This was the third time lucky for getting to Great Dixter. The first attempt had been cancelled because of rain, and the second because of snow, but on Wednesday the sun shone and it was perfect for a bit of bryophyte recording. This famous garden, created by Christopher Lloyd, and the Lutyens house attract many visitors, but the smaller plants in it were unknown; indeed, this part of Northiam is one of the 60 or so tetrads in East Sussex with no bryophyte records whatsoever, so a visit was ideal for filling in the recording for this part of the Weald.
Five of us met in the car park and swiftly started work on the adjoining trees. In among the usual suspects there was a small bit of Syntrichia laevipila, and a very mossy Black Poplar hybrid sported some Orthotrichum lyellii and lots of Zygodon, which Sue determined as conoideus. The car park itself is covered in a robust wide plastic mesh, which had a few species popping through it, much as you would expect: Barbula convoluta, Funaria hygrometrica, Pseudocrossidium hornschuchianum and Bryum dichotomum.
The nursery and cold frames were particularly covered in mosses and liverworts, and these turned out to be the ones you’d expect in this habitat, though the Marchantia polymorpha subsp. ruderalis was especially abundant, and it was nice to see some Leptobryum pyriforme. Jacqui also found a Bryum which had the papillose purple rhizoids of B. ruderale, and Sue located the wavy-leaved Didymodon sinuosus on some damp, shady gravel.
At the south of the gardens is a small Wealden ghyll stream, surrounded by a little woodland called Four Acre Shaw, and this added many of the species that are typical, with Conocephalum conicum and Plagiothecium succulentum by the edge of the stream, and the vertical sandy bank by the water covered in Cephalozia bicuspidata, Calypogeia fissa and Diplophyllum albicans. A small tuft of the liverwort Plagiochila porelloides reached out from the edge of the stream, almost touching the water, some Plagiothecium nemorale was tucked by the water too, and Sue found some Homalia trichomanoides near the base of one of the trees. Further up the ghyll and near the small pond, old tree stumps were covered in the alien Orthodontium lineare.
We paused for lunch in the yew garden, where Didymodon vinealis and Bryoerythrophyllum recurvirostrum grew on the damp mortar on the steps, but the most interesting find of the day was in a most unassuming place, on the vertical bare soil on one of the lawn borders. This was Epipterygium tozeri, which I last saw in a flower bed in St Leonard’s Gardens, and is not a common species in Sussex. In Britain it is mainly in the south-west and in the southern counties.
Even though we’d not managed to look at the area around the house and the rest of the gardens, after lunch we moved on to Weights Wood, part of the Great Dixter estate and just to the north-west of Northiam. It also happens to be in a different tetrad so recording began anew, and even included some common species we’d not seen in the morning, such as Polytrichastrum formosum and Thuidium tamariscinum. Polytrichum juniperinum and Hypnum jutlandicum were also on the bank of the main ride, and Sue found some Fissidens viridulus and Pleuridium acuminatum. Down by the pond was some Brachythecium rivulare and Luśka found Tetraphis pellucida on a stump by the stream.
At this point we were running out of time, and the lower part of the wood wasn’t explored. Nevertheless, the Weights Wood tetrad (TQ82H) species list was increased from 15 to 53, and the gardens of Great Dixter itself in TQ82C finished the day with 72 taxa, all new finds during the visit. These are both solid results for this part of the Weald, though there are still some common species yet to find, and within these tetrads there are many other areas and habitats yet to be explored.