Vice-county 28 (West Norfolk)

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Chalk grassland at Ringstead Downs

The landscape of West Norfolk is largely sedimentary, comprising early deposits of chalk, sandstone and boulder clay overlain by later superficial deposits of sands and gravels, originating from glacial drift deposited by the Anglian ice sheet.

The coastline from The Wash through to Wells in VC28 with coastal dune slacks, salt marshes and grazing marshes, sandy tracks, and pine woods offers access to many bryophyte habitats from the long-distance coastal path.  Petalophyllum ralfsii has not seen at Holme Dunes since 2008 and is worth carefully searching for – particularly across the new dune/saltmarsh series building on the western side.  A search of the muddy saltmarsh margins and pools away from the coast may turn up fruiting Hennediella heimii.

Further inland, the valley fens, stretching across Norfolk to include East Walton Common, Fouldon Common and Scarning Fen, comprise the best locations for calcareous fen bryophytes. Here, you can find Calliergon giganteum, Philonotis calcarea, Scorpidium cossonii and Scorpidium scorpioides.  Scarning Fen also holds the most southerly population of Leiocolea gillmanii (formerly known as Norfolk flapwort L. rutheana var laxa).

In VC28, two large mire systems at Dersingham Bog and Roydon Common are good for Sphagnum species and liverworts, such as Sphagnum capillifolium, S. papillosum, S. tenellum along with Cephalozia connivens, Mylia anomala and Odontoschisma sphagni.  Associated brown moss communities in the fen areas include Calliergonella cuspidata, Campylium stellatum, Bryum pseudotriquetrum and Ctenidium molluscum.

Spreading branches are blunt and have leaves that spread at more than 45 degrees from the branch axes, making them look puffy

The Brecks, located south & west in Norfolk and running into Suffolk, combine wetland pingos and meres, with forestry tracks, wet woodland, heath, and grassland.  Searching the heathland for bryophytes you may find Rhytidium rugosum and possibly the rarer Rhodobryum roseum but more often Hylocomium splendens and Pleurozium schreberi on heathland and Climacium dendroides on damp heathy grassland.  The fluctuating waters of the meres are known for Physcomitrium eurystomum, fruiting when water levels are at their lowest.  Riccia fluitans is recorded from a few pingos and dykes & drains. In less well-managed forestry and wetter woods, Nowellia curvifolia and Herzogiella seligeri have been recorded.

Herzogiella seligeri

Churches and graveyards provide good hunting grounds for bryophytes by virtue of the variety of stone used in their construction.   The man-made environment of churches and graveyards, provides niches for an eclectic mix of bryophytes including Orthotrichum anomalum, Schistidium crassipilum, Homalothecium sericeum and Zygodon viridissimus with Porella platyphylla and the rarer Grimmia trichophylla on some churchyard walls.

For the ‘small bryophyte’ enthusiast, the autumnal arable landscape has the possibility of turning up Bryum violaceum, B. klinggraeffii or Riccia sorocarpa and perhaps even a Sphaerocarpos sp. – a species not recorded often in west Norfolk, and possibly over-looked.

Julia Masson, October 2020

Resources you may find useful

Bosanquet, S. 2013 Wildlife reports – Bryophytes (wrt L. gillmannii). British Wildlife Vol 25 No.1: 61

Callaghan, D.A., Medina, R., Masson, J. & During, H. 2020. Population status and ecology of the episodic moss Physcomitrium eurystomum Sendtn. in Britain. Journal of Bryology42-3: 246.

Stevenson, C.R. 2003. Mosses and other grave matters. Trans. Norfolk Norwich Nat. Soc. 36 (1)

Beckett, G., Bull, A. & Stevenson, R. 1999. A Flora of Norfolk. Privately published.

Swann, E.L. 1982. Norfolk bryophytes today. Journal of Bryology12: 77-112.

Swann, E.L. 1975. Supplement to the Flora of Norfolk. Norwich: Crowe.

Swann, E.L. 1968. Bryophyta. In: Flora of Norfolk by Petch, C.P. & Swann, E.L., pp. 42-92. Norwich: Jarrold.