Bryological Sites on the Isle of Wight, V.C.10
By Lorna Snow
The Isle of Wight is an area with rather complex geology, dominated by
the chalk ridge which runs from the Needles at the West to Culver Cliff
at the East. This ridge is a continuation of the chalk cliffs of Dorset
and divides the Island roughly in half. North of the chalk the land is
heavy clay and marl with some plateau gravel in isolated spots so that
most of the land is pasture or woodland. South of the chalk the land is
mainly Upper Greensand with more chalk downland in the south at Ventnor
and St. Catherine’s. A full account of the geology and habitats,
together with an up-to-date account of the bryophytes, can be found in
the new Isle of Wight Flora (Pope, Snow, and Allen) 2003.
The Rev. Livens recorded widely over the Island, with help from H.H.Knight
and others in the early 1900s, and Percy Long, who lived in Carisbrooke,
recorded during the 1930s and 1940s. The BBS visited the Island in 1964
and again in 2002.
America Wood SZ5682
This is a Woodland Trust property and SSSI.. An ancient oak/birch woodland
with a stream cutting a gully through the middle . Pseudotaxiphyllum
elegans, Epipterygium tozeri (which is uncommon on the Island), and
three species of Metzgeria are among the 50 or so species that
have been recorded here. Park at the far end of Upper Hyde Farm Lane (SZ
577811), and walk up to your left past the arable field, and down the
steps into the wood, which is well served by footpaths.
Shanklin Chine SZ5881
This is a private site, open to the public on payment of an entrance fee
during the season, Easter to October usually. The best access is from
the southern end of the Esplanade, where there is parking.
The chine is a shaded woody gully with a waterfall at the top . 73 species
have been recorded including Anthoceros punctatus, and Phaeoceros
laevis. Philonotis marchica grows on a vertical rock face near the
top entrance, but is very small. Leptobarbula berica is found
in a dark corner by the top entrance – this is one of only 4 sites
on the Island, but it could be overlooked so if you find it anywhere else
Lorna Snow would be happy to hear from you.
There is a chalybeate spring at the lower end of the chine, and also some
remains of the 1939-45 Pluto Pipeline, which carried petrol over to the
troops in France. Also during this war the vertical sides of the Chine
were used as a climbing training area for the Royal Marines prior to the
raid on Dieppe. Parking SZ585811.
Luccombe Chine SZ5879
A sheltered wooded valley, liable to slippage in wet weather, leading
to the beach, but with many steps. Pohlia wahlenbergii v. calcarea
was recorded from here in 1927 (BBSUK) but there are no records since.
Fissidens crassipes was recorded from the waterfall in 1964,
but has not been refound since. Records in 2002 included Bryum gemmiferum,
Cratoneuron filicinum, Eucladium verticillatum, Hookeria lucens, Scorpiurium
circinatum, and Cololejeunea minutissima. Wet ledges to
the east and west of the footpath above the beach are worth exploring.
Parking area in a lay by on the main road, next to the tea rooms, SZ580789.
Follow footpaths for some 0.5km down to the chine.
Bonchurch Landslip SZ583876
This SSSI is part of a much larger area of old landslip where the Upper
Greensand overlies to Gault Clay, or Blue slipper as it locally known.
An area of large boulders still prone to slip after prolonged wet weather,
now getting overgrown with Hedera helix hibernica. Apometzgeria
pubescens was found there in 1906 but there are no records of it
since. Mnium stellare, on the other hand, has been found there
since 1909 and is still there. Marchesinia mackaii is another
species recorded once but not seen again. Phaeoceros laevis, Leptobarbula
berica, Scorpiurium circinatum and Cryphaea heteromalla
are among the 69 species recorded there in 2002.
Parking area is the same as for Luccombe Chine, SZ580789, but take the
footpath leading down from the side nearest the tea rooms.
Rocken End SZ49875 National Trust. SSSI
Part of the western end of the area of landslip which starts at Bonchurch,
the whole area is still liable to slippage after prolonged wet weather.
Conditions permitting – park in the NT car park at the end of Sandrock
Road. This is where the big slide of 1920 occurred, which broke the old
road to Blackgang. In 2001 another slide has made the site of Southbya
nigrella inaccessible. PLEASE TAKE CARE.
The land between the car park and the lighthouse is better, with short
chalk grassland with limestone outcrops. It is a very good site for bryophytes,
with 70 species recorded recently, including Bryum dunense, B. torquescens,
Tortula viridifolia, Cryphaea heteromalla, Fissidens dubius, Pterygoneurum
ovatum, and Cephaloziella baumgartneri. Its main claim to
fame, however, is the Acaulon triquetrum which survives in quantity
on the outcrops. Cratoneuron filicinum used to form tufa in the
stream by the car park, but this has gone now. When the land settles it
will probably be found again in another part of the area.
Parking at SZ494757.
Headon Warren SZ30/31 85/86 National Trust. SSSI
The area was visited by H.H.Knight and Rev. Livens in 1906.
An area of gravel cap over chalk, at the western end of the Island, with
heather cover. This is the largest area of heathland on the Island. The
land on the north side is badly slipped and a trap for unwary ankles,
so take care. This is a very good area for lichens as well as mosses -
22 species of Cladonia, among others, have been found. 34 species
of bryophytes were recorded recently, including Scapania compacta,
Campyliadelphus chrysophyllus, Polytrichum piliferum, all scarce
on the Island.
Lophocolea semiteres was a new species for VC10 in 2002 , when
Hennediella macrophylla, Leptodon smithii and Aulacomnium
androgynum were also found.
Park in the road at SZ319859. Follow the footpath up onto the ridge
Combley Great Wood, SZ5489
A mixed plantation ancient woodland on wet clay, belonging to the Forestry
Commission, Part SSSI.
In 1906 this was one of only three sites on the Island for Rhodobryum
roseum, but since then there has been only one other record - at
East Afton near Freshwater. Other records include Entosthodon fascicularis,
Herzogiella seligeri, Hookeria lucens, Cirriphyllum piliferum, and
There has not been any systematic recording done in this wood since 1995,
so it is still possible that Rhodobryum roseum might survive
Park in the road near SZ545895, at a small lay-by off the narrow road.
There is good access along footpaths and rides.
Firestone Copse SZ55 90/91
A Forestry plantation with some mixed woodland, and gravel rides, bordered
on the western side by a stream running into Wootton Mill Pond. Part SSSI
Percy Long recorded Archidium alternifolium here in 1926, but
this was before the Forestry planting. Pseudephemerum nitidum, Cirriphyllum
piliferum, Fissidens exilis, and Homalia trichomanoides have
all been recorded here. Pleurozium schreberi was found in 1984,
but there have been no Island records since. In the spring this is a good
site for wild daffodils.
Parking at the Forestry site with picnic area, SZ911557 There is good
access along footpaths and rides.
Shide Chalk Pit SZ5088
A large old disused chalk pit on the edge of Newport, with a varied flora
and a stream running through which gives rise to tufa forming species
- Eucladium verticillatum
Other species include Campyliadelphus chrysophyllus., Cryphaea heteromalla,
Fissidens adianthoides, Encalypta streptocarpa, Aloina aloides; Bryum
torquescens and Gymnostomum viridulum ( a new species for
VC10) were found in 2002. This is also a good site for blue butterflies
and chalk grassland flowers.
Park by the Tyre Depot and pub at the road junction at Shide. SZ504881.
Cross the main road to the east, turn left and take the right turn 140
metres nearer Newport. The entrance is a gate in the fence on the right.
Follow the steps down to the quarry floor.
SNOW, L. (1989). Provisional atlas of the bryophytes of the Isle of Wight: liverworts. Proceedings of the Isle of Wight Natural History and Archaeological Society, 9, 121-134.
SNOW, L. (1992). Provisional atlas of the bryophytes of the Isle of Wight: mosses. Part 1 Sphagna - Grimmiales. Proceedings of the Isle of Wight Natural History and Archaeological Society, 12, 51-70.
SNOW, L. (1997a). Hepatic records 1988-1995. Proceedings of the Isle of Wight Natural History and Archaeological Society, 13, 5-9.
SNOW, L. (1997b). Provisional atlas of the bryophytes of the Isle of Wight: mosses. Part 2 Funariales - Hypnobryales. Proceedings of the Isle of Wight Natural History and Archaeological Society, 13, 11-31.
SNOW, L. (2003). Bryophytes: liverworts and mosses. In: The Isle of Wight flora by Pope, C., Snow, L. & Allen, D., pp. 199-217. Wimborne: The Dovecote Press.