BBS > UK Bryodiversity > Leicestershire with Rutland
Leicestershire & Rutland (v.-c.55)
... with Dennis Ballard
Leicestershire (vc 55) is a midland county with a relatively dry climate.
The County did not attract the attention of the leading botanists of the
17th Century, such as John Ray and his contemporaries. The first published
record was in James Petiver’s work of 1716 in the Charnwood Forest
area of Leicestershire.
The Charnwood Forest area is therefore considered the best starting point
for the naturalist armed with a copy of the Countryside code, Ordnance
Survey landranger series maps 128, 129, 130, 140 and 141, a copy of “Watson”
and a 10x hand lens. The first recording of bryophytes occurred there
in 1740-1760 by Richard Pulteney. His list of bryophytes appears in Nichols
book of 1795. There have been many changes to the landscape since then,
but it still attracts many naturalists, and remains the most recorded
area of the county.
Bradgate Park, an 800 acre Country Park, open to the public all year,
nearest villages Newtown Linford, Anstey and Cropston. There are three
car parks (a charge is made). Newtown Linford village SK522098, hallgates
(Cropston) SK543114 and Hunts Hill (Old John) SK524117. The car parks
are open dawn to dusk.
The park, which has varied scenery and vegetation, owes the character
essentially to the nature and variety of the underlying rocks. The rocks
control the nature of the terrain, whether rocky hillsides or open valleys,
to produce open heathland or boggy areas, much loved by a variety of bryophytes.
There are several species of Sphagnum, among them being S.
molle, S. teres, S. subnitens, S. fallax and S. angustifolium.
An assortment of acrocarpous mosses, Polytrichum longisetum, P. formosum,
P. commune, Pogonatum nanum, P. aloides, Dichodontium pellucidum, Encalypta
vulgaris being a short selection, and pleurocarpous mosses such as
Philonotis fontana, Homalia trichomanoides, Campylium stellatum, Brachythecium
populeum and Hypnum jutlandicum for starters. The liverworts
favour the boggy areas and ditches. Species found include Calypogeia
muelleriana, Cephalozia connivens, Lophozia excisa, Jungermannia gracillima,
Scapania nemorea, Fossombronia pusilla and Riccardia chamedryfolia.
It will take several visits to explore this landscape. There are several
paths leading from the park, across a road to the next site Swithland
Swithland Wood consists of 30 acres of mixed woodland, open to the public
all year. Nearest villages are Cropston, Swithland, Woodhouse Eaves and
Newtown Linford. There are two car parks (a charge is made) open dawn
to dusk. At Hallgates Waterworks pumping station at SK537118 about 300yards
from the Bradgate Park along the same road. There is also a footpath across
a field from the park to the wood. The other car park is on the Swithland
side of the wood at SK537129.
There are plenty of footpaths throughout the wood, which is very hilly
with many rocky outcrops.
A few miles away, there is another Country Park at Woodhouse Eaves, named
Beacon Hill. It is a prehistoric hill fort where Bronze Age goods were
found. Car parks at SK510146 and SK520147 (charge made) open dawn to dusk.
About a mile further north along the lower car park road, there is other
woodland comprising of several small woods known as the Out Woods and
Jubilee Wood. The car park is at SK516158, open dawn to dusk also off-road
parking further along the road at SK510164. This is another hilly site
of open woodland, wetland, rocky outcrops and heathland.
A similar list for Jubilee Wood being Tetraphis pellucida, Dicranum
scoparium, Campylopus flexuosus, Orthodontium lineare and Amblystegium
serpens. Also Lophocolea bidentata, Pellia epiphylla and
The highest part of the County is at Bardon hill with the summit at 278 metres. Bardon Hill is another area of botanical interest, but can only be reached along footpaths from the A510 and B587 roads. It is much reduced in size now due to quarrying. The woodland is extensive on the southern slopes, with areas of heathland near the summit and on the eastern side.
Charnwood Water is in Loughborough. Turn off the A6 road, entering the
town from the south, just past Epinal Way junction and follow the sign
posts. The car park at SK547185 is open dawn to dusk.
Morley Quarry is in Shepshed. Car park at SK476179, from the main A512 road, turn south on to the Iveshead Road and again left down Morley lane to the car park. Morley Quarry was mined between 1870 and 1960 for road stone by quarrying into the hillside. Today it is a nature reserve and an important geological site with some of the oldest rocks in the world at 700 million years. It is also important for wildlife and heathland. There is woodland, pools and the quarry floor to explore.
There is a good mixture of bryophytes to be found, among them being Funaria hygrometrica, Bryum pseudotriquetrum, Brachythecium albicans, Cirriphyllum piliferum and Plagiothecium nemorale (mosses) with Ptilidium ciliare and Cephaloziella divaricata (liverworts).
Many of the hills in the Forest have been quarried away, and where left
to regenerate, are being made into nature reserves for the local people
to explore and for walks.
The River Soar valley is in contrast to the Forest area, being in the
lowest part of Leicestershire.
Watermead Country Park is on the outskirts of Leicester, There are three car parks, (and a charge is made). The entrance to the northern two is off the Thurmaston road near the A46 roundabout. The entrance to the southern one is from the A607 and Alderton Close in Thurmaston. Watermead Park is nearly two miles long, consists of old sand and gravel workings that in the 1980’s was taken over by the Council and landscaped. The River Soar is on the western and the Grand Union Canal on the eastern boundaries. There are several access points from the park onto the canal towpath.
The park is a haven for wildlife, and is also used for recreation and
nature conservation. King Lear’s Lake is popular for fishing and
a sail-boarding club. Woodland and wetland bryophyte species can be found
there. This site has not been surveyed in depth yet, but species such
as Tortula muralis, Bryum bicolor, Calliergonella cuspidata and
Scleropodium purum have been recorded.
Moving further southwestward into the more agricultural area of the county, where the soil coverage is mainly red boulder clay. There are three car parks, two at the Common and Sheepy wood SP445948 off the A47 road, the other at Burbage wood SP450942 off the A5070 road.
The Common and Woods consist of 200 acres of woodland, scrubland and
unimproved acidic and poorly drained grassland. Burbage Wood has plenty
of deep ditches and is fairly flat; Sheepy Wood is smaller and is raised
in the centre. Scrub clearance has kept the woods and common open.
Still on the western side of the County, but north of the Charnwood Forest, takes us to the northern edge of the coalfields. Under-ground working has now stopped and opencast working has been removing any commercially viable coal that was left. The M42/A42 has been constructed through the area resulting in a massive movement of soils. The reclamation of the industrial sites has left pockets of land which nature has reclaimed. Some of these are now nature reserves. The area is also now part of the New National Forest.
Access to sites in the Ashby Woulds is best started from around Moira
Park at the National Forest Visitor Centre car park at SK308157 and walk back to Bath Lane. Take the road away from the village towards the railway-bridge; join the footpath leading up to the disused railway track. There are alternative areas to explore, to the right along the railway track, into the woodland and around the lake. The area has been developed from the old mine-workings. Bryophytes include wetland, woodland, wasteland and epiphyte species. By following the paths into the Visitor Centre grounds you can return to the car park. If the one you chose was to the left along the railway track, continue until a path gives access to the canal towpath leading to the lime kilns and the Moira iron furnace. Follow the canal, which brings you back to the car park.
The walk into the woodland and around the lake has an interesting bryophyte
flora, which includes the mosses Leptodictyum riparium, Sphagnum fimbriatum,
S. denticulatum, Aulacomnium palustre, Archidium alternifolium, Didymodon
insulanus, and the ephemerals, Orthotrichum affine, O. diaphanum,
Aulacomnium androgynum and Hypnum cupressiforme. There are
few liverworts, probably due to the reclaiming of an industrial site.
Species recorded along the railway track, towpath and the furnace circular
walk include Polytrichum formosum, Ceratodon purpureus, Dicranum scoparium,
Brachythecium velutinum, Tortula muralis and Pseudotaxiphyllum
elegans (mosses) and Lophocolea sp. (liverwort).
Turn right off the Moira to Ashby road, just before the railway-bridge,
into the lane and park on the hard standing facing a house at SK320156.
Take the Donisthorpe to Ashby road and turn right at the picnic area
sign into the car-park at SK330129. The site is an old mining area consisting
of waste ground, the old pit-head, grassland, pathways, woodland, wetland,
the River Sence reed-beds and lake.
Moving a few miles further north-east towards the Derbyshire border.
This is the only area of limestone in West Leicestershire. The limestone
is 340 million years old and outcrops at Breedon Hill, Breedon Cloud and
Dimminsdale. It differs from that in Derbyshire in its chemistry, being
dolomite (magnesium carbonate).
Park at the top of Breedon Hill in the car park next to the Church at
SK405233.Breedon Hill was used as an Iron Age fort. When it was first
occupied is not known, although several stone axes have been found. A
Saxon Church now stands on the summit, but much reduced in size.One side
of the hill has been quarried away. There is a stone wall of local stone
between the quarry and church, which is a haven for bryophytes.
In the same district there is Breedon Cloud Wood N.R. (only open to trust members), but Dimminsdale N.R. is open to the general public.
Park on the Picnic area car park at SK 380220 and walk to the reserve entrance at 376219. Almost all of the reserve has been affected by mineral exploitation. Limestone and lead mining took place over a period of 200 years up to the end of the nineteenth century.
The largest of the pools, Laundry Quarry, is flooded. The limestone was burnt in kilns situated at the bottom of the flooded quarry. No limestone is now exposed, but limestone shales are exposed. There are two prominent bands of sandstone occurring and these have been exploited in the past for building stone. Habitats include open water, streams, damp woodland, scrub and bracken-covered glades.
Bryophytes recorded include Atrichum undulatum, Fissidens exilis, Gyroweisia tenuis, Rhizomnium punctatum, Zygodon conoideus, Eurhynchium pumilum, Hypnum andoi, Conocephalum conicum, Lunularia cruciata, Pellia epiphylla and Cephaloziella divaricata.
The River Soar and the Grand Union Canal divides Leicestershire into eastern and western areas. The red Boulder clay drift-cover over the western agricultural areas is basic to acidic. The chalky Boulder clay drift-cover over the eastern agricultural areas is basic to calcareous. Mixing of the alluvium from the river basin with the other soils often makes the acid soils less acidic.
The eastern side of the County has been well established as agricultural or pastural land for centuries. It has remained rural with little in the way of industrial development, in contrast to the western side of the County. Open access sites are therefore very few and therefore have not been included in this tour.
It is recommended that a study of the churchyards be made which will provide a wide variety of bryophyte species due to the many different materials used for head-stones and construction of the churches.