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Local Meetings of the BBS

South East Group 2002/3

Darwell Reservoir (VC 14), 13 October 2002

This was a joint meeting of the Southern and South-East Groups. The visit was jointly led by Jeff Duckett and Rod Stern, and was timed so that water levels were low enough to expose mud at the edge and base of the reservoir. Formal permission had been obtained from Southern Water for access to the reservoir and surrounding woods although we had to survive a challenge by the conservator of the fishing rights and duly promised not to disturb his fish.

One object of the visit was to refind Ephemerum sessile and we successfully located a small patch of this on the mud of the reservoir bank. However, it soon became apparent that the rich bryoflora we had expected had been overwhelmed by an almost continuous cover of New Zealand Pigmyweed (Crassula helmsii). A lengthy search was made over the large area of mud at the base of the reservoir for Riccia huebeneriana, but no Riccias at all could be found among the masses of Crassula covering the entire area.

Other bryophytes of interest on the bank of the reservoir included Aphanorhegma patens and a very good specimen of Pseudephemerum nitidum, whilst depressions in the path held Archidium alternifolium. A small stream feeding the reservoir had Palustriella commutata var. commutata forming tufa, together with Eucladium verticillatum; nearby was Hookeria lucens. A puzzling Pohlia was thought in the field to be a candidate for P. lescuriana. It was finally determined as P. melanodon, apparently with tubers attached to its rhizoids, as illustrated in C.C. Pedrotti’s Flora dei Muschi d’Italia. In the woods were some old elders with Ulota phyllantha, U. crispa, and three Orthotrichum species (O. lyellii, O. diaphanum and O. affine).

A total of 53 mosses and 12 liverworts was seen.


Hothfield Common and Bog (VC 15), 3 November 2002

The day of the visit was one of meteorological uncertainty and indeed around lunchtime we were treated to a drenching baptism. Nevertheless, 41 mosses and 11 liverworts were found, including one new vice-county record.

Calliergon stramineum and Campylium stellatum were found in fair quantity near the edge of the bog, whilst seven Sphagna, including S. magellanicum, S. papillosum and S. cuspidatum, were in the main bog. All of these species are rare in Kent. Among the liverworts were Aneura pinguis in the bog and Gymnocolea inflata in the heathy margin. But the most exciting find, via the sharp eyes of Sylvia Priestley, was a new VC 15 record of Pallavicinia lyellii.

The Group are grateful to Jeff Duckett for leading the visit, and for much field identification. One member of the Group, who shall be nameless, also owes him thanks for a rescue after she found herself alone and sinking nearly waist-deep in an unexpectedly soft patch of the woodland! Thanks are also due to Howard Matcham for determining some difficult specimens.


South Blean Woods Nature Reserve (VC 15), 22 February 2003

This reserve consists of a large expanse of mixed woodland recently purchased by the Kent Wildlife Trust (KWT) at the southern end of ‘The Blean’, the area of forest to the west and north of Canterbury. Much of The Blean is on London Clay but the area to the south of the A2 (Watling Street) slopes down through Palaeocene deposits to the chalk. Here the more varied pH and topography increases the bryological potential.

We started at the bog in Hunstead Wood, an already established KWT reserve. The weather was just right, even the frost; the Sphagna were frozen hard enough to make walking through the bog an easy task. However, this did mean that we couldn’t look for some of the interesting liverworts that might grow amongst the Sphagna, particularly Cryptothallus mirabilis, recorded here at one of only three sites in Kent. The familiar species of acid wood and bog were noted. Most notable on the open bramble-covered area on the main bog was Thuidium tamariscinum, having a somewhat golden tinge in this environment. The banks of a little ‘brook’ draining the bog had a selection of liverworts; these could presumably be in danger from proposed earthworks to enhance the bog, but should reappear wherever running water subsequently cuts channels. From the bog we walked across ‘Isengardian’ pine clearance and precariously through the ‘Mordorian’ remains of a main pathway, where the machinery had displayed well the local geology (Tolkein references, for those who are familiar).

In adjacent Nickle Wood chestnut coppice gave us mainly the usual leaf cover devoid of bryophytes but with a locally familiar selection of species on the stools – mainly Hypnum cupressiforme with some Dicranum scoparium. As is usually the case, steeper slopes and pathway cuttings had a good profusion of mosses and liverworts, including Diplophyllum albicans and Leucobryum glaucum at the eastern edge of their Kentish ranges.

For the rest of our exploration, we followed pathways through Bower and Denstead Woods, which meant that we only saw about a quarter of the new reserve. As is typical for what can be called the ‘North-east Kent Oceanic Zone’, the woods were virtually devoid of epiphytic bryophytes. Most of the mosses found on trees were multi-habitat species growing up the trunk bases and on fallen trees, as humidity and other factors allowed. Two striking exceptions were a patch of Frullania dilatata and a Ulota species, found on two adjacent oaks, ironically not inside the reserve area.



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