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Vice-county 24


The concrete cows of Milton Keynes


BBS Vice-county recorder:

Dr S V O'Leary,
51 Wood Street,

OX10 0AX


Accounts of previous meetings in the County:

None available


Bryophytes in Milton Keynes

In the beginning was Milton Keynes, a village with ancient roots. Then came a new town of the same name and last of all a Unitary Authority which covers the area of North Buckinghamshire from just south of Bletchley to the county boundary north of Olney.

Within this area are places where bryophytes flourish. Among them are the forty six churchyards which make good places to begin studying mosses and liverworts. Their habitats provide a useful repetition of species that helps to create a basic list of recognised plants. Species that occur less frequently, or in one location only, give the work extra interest. All sites are easily accessible and parking can usually be found nearby.

Limestone underlies the surface clays and the soils range from mildly acid to alkaline. Only on the greensand ridge at Bow Brickhill and Little Brickhill is there any marked acidity. A study of these churchyards was made by Frances Higgs between 1994 and 1999. Frequently found species that formed a basic list were Amblystegium serpens var. serpens, Barbula unguiculata, Bryum argenteum, B. capillare var. capillare, Brachythecium rutabulum, Calliergon cuspidatum (Calliergonella cuspidata), Ceratodon purpureus, Eurhynchium praelongum, E. swartzii (E. hians), Fissidens taxifolius ssp. taxifolius, Funaria hygrometrica, Grimmia pulvinata var. pulvinata, Homalothecium sericeum, Hypnum cupressiforme var. cupressiforme, Orthotrichum diaphanum, Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus, Rhynchostegium confertum, Schistidium apocarpum and Tortula muralis var. muralis. Churchyards that gave the most interest and longest species lists are mentioned below.

Bow Brickhill (SP 9034) offered many of the basic plants and also some of those requiring more acidity such as Polytrichum formosum, P. juniperinum, Dicranum scoparium, Mnium hornum and Pleurozium schreberi.

Calverton (SP 7939), a lovely peaceful spot, added Eurhynchium pumilum and Barbula trifaria (Didymodon luridus) to the local list. Here also, on the churchyard wall facing the road, was a fine growth of Schistidium apocarpum. In moist condition and in fruit it looked beautiful with the red capsules just emerging from the leaves.

Great Linford (SP 8542), set in parkland near the Grand Union Canal, produced a good list. On Elder (Sambucus nigra) by the wall was Orthotrichum affine, Tortula (Syntrichia) virescens and Zygodon viridissimus var. viridissimus.

Hanslope (SP 8046) spire, a well known local landmark, can be seen in panoramic views around the locality. The big churchyard offered extra species such as Barbula rigidula (Didymodon rigidulus), Barbula (Didymodon) vinealis, Bryum bicolor, B. rubens, Eurhynchium striatum, Plagiomnium affine, Pseudoscleropodium (Scleropodium) purum, Rhynchostegium murale and Tortula (Syntrichia) laevipila var. laevipila.

Hardmead (SP 9347) churchyard, deeply shaded in places, provided interest with Aulacomnium androgynum, Barbula cylindrica (Didymodon insulanus), B. revoluta (Pseudocrossidium revolutum), Campylopus introflexus, Cirriphyllum piliferum, Dicranella heteromalla, Dicranoweisia cirrata, Orthotrichum anomalum, Plagiomnium undulatum, Rhynchostegiella tenella var. tenella, Thamnobryum alopecurum, a small quantity of Neckera complanata and the first Bucks record for Leucodon sciuroides var. sciuroides. It has since turned up in three other Milton Keynes churchyards.

Olney (SP 8951), a well known market town, is noted for its Pancake Race on Shrove Tuesday. A fine church stands beside the River Ouse and the large churchyard is surrounded by a limestone wall on which grows, in large quantity, the beautiful liverwort Porella platyphylla. Both varieties of Barbula convoluta were recorded here plus Tortula (Syntrichia) intermedia, T. ruralis ssp. ruralis (Syntrichia ruralis), T. marginata (the only record for this area) and the liverwort Lophocolea bidentata.

The church for Tyringham-cum-Filgrave (SP 8546) has a very peaceful country setting close to the River Ouse. Here the list included Cirriphyllum (Eurhynchium) crassinervium, Fissidens incurvus, Oxystegus (Didymodon) sinuosus, Plagiothecium curvifolium and the liverwort Lophocolea heterophylla.

As a Millennium project, Milton Keynes Natural History Society published a book entitled Milton Keynes, More Than Concrete Cows – Real Animals and Plants too. (ISBN 0 9538787 0 8) containing all records compiled by the Society members between 1987 and 1999. Copies are available from the Natural History Society price £3.99 including postage. Further records would be welcome at Milton Keynes Natural History Society, The Hanson Environmental Study Centre, Wolverton Road, Great Linford, Milton Keynes, MK14 5AH or e-mail

Frances Higgs

December 2003

Local Flora

PETERKEN, J.H.G. (1961). A hand list of the plants of the London area. Bryophytes. London Naturalist, 40, 43-71.


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