The Summer Field Meeting was based on St Aidan’s College, Durham University. It had a distinctly international flavour with participants from New Zealand and Holland as well as from various parts of Great Britain.
27 July. The party assembled at Hamsterley Forest, where the Forestry Commission Ranger, Brian Walker, acted as a useful guide. At the NW corner, there are basic rocks and flushes alongside Sharnberry Beck where Sphagnum russowii and S. squarrosum were found as well as Philonotis calcarea, Pohlia proligera, and P. camptotrachela. Among the plantations inside the Forest, there are some rocky streams and dripping rocks, where Sphagnum quinquefarium, Tetradontium brownianum and Solenostoma sphaerocarpum were seen. Also seen was Dr David Bellamy, preparing for a TV programme on his “home ground”.
28 July. An unusually fine and sunny day encouraged the main party to walk the well-known “circuit” in Upper Teesdale from Sand Sike over Widdybank pastures, past Falcon Glints and Cauldron Snout and alongside the Cow Green Reservoir. Two members made full use of the special permission which had been obtained to explore Widdybank Fell itself. The bryology of the area is well-known, but the following were among the more interesting plants which were seen: Tortella densa, Catoscopium nigritum, Grimmia ovalis (= G. commutata), Rhabdoweisia fugax, Orthothecium intricatum and Schistidium trichodon; a little S. agassizii was fished out deep from the R. Tees. Much searching for dead sheep with Haplodon was done without success but there were some good patches of Splachnum sphaericum.
29 July. On another fine day, two woods lower down the R. Tees near Eggleston, well-known for their lichens but less so for bryophytes, were the object of our attention. In the morning, Great Wood produced some characteristic species of basic rocks such as Mnium marginatum, M. stellare, Taxiphyllum wissgrillii, Metzgeria pubescens and Plagiochila britannica. By the river the exposed limestone and detritus had Barbula spadicea, Porella cordaeana and Schistidium alpicola vars. alpicola and rivulare. After lunch similar habitats at the bottom of Shipley Wood were “ablaze” with yellow and orange Mimulus hybrids; the woodland had abundant ash with epiphytes including Orthotrichum stramineum and Bryum flaccidum.
30 July. The morning was free and some sought shelter from the heavy rain in the splendid cathedral. After lunch, the party travelled east to little known areas bryologically. Finchale Priory and the banks alongside the R. Wear nearby were examined as the weather cleared; liverworts were scarce in this polluted area but mosses seen included Leptobryum pyriforme growing in a “natural” habitat, Dicranum tauricum and Fissidens crassipes. Later, a brief visit was made to a roadside exposure of Magnesian Limestone at High Moorsley, where several Barbulas were recorded including B. rigidula.
31 July. A short delay in departure was utilised in discovering 18 species in as many minutes in the garden of St Aidan’s College, including Dicranella staphylina. The upper reaches of Weardale were to be explored. An old stone quarry at Westgate and a spoil heap yielded Lophozia bicrenata, Plectocolea hyalina and Scapania aspera. A pleasant walk down the Middlehope Burn added Plagiochila britannica and there was luxuriant growth of Ulota crispa var. crispa and norvegica, the only time these mosses were seen all week. Near the County boundary at Killhope, there was much excitement at finding what seemed to be Bryum weigelii, but alas it subsequently turned out to be yet another form of B. pseudotriquetrum. On the various boulders near the burn, there were fine patches of Orthotrichum cupulatum, O. rupestre and O. anomalum.
1 August. The final day started as one of the hottest of the generally cool summer and finished with violent thunderstorms. The morning was spent at Bishop Middleham quarry among the most superb display of orchids including the Dark-red Helleborine. The Magnesian Limestone had abundant Leiocolea badensis with some Preissia quadrata, Distichium capillaceum and Gyroweisia tenuis. Later the main party found Rhizomnium pseudopunctatum at S. Hetton pond in the most easterly location visited during the week while the writer, returning south, found luxuriant Tortula subulata var. subinermis, T. latifolia and Leskea polycarpa growing at the bases of elms by the R. Tees at Croft.
Although the number of new records was not great, a pleasant week was capably organised and led by Rev. Gordon Graham, who had also arranged for the University’s Botany lab. to be available in the evenings, a facility which was utilised by several participants. A total of ten 10km squares was visited and in some of them at least some useful contributions to the mapping scheme were made.
R. C. Stern