenophyllum) were seen.
Brown Willy (SX17P, SX17U)
The party divided during the afternoon because the land-owner requested that numbers on Brown Willy should be limited to 20. The heathy slopes and granitic rocks there provided similar environments to those on Rough Tor, and several of the same scarcer bryophytes were (re-)found, including Amphidium mougeotii, Antitrichia curtipendula, Bartramia pomiformis, Cynodontium bruntonii, Kurzia sylvatica, Lepidozia cupressina, Plagiochila punctata, P. spinulosa, Plagiothecium denticulatum var. obtusifolium and Ptilidium ciliare. Antitrichia seemed to be thriving on Brown Willy, with at least 20 patches, perhaps because the current very heavy grazing by sheep reduces shade from competing vascular plants.
Crowdy Reservoir (SX18G, SX18L)
The other half of the group visited a degraded and severely over-grazed bog to the south of Crowdy Reservoir, and also searched the dam of the reservoir and its vicinity. Although the bog habitat was disappointing, it produced the second record in Cornwall of Riccardia palmata found by Jean Paton, along with Cladopodiella fluitans, seven species of Sphagna and Warnstorfia exannulata. Masonry of the reservoir dam added several significant records of mosses uncommon on Bodmin Moor, notably Didymodon luridus and Orthotrichum cupulatum.
Treliske Hospital (SW74X)
Jonathan Sleath nobly spent much of the day securing treatment for a member who sustained a cut hand on Rough Tor during the morning. After journeying from one casualty department to another (‘Bodmin Hospital doesn’t do hands’) they reached Treliske Hospital west of Truro (in VC 1). The long wait for treatment then allowed Jonathan to do full justice to the bryoflora of the hospital grounds. Since there were no existing records for tetrad SW74X, his 50 mosses and eight liverworts all counted as new data. Among them were Bryum donianum and Riccia glauca!
Tuesday 18 April
Valency Valley, Peters Wood, Minster Church and Minster Wood (SX19A)
Light drizzle soon after we started turned into steady rain as the morning progressed. Dippers along the River Valency were unperturbed by the weather, as was Bob Finch, who soon secured his second new locality for Dumortiera hirsuta by wading along the rocky river in order to search the base of the banks. Further paddling by Bob, Nick Hodgetts, David Long and Mark Pool resulted in finds of additional patches of D. hirsuta extending over several hundreds of metres, and also finds of Jubula hutchinsiae, for which this was also a new locality well downstream of the known sites.
Other bryophytes found along the river and in adjoining woodlands included Amphidium mougeotii, Amblystegium fluviatile, Fissidens rivularis, Heterocladium wulfsbergii, Nowellia curvifolia, Pellia neesiana, Pogonatum nanum, Rhynchostegium alopecuroides, Scapania nemorea, Schistostega pennata and Trichostomum tenuirostre.
Lunch was eaten in steady rain while sitting on walls around the securely locked Minster Church. David Holyoak picked a scrap of Grimmia from the church wall that later revealed itself as the second Cornish record of G. hartmanii. Didymodon insulanus was found c.fr. near the church.
Boscastle Harbour (SX09V)
Steady rain continued during the afternoon, when intrepid teams of bryologists scoured both sides of Boscastle Harbour. The northern team mingled with holidaymakers and felt some sympathy for them with their soggy trainers, high-heeled shoes and baby-buggies as they competed with us for the easier paths over the coastal rocks. Unfortunately, the harbour proved to be too wide for the northern and southern teams of bryologists to be within earshot, so that records were kept separately after attempts at semaphore failed. A modest list of bryophytes found included Amphidium mougeotii, Bryum donianum, Entosthodon obtusus, Eurhynchium crassinervium, Hennediella heimii, Riccia beyrichiana, Tortella nitida and Weissia rutilans. As the rain continued our recording cards became too soft to write on, so eventually we all gave up and returned early to the hotel.
Thanks are due to the Burn Court Hotel for their hospitality and for providing such efficient and friendly service combined with excellent value. The National Trust and other land-owners gave permission to visit their land. Jean Paton took the larger share in planning the itinerary and making arrangements for the meeting, so that its smooth running owes much to her diligence and forethought. All members kindly responded patiently to pleas for bryophytes to be recorded by tetrads and my pestering them about determinations. Sixteen members supplied lists of records: John Blackburn, Tom Blockeel, Sam Bosanquet, Bob Finch, Richard Fisk, Mark Hill, Nick Hodgetts, Frank Lammiman, Mark Lawley, David Long, Seán O’Leary, Jean Paton, Ron Porley, Christine Rieser, Jonathan Sleath and Cliff Townsend. An impressive body of sound data resulted, comprising 1512 records in total.