Summer meeting 1993: Dumfries and Galloway

HomeEventsSummer meeting 1993: Dumfries and Galloway

29 July 1993 - 3 August 1993

Meeting report

The meeting was based on Castle Douglas, with headquarters at the Urr Valley Hotel, where a number of members stayed. Others stayed at hotels and B.& B.s nearby, and the location proved to be satisfactory in terms of the range of comfortable accommodation and travelling distances to the sites we visited.

Most of our excursions were in Kirkcudbrightshire (v.-c. 73), with a single foray into Wigtownshire (v.-c. 74) and a couple of days in Dumfriesshire (v.-c. 72). The terrain covered was mostly heavily glaciated Southern Uplands Ordovician. The rivers flowing south into the Solway Firth give rise to interesting tributary valleys, with semi-natural broad-leaved woods. The bogs and mires in this area are varied, ranging from estuarine mosses to hilltop blanket bogs, while the coast supports a number of cliff habitats.

Those attending included John Blackburn, Pam Belsham, Alan Crundwell, Richard Fisk, Michael Fletcher, Jennifer Ide, Frank Lammiman, Peter Martin, Chris and Alison Miles, David Newman, Gordon Rothero, Alastair Rowan (local secretary), Phil Stanley, Rod Stern, and Harold Whitehouse. Not all were able to be there for the entire meeting and there was some coming and going, even (would you believe?) to attend occasional days with the Pteridological Society which happened to have its summer meeting at Castle Douglas in the same week. We were glad to have the company of Jonathan Warren, Ian Langford and Claire Spray, local members of Scottish Natural Heritage, on particular days. In the notes that follow, new vice-county records are marked with an asterisk * and the figures at the end of each site are the total numbers of mosses and liverworts recorded.

Thursday 29 July

Kirkconnell Flow (v.-c. 73, 26l96)

This National Nature Reserve lies on the west bank of the River Nith, 6 km south of Dumfries, and is a remnant of the estuarine peat moss which once covered much of the coastal area of the Solway Firth. The day started with heavy rain which cleared as the party reached the central raised bog area. Here the higher water table gives rise to well-developed mire communities. We found seven Sphagna: capillifolium, fimbriatum, magellanicum, palustre, papillosum, pulchrum, and a dark form of S. subnitens suggesting S. fuscum in the field. Other interesting species were Cephalozia connivens, Mylia anomala, Odontoschisma denudatum, and Calypogeia neesiana*. We spent some time looking for a previously recorded small patch of Dicranum polysetum without success (it’s a big bog). Chris Miles located it the following week, so it’s still there. 32 & 12.

We ate lunch in a sunny field near the afternoon’s site, Southwick Bank Wood, a broad- leaved woodland lying adjacent to the shore, south of the A7l0, about 2 km west of the village of Caulkerbush. The area forms part of the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Southwick Coastal reserve, which in turn is part of the Upper Solway Flats and Marshes SSSI. The BBS meeting of 1961 visited this site, walking the marsh between the rock pillars known as the Needle’s Eye and Lot’s Wife. We followed a similar route and noted Cryphaea heteromalla on elder branches, Orthotrichum stramineum, Oxystegus tenuirostris var. tenuirostris, Plagiomnium affine on a damp rock face, Pterogonium gracile, Zygodon viridissimus var. stirtonii, Frullania fragillifolia, Lejeunea lamacerina, Marchesinia mackii, Plagiochila killarniensis and P. spinulosa. We found most, though not all, of the 1961 finds and were pleased to add to the list, bearing in mind that this was the home territory of Humphrey Milne-Redhead. 44 & 19.

Friday 30 July

Wanlockhead (v. 72, 26l8 1)

We set off in drizzly conditions to what claims to be the highest village in Scotland, at 450m. This is an important mineralogical site, where lead was mined for over 400 years. The main interest centres on the spoil heaps, on which over 60 mineral species have been identified. The sheer extent of this area makes it difficult to know where to start. We began in a small tributary valley to the east of the Wanlock Water, with a ran of micro-sites on the spoil heaps and hillside grass moorland with flushes. These yielded Breutelia chrysocoma, Grimmia donniana, Neckera crispa, Tetraplodon mnioides, Tortella tortuosa, Jungermannia exsertifolia and Riccia sorocarpa among a range of species. It looked a hopeful site for Ditrichum plumbicola but we searched in vain. 63 & 12. After lunching in a sheltered hollow we explored an area of spoil to the west of the Wanlock Water, above a disused mine. This had less variety than the morning’s site, adding little to what we had seen already. Dicranella rufescens, D. varia and Oligotrichum hercynicum were the most notable. 23 & 5.

By mid afternoon the rain was steady. We made our way to lower ground with a short visit to Crichope Linn, east of Thornhill (v.-c. 72, 25/99). Here a stream cuts an impressive 100-foot gorge through the Permian sandstone, amid oak-ash woodland. The range of species was somewhat limited, but included Chiloscyphus polyanthos var. pallescens, Nowellia curvifolia and Scapania umbrosa. 21 & 10.

Saturday 31 July

Glenlee (v.-c. 73, 3 1l09)

This day took us to the Glenkens, territory which was examined in detail in the last century by James McAndrew, a schoolmaster at New Galloway. Humphrey Milne-Redhead also published species lists from this area, so we had good indications of what to expect. We started at Glenlec House where we were welcomed by the owner, Mr. Robert Agnew, who led us through the Glenlee policies to the wooded gorge of the Craigshinnie burn. The rain was light as we made our way upstream as far as the waterfall of Buck’s Linn, under mixed broad-leaves and larch, giving delightfully damp conditions and variable amounts of shade. We noted Eucladium verticillatum, Hylocomium brevirostre, Hyocomium armoricum, Oxystegus tenuirostris, Plagiomnium rostratum, Cololejeunea calcarea, Lejeunea cavifolia, L. lamacerina, L. patens, Metzgeria fruticulosa and M. temperata. 57 & 28.

Mr and Mrs Agnew kindly provided the facilities of Glenl. House, and we lunched under cover. We then crossed the river Ken to HoIm Glen (v.-c. 73, 25l67) and the wooded gorge of the Garpel burn. The agility of BBS members is unlimited and impossibly steep banks were descended with ease (well, nearly). We knew from McAndrew that this was a rich site, and so it proved, producing a good diversity of species. These included Amblystegium fluviatile, Cirriphyllum crassinervium, Fissidens pusillus, Grimmia hartmanii, Mnium stellare, Pterogonium gracile, Taxiphyllum wissgrillii, Zygodon baumgartneri*, Metzgeria conjugata, Plagiochila spinulosa, Porella arboris-vitae and P. cordaeana. The new Z.baumgartneri record was gratifying, considering that this area has been well worked over. 78 & 29.

Alan Crundwell took the opportunity in the course of the day to examine the grounds of the Urr Valley Hotel, finding a satisfying range which included Bryum algovicum, Cryphaea heteromalla on elder, Plagiomnium elatum (not rare on wet ground in the north but not to be expected in the grounds of hotels), Plagiothecium curvifolium, one tuft of Ulota phyllantha on an ash, and Lejeunea ulicina. 42 & 6.

Sunday 1 August

Ravenshall Woods (v.-c. 73, 25l55)

This day we went westwards to the Cree estuary, near Carsluith, to a mixed wood exposed to sea winds. The best way in was to descend the track to the beach and go along the shore. Some members made it to Dirk Hatterick’s Cave, an nearly inaccessible cavern of smuggling renown. The site yielded a variety of species, including Cirriphyllum crassinervium, Cryphaea heteromalla, Orthotrichum pulchellum, Plagiomnium rostratum, Rhynchostegium confertum, Lophocolea fragrans and Marchesinia mackaii. Gordon Rothero found Fissidens rivularis, an important new v.-c. record and only the second for Scotland, the first being found recently, again by Gordon, in Kintyre.

After a roadside lunch we pressed on into Wigtownshire, to Bailliewhirr Meadow (v.-c. 74, 25l44), an SSSI near Whithorn. For a meadow this is a highly variable site, ranging from well-grazed but unimproved grassland to wet reedbeds, with little rock outcrops. Interesting species included Barbula spadicea, Calliergon giganteum, Dicranum bonjeanii, Drepanocladus aduncus, D. revolvens, and Scorpidium scorpioides. 44 & 6.

Some members of the party then took the chance to visit the Whithorn archaeological dig, but Harold Whitehouse, Peter Martin and Phil Stanley looked at a number of arable fields on their way back. These comparatively unexplored habitats yielded Bryum violaceum and Phascum cuspidatum* near Whithorn (v.-c. 74), Anthoceros agrestis* in great abundance near Crocketford (v.-c. 73) and similarly in a field at Kirkinner (v.-c. 74), and Bryum klinggraeffii*, B. sauteri* and B. vio!aceum near Castle Douglas (v.-c. 73). Harold and Phil also examined some fields east of Dumfries on their way home at the end of the meeting; they found Ephemerum serratum var. minutissimum* and Pohlia lutescens near Cummertrees (v-c. 72). Other species seen in two or more of the seven barley and wheat fields were Barbula convoluta, Brachythecium rutabulum, Bryum rubens, Dicranella staphylina, Ditrichum cylindricum, Eurhynchium praelongum, Pottia truncata, Pseudephemerum nitidum, Blasia pusilla and Riccia sorocarpa. Total finds from these fields were 20 & 5.

Another special survey was that of the Castle Douglas caravan park, by Michael Fletcher. This produced 14 mosses and 2 liverworts, including Bryum radiculosum, rare in Scotland, on mortar on a pillar by the wash-house, and (still to be confirmed, at time of writing) Tortula virescens, a possible new v-c. record, frequent on the tarmac of the site.

Monday 2 August

Silver Flow (v.-c. 73, 25l48)

This well-known NNR consists of a series of blanket mires with pools, lying beside the Cooran Lane, the headwater stream of the River Dee. The long drive through Garraries forest took us to the normal access point, to discover that heavy overnight rain had raised the stream level from its usual ankle depth to a respectable five feet. It takes more than this to deter the BBS, and we retraced our route south by a mile, found an access track through the Sitka, and got onto the Rig of the Crow’s Nest. This is on the lower portion of the NNR, and on the accessible side of the burn. We suspected that it might not be as varied as the northern area, but we soon found 12 Sphagna: auriculatum var. auriculatum, capillifolium, compactum, cuspidatum, imbricatum vars. affine and austinii, magellanicum, palustre, papillosum, recurvum vars. mucronatum and tenue, and subnitens. Other finds included Cladopodiella fluitans, Mylia anomala, M. taylorii and Pleurozia purpurea. 22 & 10.

The midges at Silver Flow persuaded us to lunch at our afternoon stop at Garroch Bridge in the Glenkens. One half of the party then explored Garroch Wood (v-c. 73, 25l58), a semi-natural oak-ash wood in the valley of the Coom burn, and found Amblystegium tenax, Hylocomium brevirostre, Hyocomium armoricum, Plagiothecium succulentum, Thuidium delicatulum, Bazzania trilobata, Lophozia sudetica, Metzgeria fruticulosa, M. temperata, Plagiochila killarniensis and Trichocolea tomentella. 56 & 32.

The others examined the adjoining Hannaston Wood, higher up the hill and drier. It had rather less variety than Garroch Wood, but yielded Orthotrichum lyellii and fruiting Pseudephemerum nitidum. 43 & 20 (73 & 34 for the two woods).

In the evening Eric and Donald Watson and their wives joined us at the Urr Valley Hotel, where we were greatly entertained and filled with admiration by Harold Whitehouse’s wonderful stereo-photographs.

Tuesday 3 August

Grey Mare’s Tail (v.-c. 72, 36l11)

We assembled at the National Trust for Scotland car-park on the Moffat to Selkirk road, where we were met by Peter Bush, the NTS ranger. Peter proved to be a most useful local guide. Conditions were drizzly but improving, and the cloud base gradually lifted above the hilltops. We found that the direct path to the Grey Mare’s Tail waterfall was washed out and dangerous, so made our way up the alternative path on the northern side, with the peregrines protesting above us.

The upland Festuca-Agrostis grassland gives way to Calluna-Vaccinium on the ungrazed steep valley sides, with wet rock outcrops and ledges, some of which are quite base-rich. The higher moorland is mainly Calluna-Molinia, with blanket peat on the tops. We climbed and bryologized to Loch Skene (520 m) where we lunched in fitful sunshine. We then explored the vegetated screes below the crags to the north-west of the loch, where the progress of Harold Whitehouse among the boulders could be detected by the frequent photo-flashes. This area is renowned for its botanical richness and has been extensively covered over the years. D.A. Ratcliffe published an account of the flora of the Moffat hills in 1959 and the BBS were here in 1961. We therefore expected a good range of species, though new records were unlikely.

Among the species of interest were Andreaea alpina, Anoectangium aestivum, Arctoa flulvella, Barbula ferruginascens, Breutelia chrysocoma, Campylopus atrovirens and Diphyscium foliosum. Gordon Rothero found Ctenidium molluscum var. robustum on a basic flush at 550 m, some shoots of which Michael Fletcher intends to cultivate. Drepanocladus vernicosus (a very rare species in Scotland, and scheduled under the Bern Convention) occurred on a wet rock edge with Sphagnum at 490 m. We also found Dryoptodon patens, Grimmia donniana, Hypnum callichroum, Leptodontium flexifolium, Oxystegus hibernicus on basic soil on wet rock at 610 m, O. tenuirostris, Philonotis calcarea, Rhabdoweisia crispata, Schistidium strictum, Thuidium delicatulum, Barbilophozia atlantica, Gymnomitrion obtusum, Jungermannia subelliptica, Leiocolea bantriensis, Marsupella adusta on a north-facing rock slab at 600 m, and M. sprucei. 97 & 33.

Alastair Rowan


Dumfries and Galloway