Summer meeting 1997: North-east Yorkshire

HomeEventsSummer meeting 1997: North-east Yorkshire

13 August 1997 - 20 August 1997

Meeting report

In view of its close proximity to the meeting in the Italian Alps, the meeting was pretty well attended. The leader, John Blackburn, was hoping for some joyous records for VC 62, in which vice-county all the localities visited were situated. Those expected to fulfil these hopes were Agneta Burton, Frank Lammiman, Seán O’Leary, Jean Paton, Christine Rieser, Ron Shoubridge, Graeme Smith, Phil Stanley (whom duty called home a day early) and Cliff Townsend, all staying at the Beansheaf Hotel, a little south of Pickering on the Malton road. Vincent Jones attended for three days, and Tom Blockeel and Mark Owen for a day each. The weather was kind to us and virtually no time was lost; most of the distances travelled by car were mercifully short.

Thursday 14 August

Seven Valley woods, north of Sinnington

From Sinnington we walked gently northwards, taking in Spring Bank Wood, Hill Bank Wood and Cropton Banks Wood, moving on to Howlgate Wood after lunch. The woods are on the sides of the River Seven valley; the bedrock is Jurassic limestone, which includes calcareous grits. That this was to be a disciplined meeting was soon indicated when the leader (perhaps after brooding on the word ‘Jurassic’) thumped Seán with a large branch which he claimed had broken off in his hand. Thus spurred, the party got to work. The bryophyte flora was not rich, but species found included Anomodon viticulosus, Bryum subelegans (B. flaccidum), Campylium stellatum var. protensum, Eurhynchium (Cirriphyllum) crassinervium, E. pumilum, Encalypta streptocarpa, Hygrohypnum luridum, Isothecium alopecuroides (I. myurum), Rhynchostegium murale, Tortella tortuosa, Pseudephemerum nitidum, Jungermannia atrovirens, Porella platyphylla and Radula complanata. Several species seen here on previous occasions, such as Apometzgeria pubescens, were not encountered. Stubble fields near Howlgate Wood produced the statutory grovel, with a good crop of Brya (B. klinggraeffii, B. rubens, B. ruderale and B. violaceum), Ditrichum cylindricum, Dicranella staphylina, Riccia glauca and R. sorocarpa. The return to the village involved a pleasant cooling paddle across the shallow river.

Friday 15 August

Saltergate Gill

This day was spent along Saltergate Gill, about 15 km north-north-east of Pickering, and was the most productive of the week. The deep gill has a waterfall and dripping rocks, and ends at a fen by the North York Moors railway.

A bog at the commencement, quite near the road, produced Sphagnum flexuosum (S. recurvum var. amblyphyllum) in small quantity as well as S. fallax (S. recurvum var. mucronatum), and recording proceeded steadily until a climb became necessary in order to skirt the upper edge of the gill, along a fence behind which were a large number of beehives. All was well at first, but almost at the end Ron was stung through a thick shirt by a determined bee, Agneta suffered from a bee which got tangled in her hair (no doubt with aspirations to be a bat), while Cliff developed a yen for a legal career after being stung in The Temple. A rapid descent got us back to work. Graeme produced Moerckia hibernica* near the waterfall, not recorded in VC 62 since 1898, and on a grassy slope Vincent spotted Marchantia polymorpha ssp. montivagans* (ssp. polymorpha was on a rock in the stream nearby). Elsewhere along the stream were found Calliergon stramineum, Sphagnum fimbriatum, S. squarrosum, Fissidens osmundoides, Climacium dendroides, Philonotis calcarea, Mnium stellare, Pogonatum aloides, Aneura pinguis, Calypogeia arguta, C. muelleriana, Jungermannia atrovirens, Leiocolea badensis, Preissia quadrata, Lophozia incisa and Scapania umbrosa. One rock was plastered with the rigid saxicolous form of Hypnum resupinatum (H. cupressiforme var. resupinatum) – so different from the softer corticolous form. Hymenostylium (Gymnostomum) recurvirostrum was on wet rocks by the waterfall – only the second vice-county record this century. Cliff bumped into a big tufa rock by the stream which had Distichium capillaceum in a crevice and Barbula spadicea and Eucladium verticillatum at the damp base. While Vincent suspended bryological activities to investigate hawkweeds, the rest proceeded to the fen, where fine Scorpidium scorpioides, Calliergon giganteum and Drepanocladus revolvens soon took the eye. Returning to the cars by higher heathy ground the inevitable Campylopus introflexus was soon seen, as well as C. flexuosus (C. paradoxus), Leptodontium flexifolium, Orthodontium lineare and Barbilophozia attenuata, while the sight of some fine old steam trains puffing along the railway added to the pleasure – notably the streamlined and famous Sir Nigel Gresley.

Saturday 16 August

Egg Griff, Bridestones

The morning was spent in the Bridestones area, in the event mostly in the peculiarly named Egg Griff. Penetration of this gully was only possible for a relatively short distance owing to tumbled trees and rocks having fallen in. An egg’s chances of survival would have been slim. The surface soil in the area is highly acidic, but basic influence was clear from the presence of two or three colonies of Mnium stellare. Scrambling around among the debris produced Anomodon viticulosus, Dicranum tauricum, Fissidens gracilifolius (F. pusillus var. tenuifolius), Eurhynchium pumilum, Rhytidiadelphus loreus, Seligeria recurvata and Jungermannia atrovirens; the most pleasing find was Plagiochila britannica.

Dundale Griff, Levisham Moor

Following Egg Griff, it had been hoped to visit Dovedale Griff, but high and impenetrable bracken above and below made for a quick lunch and a retreat to Dundale Griff, on Levisham Moor, about 11 km north of Pickering. This long, gradually deepening gully, damp in places, was more productive, and on the damp acid sandstone one had the constant feeling that good things would turn up. Plagiochila britannica was here also, as were Hookeria lucens, a little rather poor Mnium stellare, Orthodontium lineare, Pohlia lutescens in company with Dicranella rufescens, Racomitrium heterostichum and Tetrodontium brownianum in small quantity in one spot; Cephalozia lunulifolia, Scapania umbrosa and Jungermannia obovata were also noted. Brachydontium trichodes, recorded here previously, was constantly expected but never actually seen.

Members were very much intrigued by huge numbers of burrowing bees inhabiting holes on sandy banks on Levisham Moor. The leader communicated to your scribe that Jean thought this was Dasypoda hirtipes and worth mention, producing an abiding feeling that I was being ‘had’ in retribution for an incident on a previous BBS trip. The Hairyfooted Hairyfoot, in Greek and Latin, seems a suspicious nomenclatural overkill….

Sunday 17 August

Falling Foss

Our morning’s activities were centred on Falling Foss Forest Nature Reserve, and particularly around Falling Foss itself – a 10 m cap-rock waterfall on the May Beck, in a predominantly acidic area with slight base-enrichment in some rocks. Species seen included Brachythecium populeum, Heterocladium heteropterum, Hyocomium armoricum, Eucladium verticillatum, Eurhynchium pumilum, Hookeria lucens, Orthodontium lineare, Ulota bruchii (U. crispa var. norvegica), Jungermannia atrovirens, J. sphaerocarpa, Leiocolea turbinata, Nowellia curvifolia and Scapania nemorea.

Fen Bog Nature Reserve

In the afternoon a visit was paid to the Fen Bog Nature Reserve, about 20 km north-north-east of Pickering. This luscious-looking area, again offering the bonus of proximity to the North York Moors Railway, soon caused the party to assume the frog-like posture characteristic of bryologists in such a locality. Jean soon homed in on Cephalozia macrostachya var. macrostachya, and as the party dispersed 11 of the 13 taxa of Sphagnum recorded from this extensive area were found – though some, such as S. teres, only in small quantity. Other finds included Calliergon stramineum, Warnstorfia exannulata (Drepanocladus exannulatus), D. revolvens s.str., Scorpidium scorpioides, Calypogeia neesiana, Cephalozia connivens, Cladopodiella fluitans, Kurzia pauciflora, Mylia anomala, Odontoschisma sphagni, Riccardia multifida and R. chamedryfolia. Respects were paid to rather senescent Carex limosa and Rhynchospora alba, and it was pleasant to see cranberry stems trailing about here and there. We missed a few interesting species recorded here in the past, notably Philonotis caespitosa and Splachnum ampullaceum. It was only a short while before the party began to move back that rain began in earnest for the first and only time on the meeting.

Monday 18 August

Botton Head, Greenhow Moor

This morning gave rise to the longest drive of the meeting, when a visit was paid to Botton Head SSSI, where permission had been given to gain access through Greenhow Plantation in order to reach the Botton Head gully with minimal walking. The purpose was to demonstrate Mielichhoferia elongata to those who had not seen it and to investigate some old records. The rarity was found with no trouble, though those who had visited the locality in 1958 had the impression that it was greatly reduced in quantity. Among the other bryophytes seen in its vicinity were Dicranella cerviculata, D. palustris, Calliergon stramineum, Oligotrichum hercynicum, Pogonatum urnigerum, Nardia compressa, Riccardia multifida and Scapania scandica in its second VC 62 locality. On a rock below the gully a grimmiaceous moss was collected as a candidate for Coscinodon cribrosus, recorded from the site but not seen there for many years. What this moss is remains a little uncertain, though Grimmia montana has been both suggested and disputed! Three members, deterred by the initial steep climb through low-growing larch branches, remained within the forest rides, finding Fossombronia pusilla and Jungermannia sphaerocarpa but little else of note. Just before leaving the area, John led the party to a bank where he had seen Rhodobryum roseum, and this was rapidly refound.

Ashberry, Rievaulx

The remainder of the day was spent at the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s reserve at Ashberry, 6 km west of Helmsley, which the BBS had previously visited in 1967. Little work was done in the woodland area, the party concentrating in the marshy meadows along the stream and a dry basic grassland area by the roadside above. In the meadows were seen Campylium stellatum, Philonotis calcarea, Plagiomnium elatum, Aneura pinguis, Jungermannia atrovirens and Riccardia chamedryfolia. The dry grassland produced a good quantity of Entodon concinnus (one of only two known sites in VC 62), Trichostomum crispulum, Pseudocrossidium hornschuchianum (Barbula hornschuchiana), Ditrichum gracile (D. crispatissimum), Plagiomnium affine and Scapania aspera. The woodland by the track connecting the two areas yielded on cursory examination Anomodon viticulosus, Bryum subelegans and Plagiothecium undulatum.

Tuesday 29 August

Duncombe Park, Helmsley

The morning visit was to Duncombe Park, the home of Lord and Lady Feversham, and noted for its ancient trees. It is also rich in rare insects. With the exception of one small area we were able to roam freely, but in the event concentrated on the woods around the public car park and a reach of the River Rye. There were also productive old walls, one of which soon yielded a quantity of Tortula marginata, seen for the first time in the week. Another basic wall produced Didymodon rigidulus (Barbula rigidula), Zygodon viridissimus var. viridissimus, Syntrichia (Tortula) intermedia and Leucodon sciuroides – the latter the first record in VC 62 for 70 years. In the woods occurred Taxiphyllum wissgrillii, Eurhynchium crassinervium, Rhynchostegium murale and Didymodon (Oxystegus) sinuosus, also clearly showing basic conditions, while Pseudephemerum nitidum was locally common in damp bare patches in the rides. Fissidens growing on rocks in the river produced a little subsequent internecine growling until it was realised that both F. crassipes and F. rufulus were present, thoroughly intermixed though the latter in greater quantity. A number of scattered patches of F. pusillus poking up through the mats added to the confusion. There was plenty of Amblystegium tenax, with Thamnobryum alopecurum on the banks. Mucky Orthotrichum on roots near the floodline proved to be merely a form of O. affine, which would formerly have been called var. rivale Wils.

Wass Bank

The final visit of the meeting was made in the afternoon to Wass Bank limestone quarry, in order to attempt rediscovery of Seligeria diversifolia in its only known English locality. However, as on John’s two previous visits, this was unsuccessful, despite the presence of more pairs of eyes; only numerous colonies of S. recurvata were found, some plants with virtually straight setae giving rise to unease. Other interesting species were Fissidens gracilifolius, Eurhynchium pumilum, Rhynchostegiella tenella, Taxiphyllum wissgrillii again, Porella platyphylla, Jungermannia pumila and Gyroweisia tenuis.

Thus ended a week which, while not notable for a great haul of rarities, fulfilled the more laudable aim of adding a record to the vice-county list, and refinding species not seen for many years or known only in few localities. Equally important, there was as usual the opportunity of renewing old friendships and making new ones. Evenings swung violently between hilarity and sharing of knowledge, with many participants helping to finalise some of the introductory parts of Jean’s forthcoming hepatic Flora. A good time was had by all, to coin a phrase, and sincere thanks are owed to John for an excellent programme. I am grateful to all those participants who sent notes and records, which have greatly helped in writing this report.

Cliff Townsend


North-east Yorkshire