Those attending:– Tom Blockeel, Daphne Coates, Alan Crundwell, Ian and Pat Evans, Mike Fletcher, Nick Hodgetts, Peter Martin, Roy Perry, Mark Pool, Ron Porley, Gordon Rothero (Local Secretary), Phil Stanley, Rod Stern and Harold Whitehouse.
This was a good turn-out for a Summer Meeting and all apart from Nick Hodgetts (a Friday arrival) gathered in the lounge of the Culag Hotel on the evening of the 29th to discuss the coming week in a convivial atmosphere. The various excursions are described below but some interesting records were made ‘out of hours’; in Lochinver Tom Blockeel recorded Riccia sorocarpa* and Bryum radiculosum* and Mark Pool found Pohlia camptotrachela at Little Assynt near the outflow of Loch Assynt. (* = New Vice-county Record throughout)
Thursday 30 July.
The large exposure of Durness Limestone is a well-known botanical locality and the frequency of Dryas in the grassland is remarkable. The weather was a little threatening at first but, though the wind was cool from the north-west, the sun favoured us most of the day. Bryologising began up the Traligill Burn where interesting species included Seligeria donniana, Bryum mildeanum, Ulota calvescens and Ephemerum serratum var. minutissimum*. We had to go rather farther up the burn to cross than I had intended, the monsoons having turned a virtually dry river bed into a sizeable stream. Once across, most of us struck out for the main crags across rocky limestone grassland which was of rather patchy interest. Some limestone blocks had Schistidium apocarpum var. homodictyon whilst the unmistakable wefts of Orthothecium rufescens enlivened a few wetter crevices.
Lunch was taken on a fine bluff with wide views over Loch Assynt and Quinag and then a scrambling descent made to the base of the Stronechrubie cliffs. In general these were rather dry, the good early summer having reduced the usual seepage lines, leaving some rather sorry-looking bryophytes. Gymnostomum insigne was quite frequent but had scant resemblance to the normal bright, robust plant. Hygrohypnum luridum was abundant in wet places under overhangs and, in drier spots, there were neat cushions of Bryum elegans. In more sheltered areas, usually under large overhangs and where there was some drainage, the flora was more luxuriant, frequently with carpets of Brachythecium glareosum. In one such spot there were also large, pendent cushions of Tortula princeps.
Friday 31 July.
Quinag from the north (29/17-32-)
From the north Quinag appears as two soaring Torridonian Sandstone buttresses with a large coire in between. Our target was the western buttress, Sail Gorm, and a line of crags and block scree where the underlying gneiss extends high up the hill. A short and simple stroll led to an area of blocks and flushes where some of the oceanic-montane hepatics occurred – Plagiochila carringtonii in abundance with Herbertus aduncus ssp. hutchinsiae, Pleurozia purpurea and Bazzania tricrenata. The flushes were quite basic, with a little Calliergon trifarium. The gneiss crags proved surprisingly base-rich and supported a fine tall-herb community as well as both Asplenium viride and Polystichum lonchitis in crevices. Grimmia torquata and G. funalis were common on the drier rocks, sometimes with Schistidium strictum. Wetter bedding planes provided sheltered sites for Anoectangium warburgii, Plagiobryum zieri and Leiocolea bantriensis. Ledge communities included Herbertus stramineus, Ditrichum flexicaule, Distichium capillaceum, Tortula subulata var. graeffii and Hypnum hamulosum. Tom Blockeel also recorded Ctenidium molluscum var. robustum* in this area.
The heathy scree below the crags was also interesting with good populations of Mastigophora woodsii, and a little of both Scapania ornithopodioides and Bazzania pearsonii. Prospecting further round to the east, Tom Blockeel recorded similar things but with the addition of Scapania nimbosa. Sheltered, steep faces near the base of the crags where there is intermittent irrigation, gave a few different species – Cololejeunea calcarea, Harpalejeunea ovata, Colura calyptrifolia and Radula aquilegia and rocks at the base where water drips were sometimes covered with the handsome, dark-green cushions of Dicranodontium uncinatum.
There are several lochans below the crags and rocks on the shore of these had both Antitrichia curtipendula and Orthotrichum rupestre. The weather closed in at the end of the day and as we straggled off the hill the rain swept in. A slight navigational error caused some consternation but as the search parties were being organised the missing party hove into view and all were damply reunited with their vehicles. Alan Crundwell had remained below, on the shore of Loch Airdbhair and recorded Archidium alternifolium, Campylium polygamum and Haplomitrium hookeri.
Saturday 1 August.
Achmelvich (29/05-24-) and Duart woodland, Nedd (29/13-32- & 33-)
After the splendid isolation of Quinag, the atmosphere of the Achmelvich dunes and crags, with their proximity to a busy camp-site, seemed positively cosmopolitan and the easy ground lent itself to a good deal of sociable pottering. The dunes are fairly typical of west coast shell sand, with good populations of Ditrichum flexicaule, Entodon concinnus and Homalothecium lutescens and more occasionally, Distichium inclinatum, Barbula reflexa and Thuidium philibertii. The gneiss rocks at the back of the sand are quite base-rich with Scapania aspera, Grimmia torquata and Neckera crispa with the more oceanic element represented by Frullania teneriffae and Lejeunea lamacerina. A Grimmia collected by Nick Hodgetts is still under review but is probably Grimmia montana*. A fen area on the margin of a lochan amongst the rocks produced Calliergon giganteum and Plagiomnium ellipticum.
After lunch the cavalcade moved off on the narrow road to Nedd, eventually parking in the drive to Ian and Pat Evans’ house. The sole elder bush in the village received much attention as the party gathered, study rewarded by Metzgeria fruticulosa – an uncommon plant up here and, in my experience, restricted to elder bark. The coastal birch-hazel woodland at Duart is very pleasant with a great mass of common bryophytes on the rocky floor. The oceanic element is strongly represented, as one would expect, with records of Radula aquilegia, Lejeunea lamacerina, L. patens, Frullania microphylla, Plagiochila killarniensis, Drepanolejeunea hamatifolia, Harpalejeunea ovata, Metzgeria leptoneura and Hylocomium umbratum. Some of the hazels had good cushions of Ulota drummondii; Kurzia sylvatica* occurs on peaty banks above the sea. At the end of the afternoon we adjourned to the Evans’s house for copious tea, scones and cake. For most this was a very civilised end to the proceedings of the day but a handful of stalwarts went on to Craig an Spardain, near Unapool to re-find Glyphomitrium daviesii; Tom Blockeel also recorded Lejeunea ulicina*.
Sunday 2 August.
This should have been the ‘big hill day’ on Conival but the forecast was dire, threatening to flush all bryologists off the mountains, so the venue was switched. This was probably the sunniest day of the week. Inverkirkaig woodland extends out in a strip along the coast from the ravine of the Kirkaig river. The woodland is largely birch with some hazel and is very damp and humid and produced a prodigious list of some 193 taxa but without any real rarities. The woodland by the river has a series of low crags with rocky slopes in between, all with deep cushions of bryophytes including Sphagnum quinquefarium, Lepidozia cupressina and Hylocomium umbratum, the latter in lush domes over rocks and tree stumps.
The rocks in and by the river produced Hygrohypnum ochraceum, H. eugyrium and, where more base-rich, H. luridum as well as Cinclidotus fontinaloides, Schistidium alpicola var. rivulare and occasionally, Radula aquilegia. The steep faces of the crags had a range of the small Lejeuneaceae of which Aphanolejeunea microscopica was by far the most frequent but Cololejeunea calcarea, Harpalejeunea ovata and Drepanolejeunea hamatifolia all occur. Colura calyptrifolia seemed to be limited to the rocks in the more heathy western margin of the woodland along with Harpanthus scutatus. Frullania microphylla and Lophocolea fragrans favoured the coastal rocks in this area also.
Monday 3 August.
This was the wettest day of the meeting but a depleted team decided that they were keen to go “if I was” which gave me little choice! The rain fell relentlessly and compass bearings were necessary to locate v.-c. 107 into which we were straying in search of large hepatics and snow-bed things. Once over the bealach into the upper reaches of Coire a’Mhadaidh (The Fox Coire – only the sensible foxes were giving it a wide berth today), bryologising began in the first set of block scree. Gradually a good list of the large oceanic-montane hepatics was built up – Scapania ornithopodioides, S. nimbosa, Mastigophora woodsii, Anastrophyllum donianum, A. joergensenii, Bazzania tricrenata, B. pearsonii and Plagiochila carringtonii. For some, this was a first acquaintance with this unique community and it was a pity that the conditions on which it presumably depends prevented real enjoyment!
After a dank lunch the plan was to move higher up the coire to a line of crags where the snow lies late. On the way, we passed some interesting flushes with Philonotis seriata*, P. tomentella* and Scapania uliginosa*. The upper scree slopes are quartzite and rather mobile and thus not very productive but the broken ground below the crags proved very interesting. Common snow-bed species like Kiaeria starkei, K. falcata and Pohlia ludwigii were frequent on the wet soil of ledges and crags. Mike Fletcher found Moerckia blyttii in a similar site and Lophozia opacifolia, Diplophyllum taxifolium and Marsupella sphacelata were also noted. One dripping crag had a large stand of Andreaea nivalis*, the most northerly British site for this rare moss. The fern Athyrium distentifolium is a common constituent of block scree communities where snow lies late and often has interesting bryophyte associates growing on the litter and this proved to be the case here with Brachythecium reflexum* in some abundance, again a new northerly outpost. Well satisfied with the limited but significant list, we headed back round the coire to the bealach and the long trudge back to the vehicles.
Those of the full party with a less perverse nature stuck to the lower ground, visiting the woodland at Achmelvich (29/075249) which proved rather poor and a mire on the margin of Loch na Claise (29/032207) which had Campylium polygamum and Splachnum ampullaceum.
Tuesday 4 August.
Allt na Uamh (29/26-16- & 17-)
A second visit to the Cambrian limestone, this time with a northerly aspect and the added interest of block scree and caves. The lower section of the burn was in spate so activity was confined to the north side where isolated limestone blocks attracted much attention. Both Leucodon sciuroides and Antitrichia curtipendula occur here with Barbula reflexa, Seligeria recurvata, and Bryum elegans. At one point a large tributary to the main burn gushes forth from the base of a crag but a dense covering of bryophytes here proved to be largely Rhynchostegium riparoides. The steep slopes in this area had some surface drainage also and the flushes, dominated by Cratoneuron commutatum var. falcatum, had cushions of Leiocolea bantriensis and a little Amblyodon dealbatus. Shortly above, the main burn also disappeared leaving a dry river bed which we crossed to ascend the bouldery slope to the crags. The limestone blocks below the first crags had scattered patches of Pseudoleskeella catenulata and also provided ideal perches for a protracted lunch. As we moved off again, Alan Crundwell immediately found Schistidium trichodon, “looking rather sat on”! The crags and ledges around the caves have an interesting flora. In the caves there are wefts of Amblystegium compactum and Platydictya jungermannioides, on steep faces close to the caves large mats of Pseudoleskeella catenulata and on boulders just below, Pseudoleskeella sibirica. In dripping, algae-covered corners, the distinctive shoots of Seligeria trifaria could be found if enough ‘gunge’ was examined. More open rocks had occasional cushions of Tortella densa and drier, sheltered crevices, Encalypta alpina. In the evening, the bulk of the party repaired to the Burnside Bistro in downtown Lochinver for an excellent meal, an occasion enlivened by Mike Fletcher’s portable ‘moss garden’ and the photographic exploits of the indefatigable Harold Whitehouse.