Summer meeting 1984: Wooler, Northumberland

HomeEventsSummer meeting 1984: Wooler, Northumberland

19 July 1984 - 24 July 1984

Meeting report

Northumberland was last visited by the BBS in 1963, and it had been well studied by Miss Lobley and J. B. Duncan before that time. It is therefore well known bryologically and we did not expect new records to be found easily. However, it is a county with a good range of different habitats even though the rainfall is not so high as more westerly areas. The rainfall was particularly low for some months before the meeting, and the six members attending found the bryophytes were mostly very dry. Weather that is bad for bryophytes is not necessarily so for bryologists, and if the drought caused some inconvenience it also brought the benefits of fine warm days for all of the excursions. All localities visited, except Grasslees Wood (v.-c. 67), were in v.-c. 68.

19 July. The Henhole, Cheviot. The party began by exploring the peaty banks and flushes of the College burn below Henhole, where Meesia uliginosa was found with sporophytes. The weather was overcast and cool enough to allow easy climbing up to the rocks on the North facing side of the valley. Here Peter Martin discovered Rhabdoweisia crenulata, while Grimmia torquata and Funaria obtusa were also found on and among the rocks. The saprophytes Tetraplodon mnioides and Splachnum sphaericum were noted on the screes and Robin Stevenson found *Hygrohypnum dilatatum in the stream. As might be expected, the flushes were rather dry which perhaps led us to overlook some species, particularly the hepatics. Barbilophozia barbata was found, however, and the three more common species of Gymnomitrion, G. concinnatum, G. crenulatum and G. obtusum. The day ended in warm sunshine with the party exploring the crags of Brayd on hill. These yielded more Splachnum sphaericum but were too dry and acidic to support a very varied flora.

20 July. Below the ruins of Norham Castle, the River Tweed forms a natural boundary between England and Scotland. Here the party explored the boulders and wooded banks on the Northumberland side of the river, in search of the elusive Hyophila stanfordensis and other rarities. Although known from the area it was not found, and Tortula muralis var. aestiva which had been expected (and promised) also failed to materialise. This variety has long been known to occur at Norham and was collected as recently as 6 months before the meeting. In all of the places that I had previously seen T. muralis var. aestiva, however, only the var. muralis could be seen! I suspect that the dry summer may have resulted in a change of phenotype, but my observations continue. Marcus Yeo justified the visit by finding Barbula nicholsonii and Gyroweisia tenuis on boulders by the river before the party moved on to Holy Island to eat a packed lunch b y the sea.

In the afternoon bryology was hampered by several factors. Firstly, all the bryophytes were quite dry except in the wettest of the dune slacks and secondly, being almost on the beach on such a glorious summer afternoon, everyone felt the attractions of traditional seaside pursuits. Nature was against us too, and had produced a fine display of Orchids (including Epipactis palustris) and butterflies (Dark green fritillaries, blues and Graylings) to distract us. The group displayed great single mindedness and compiled a reasonable species list. They were rewarded with Catoscopium nigritum, Petalophyllum ralfsii and Moerckia hibernica. *Campylopus introflexus was no doubt previously overlooked as it was noted in several other localities during the week. Giles Clarke, Marcus Yeo and I left to spend the remainder of the afternoon at Newham Fen, an ancient woodland fragment now managed by the Nature Conservancy. The fen was almost inpenetrable in parts with dense undergrowth which precluded the development of a diverse bryophyte ground flora. A central clearing proved to be rich in orchids (and horseflies) and provided more species for the rather meagre list. It was rumoured that the remainder of the party were delayed in a Lindisfarne Tea Room. In any event the rest of the week was beset with seditious talk of cream teas!.

21 July. The Bizzle, Cheviot. Joined for the day by David Long, the group enjoyed a full and energetic day of bryology. The Bizzle was found to be the meeting’s richest locality and proved an interesting comparison with the adjacent Henhole. In contrast to the peaty flushes in the lower parts of the Henhole, the lower reaches of the Bizzle burn had earth banks and provided different habitats. David Long soon located *Fossombronia fimbriata (new to England) and *Haplomitrium hookeri here, and further upstream more basic rock was found than on the Henhole excursion. *Cololejeuna calcarea was collected on the rocks at the northern end of the crags, together with Grimmia incurva and Schistidium strictum. Further along the crags some species seen at the Henhole were found again, but *Scapania aequiloba, *Leiocolea heterocolpos, Dryptodon patens, Philonotis arnellii, *Anomobryum filiforme var. concinnatum, Pseudobryum cinclidioides and Radula lindenbergiana were new. Undoubtedly, many of these finds were due to the additional expertise of David Long, but the overall impression was that good bryophyte habitats in the Bizzle were more abundant than in the Henhole. Near the head of the ravine several members collected Kiaeria blyttii on boulders, Marchantia alpestris in a flush and Blasia pusilla on a soil bank. At this point, overwhelmed by new finds, half of the party decided to descend, while the other pressed on to the summit of Cheviot. This proved to be only a few hundred yards away and Pohlia ludwigii and Sphagnum fuscum were found on route.

22 July. A more relaxing day, the morning of which was spent at Black Lough, a bog on Alnwick Moor. The peaty hollows, surrounding farmland and a hillside flush provided a respectable list of species but no rarities. Again drought was a problem and much of the Sphagnum surrounding the pool was so dry that it disintegrated when touched. A nearby pasture was chosen for lunch, after which Richard Libby found he had been sitting on Leptodontium flexifolium, which was a welcome addition to the species list.

Callaly Craig, a north-facing sandstone escarpment, was investigated in the afternoon. The acid sandstone boulders provided enormous quantities of Orthodontium lineare, and also Dicranum fuscescens, D. majus and D. scoparium growing side by side. Like a textbook demonstration, the three species were easy to distinguish by eye. At the summit of the ridge Lepidozia cupressina was very abundant growing with Bazzania trilobata. *Kurzia sylvatica was found here on a damp shaded ledge, the only new record of the day.

23 July. An active day began exploring the River Alwin in the Kidland Forest where Orthotrichum rivulare and Schistidium alpicola were found on boulders by the river. Following Allerhope burn upstream to Raven’s Crag, we recorded a considerable number of saxicolous moss species, most notably Encalypta ciliata, Cynodontium bruntonii, Amphidium lapponicum and Grimmia donniana. Robin Stevenson also found Apometzgeria pubescens in rock crevices. Somewhat reluctantly the group moved on to the waterfall at Linn bridge where Eric Watson and party were already bryologising. The riverside rocks and rock ledges were bound to be rather dry, but Eric Watson found Grimmia affinis, Marcus Yeo Orthotrichum rupestre and Peter Martin *Fissidens rufulus.

Grasslees Wood (v.-c. 67) a semi-natural birch-alder woodland near Elsdon was visited in the afternoon. A comprehensive species list was obtained for the Northumberland Wildlife Trust who now manage the wood as a wildlife reserve. Giles Clarke discovered Ptilidium pulcherrimum and Dicranum montanum on birch trees, while crags above the wood supported Lepidozia cupressina and Bazzania trilobata.

24 July. The morning was spent at Roddam Dene, a steep-sided wooded valley on conglomerate rock. The rocks and fallen trees made access difficult but *Hypnum mammillatum, Barbula spadicea, Nowellia curvifolia and Gyroweisia tenuis were noted. Unfortunately early records of Rhabdoweisia crenulata and Ulota drummondii were not confirmed.

In the afternoon another Cheviot locality, the Harthorpe Valley, was visited. We were again joined by Eric Watson, who explored Harthorpe burn while the main party concentrated their attention on Easter dene near Langlee. The dene contained many basic rock faces which supported Distichium inclinatum and Gymnostomum aeruginosum. Cynodontium jenneri was quite abundant on rocks and turf ledges but no trace was found of Rhodobryum roseum previously recorded from this locality.

The meeting was suitably concluded with a substantial five course meal at the Ryecroft Hotel.

Philip Lightowlers


Wooler, Northumberland