Exactly twenty-five years after the last BBS meeting on Speyside, Newtonmore was chosen as the base for a fresh look at the region’s bryoflora. It was hoped to demonstrate a range of habitats and local specialities to those unfamiliar with the area, and to look at some poorly-known localities as a contribution to the mapping scheme. Speyside is famous for its pine forests, ospreys, marshes, and the Cairngorm massif to the south with its tundra-like summit plateau, spectacular corries, late snow-lie areas and associated arctic-alpine flora and fauna. Excursions were planned to cover not only these mountains, but also some of the surrounding hills and several lowland habitats. Wallace (1957) in his report of the Aviemore meeting, provided an excellent guide to the district’s bryoflora, along with earlier accounts by Wilson & Wheldon (1908) and Wheldon & Wilson (1910).
This year’s meeting was well-attended with fourteen participants: Gerard Dirkse, Nol Luitingh and Huub van Melick (Netherlands), Donal Synnott (Ireland), Peter Bullard, Lindsay Kerr, Martin Crundall, Michael Fletcher, Peter Martin and Jean Paton (England) and Philip Lightowlers, David Long, Claire Geddes and Sandy Payne (Scotland). Several of these braved the rigours of the local camp-site and midges; others preferred more comfort, but all enjoyed the hospitality of the HQ hotel and its kilted landlord during the week.
21 July for most entailed a long rail or road journey northwards; Jean Paton and David Long paused briefly at the Falls of Truim near Newtonmore (96) where Scapania lingulata, recently added to the British flora, was found in a new locality on rocks by the river.
22 July was wet and overcast but suitable for several lowland sites; firstly Creag Dubh near Newtonmore (96), an area of Betula woodland overshadowed by steep cliffs. Numerous woodland species were seen but the acid screes were of greatest interest with Antitrichia curtipendula in huge cushions, Frullania fragilifolia and two local specialities, Cynodontium jenneri and C. tenellum, the last having its stronghold in Britain in this area.
After lunch we assembled at the RSPB reserve at Insh (96) where the warden, Russel Leavett, kindly led a waterproof-clad group through dripping birch and juniper down to the margin of the extensive marshlands spreading across the valley. In places poor fen occurred and swards of Sphagnum subsecundum s. str. were conspicuous, some plants with capsules, interestingly the first record of fruiting in Britain. On the way to the marshes Dicranum tauricum, Rhodobryum roseum and Plagiomnium affine were found in the woodland Despite the rain and poor light, most people carried on to the picturesque Loch an Eilein, Rothiemurchus (96) with its ruined castle, where Ptilium crista-castrensis, although not rare in the district, was a novelty for several; a hurried search for limestone on Ord Ban did produce fine Tortula princeps on a wall and Lophozia longidens on a boulder.
23 July. This first of several mountain days dawned grey and wet but we stuck to the scheduled walk up into Coire Chuirn (96) in the poorly-known Drumochter Hills where basic rock had been reported by Alan Crundwell. The bryoflora was found to be quite rich. In basic flushes below the N-facing cliffs Barbilophozia lycopodioides, Harpanthus flotowianus, *Moerckia hibernica and Tritomaria polita were found, and on cliffs and detached boulders nearby Ditrichum zonatum, Grimmia torquata, Kiaeria blyttii, Herbertus stramineus, Radula lindenbergiana and Scapania aequiloba. After lunch the party braved the windswept plateau above where Derek Ratcliffe had reported Sphagnum lindbergii and Splachnum vasculosum many years ago. The Sphagnum eluded us but our second Moerckia of the day, M. blyttii, was seen on bare peat. We descended a small valley in the next grid square northwards, which proved to have some very fine flushes, in places pink with Bryum weigelii; Philonotis seriata was also common and amongst it some small patches of Splachnum vasculosum were detected. Philip Lightowlers spotted some beautifully gemmiferous Oedipodium griffithianum on soil amongst unstable scree, and Herzogiella striatella, another ‘specialty’ of the district, grew on a turfy ledge by the burn. On the way home sheets of exposed mud by Loch Ericht (96), though attractive from the road, proved almost completely barren, but a single rosette of Haplomitrium hookeri lurking amongst clumps of Juncus justified the diversion.
24 July. Creag Meagaidhu (97). In 1956 the BBS visited the spectacular, and bryologically rich, Coire Ardair but we chose the lesser-known Coire Choille Rais (or Moy Corrie) which entailed a steep climb, tackled energetically by all with only brief halts to look at red deer and a rather red liverwort, Pleurozia purpurea, on wet peat – an indicator of more oceanic conditions. Several hours were spent in the corrie but few of the Coire Ardair specialities were found. Nevertheless, other nice finds were made, firstly in block scree at the lip of the corrie, with Hylocomium umbratum, Lescuraea patens, and Anastrophyllum donianum. Donal Synnott collected some very fine Plagiothecium platyphyllum in a flush by the loch. The cliffs and scree on the north side of the loch were then explored and Jean Paton turned up some good hepatics – Diplophyllum taxifolium, Lophozia opacifolia, Marsupella adusta and M. alpina, but the best find of the day was res erved for Donal Synnott in his discovery of Rhizomnium magnifolium at the base of a wet cliff. A brief excursion to the plateau above and summit ridge by David Long produced abundant Marsupella brevissima and a little M. condensata and Ditrichum zonatum in the mist.
25 July. Saturday had been reserved for what we hoped would be a spectacular bryological feast, namely the summit plateau of the Cairngorms, and in this our optimism proved to be amply justified. For speed and to rest tired limbs (but not without soul-searching by some) principles were cast aside for the comfort of the Cairngorm chair-lift which whisked us up into the mist at 4000 feet. After a short walk to the summit and some compass-navigation we descended the steep footpath through Coire Raibert out of the mist into the huge amphitheatre of the Loch Avon valley in the county of Banff (94) which seemed mild and humid after the exposed summit. Loch Avon lies at 2400 feet and is of particular interest not only for the rare species previously recorded there, such as Andreaea nivalis and Polytrichum sexangulare, but also as the only locality where Anastrophyllum donianum has ever been found with sporophytes, by R. K. Greville in 1830. We made our way to the SW end of the loch, noting *Campylopus introflexus on the way, and spending about an hour searching the fine block scree, before (and during) lunch. In the deep recesses we found luxuriant mossy turf with oceanic species such as Dicranodontium asperulum, Anastrophyllum donianum, Bazzania tricrenata, *B. trilobata, Scapania gracilis and *Lepidozia pearsonii. A few cushions of Chandonanthus setiformis grew on the boulders. Nearby, on another large block, a tuft of *Paraleucobryum longifolium was collected by Sandy Payne, a species thought to be extinct in Britain and thus a most important and exciting discovery.
After lunch we climbed the steep rocky slope by the Feith Buidhe burn; in scree Anastrophyllum donianum was abundant but apparently all sterile, along with patches of Scapania nimbosa, S. ornithopodioides and a little *Brachythecium glaciale. On wetter slopes higher up Donal Synnott again found *Rhizomnium magnifolium, amongst extensive sheets of Moerckia blyttii with sporophytes, Dicranum glaciale, Pohlia ludwigii, Polytrichum sexangulare, *Anthelia juratzkana, *Harpanthus flotowianus and *Lophozia opacifolia. Several small patches of an as yet unidentified Bryum were also seen. Deteriorating weather accelerated our ascent on to the Feith Buidhe plateau above, to look at the late snow-lie areas, this year with little snow persisting. Patches of *Ditrichum zonatum and a little *Haplomitrium hookeri were noted but careful searching by Jean Paton revealed numerous interesting hepaticae – Diplophyllum taxifolium, Gymnomitrion apiculatum, Marsupella alpina, M. condensata, M. stableri, Nardia breidleri and Pleurocladula albescens. Andreaea nivalis and Marsupella sphacelata grew luxuriantly on stones in a snow-melt stream. A brisk walk back to Cairngorm and descent on foot completed a highly successful day.
26 July. To the west of the main Cairngorm massif lies Glen Feshie (96) where the 1956 meeting made several important bryological discoveries in the upper part of the glen. We chose a side valley, Goire Garbhlach, less well-known but with outcrops of basic rock and entailing a comparatively gentle walk. The scree below the cliffs was steep and unstable and we worked along the base of the cliffs, gullies and buttresses. In the scree and turf Lepidozia pearsonii and Plagiochila carringtonii were detected in small quantity. The basic cliff ledges proved quite rich with the following list: Amphidium lapponicum, Anoectangium warburgii, Arctoa fulvella, Dicranodontium uncinatum, Hypnum hamulosum, *Isopterygiopsis muellerana, Meesia uliginosa, Mnium thomsonii, Orthothecium intricatum, O. rufescens, Philonotis tomentella, Herbertus stramineus, Jungermannia borealis, J. confertissima and *Scapania calcicola. Wet flushed slopes had luxuriant growth of Tritomaria polita, Cratoneuron decipiens and Rhizomnium magnifolium, all under rather basic conditions. After lunch on a precarious but panoramic ledge the party climbed out on to the plateau to enjoy the sunshine and magnificent view; time permitted only a brief look in the flushes by the stream entering the corrie, where Philonotis seriata, Pohlia ludwigii and Scapania paludosa were noted. we walked back over Meall Dubhag where two dotterel were studied before descending to the glen below.
27 July. After four consecutive mountain days, thanks to fine weather, a less strenuous lowland day was planned for the last day. First was a guided tour of a dead sheep on boggy ground in Glen Banchor (96), detected by Mrs Paton the year before, and now colonised by four members of Splachnaceae, Tetraplodon mnioides and Splachnum ampullaceum with abundant capsules, and sterile Aplodon wormskjoldii and Splachnum sphaericum, a rare and remarkable (and much-photographed) sight. We then drove to Loch Garten, Abernethy Forest (96) famous for its ospreys which were duly inspected, followed by a leisurely stroll through the nearby pinewoods. A search for Buxbaumia aphylla was unsuccessful, but the junipers produced Ptilidium pulcherrimum and Sphenolobus helleranus, old stumps *Orthodontium lineare and Cephaloziella rubella and amongst leaf litter Ptilium crista-castrensis and Dicranum polysetum. The valley bog between Loch Garten and Loch Mallachie was of interest for several Sphagna and associated small hepaticae – Barbilophozia kunzeana, Calypogeia sphagnicola, Cephalozia leucantha and C. loitlesbergeri. The lochside provided a comfortable picnic site, before moving on to a famous bryological site – the Lochan Uaine (Green Loch) at the Pass of Ryvoan, celebrated for its scree slope with Cynodontium strumiferum and Anastrophyllum saxicola. Both were seen as they had been in 1956, but just as interesting were several plants not noted there before, on gravel by the Allt na Feith Duibhe, namely Fossombronia incurva, *F. fimbriata, Haplomitrium hookeri, Nardia geoscyphus and Riccardia incurvata, and nearby Lophozia longidens on juniper and Diplophyllum obtusifolium on a bank. This rounded off a very pleasant day, a fitting end to the week.
The meeting demonstrated that even a relatively well-known area like Speyside can yield interesting new records; most gratifying were the find of Paraleucobryum longifolium, new records for Rhizomnium magnifolium, Fossombronia fimbriata, Scapania lingulata and Sphagnum subsecundum with fruit. Lophozia opacifolia was found to be common on all the mountains visited, and the two records of Tritomaria polita extended the known range of the local species. A total of 321 species were seen during the week, records compiled for ten grid squares, and four site-reports compiled for the NCC and RSPB. I would like to thank John Birks, Jean Paton and Sandy Payne for help with planning the week, landowners for access and those whose cars provided transport for us.
WALLACE, E. C. (1957). Report of the summer meeting in Scotland, 1956. Trans. Br. bryol. Soc. 3: 342-345
WHELDON, J. A. & WILSON, A. (1910) . Inverness and Banff cryptogams. J. Bot. Lond. 48: 123-129
WILSON, A. & WHELDON, J. A. (1908). Inverness-shire cryptogams. J. Bot. Lond. 44: 347-356
D. G. Long