This was one of the largest summer meetings for many years, with twenty-nine people staying in the Aigas Field Centre, and another five billeted nearby. Partly due to the Edinburgh Symposium on Bryophyte Ecology, we were also fortunate in having a large number of bryologists from overseas. From Holland – Heinjo and Dini During, Henk Greven, Huub van Melick and Rudi Zielman; from Canada – Brigitte and Peter Beckett, Terry Carleton and Dale Vitt; from Sweden – Nils Cronberg and Bengt Gunnar Jonsson; from France – Helene Bischler-Causse and her husband Andre; from Spain – Immaculada Cruces Zabala and Juan Rodriguez Oubina, and from Ireland – Neil Lockhart and Donal Synnott. The British contingent included Eric and Evelyn Birse, Agneta Burton, Nick Hodgetts, Peter Martin, Angela Newton, Brian O’Shea, Jean Paton, Sandy Payne, Peter Pitkin, Martin Robinson, Gordon Rothero, Phil Stanley, Rod Stern, Peter Wanstall and Harold Whitehouse, as well as David Long, the leader and myself.
After arriving on Saturday, much time was spent in making introductions and settling into our various kinds of accommodation. Some were more imposing than others. While most of us stayed in chalets in the grounds, the Durings and the Gausses stayed in rooms in the grand main house, and Jean Paton was assigned to the Tower room – which was not quite as remote and forbidding as it sounds!.
For those who were eager to start work there was an impressive range of bryophytes to be found on the doorstep of the field centre (vc 96). Over the course of the week, species such as *Atrichum tenellum, Cryptothallus mirabilis, Riccardia latifrons and Tritomaria exsectiformis were recorded from within the grounds of Aigas house.
24 July. In the morning, we visited Moniack Glen (vc 96), a lowland site with very fine Douglas fir trees. On rocks and old walls at the far end of the glen we found Seligeria donniana, Apometzgeria pubescens, Cololejeunea calcarea, Campylium calcareum and Plagiochila britannica, but the track provided the best finds including *Anthoceros punctatus, *Fossombronia pusilla and many Riccias, one possibly R. subbifurca.
Monadh Mor (vc 96), the venue for the afternoon, is an extensive bog, beneath which the ground rises and falls in ridges and hollows. The water level is very variable, some raised parts are quite dry, while other areas are covered with Sphagnum and other vegetation, but harbour deep pools of peaty water below (as some members found to their cost!). Scattered with a generous covering of natural pine, birch and rowan, the habitat had a rather Scandinavian character. Harold Whitehouse delighted the meeting by finding Cryptothallus on several occasions, and fifteen species of Sphagnum were recorded, including S. subsecundum. Large patches of Ptilium crista- castrensis were admired, while Jean Paton found *Cephalozia loitlesbergeri and David Long *Lophozia ventricosa var. silvicola, other notable finds were Cephalozia leucantha, Plagiothecium laetum, Ptilidium pulcherrimum and Splachnum ampullaceum.
25 July. Unfortunately this was one of the windiest days ever reported in Scotland. Those who opted for the mountain excursion felt some of the worst weather that Scotland can offer at this time of year – driving rain and fierce wind all day. Gordon Rothero led the party up Gleann nam Fiadh towards Loch Uaine (vc 96), although some understandably did not reach that far. Notable finds were Anastrophyllum donianum, Gymnomitrion crenulatum, Kiaeria blyttii and K. falcata, Lophozia opacifolia, Marsupella sphacelata, Pohlia ludwigii, Scapania nimbosa and S. ornithopodioides. Many returned early in the day to dry clothes at the field centre. Nevertheless they found that streams they passed earlier were transformed into torrents, and they had to wade along the paths that were now running with water.
Others explored pine woods at Collie an Ath in Glen Strathfarrar (vc 96). In the forest on the north-facing slopes Calypogeia integristipula was discovered growing on a peaty bank. Cryptothallus mirabilis, Douinia ovata, Lophozia longidens, L. obtusa and Plagiothecium laetum were also found in the wood, while on rocks by the river members collected Bazzania tricrenata and Jungermannia paroica. In the afternoon the party moved further up the glen to Allt Uchd Rodha, a south-facing wooded ravine, where Jean Paton found *Calypogeia suecica. Also reported were Aphanolejeunea microscopica, Hylocomium brevirostre, Isothecium holtii, Neckera pumila, Scapania aspera, Sphenolobus hellerianus, Tetrodontium brownianum and Ulota hutchinsiae.
26 July. The meeting explored the Allt nan Caorach valley (vc 106), a very steep sided ravine where schist rock has become eroded into spectacular forms. The stream was deep and access was difficult, but there was a surprising number of interesting species to be seen. The rock was acid, but the number of base-loving bryophytes found suggests that it must be veined with a more basic material. Jean Paton collected *Pohlia camptotrachela on a damp forest track at Fannyfield where the cars were parked, but David Long soon replied with *Leiocolea gillmanii in a flush by the stream. Gordon Rothero also made his mark with *Scapania calcicola, found on a soil ledge in the ravine.
There was a prodigious list of species that day, including Anoectangium aestivum c. spor. and A. warburgii, Barbula spadicea, Meesia uliginosa, Oxystegus hibernicus, Rhabdoweisia crispata, Tetrodontium brownianum and Zygodon conoideus amongst the mosses, and Cololejeunea calcarea, Eremonotus myriocarpus, Harpanthus flotowianus, Hygrobiella laxifolia, Jungermannia obovata, J. subelliptica, Leiocolea badensis, L. bantriensis, L. alpestris, Lejeunea patens, Lophozia longidens and Plagiochila britannica amongst the hepatics. The majority of these taxa were found in the lower, wooded part of the valley, which seemed to be the most interesting.
27 July. Perhaps as an apology for Monday, Wednesday’s mountain excursion to Sgurr na Lapaich (vc 96) was blessed with reasonable weather and all were satisfied with a good catch of montane species. After driving up Glen Strathfarrar, we parked at the end of the track at about 300msm. and followed the footpath up into the corrie of Loch Mor and Loch Beag. On the river bank below the ascent, David Long found Haplomitrium hookeri and in flushes beside the path Pleurozia purpurea was abundant and conspicuous. Around Loch Beag *Bazzania pearsonii and *Mastigophora woodsii were collected, and many notable species were recorded, including Campylopus schwarzii, Dicranodontium asperulum, Lophozia opacifolia, Marsupella alpina, Odontoschisma elongatum and Plagiochila carringtonii. Rocky slopes and flushes towards Meall Garbh yielded Leptodontium recurvifolium, Lescuraea patens, Marsupella adusta, H. brevissima, M. emarginata var . pearsonii, Moerckia hibernica, Nardia breidleri, Philonotis seriata, Rhizomnium magnifolium and Tritomaria polita. On screes members found Barbilophozia lycopodioides, Herzogiella striatella, Hookeria lucens (at 980m.), Hylocomium umbratum, Isopterygiopsis muelleriana, Marsupella stableri, Polytrichum sexangulare and Pterigynandrum filiforme. The highlight of the day however was the snow patch, at about 1000 msm. on Meall Garbh. Melt water trickling down the slope sported an extensive sward of blueish Pohlia wahlenbergii var. glacialis, surrounded by equally impressive quantities of Pohlia ludwigii. Andreaea blyttii, A. mutabilis, Dicranum glaciale, Moerckia blyttii and Pleurocladula albescens were collected nearby. As a crowning glory, some were lucky enough to find Aulacomnium turgidum while descending the ridge on the way back.
Those who opted for the lowland excursion enjoyed a relaxing day in the Black Isle region (vc 106). A graveyard in Cromarty produced some interesting stones with inscriptions legible in moss, besides which Dicranella staphylina, Gyroweisia tenuis and Pottia heimii were noted. Eathie ravine proved a little overgrown, but Gymnostomum recurvirostrum was recorded.
28 July. The meeting again split into mountain and lowland parties. The mountain excursion was led by Gordon Rothero to Ben Wyvis (vc 106). Approaching from Garbat on the west side, the party climbed the steep An Cabar ridge, where Chandonanthus setiformis was recorded, and then walked north east along the ridge towards the summit. Before arriving there Cynodontium bruntonii and *C. strumiferum, Harpanthus flotowianus and Lophozia longidens were collected. The summit was coated with a most impressive Racomitrium heath, and down on the upper lip of the corrie on the north-east side there were snow lie beds. Here the rocks and flushes supported many montane species seen previously during the week, and also Arctoa fulvella, Bryum weigelii and Sphagnum lindbergii.
The lowland party visited Black Rock Gorge in the morning and Pitmaduthy Moss in the afternoon (both vc 106). At the gorge, a stream runs through beech and mixed coniferous woodland making a very deep and narrow cut into the Old Red Sandstone rock. Downstream of the most spectacular parts of the gorge the streamside rocks were most accessible and three new records were found: *Bazzania trilobata, *Brachythecium glareosum and *Isothecium holtii. Other notable species on the rocks were Leiocolea bantriensis and L. alpestris and Platydictya jungermannioides. Returning through the woodland, Jean Paton found Fossombronia wondraczekii on a track.
In the afternoon, Pitmaduthy moss proved to be somewhat similar to Monadh Mor, visited earlier in the week, but perhaps not quite so interesting. Nevertheless, Jean Paton and David Long both found new records – *Cephaloziella rubella and *Drepanocladus fluitans var. falcatus.
Harold Whitehouse, Phil Stanley and others had set out on their own to explore Loch Ness and environs. At a fortuitous stop at Creag a Chlachain, about 12 miles south of Inverness (vc 96), they recorded Chandonanthus setiformis and Dicranum spurium. Arable fields provided Harold with some new records for vc 96: *Bryum sauteri near Beauly and *Dicranella staphylina near Essick, while *Bryum ruderale turned up on a path near Balchraggan. Other notable arable species that Harold found during the meeting were Bryum violaceum, Pohlia lescuriana and Pseudephemerum nitidum.
29 July. The final day was spent amid the fine scenery and native pine woods of Glen Affric (vc 96), in the morning near Dog Falls. On north facing slopes above the River Affric, Ptilium crista-castrensis was abundant, and Calypogeia suecica, Douinia ovata and Sphenolobus hellerianus were noted. On rocks by the river, members found Grimmia torquata and Ulota hutchinsiae, while abundant Antitrichia curtipendula c. spor. and scattered Ulota drummondii were seen on trees.
In the afternoon the party moved further up the glen to the car park and bridge at the head of Loch Beinn a’Mheadhoin. Investigation of Pollan Bhuide wood revealed Cryptothallus mirabilis, Douinia ovata, Frullania fragilifolia and Lophozia longidens, and in a bog near a small lochan Calypogeia sphagnicola, Pleurozia purpurea and Sphagnum imbricatum were reported. Fossombronia foveolata and Odontoschisma elongatum were collected on peaty gravelly ground by Loch Beinn a’Mheadhoin. Those who still had enough energy to bryologise the ravine at Cannich (vc 96) on the return trip were rewarded by Cololejeunea calcarea, Hygrohypnum eugyrium, *Lejeunea lamacerina, Porella cordaeana and Radula aquilegia.
Many excellent and willing bryologists from overseas, a splendid variety of excursions chosen by David Long and a friendly and helpful atmosphere at Aigas Field Centre all combined to make this a particularly memorable meeting for me. It was with gome regret that I had to tell the staff at Aigas that, at current estimates, it will be twenty years before the BBS returns to the Inverness area. Still, they do have another field centre on Orkney….