A bryological tour through
... with Sam Bosanquet
- 1. Lower Wye Valley
Chepstow area, Pierce & Alcove Woods, Wyndcliff, Blackcliff, Mounton
- 2. Mid Wye Valley
Tintern, Llandogo, Whitebrook
- 3. Upper Wye Valley
Lady Park Wood, Reddings Enclosure
- 4. Gwent Levels east
Magor Marsh LNR, Gwent Levels Wetland Reserve, Collister Pill
- 5. Wentwood area
Wentwood, Wentwood Reservoir, Llanfair Discoed, Penhow, Llangwm
- 6. Trellech Ridge
Cleddon Bog & surroundings, Trellech Hill Quarry
- 7. North-east Monmouthshire
Dingestow, Craig Syffyrddin, Clappers Wood, Llangua Church
- 8. Usk Valley
Llantrissant, Llanfihangel Gobion, Castle Meadows, Govilon
- 9. Central Monmouthshire
Llandegfedd Reservoir, The Usk Inlier
- 10. The Eastern Ridge
Pontypool, Abersychan, Mynydd y Garn Fawr, The Blorenge, Cwm Ifor, Gilwern
- 11. Abergavenny
Ysgyryd Fawr, Bryn Arw, The Sugar-loaf, Cwm Coed-y-cerrig NNR
- 12. Western Monmouthshire
Rhymney Valley, Rhymney Hill & Mynydd Bedwellte, Sirhowy Valley,
Ebbw Vale, Blaina & Abertillery, Mynydd Coity & Blaenavon
- 13. Grwyne Fawr Valley
Coed-dias, Pont Cadwgan, Bal-mawr, Blaen-y-cwm
- 14. Cwmyoy & Oldcastle
Cwmyoy, Hatterall Hill
- 15. Llanthony Valley
Llanthony, Mid-valley cwms, Tarren yr Esgob south
Monmouthshire is the southeastern-most Vice-county in
Wales and acts as something of a bridge between that country and England.
It resembles much of the rest of Wales in the general diversity of the
bryophyte flora and the local abundance of humidity demanders, but also
supports a variety of lowland species, particularly calcicoles, which
barely penetrate the Principality. The habitats and scenery of the county
are rich and varied. North-western Monmouthshire’s Black Mountains
have a distinctly upland character; the western coalfield consists of
ridges and valleys and is similar to adjacent Glamorgan; a band of Carboniferous
limestone runs southwards from The Blorenge and holds a wide range of
exciting calcicoles; the central lowlands are gently undulating and include
the floodplain of the River Usk; the predominately acidic sandstone/conglomerate
ridges of Trellech and Wentwood dominate the east and beyond them lie
the limestone crags of the Wye Valley; the southern edge of the county
is occupied by coastal levels.
The bryological richness of the county is apparent even in lowland areas
- the author’s home tetrad in SO40 supports more than 150 species
of bryophyte, a respectable 10km square total in many parts of England!
Meanwhile, the upland north-west, despite being less intensively covered,
includes several tetrads with totals of more than 170 species. Species
that are at or near their south-eastern limit include Bazzania trilobata,
Calypogeia azurea, Jamesoniella autumnalis, Jubula hutchinsae, Lepidozia
cupressina, Scapania aequiloba, Dicranum fuscescens, Encalypta ciliata,
Polytrichum alpinum and Tetrodontium brownianum; English
species that barely cross into Wales include Amblystegium humile,
Aphanoregma patens, Didymodon vinealis, Microbryum curvicolle, Octodiceras
fontanum, Syntrichia (Tortula) virescens and Tortula marginata.
The bryophyte flora of Monmouthshire has a similarly patchy history of
coverage to its neighbours. There was a notable peak in recording in the
V-c at the turn of the 19th century when visiting bryologists included
Rev. Augustin Ley, Rev. C.H. Binstead and Miss Eleanora Armitage from
Herefordshire and H.H. Knight from Carmarthenshire/Gloucestershire. The
1925 British Bryological Society meeting was held in Monmouth.
The inter-war years were as quiet in Monmouthshire as elsewhere in Britain
but things picked up just before the war when Dr Eustace Jones made regular
visits to Tintern to study the Wye Valley Woodlands. Jones’ discoveries,
as well as those of Ley, Armitage, Knight and others, were brought together
by Arthur Wade in the form of two Floras: Liverworts in 1946 and Mosses
in 1953. The 1954 BBS meeting was again based in Monmouth.
The 1960s were a very quiet period for recording, although the 1968 BBS
meeting, based in Ross-on-Wye, made a couple of visits to the county.
The general pace picked up again in the 1970s when Bristol botanist George
Garlick made several visits to Monmouthshire, concentrating on previously
unvisited areas. Roy Perry, based in Cardiff, coordinated recording in
the county from this time until 2001 and also made a few visits to little-known
areas. The visits of Garlick, Perry and a few others coincided with the
BBS mapping scheme and resulted in the county appearing relatively well
recorded in the Atlas.
The BBS again visited the county in 1988 during a meeting based in Cirencester.
Following this, in the late 1990s, there were occasional incursions from
the surrounding Vice-counties, notably those of Dr Jonathan Sleath from
Herefordshire, Alan Orange from Glamorgan and Ray Woods from Breconshire.
The decade finished with another BBS meeting, led by Dr Sleath and based
in Abergavenny (although most expeditions were into Breconshire).
Coverage between 1999 and 2003 has been on a tetrad/site basis and, by
the end of 2003, at least an hour had been spent by the author in each
of over 200 tetrads scattered across the county. Most of this recording
has been by SDSB alone, but Graham Motley, CCW’s Senior Conservation
Officer for the BBNP and BBS recorder for V-c 44, has accompanied him
on several visits in county.
This travelogue covers a wide range of sites across the whole county.
It is subdivided into 16 sections arranged in four north-running lines:
from Chepstow in the south-east up the Wye Valley to Monmouth; from the
Gwent Levels through Wentwood and Trellech to the far north-east; from
Newport up the Usk Valley to Abergavenny; and from the western coalfield
to the Black Mountains and Llanthony Valley.
The Carboniferous limestone of the Lower Wye Valley stretches, on the
west side of the river, from Chepstow north to Tintern. It outcrops more
extensively to the east in West Gloucestershire (V-c 34). Low crags are
scattered throughout this area of ancient woodland, but taller ones are
found below Chepstow Castle, by the river at Piercefield, at the Wyndcliff
and at Blackcliff. The first two of these are almost entirely inaccessible,
so visitors should concentrate on the Blackcliff and Wyndcliff crags,
as well as the surrounding woodland.
The rarest extant species in the Wye Valley is Seligeria campylopoda
RDB(DD), which has its British headquarters here. It
shares the appearance of S. recurvata (curved setae) with the
habit of S. calycina (paucifolia). Colonies grow on small pieces
of limestone partially embedded in the soil. Autumn leaf fall may be major
factor in the distribution of this species - many stones of suitable size
do not support S. campylopoda, which seems to be restricted to
areas under Yew trees and steep banks. Augustine Ley collected Bryum
turbinatum RDB(CR) from a roadside at the Wyndcliff
in 1891; it has not been seen since and the habitat is likely to have
changed significantly. C.H. Binstead and W.A. Shoolbred found Ditrichum
flexicaule sensu stricto RDB(DD) here in 1891 and
H.H. Knight collected it from a wall “near Tintern” in 1902.
This species (which tends to look very different from D. gracile,
usually growing in dense tufts and having much shorter leaves) has also
not been seen in recent years. Anomodon longifolius RDB(EN)
was also found “near Tintern”, by the BBS in 1925. Some large
collections were made but their origin has not been traced precisely.
It just about survives at Mounton but the rediscovery of a strong colony
of this threatened plant in the lower Wye Valley would be very welcome.
Calcicoles form the bulk of the interest in this limestone-dominated
area. As well as the RDB species mentioned above, notable bryophytes include
Cololejeunea calcarea, C. rossettiana NS,
Marchesinia mackaii, Amblystegium confervoides NS,
Campylophyllum calcareum NS, Eurhynchium
striatulum NS, Fissidens gracilifolius, Fissidens
rivularis NS, Gymnostomum viridulum NS,
Scorpiurium circinatum NS, Seligeria donniana
NS and Thuidium recognitum NS.
The humid woods provide suitable conditions for a few hepatics, such as
Lophocolea fragrans, Metzgeria conjugata, Nowellia curvifolia
and Riccardia palmata. Epiphytes include occasional Leucodon
sciuroides, Neckera pumila and Orthotrichum species.
The Chepstow area
Before visiting the Wye Valley, there are a few places around Chepstow
that are worth a quick stop. The roundabout above Junction 2 of
the M48 (ST535916) is the unlikely setting for a strong colony
of Microbryum rectum (Pottia recta). Park in the lay-by
on the west side of the A466 just north of the roundabout then check the
south-facing bank by the road heading north-east from the roundabout to
Bulwark. A visit in late winter provides the only real chance of seeing
this species as its fruiting is seasonal.
Golf enthusiasts can enjoy a strong colony of Grimmia ovalis
RDB(VU), accompanied by a little G. laevigata NS,
on the south side of the church roof at St Pierre (ST515905).
I don’t know whether non-golfing visitors are officially allowed
to visit but nobody seemed to mind when I examined the roof with my telescope
Dr Shoolbred, resident of Chepstow and an excellent botanist and bryologist,
published a Flora of the Chepstow area in 1920. Among the most notable
species he mentioned were Funaria muhlenbergii NS
at Chepstow Castle (ST533941), Scorpiurium circinatum NS
in the old limestone quarry at ST537929 and Grimmia decipiens
NS on a rock by the River Wye just south of Chepstow
Station. The Funaria seems no longer to survive at Chepstow Castle but
the castle’s spectacular setting makes it well worth a visit anyway.
So far as I know, nobody has looked for the Grimmia or Scorpiurium
since Shoolbred’s time; a lack of footpaths makes this a difficult
place to visit.
Pierce and Alcove Woods
The southernmost of the Wye Valley woodlands are among the least known
bryologically. Cololejeunea rossettiana NS and
Fissidens gracilifolius have been recorded in Alcove
Wood (ST529947), whilst Marchesinia mackaii, Plagiochila
britannica, Seligeria campylopoda RDB(DD) and Eurhynchium
(Isothecium) striatulum NS grow on or near the Apostles
Rocks (ST528948). Piercefield Cliffs and the Apostles Rocks are
sections of the precipitous north-facing slope that towers above a large
meander in the River Wye; the terrain is extremely difficult and the walk-in,
from Chepstow (footpath starts at ST528943) or the Wyndcliff, is quite
long. This area is probably the best bet for anyone hoping to rediscover
Anomodon longifolius RDB(EN) in the lower Wye
More people have seen Seligeria campylopoda RDB(DD)
in the Wyndcliff woods than anywhere else in Britain, indeed only 2 people
alive today have seen it at any other site! The main colony at The Wyndcliff
is on small pieces of limestone by the track to the disused quarry, just
across the A466 from the Forestry Commission carpark (ST527971). The
Quarry (ST527972) has been searched on several occasions by the
BBS and other bryologists; it holds Encalypta vulgaris, Gymnostomum viridulum
NS and various other common calcicoles. A footpath leads southwards from
the carpark into Lower Martridge Wood (ST527969), where
limestone outcrops support abundant Marchesinia mackaii and Porella
platyphylla, as well as smaller amounts of Cololejeunea calcarea,
C. rossettiana NS and Porella arboris-vitae.
The path passes a ruined building surrounded by Plane trees, one of which
supports Lophocolea fragrans on its trunk. A short distance on,
the path crosses a rocky stream in which Fissidens rivularis
NS is abundant. Trichocolea tomentella grows
by the stream.
The Wyndcliff itself (ST527973) is best approached from
the west, from a carpark at ST524972. A footpath and set of steps allow
access to part of the cliff, and the rest can be explored by traversing
along the cliff bottom (the terrain is steep and difficult). For the most
part, the bryophyte flora is similar to that on the other Wye Valley Crags:
Marchesinia mackaii, Porella platyphylla and Anomodon viticulosus
are abundant, Cololejeunea rossettiana NS and
Porella arboris-vitae rare. An open, south-facing area provides
the distinction though - it supports several tufts of Schistidium
elegantulum ssp. elegantulum and a large form of Orthotrichum
Rhodobryum roseum was collected in the Wyndcliff Woods by Shoolbred
in the 19th century but has not been seen since.
The Blackcliff is another extensive limestone crag, this time facing north-east.
There is a pull-in large enough for one car on the west side of the road
at the end of the access track (ST533981) and a little more parking, with
care not to block access for trucks, on the opposite side of the road
at the quarry entrance. About 60 metres along the track there are small
pieces of limestone embedded in the left-hand bank supporting Seligeria
campylopoda RDB(DD). Another colony is on the left
after a further 200 metres, on pieces of limestone under some Yew trees.
The crags themselves are tall and largely inaccessible; a walk along the
bottom should reveal most of what grows here, although even this is made
difficult by unstable ground and plenty of brambles. Marchesinia mackaii
is more abundant on the Blackcliff than anywhere else in the county. It
is joined by frequent Eurhynchium (Isothecium) striatulum NS,
occasional Plagiochila britannica, a single strong colony of
Metzgeria conjugata and at least one tiny patch of Cololejeunea
rossettiana NS. Typical limestone species, including
Porella platyphylla, Anomodon viticulosus and Rhynchostegiella
tenella, are locally abundant on the crag, whilst Taxiphyllum
wissgrillii is scattered on blocks below it. Campylophyllum (Campylium)
calcareum NS grows in at least one place and is
probably widespread on small pieces of limestone. Bare patches of soil
by the road adjacent to the pull-in support Brachythecium glareosum.
Contrast with the steep Wye Valley woodlands is provided by Great
Barnets Woods, which lie just west of Chepstow. There is a large
parking area off the B4235 (ST513943) from which several forestry tracks
lead. Carboniferous limestone outcrops in several places and supports
a range of calcicoles; whereas the outcrops elsewhere in the Wye Valley
are vertical crags, in Great Barnets Woods they are horizontal and resemble
limestone pavement. Thuidium recognitum NS was
collected at ST513942 in 2000 but could not be refound in the following
year; it stood out from the abundant T. tamariscinum in its orange
coloration and simple branching. Other species on the limestone include
Hylocomium brevirostre, Taxiphyllum wissgrillii and Tortella
tortuosa. Epiphytes on Beech trunks include Orthotrichum stramineum
and O. striatum, although both are rather rare in the wood.
The west-facing limestone crag in Cliff Wood (ST507938)
can be approached from the south end of Great Barnets Woods. A brief visit
showed that Marchesinia mackaii is abundant here, but further
searching could reveal something really special ... such as Anomodon
longifolius RDB(EN), one patch of which persists
on the opposite side of the valley in the Kite’s Bushes area. Shoolbred
recorded Scorpiurium circinatum NS from Mounton
in the late 19th century and it still grows on the north side of a limestone
spur just north of the footpath at ST506936. Other calcicoles here include
Cololejeunea calcarea, Plagiochila britannica, Eucladium verticillatum,
Hylocomium brevirostre, Neckera crispa and Orthothecium intricatum.
Several of the top bryologists of the early 20th century visited
Tintern on the 1925 BBS meeting, and bryology there nowadays seems to
be a mix of following in their illustrious footsteps and enjoying the
views. Tintern Abbey (SO533000) is breathtaking from
a distance, but a closer look would be needed to reveal whether it still
supports the Rhynchostegiella curviseta NS that
the BBS found on one of its walls. Grimmia ovalis RDB(VU)
was recorded on the roof of the Beaufort Arms Hotel so any stone-tiled
roofs in the area should be examined through binoculars; it has not been
recorded in the Wye Valley south of Monmouth since then. The only south
Wales record of Pylasia polyantha NS comes from
a hedge between Tintern and Catbrook, 2 miles to the northwest, again
the result of the 1925 BBS meeting.
The Ancient Iron Works (SO514002) in the Angiddy Valley
is a good introduction to the joys of the genus that used to be Barbula:
9 members have been recorded here, including Didymodon vinealis
at one of very few known Vice-county sites. Gyroweisia tenuis
grows on mortar of the ruined Iron Works buildings.
In 1946 Dr Eustace Jones was the first bryologist to explore
the rocky, east-facing Bargain Wood, a mile south of
Llandogo. He noted Jubula hutchinsae, Lejeunea lamacerina, Lophocolea
fragrans, Saccogyna viticulosa and Fissidens rivularis NS.
The Fissidens and all four humidity-demanding liverworts remain,
although it is quite hard to find the Lophocolea. Park in the
large carpark at SO523029 and then walk south-eastwards on the steep,
narrow Llandogo road (stopping to admire Mnium stellare on the
roadside wall on your left) until a path branches off to the right. This
leads to the top of the ravine, at SO525025; from then onwards it’s
a difficult, steep descent over large blocks.
The Gwent Wildlife Trust reserve of Cleddon Shoots can be reached either
from above or below. Footpaths run through the wood but the terrain is
still steep and tricky. The lower part, known as Llandogo Ravine
(ST523040) has been explored more by bryologists than any other site in
the mid Wye Valley. It was first searched by Eustace Jones in the 1930s
and has been visited by the BBS in 1954, 1968 and 1999. The ravine provides
sufficiently humid conditions for several Atlantic species to survive
near the edge of their range. The most notable is Rhynchostegium alopecuroides
(lusitanicum) NS, many miles from its nearest locality;
others include Jubula hutchinsae, Lejeunea patens, Metzgeria conjugata
and Plagiochila spinulosa, as well as Fissidens rivularis,
F. rufulus and Plagiothecium laetum.
The BBS visited Whitebrook (SO52-07-) in 1954
and 1968, recording Riccia subbifurca NS as
well as a number of commoner species. A network of footpaths and lanes
through the woodlands here make this a very interesting area to explore,
especially as its bryophytes have not been studied at all recently. At
the head of the valley is Trellech Hill Quarry (see Trellech Ridge below).
A minor road running south-eastwards from The Narth leads to a small
carpark at SO528059. From here, you can scramble northwards through Manor
Wood to the rocky Manor Brook. Large blocks of sandstone-quartz
conglomerate just below the carpark support the typical assemblage of
this rock type, including Barbilophozia attenuata, Bazzania trilobata,
Lepidozia reptans and Campylopus flexuosus; a colony of
Jamesoniella autumnalis NS on one block is much
more unusual. Rocks in the Brook have plenty of Jubula hutchinsae
growing on them, together with Chiloscyphus polyanthos, Riccardia
chamedryfolia and Scapania undulata. Hookeria lucens is
frequent, whilst a stand of willows holds Orthotrichum pulchellum,
Metzgeria temperata and various other epiphytes.
Lady Park Wood NNR
This National Nature Reserve lies a stone’s throw from England and
is easier to reach from that country than from Monmouthshire; park at
the Doward (SO547157) and walk SSE to The Biblins Campsite where there
is a footbridge (SO549143) across the Wye. Lady Park Wood is a locus classicus
for woodland ecologists and has been studied by many scientists in the
past, including Dr Eustace Jones; the BBS have visited twice. A tall,
east-facing limestone crag extends for several hundred metres and holds
many of the reserve’s most notable species. The ground below it
is steep and brambles are abundant but, with care, it is possible to traverse
along the bottom of the crag. Marchesinia mackaii, Porella platyphylla
and Anomodon viticulosus are generally abundant, Cololejeunea
calcarea, C. rossettiana NS, Porella arboris-vitae,
Eurhynchium (Isothecium) striatulum NS, Gymnostomum
calcareum NS and Orthothecium intricatum
occur in smaller quantity, although the last of these is locally abundant
under some dry overhangs. Plagiochila britannica, Amblystegium confervoides
NS, Campylophyllum (Campylium) calcareum NS
and Taxiphyllum wissgrillii are more likely to be found on rocks
below the crag than on the face itself. This is currently the only reliable
site in Wales for Platygyrium repens NS, which
grows on various tree species.
Six small patches of Anomodon longifolius RDB(EN)
remain in one place on the crag. This rare moss has the bright colour
of A. viticulosus but is the size of Heterocladium heteropterum;
it is obvious enough to be identified in the field and must not be collected
under any circumstances.
Most previous visitors have focused on the Whippington Brook, which forms
the boundary with Gloucestershire. Here, the soft limestone is suitable
for Seligeria spp.: S. donniana NS
and S. acutifolia NS certainly occur, S.
pusilla NS has been claimed in the past but specimens
purporting to be it in NMW are a mixture of the other two species. This
is also the part of Lady Park Wood where Apometzgeria pubescens
reaches its southerly British limit; recent searches of the main crag
have so far failed to reveal it. A quick nip across the border should
give a better chance of seeing Anomodon longifolius as it is
apparently still locally frequent on The Slaughter.
One of the most prominent mosses by The River Wye here
is Mnium stellare; M. marginatum was recorded on an Alder stool
in 1949 and should also be looked for. Other species on the river banks
include Hennediella (Pottia) stanfordensis and Orthotrichum
sprucei NS. E.F. Warburg collected a tiny scrap
of Octodiceras fontanum NS from the river on
the 1954 BBS meeting, whilst Joan Appleyard collected Fissidens rufulus
NS at the same time.
A short distance to the north-west is Hadnock Quarry
(SO540152), which provides open habitat that contrasts with Lady Park
Wood’s woodland. Gymnostomum viridulum can be found in
shaley crevices in the limestone quarry face, together with Leiocolea
turbinata and Eucladium verticillatum. Hazel coppice near
the quarry is a good place to look for Seligeria campylopoda
RDB(DD) (see Lower Wye Valley, above). There is an old
record of Rhodobryum roseum from the railway track near Hadnock.
The BBS walked along the Duke of York Lane (SO522128-534126)
on their way back to Monmouth from Lady Park Wood during the 1954 spring
meeting (they were clearly hardy souls as it’s quite a trek!). They
were revisiting Eustace Jones’ site for Cephaloziella turneri
NT, which they located on soft sandstone near Beaulieu
Farm. This rarity has not been seen since, despite several visits, although
it is possible that attention has focused too much on the western end
of the lane. Subsequent visits have produced Bryum donnianum
NS and Scleropodium tourettii.
The surrounding woods have hardly been explored and seem likely to repay
attention. Phaeoceros laevis was abundant on a path at SO542132,
below Headless Hill, in 2000 and a single plant of Blasia
pusilla grew with it; the potential for interesting Fossombronia
seems high. Conglomerate crags near the Near Hearkening Rock (SO541139)
hold a few calcicoles where lime-rich water seeps through them. Lady
Grove (SO529140) and Garth Wood (SO525131) are
steep, semi-natural woodlands that are notified as SSSIs.
Magor Marsh LNR
The Gwent Levels are not a particularly rich area for bryophytes but they
do support a couple of species that are not found elsewhere in the county.
Most notable is Ricciocarpos natans NS at its only South Wales
site. It has only been collected once, from a ditch at Magor Marsh
(ST427860), but seems unlikely to be restricted to that site. Riccia
fluitans is also found at Magor Marsh and has also not yet been found
elsewhere to the east of Newport. There is a small carpark for the LNR
on the west side of the road through Whitewall Common, south of Magor
village. Searches of various other reens on the Levels have failed to
turn up either of the floating liverworts but suitable habitat is found
across a vast area stretching over 15km from Newport to Caldicot.
Gwent Levels Wetland Reserve
There are a few other species of some interest in the Levels area. Damp
areas behind the seawall are worth searching for Drepanocladus aduncus
which is widespread across the levels. Puddles on the edge of the carpark
(ST334834) for the Uskmouth section of the Gwent Levels Wetland Reserve
hold small pinnate plants that were once split as Drepanocladus polycarpos.
Otherwise, the reserve’s bryological interest is restricted to some
piles of metal-rich fly-ash at ST339828 that support Marchantia polymorpha
ssp. ruderalis and Leptobryum pyriforme outside their
usual plant pot habitat; a tiny brown acrocarp on the fly-ash has so far
Hennediella heimei grows at a few places on the upper edge of
the saltmarshes that line the Severn; none is particularly accessible.
Collister Pill is probably the easiest site to visit
- cross the M4 on the bridge south of Severn Tunnel Junction, Rogiet,
drive to the far end of the gravel road that heads south-westwards, park
at ST451860 and cross the field to the seawall.
Actively managed conifer forestry covers most of Wentwood, a plateau of
Devonian Brownstones cut by narrow bands of Quartz Conglomerate. The rocks
are predominately acidic and the bryophyte flora reflects this to a degree,
although the lack of wet areas means that Sphagna are absent.
Streams cutting through the forestry retain some deciduous woodland so
these are the best areas to explore; parking is possible at Cadira Beeches
(ST421949), Forester’s Oaks (ST428939) and by a road bend at ST410934.
Metzgeria temperata, Microlejeunea ulicina, Hypnum lindbergii (on
the damp edges of forestry tracks) and a range of Orthotrichum spp.
can be expected. It is possible that Colura calyptrifolia could
be discovered if willows overhung by conifers are searched, although this
species is not currently known from the area. Plagiothecium laetum
was collected in Wentwood in the 1980s, whilst Leptodontium flexifolium
was found on Gray Hill (ST438935) at the same time.
The bryophyte flora of Wentwood Reservoir (ST428935) is subtly different
to that of Llandegfedd Reservoir (see below). As at Llandegfedd, Ephemerum
sessile NT is frequent in the upper Carex hirta-dominated
zone of the margin and Riccia cavernosa NS is
locally abundant on wet mud. However, large parts of the margins are dominated
by Aphanoregma patens, a species that has not yet been found
at Llandegfedd. A Weissia with immature sporophytes, thought
probably to be W. rostellata NT, was noted on
the northern shore in August 2003. An unidentified Fossombronia, Riccia
sorocarpa, Bryum klinggraeffii, Epipterygium tozeri, Leptobryum pyriforme
and Pseudephemerum nitidum all occur in small quantity. The reservoir
is privately owned, with signs and barbed wire making visitors feel unwelcome.
The south-facing side of the church roof at Llanfair Discoed (ST446924)
supports at least 10 plants of Hedwigia ciliata sensu stricto
RDB(DD) as well as quite a lot of Grimmia ovalis
RDB(VU). The village is less than 5 miles from Junction
23a of the M4 and thus provides one of the most accessible localities
for these species in southern Britain. Moss “twitchers” are
advised to bring binoculars, or even better a telescope, to see these
rarities on the roof, although a few tufts of G. ovalis can usually be
found on the ground after wet weather has dislodged them from the tiles.
After seeing the Hedwigia at Llanfair Discoed you could celebrate
with a beer at the Rock & Fountain, Penhow (ST425910). Before you
enter the pub it’s worth having a look for Aloina ambigua
NS on the stony bank behind the pub car-park. Most of
the Aloina here is A. aloides, but careful examination
of smaller plants should reveal some with the characteristic peristome
of the rarer species. For bryologists keen on tiny species there is at
least one small patch of Microbryum rectum (Pottia recta) here
There are two churches at Llangwm; only the old one, at ST433006, is of
bryological interest. The south side of the roof supports scattered Grimmia
ovalis RDB(VU) and Hedwigia ciliata sensu stricto
RDB(DD), the latter in greater quantity than at Llanfair
Discoed. Cinclidotus fontinaloides grows on a path in the churchyard.
Cleddon Bog & surroundings
Although years of neglect have coupled with surrounding aforestation to
reduce the quality of the habitat at Cleddon Bog LNR
(SO509039), a reasonable array of Sphagnum spp. and bog hepatics
had survived until 2000. Cephalozia connivens and Kurzia
pauciflora grow on the sides of Molinia tussocks or on Sphagnum,
at least 8 species of which are present. There are no records of Mylia
anomala or Odontoschisma sphagni since 1968, whilst Cladopodiella
francisci, Riccardia latifrons and Sphagnum tenellum probably
disappeared early in the 20th century. Luckily, a dramatic management
plan (put together by CCW and the Gwent Wildlife Trust) aims to restore
the bog; much scrub clearance has already taken place. It seems likely
that Cleddon Bog will return to its status as one of top sites in the
Vice-county soon. Park carefully by the Trellech to Tintern Road to access
The plantations around Cleddon Bog still hide some deciduous woodland
in which species such as Barbilophozia attenuata, Bazzania trilobata
and Cephalozia lunulifolia grow. Ninewells Wood (SO510037), Beacon
Hill (parking at SO511052) and Trellech Common (SO511064) are all worth
exploring. There is a 1956 specimen of Tritomaria exsecta NS
from Parkhouse Rocks (SO500031) in NMW, which suggests that this
may be an interesting site.
Trellech Hill Quarry
Quartz conglomerate has been quarried at Trellech Hill
(SO504070), providing conditions that are very rare in eastern Monmouthshire.
Acidic gravels support Cephaloziella divaricata, Gymnocolea inflata,
Nardia scalaris, Ditrichum heteromallum, Pohlia nutans, Polytrichum
spp. and Racomitrium ericoides, an assemblage that is more typical
of the county’s western valleys. Conglomerate blocks hold other
acidophiles, including Barbilophozia attenuata, Lophozia excisa, Racomitrium
aciculare, R. heterostichum sensu stricto and R. lanuginosum.
The site’s most notable moss, Schistostega pennata NS,
glows in deep holes under two blocks; both colonies here, it’s only
known site in the county, are tiny so please admire it without destroying
them. There is room to park two or three cars at SO501072, the end of
the track to the quarry.
7. North East Monmouthshire
Most of the interesting sites in the area around Dingestow Court
(SO450097) are on private land and cannot be reached on footpaths, although
the author can give directions to them if asked. The area is mentioned
here to illustrate the range of species that lurk undetected in the seemingly
unpromising Monmouthshire lowlands. George Garlick collected Weissia
multicapsularis RDB(VU) from a lane bank just north
of Dingestow Vicarage; this is Dingestow’s most notable moss if
it still persists. The church roof supports Grimmia ovalis RDB(VU),
G. laevigata NS and Leucodon sciuroides
(on the porch), whilst the nearby River Trothy has a fine assemblage of
silt-lovers including Dialytrichia (Cinclidotus) mucronata, Hennediella
(Pottia) stanfordensis, Orthotrichum sprucei NS
and Tortula subulata var. subinermis NS.
Dingestow Court garden has Didymodon nicholsonii and Syntrichia
(Tortula) virescens NS (two widely overlooked species);
Orthotrichum lyellii, O. pulchellum and Syntrichia (T.) papillosa
on old apple trees; Hypnum lacunosum var. tectorum on
asbestos; Racomitrium aciculare on sandstone; and Racomitrium
heterostichum sensu stricto on a slate roof. The swamp at the head
of Dingestow Court Lake supports the only known colony of Amblystegium
humile NS in South Wales, and the arable fields
west of the lake hold Anthoceros agrestis NS,
Phaeoceros carolinianus RDB(EN) and Weissia
The Penyclawdd ridge, south of Dingestow, has been extensively
coniferised, although areas of semi-natural woodland remain. Penyclawdd
Wood (SO440080) has permissive footpaths throughout it, allowing access
to a small flushed area near its centre where Chiloscyphus pallescens,
Campylium stellatum var. protensum, Fissidens adianthoides, Hylocomium
brevirostre and Palustriella commutata grow. More flushes,
similarly overlying a calcreteous limestone, are found at the bottom of
the Yew Tree Wood (SO455088); Cololejeunea minutissima, Colura calyptrifolia
NS and Nowellia curvifolia also grow in this
wood. A small outcrop of the limestone in the Dyffryn Wood (SO459082)
supports Jungermannia atrovirens, Didymodon (Barbula) tophaceus, Eucladium
verticillatum and Rhynchostegiella teneriffae. 188 bryophyte
species have been recorded within a 2 miles radius of Dingestow Court,
surely an indication of the richness of the county’s lowlands.
Graig Syfyrddin (SO40-22-), called “Craig Seraphim” by locals,
is an outlying area of the Brownstones that form the Black Mountains.
The bryophyte flora on the low sandstone outcrops that are scattered along
the western scarp includes Scapania nemorea, Didymodon (Oxystegus)
sinuosus, Heterocladium heteropterum var. flaccidum, Neckera
crispa, Seligeria recurvata and Tortula subulata. This is
a typical Black Mountains assemblage, but is very different from that
found in rest of the north-eastern part of the county. Footpaths lead
from the end (SO409225) of a narrow road. Keen bryologists can walk down
to Grosmont (SO40-24-), via a footpath with Aulacomnium androgynum
on its banks and Hygrohypnum luridum on rocks in its middle,
to see species such as Dialytrichia (Cinclidotus) mucronata, Hennediella
(Pottia) stanfordensis and Syntrichia (Tortula) latifolia
by the River Monnow.
A good introduction to Orthotrichum is provided by Clappers Wood
(SO465184). There is room to pull in a car on the east side of the road
from where you should walk (note, this isn’t a footpath) along the
south-eastern edge of the plantation to an area of Ash and Hazels at SO466184.
There is a little O. striatum on Hazels on the edge of the plantation,
whilst O. lyellii, O. pulchellum, O. stramineum and O. tenellum
are more widespread. Cut through the wood to the footpath alongside the
River Monnow to see O. rivulare and O. sprucei NS.
To bring the total up to 9, Orthotrichum affine is abundant and
O. diaphanum occasional throughout the area.
This tiny church (SO389257), by the main Hereford to Abergavenny road,
holds the county’s largest colony of Hedwigia ciliata sensu
stricto RDB(DD). It is abundant, together with abundant
Grimmia ovalis RDB(VU) and frequent G. laevigata
NS, on both the south-facing roof and the porch. The
porch roof is low enough that a close encounter with these rare mosses
is possible, whilst there are usually a few fallen tufts of each on the
ground below the roof that can be taken away for microscopic confirmation.
A strong colony of Schistidium apocarpum sensu stricto is present
on a horizontal grave stone, one of the typical habitats of this relatively
8. Usk Valley
The following four sites are probably the most interesting on the River
Usk, three of them hold notable species, whilst the fourth is easily accessible
from Abergavenny itself. Any section of the Usk Valley Walk should produce
the commoner specialities of the river, particularly Hennediella (Pottia)
stanfordensis and Orthotrichum sprucei.
The Usk Valley Walk meets the river for the first time at Llantrissant
(ST390969), a few miles south of Usk. North of the pumping station, the
footpath runs close to the river’s east bank and allows access to
riparian epiphytes such as Eurhynchium (Cirriphyllum) crassinervium,
Leskea polycarpa, Orthotrichum rivulare (in small quantity), O.
sprucei NS (fairly plentiful), Syntrichia (Tortula)
latifolia and Myrinia pulvinata NT. The
last of these is otherwise known in South Wales only from Govilon (see
below) and there it is present in tiny quantity; at Llantrissant it grows
on at least 3 trees at ST388977. Bryum klinggraeffii, Dicranella schreberana
and Hennediella (Pottia) stanfordensis are among the terrestrial
mosses on the river bank.
Park in a small layby (SO349091) on the side-road running east from just
north of Pant-y-goytre Bridge (SO348089), to access one of the most active
sections of the Usk, where the meandering river is constantly changing
its course. Footpaths run upstream on both banks of the river, although
the one on the north-bank keeps quite a way back from the edge. Ox-bow
lakes on the north side of the river may be productive when they dry out
in late summer, but unfortunately there is no footpath past them; an older
oxbow just north of the church could also be worth a look. Willows and
alders by the river have Cinclidotus fontinaloides, Dialytrichia (C.)
mucronata, Orthotrichum rivulare (rare), O. sprucei NS
(frequent) and Scleropodium cespitans growing epiphytically.
A pile of concrete blocks in the river on the south bank just upstream
of Pant-y-goytre Bridge supports Schistidium platyphyllum
NS. A similar area of riparian habitat can be accessed from the
National Trust carpark at SO360084.
Castle Meadows, Abergavenny
This site, which can be reached most easily by parking just east of Abergavenny
Castle in Mill Street Industrial Estate (SO300139) and following a footpath
south-westwards, supports a typical range of riparian bryophytes. Alders
and willows should be examined for epiphytes, including Orthotrichum
sprucei NS and Scleropodium cespitans,
whilst vertical soil banks set just back from the river have Hennediella
(Pottia) stanfordensis during the winter, as well as Bryum gemmiferum
and B. klinggraeffii.
At Govilon, both banks of the river are in Monmouthshire, whereas only
the north bank is in V-c 35 for the next 2 miles upstream. A grove of
willows on the south bank at SO267146 supports a range of epiphytes including
Orthotrichum lyellii, O. pulchellum, O. rivulare (rare), O.
sprucei NS (frequent), Syntrichia (Tortula)
laevipila, S. latifolia, S. papillosa (rare) and Ulota phyllantha.
Myrinia pulvinata NT was found on a sloping willow
trunk in April 2000 but could not be relocated 6 months later; it is probably
still present in small quantity. Myrinia is best searched for
on a dry day when its appressed leaves are more apparent.
9. Central Monmouthshire
The only large water-body in Monmouthshire is Llandegfedd Reservoir,
2½ miles west of Usk. The eastern and western margins are stony
and bryologically uninspiring but the north shore is muddy and, when water
levels are low, interesting. Two notable species occur here: Riccia
cavernosa NS is abundant around Sor Bay (SO320001)
and by the inlet east of the carpark (SO333006), whilst Ephemerum
sessile NT is locally abundant on the western shore
of “The Island” (SO333003). The Riccia carpets the
margins in favourable seasons but seems always to be a small form that
is quite different to the one at Wentwood Reservoir. Both of Llandegfedd’s
specialities are only visible when water levels are low so visits to the
reservoir are rather hit-and-miss; good bird-watching often makes up for
poor bryology though!
The Usk Inlier
Monmouthshire’s oldest rocks - Silurian limestones and shales -
form the Usk Inlier at the centre of the county’s main syncline.
The limestones provide suitable conditions for various common calcicoles,
such as Porella platyphylla, Aloina aloides and Anomodon
viticulosus, but nothing of note has been found so far. George Garlick
recorded Blasia pusilla on tracks through Llangibby Park (ST35-97-)
and Jean Paton collected Anthoceros agrestis NS
and Phaeoceros carolinianus RDB(EN) from a field
near Llancayo (SO36-03). These, and a few species recorded by the author,
suggest that this under-recorded part of the county may hold a few surprises.
10. The Eastern Ridge
The Pontypool area has diverse geology and therefore a varied bryophyte
flora; much more exploration is warranted. Several footpaths cross the
fields around Cwmynyscoy Quarries (ST283997), where the
calcicole flora includes abundant Aloina aloides, Ditrichum gracile
(crispatissimum) and Encalypta streptocarpa, frequent Brachythecium
glareosum and Campyliadelphus (Campylium) chrysophyllus
and a little B. mildeanum on the quarry floor. Spoilheaps in
the lower part of Cwm Lickey (ST27-99-) support Ptilidium
ciliare, Scapania compacta, S. scandica (rare), Racomitrium ericoides,
Sanionia (Drepanocladus) uncinata (rare) and at least one patch of
Plagiomnium cuspidatum. Five species of Sphagnum grow
around the pond; conglomerate blocks in a small oak wood (ST268983) hold
Barbilophozia attenuata and B. floerkii; above this,
an outcrop of Pennant Sandstone has Lophozia bicrenata, Bartramia
pomiformis, Pohlia cruda and Polytrichum alpinum growing
Cwm y Glyn, between Pontypool and Crumlin, is the location of Monmouthshire’s
oldest bryophyte record: J. Woods Jr recorded Antitrichia curtipendula
there in the early 19th century. So far, attempts to relocate it have
failed but anyone bryologising there should bear this stunning species
in mind! The north-facing slopes of Buarth Maen can be
reached from a layby at ST255999. Here, Diplophyllum obtusifolium
NS is on a friable bank by the track to the quarry and
Didymodon ferrugineus (Barbula reflexa) is present in small quantity
on base-rich colliery spoil amongst an abundance of Fissidens adianthoides.
Very little of the cwm has been explored.
A Carboniferous Limestone quarry at SO282045 provides the main bryological
interest in the Abersychan area, although other smaller quarries nearby
may prove just as rich if explored. The main quarry, at the head of Cwm
Lasgarn, is filled with calcareous spoil on which Racomitrium canescens
sensu stricto NS, R. ericoides, Thuidium philibertii
and Tortula subulata grow. The northern quarry face supports
a few patches of Plagiomnium cuspidatum, a very distinctive plant
that has been over-recorded in Britain in the past, as well as commoner
calcicoles such as Jungermannia atrovirens and Anomodon viticulosus.
Further down the cwm, Hylocomium brevirostre grows on small blocks
of limestone, whilst Nowellia curvifolia is locally abundant
on fallen branches. Relatively convincing Hypnum lacunosum var.
tectorum grows on the walls of Lasgarn Reservoir (SO277045), as does
Mynydd Y Garn Fawr
One of the most accessible patches of block-scree in the county is Carn
y Capel (SO272081) which can be reached by walking northeastwards from
a small carpark at SO270077. Three patches of Lepidozia cupressina,
one of Anastrophyllum minutum and one of Bazzania trilobata
hide in the deepest holes. Please don’t collect any of them as their
existence in Monmouthshire is highly precarious! There is more block-scree,
most of it unexplored, to the south on Mynydd Garnclochdy (SO283060),
as well as acidic flushes and moorland.
This is one of Monmouthshire’s top sites for bryophytes, but a lot
of walking is needed to get the best from it. Carboniferous Limestone
and Old Red Sandstone form crags on the mountain’s northern and
eastern sides, whilst Millstone Grit block-scree is scattered across the
summit ridge; thus calcicole and calcifuge species are represented. The
Blorenge is a SSSI for its moorland (which supports a reasonably strong
colony of Red Grouse) and as it is also an urban common, access is open.
The top (Hunter’s) car-park (SO262108) is the best for the main
ridge and the scree beds; the eastern one (SO270109) for Waun Carn-y-defaid;
a footpath running north-eastwards from Pen-ffordd-goch Pond carpark (SO255107)
is the easiest way of reaching the northern crags. Andreaea rothii
falcata is notably abundant on flat rocks near the top car-park,
whilst Nardia geoscyphus NS was found on a ditch
bank by the road by George Garlick in the 1980s.
Searching the scree beds is very hit-and-miss, although most will produce
Barbilophozia attenuata, Bazzania trilobata, Scapania gracilis
and Leucobryum juniperoideum. Dicranum fuscescens is widely scattered,
although it may be masked by the abundant Campylopus flexuosus
when not fruiting. Single patches of Anastrophyllum minutum and
Lepidozia cupressina hide in very deep holes in a large band
of scree near the northern end of the mountain but careful searching may
reveal them elsewhere.
The best crag on the east side of the ridge, Craig-yr-hafod (SO274098),
is on private land, but the species it holds (Orthothecium intricatum,
Seligeria acutifolia NS and S. pusilla
NS are the most interesting), can also be found on the
common. The crag at Waun Carn-y-defaid (SO272099) has
a little S. pusilla NS and damp turf below it
holds abundant Breutelia chrysocoma and Sanionia (Drepanocladus)
uncinata; Tritomaria exsectiformis grows on top of one of
the blocks under a large beech tree. It may be easier to reach Craig-y-cwm
(SO282089) by walking up from the end of the minor road at SO288091, although
I have only ever trekked in along the ridge. The limestone outcrops hold
frequent Seligeria pusilla NS, occasional S.
acutifolia NS and rare S. recurvata (which
needs checking); Gyroweisia tenuis and Orthotrichum cupulatum
are also here. Scleropodium tourettii grows in patches of thin
turf at Craig-y-cwm with Aloina aloides and Tortula subulata.
Further north, the limestone is exposed in two series of small quarries,
on the mountain’s north-western (SO269125) and eastern (SO276117)
sides. The quarry faces, although more than 100 years old, do not support
the Seligeria spp. that make the natural crags so interesting,
so attention should be paid instead to the calcareous turf that has developed
on the quarry spoil. Thuidium philibertii is locally abundant,
more so than at any other site in south Wales; it was first collected
here by H.H. Knight in 1928. Tortula lanceola (Pottia lanceolata)
and Scleropodium tourettii are also frequent on the east side.
Knight found Scapania cuspiduligera at the same time as the Thuidium,
but this has not yet been relocated on the main Blorenge ridge.
Members of the local hang-gliding club, who own the Blorenge, use the
northern crag (SO277122) as their playground, adding to the experience
of bryologising there. This is already inspirational, with views over
Abergavenny, Ysgyryd Fawr and The Sugarloaf. The bryology is suitably
exciting, with various species reaching their southerly British limit
on the crag. Highlights on the main sandstone crag include Cololejeunea
calcarea, Lejeunea patens, Bartramia ithyphylla & B. pomiformis,
Campylopus fragilis, Encalypta ciliata NS, Mnium
marginatum & M. stellare, Orthothecium intricatum, Plagiobryum
zieri, Platydictya jungermannioides NS, Pohlia
cruda and Polytrichum alpinum. Small outcrops of limestone
around SO275124 support Seligeria pusilla NS
and gemmiferous Bryum pallens.
The only limestone gorge in western Monmouthshire is Cwm Ifor
(SO255113), which lies at the head of Cwm Llanwenarth between
The Blorenge and Gilwern Hill. Although there is parking at Pen-ffordd-goch
Pond (see above) the descent from there into the cwm is very steep; it
is better to park at Garnddyrys (SO258118) and follow the old tramroad
southwestwards. Garnddyrys itself has a reasonably rich bryophyte flora,
including Bryum pallescens on the massive blocks of slag, Lophozia
bicrenata (acidic spoil), L. excisa (calcareous spoil) and
L. sudetica (slag) and Campylium stellatum var. protensum
and Campyliadelphus (Campylium) chrysophyllus in calcareous turf.
Scapania cuspiduligera NS grows in very small
quantity in one of the quarries above the road. The grassland fungus flora
at Garnddyrys is exceptionally rich.
As the tramroad reaches the head of Cwm Ifor it passes numerous limestone
crags on which a range of calcicoles grow. These include Campylopus
fragilis and Plagiobryum zieri on thin soil and Leiocolea
badensis in damper turf. A few plants of Funaria muhlenbergii
NS grow on top of a limestone boulder by the tramroad,
at the only Monmouthshire site for this species. Preissia quadrata
can be found in abundance on the mortar of a ruined building, often with
sporophytes. Scrambling down into the gully is difficult but rewarding
- highlights at the bottom include Cololejeunea calcarea, Plagiochila
britannica, Bartramia ithyphylla, Orthothecium intricatum, Platydictya
jungermannioides NS and Seligeria pusilla
NS. The sporophyte enthusiast can have an enjoyable time
in Cwm Ifor; rarely-fruiting species that have done their thing here include
Breutelia chrysocoma, Neckera crispa and Tortella tortuosa.
The Vice-county boundary cuts Gilwern Hill (SO24-12-)
in half; the Monmouthshire part includes limestone quarries and woodland,
whilst the Breconshire part also supports some peatland. Extensive areas
of calcareous spoil in and around the quarries hold abundant Trichostomum
crispulum and various other calcicoles, but the two specialities
- Scapania cuspiduligera NS and Rhodobryum
roseum - are very restricted in extent and are difficult to find.
The woodland is, for the most part, private, but a footpath can be followed
through Graig Wood into Cwm Llanwenarth. Where a layer of bryophytes has
developed over shaded limestone blocks, there is a chance of finding Tritomaria
exsectiformis, currently known from two places in the area. Any natural
limestone faces should be examined for Seligeria spp. as
S. acutifolia NS and S. donniana NS
are present in small quantity. There is room for a couple of
cars at SO243119.
See also Castle Meadows in Usk Valley above
The distinctive lumpy profile of “The Skirrid” is one of Abergavenny’s
main landmarks. Although there are footpaths on to the mountain from the
north there is limited parking there, so it is best to park at SO328163
and follow the main path. The wall at the top of Caer Wood (SO327169)
supports abundant Porella platyphylla, among which is a little
P. arboris-vitae. From here, one can scramble up on to the southern
lump (SO327170), the dry southern slopes of which hold Ditrichum gracile
(crispatissimum), Encalypta vulgaris, Microbryum (Phascum) curvicolle
and Tortula subulata. The best ground on the mountain is the
northern landslip (SO330182), said to date from Christ’s crucifixion
and giving Ysgyryd Fawr another alternative name of “The Holy Mountain”.
Careful searching of the Old Red Sandstone blocks here should reveal Scapania
aspera, Hedwigia stellata, Leucodon sciuroides and Pterogonium
gracile and, given the similarity of the habitat to that at Cwmyoy
(see below), Grimmia longirostris (affinis) should also be borne
in mind. Patches of thin soil may have Acaulon muticum or Tortula
lanceola (Pottia lanceolata) growing on them. The ridge walk gives
stunning views of northern Monmouthshire and the southern Marches, but
the descent at the north end is very steep so turning back once the summit
is reached is advisable.
The only part of bracken-dominated Bryn Arw that is worth the bryologist’s
time is the southern end. This is an alternative to Ysgyryd Fawr and Cwmyoy,
supporting a typical Old Red Sandstone bryophyte flora, including Acaulon
muticum, Aloina aloides, Dicranum bonjeanii, Leucodon sciuroides, Pterogonium
gracile and Tortula lanceola (Pottia lanceolata). The Leucodon
is more abundant here than anywhere else in the Vice-county.
It is quite a long walk to get to the top of The Sugar-loaf (SO273188)
and the effort is of questionable value - Dicranum fuscescens
is the only interesting species that grows there. The north-facing slopes
are, however, of significance as the only site in the county where Marchantia
polymorpha ssp. montivagans grows (in Nant-du) in any kind
of abundance. They also support Drepanocladus cossonii, Plagiomnium
elatum, Sanionia (Drepanocladus) uncinata and a little Trichocolea
tomentella. The northeast-facing wooded slopes of St Mary’s
Vale (SO278169) hold locally abundant Bazzania trilobata near
the edge of its British range. Other species in the woodland include Ptilidium
pulcherrimum and Trichocolea tomentella, although both are
difficult to find. The latter species also grows in Park Lodge Wood (SO284185),
sharing a stony flush with one of the county’s few colonies of Thuidium
Cwm Coed-y-cerrig NNR
Boardwalks leading from the car-park (SO292211) allow access to much of
this National Nature Reserve. Alder carr, supporting Eurhynchium speciosum,
Plagiomnium elatum and possibly P. ellipticum, is the principal
habitat; conditions also appear to be ideal for Amblystegium humile
but this has not yet been recorded. A number of good bryologists have
visited the NNR in the past. Jonathan Sleath found Platygyrium repens
NS in willow carr west of the car-park in 1995, whilst
Martha Newton carried out a full survey of the site in 1997 and noted
Plagiothecium laetum NS amongst other species.
Roy Perry found Plagiothecium latebricola in 1982 and a BBS visit
in 1968 turned up Thuidium recognitum NS on
base-rich rock, the latter would be a superb species to refind.
There is an old record of Antitrichia curtipendula from this
area: Augustin Ley collected it between The Queen’s Head and Pontyspig
in the late 19th century. Walls around the Gaer (SO293219) or by the track
between Pen-rhiw and New Inn Farm would be ideal places to start a search,
but there are no public rights of way here.
12. Western Monmouthshire
This area is almost the most poorly recorded in the county (the levels
west of Newport are even less well known), although several visits have
shown that it has a rich bryophyte flora. Parallel valleys (Rhymney, Sirhowy,
Ebbw & Afon Llwyd), running north-south, and an industrial past give
this area a similar appearance to mid Glamorgan. The underlying rocks
are, for the most part, Devonian and include the Pennant Sandstone and
the Coal Measures. The sandstone forms crags that support a characteristic
assemblage of mosses, including Cynodontium bruntonii and Racomitrium
aquaticum, which does not penetrate further east in Monmouthshire.
Records of Barbilophozia kunzeana and Scapania paludicola
suggest that the marshy grassland and flushes on the Coal Measures
deserve more attention.
The Carboniferous Limestone that forms the eastern edge of the Coalfield
is exposed in a large working quarry at Machen and also as small natural
outcrops. The footpath past Castell Meredydd (ST224886) may reveal Pterogonium
gracile, which occurs in abundance on an old Ash, Reboulia hemisphaerica,
which grows on thin soil by the drive, and a few epiphytes such as
Dicranum tauricum or Orthotrichum lyellii. The quarry should
not be visited as it is dangerous. Further up the Rhymney Valley, Lejeunea
lamacerina, Fissidens celticus and F. curnovii grow in a
shaded valley at Trethomas Park (ST188889).
Rhymney Hill & Mynydd Bedwellte
One of the best remnants of bog in Monmouthshire is at the north end of
Rhymney Hill (SO126084), the ridge between the Rhymney
and Sirhowy Valleys. Cladopodiella fluitans is abundant here,
in contrast to its only other Vice-county site, Waun Afon (see below),
where it is very rare, and Splachnum ampulaceum also occurs in
quantity. Cattle and horse grazing of this common is undoubtedly the reason
why Splachnum persists here but is so rare elsewhere in south
Wales. A patch of Scapania paludicola NT was
found on trampled ground at the south end of the bog in 2002. The rest
of the hill is covered with acidic grassland, acid flushes and heathland,
some of which holds Sphagnum compactum. There are old records
of Saccogyna viticulosa and Bryum alpinum from Cwm Tysswg
(SO13-06-); unfortunately there are no public footpaths in this cwm, which
is crying out for more thorough exploration.
The flat top of Mynydd Bedwellte (SO14-05-) is pretty
unremarkable, although a mysterious, non-fertile large Fossombronia
collected here in 2002 hints that a thorough exploration could be worthwhile.
The east-facing crags, formed of Pennant Sandstone and therefore with
a similar flora to parts of the Glamorgan Valleys, hold most of the hill’s
specialities. Andreaea rothii, Cynodontium bruntonii, Polytrichum
alpinum and Racomitrium aquaticum are locally abundant,
whilst careful examination of crevices could reveal Rhabdoweisia crispata,
R. fugax or Scapania scandica, all of which have been found
there. This is the only Monmouthshire site west of The Blorenge from which
Seligeria recurvata has been recorded.
A waterfall by the visitor centre at the Sirhowy Valley Country
Park (ST210911) supports Saccogyna viticulosa at one
of its few Vice-county localities. Microlejeunea ulicina and
Orthotrichum stramineum are among the epiphytes on willows in
the woodland here, whilst Bryum laevifilum (subelegans) has been
noted on an elder. The damp floor of the drained Scotch Peter’s
Reservoir (SO155089) is Fossombronia heaven: F. wondraczekii
is plentiful, whilst F. incurva NS (at its only
known V-c 35 site) and F. pusilla occur in smaller quantity.
Bulbiferous Pohlia spp. should be searched for although none
have yet been found. There is room to pull in a car on the Tredegar to
Ebbw Vale road at SO151087. A ditch by one of the Waun-y-pound pools (SO152107)
also holds Fossombronia wondraczekii.
At the southern end of Ebbw Vale, Cwm Carn Forest Drive (ST239935) gives
access to an extensive area of conifer plantations in a steep-sided valley.
A brief visit revealed Diplophyllum obtusifolium NS
on a friable bank next to the entrance gate and Colura calyptrifolia
NS on a willow next to Nant Carn just nearby. Numerous
forestry tracks, as well as the drivable loop, can be explored. The next
cwm to the north, Cwm Gwyddon (ST23-95-) can only be explored on foot;
its flora is similar, and includes D. obtusifolium and a few
epiphytes. The most interesting part of the cwm, the headwaters in ST24-97-
& ST25-97-, are best reached from the road at ST236980. The sides
of the cwm are steep, making for difficult walking, but these protect
several bryophytes of local interest as well as a strong population of
Ivy-leaved Bell-flower Wahlenbergia hederacea. The most notable
species in the cwm are Andreaea rupestris, at its only known
V-c site, A. rothii falcata, Dicranella palustris (quite
scarce in the county) and Diphyscium foliosum, whilst Jungermannia
pumila, Lophozia ventricosa var. sylvicola and Racomitrium
aquaticum grow in a gully at ST251977.
Shopping in the Garden Festival retail outlet, which has a large carpark
at SO175060, can be combined with a visit to Craig Rhiwargan (SO176055)
on the northeast-facing slopes above Cwm. The dramatic wooded block-scree
above the carpark holds locally abundant Sanionia (Drepanocladus)
uncinata and Schistidium apocarpum and a little Lophozia
bicrenata, whilst natural crags further north have locally abundant
Cynodontium bruntonii and Racomitrium aquaticum as well
as smaller amounts of Bartramia pomiformis and Diphyscium
foliosum; generally the quarried faces are bryologically poor. The
Gardens themselves (SO175063) are fairly good for epiphytes, including
Orthotrichum striatum and O. tenellum. An alternative
suite of epiphytes is found on Poplar trunks by the approach road: Grimmia
pulvinata, Ptychomitrium polyphyllum, Racomitrium aciculare and
R. fasciculare all grow on the bark, which has presumably been affected
by air pollution from the nearby steelworks.
Cwm Merddog LNR (SO187063) on the opposite side of the
valley is an ancient semi-natural woodland that would probably be bryologically
Blaina & Abertillery
There are carparks and a picnic site down the valley from the reservoir
in Cwm Tillery (SO219065). A bridleway runs northwards
across the slopes above the reservoir, giving access to rocky oak woodland
in which Barbilophozia floerkii and a wide range of fairly common
mosses grow; Andreaea rothii falcata has been noted on a more
exposed rock. The west-facing slopes and quarries around SO223067 should
also be explored, as should springheads on the slopes above the reservoir.
Sadly the reservoir’s water levels are maintained too high for any
interesting bryophytes to grow on the margins. Cwm Celyn (SO20-09-) may
be similar. However, if access to the species-rich marshy grassland -
which supports Carum verticillatum and Vicia orobus,
amongst other interesting vascular plants - could be arranged, it would
probably prove to be much richer.
The extensive east-facing crags of Darren Ddu (SO198060) and West Side
(SO193076) would probably hold a similar array of bryophytes to those
on Mynydd Bedwellte and Craig Rhiwargan.
Mynydd Coity & Blaenavon
Mynydd Coity (SO23-07-) itself is a large expanse of moorland with little
of bryological note; lower lying ground on the ridge’s eastern side
is more interesting however. The British (SO25-03-) and Varteg Waste (SO25-05-)
may be worth a look as they hold fragments of undisturbed semi-natural
vegetation set in a sea of colliery spoil. A little further north, there
is a colony of Schistidium platyphyllum NS on
a concrete weir (SO253078) in one of the streams flowing through the Waun
Hoscyn spoilheaps. The colliery spoil at Waun Hoscyn is base-rich in places;
these areas support Climacium dendroides, Didymodon (Barbula) tophaceus
forma acutifolia and Sanionia (Drepanocladus) uncinata.
There is a wide gravel layby next to the Blaenavon Cemetery, from which
Waun Hoscyn can be explored. Barbilophozia attenuata, Scapania gracilis
and Dicranum fuscescens grow in small patches of block scree
at the northern end of Mynydd Farteg Fawr (SO245076). Old poplars east
of the school in Forge Side (SO247085) are worth a quick look as they
support Orthotrichum lyellii and O. striatum.
The largest semi-intact peat bog in Western Monmouthshire is Waun
Afon (SO220103), three miles west of Brynmawr. Given the rarity
of this habitat in Monmouthshire, the presence of several bog hepatics
is notable; unfortunately Cephalozia connivens, Cladopodiella fluitans,
Odontoschisma sphagni and Mylia anomala are only present
in tiny quantity. Splachnum ampulaceum is slightly commoner here;
dense tufts were noted on 8 cowpats at the northern end of the bog (SO219108)
in May 2003. A footpath runs southwards along a track from parking at
SO218110 and the best bryophytes are all to the east of this path.
On the other side of the B4248, Cefn Garnyrerw (SO229109)
is the county hotspot for Sphagnum compactum, whilst the spoil
heaps and remnant bog northeast of Garn-yr-erw (SO23-10-)
support a wide range of bryophytes including Cephaloziella hampeana,
Archidium alternifolium, Hypnum lindbergii (these last two on the
track at SO232103) and a single mound of Polytrichum strictum
(alpestre). Blaenavon (SO25-09-) is a World Heritage Site with
exceptionally interesting industrial archaeology. Although Ptychomitrium
polyphyllum has been noted on a slag wall in the town, it has a fairly
poor bryophyte flora.
|13. Grwyne Fawr Valley
The bridge over the Grwyne-fawr at Coed-dias supports a tuft of Grimmia
decipiens, found during the 1999 BBS meeting. The eastern bank held
Bryum gemmiparum RDB(EN) in 1954 but this species
may have been lost due to over-shading as it was not refound in 1999.
The slopes above Coed-dias are reached from the Pont Cadwgan car-park
(SO267251) by walking south-eastwards through the forestry to Nant Bran.
This cwm, which runs along the edge of the forestry, includes a few outcrops
of Old Red Sandstone, with Bartramia ithyphylla, Campylopus fragilis
and Seligeria recurvata present in small quantity. At the head
of the cwm, a flush system holds small amounts of Cephalozia pleniceps
NS, Plagiomnium elatum, Rhizomnium pseudopunctatum
and Scorpidium scorpioides. These also occur as slightly larger
patches further southeast around SO276247, together with other Vice-county
rarities such as Calliergon giganteum, Drepanocladus revolvens
and Fissidens osmundoides and frequent D. cossonii.
Parking for at least 10 cars at SO267251 provides access to the southern
part of Mynydd Du Forest. The Grwyne-fawr forms the county boundary here
so the author has concentrated on the eastern side of the river. Flat
rocks in the river support Jungermannia exsertifolia, Didymodon (Barbula)
spadiceus, Fissidens rufulus NS and Hygrohypnum
luridum, whilst low rock outcrops next to it have a little Metzgeria
conjugata. Poplars near the car-park have a rich epiphyte flora including
frequent Orthotrichum stramineum, occasional O. lyellii
and at least one patch of Leucodon sciuroides.
The trek up through an area of forestry from the Pont Cadwgan car-park
is very tedious, even Diplophyllum obtusifolium seems to be absent!
Once you reach the flushes on the south face of the Bal-mawr you should
find that the walk was worthwhile, at least in a Monmouthshire context.
Drepanocladus cossonii is more abundant here than anywhere else
in the county, D. revolvens is frequent and Scorpidium scorpioides
grows in at least two places. Sphagnum tenellum grows on the
edge of at least one flush and there is surely a better chance of adding
S. contortum to the county list here than anywhere else. The star
species is rather tricky to find - Calypogeia azurea NS
was collected from the upper bank of the track on the south-western side
of the hill in 2002; this is its most southerly known site in Britain.
Augustine Ley bryologised in this area and, as well as the Scorpidium,
recorded Grimmia donniana on one rock somewhere around here in
the 19th century; no other V-c 35 records of this species are known.
Bryologising at Blaen-y-cwm (SO252285) involves flirting with the county
boundary, which follows a stream down from Chwarel y Fan to the Afon Grwyne
Fawr. The boundary stream is bryologically unremarkable, at least on the
Monmouthshire side, although low sandstone outcrops support a little Metzgeria
conjugata. Following the river southwards from the carpark is more
productive, as it leads one past more low crags - with Plagiochila
spinulosa, M. conjugata and locally abundant Porella arboris-vitae
- and through unimproved grassland with Barbilophozia barbata.
Climbing eastwards on to tracks through the conifer forest allows access
to Diplophyllum obtusifolium; look for small rosettes of it on
very friable, reddish soil that has hardly been colonised by other bryophytes.
Oligotrichum hercynicum was found on a track here in 1999 but
was not collected and has not been seen in the county since then.
|14. Cwmyoy & Oldcastle
From the limited parking next to Cwmyoy Church (SO298233)
follow a footpath northwards then eastwards for a couple of hundred yards
to get to Cwmyoy Graig, the two-part mound above the village. This is
one of the richest bryophyte sites in the county although several of the
more interesting species are hard to find. Most notable is Grimmia
longirostris (G. affinis) NS which grows on a sandstone
block in the central valley (SO300237); this species is known from only
one other site in Wales and should not be collected, its upright sporophytes
but overall Grimmia-like appearance make it distinctive in the
field anyway. Also in the central valley are locally abundant Leucodon
sciuroides and Pterogonium gracile, about 100 Rhodobryum
roseum (western side at northern end of valley) and a few tufts of
Bryum donnianum NS. The dry, south-facing slopes
of the Graig provide ideal conditions for strong colonies of Microbryum
(Phascum) curvicolle and Tortula lanceola (Pottia lanceolata)
as well as smaller quantities of T. modica (Pottia intermedia), M.
davallianum and M. rectum (Pottia recta). Other species
recorded here include Cephaloziella stellulifera NS,
Bartramia ithyphylla, Brachythecium glareosum, Encalypta vulgaris, Hypnum
lindbergii, Sanionia (Drepanocladus) uncinata, Scleropodium tourettii
and Tortula subulata var. graeffii NS.
The walls around Cwmyoy Church support an abundance of Anomodon viticulosus
and Porella platyphylla whilst the tiles of the church itself
hold Grimmia ovalis RDB(VU).
The British Bryological Society visited Cwmyoy Darren
(SO296245) in 1999 and recorded over 100 species of bryophytes. Among
the more interesting were Porella arboris-vitae, Leucodon sciuroides,
Pterogonium gracile and Didymodon ferrugineus (Barbula reflexa).
Jonathan Sleath noted Grimmia longirostris (G. affinis) NS
near the southern end of the Darren in 1998; it has not been recorded
since but is no doubt lurking somewhere in the extensive sandstone block
scree. A quick stop at a large Ash tree on the right hand side of the
track to the Graig, just beyond the tin buildings should reveal a few
interesting epiphytes - these include Orthotrichum striatum, O. lyellii
and O. stramineum.
Hatterall Hill is the south-eastern extremity of the Black Mountains;
its southern end can be accessed by walking from Cwmyoy (park at the church).
Flushes at SO305249 and SO 308253 support Drepanocladus cossonii
and D. revolvens, the latter at one of only three known V-c sites;
those to the east of Blaenyoy (SO313245) have not been explored in detail
but hold Plagiomnium elatum as well as D. cossonii.
The stream above Blaenyoy (SO308249) has a few low sandstone outcrops
with Gymnostomum aeruginosum and Eucladium verticillatum
but is generally dull. The eastern slopes of the hill can be visited
by parking at Oldcastle (SO325246) and walking north-west. Sandstone blocks
in an old quarry support a little Tritomaria exsectiformis and
low crags near the county boundary hold several of the common calcicoles
of the Black Mountains sandstone including Neckera crispa and
|15. Llanthony Valley
The southwest-facing slopes of Loxidge Tump and
Cwm Siarpal (SO289289), above the Priory at Llanthony, offer
an alternative to Cwmyoy Darren and support most of the same species.
Base-rich sandstone in Cwm Siarpal holds Gyroweisia tenuis, Neckera
crispa, Seligeria recurvata and Tortula subulata var. graeffii
NS. The southwest-facing Darren (SO295283) above Cwmyoy
is rather more diverse with Encalypta vulgaris, Leucodon sciuroides,
Orthotrichum cupulatum, Pterogonium gracile and Zygodon viridissimus
var. stirtonii amongst the more interesting species. Didymodon
ferrugineus (Barbula reflexa) grows in slightly damp, base-rich turf
below the crag. The Priory Church has a little Grimmia ovalis
RDB(VU) on its roof but this is almost impossible to
Mid Valley cwms
Cwm Bwchel (281272), Cwm Nantygwyddel
(SO275280) and Cwm Nant-y-carnau (SO272285) were amongst
Augustine Ley’s principal hunting grounds in Monmouthshire and he
recorded a number of interesting species including Bartramia halleriana
NS, Leptodontium flexifolium, Orthothecium intricatum,
Rhynchostegiella curviseta NS and Tortula subulata
var. angustata in Cwm Bwchel. Recent brief visits to the three
cwms located Plagiochila spinulosa and Metzgeria conjugata
in some abundance in Cwm Bwchel; Leiocolea alpestris, Trichocolea
tomentella, Plagiomnium elatum and abundant Seligeria recurvata
in Cwm Nantygwyddel; and Blindia acuta, Hygrohypnum ochraceum
and L. alpestris in Cwm Nant-y-carnau. Further searching should
reveal a few more of Ley’s species.
Tarren yr Esgob south
Most of the long crag of Tarren yr Esgob lies in Breconshire but the south-easternmost
section (SO255305) is in Monmouthshire. It looks a tiny area on the map
but its crags are surprisingly extensive and would take a good couple
of days for a thorough examination. The crags are not a single vertical
cliff but comprise many outcrops of Old Red Sandstone at various levels
on a very steep slope. With care almost every outcrop can be searched,
traverses along each of 4 or 5 levels being the easiest way to proceed.
Early in the year the scree below the crags can be seen to be quite extensive
but by late summer much of this has been lost below Bracken, making climbing
difficult and bryology almost impossible. Hiding within the scree is at
least one colony of Frullania fragilifolia as well as various
Grimmiales, Neckera crispa and Tortella tortuosa.
These last two species pick out the more base-rich blocks of sandstone
and allow one to home-in on what are usually more interesting associates.
The crags themselves hold county rarities such as Anomobryum julaceum,
Bartramia halleriana NS, Fissidens osmundoides,
Plagiopus oederianus NS, Plagiobryum zieri
and Pohlia elongata (all in small quantity and difficult to find),
whilst damp turf has Jungermannia paroica and Scapania scandica.
The supporting cast includes locally abundant Lejeunea patens
and Plagiochila spinulosa as well as scattered Blepharostoma
trichophylla, Cololejeunea calcarea, Leiocolea alpestris &
L. bantriensis, Metzgeria conjugata, Bartramia ithyphylla, Brachydontium
trichodes NS and Mnium marginatum. The
potential for new discoveries can be illustrated by the last visit, in
late 2002, which produced Tetrodontium brownianum and Entosthodon
(Funaria) obtusus new for the county. Augustine Ley recorded Encalypta
ciliata here but it has not been recorded since and the record was
disregarded by some experts - its rediscovery seems likely, given its
presence further south on The Blorenge. Distichium capillaceum
has also not been recorded for almost 100 years and surely also awaits
rediscovery on the Tarren.
|16. Newport area
The levels west of Newport are the still almost unknown bryologically.
A few visits to the area have produced Calliergon cordifolium, Drepanocladus
aduncus, Microbryum davallianum and various epiphytes, but there
appear to be relatively few suitable places for a diverse bryophyte flora
to develop. Rather than recommending sites, it seems best to suggest that
the reens and saltmarsh are the habitats most likely to repay a search.
I hope that someone will surprise me and find something exciting on the
||Sam D.S. Bosanquet,
BBS recorder for V-c 35
Copyright © British Bryological Society