A Forest Meander

Friston Forest

One of the advantages of a double decker bus is that you sometimes peer over hedges and spot good bryophyte habitats. Green patches of moss are growing in this eco garden on a Brighton bus stop roof but I’ll have to practise my parkour skills before climbing up to identify them.3421cbca-d3e9-42fa-a873-8a6056679999.jpeg

The bus dropped me at Friston Forest, a large but quite young forest on the chalk behind Seven Sisters. I wasn’t expecting to find a huge range of mosses but knew there were some decent areas. I had recorded some bryophytes of damp ditches along the main track from the car park a few months before so I continued further along here into the next tetrad. Brambles and nettles had grown since my last visit and the ditch petered out so I got off to a slow start.

A huge old tree, probably Ash, dead and held up by Ivy was bright green at its base with Cirriphyllum crassinervium and Neckera complanata which made it just about worth the effort of getting to it.

The small hamlet of Westdean is nestled in the Forest and I circled the pond into the village. Driveways and grass verges were more rewarding than the pond edge.

At the top of the village the ancient little church is quietly picturesque. The churchyard has been managed as a wild flower meadow with narrow paths mowed through the grass. Its sunny aspect meant that it was largely moss free but some concrete by the half-shaded west door was coated in a stringy  pleurocarp and a dark green acrocarp. The pleurocarp was the scarce Scorpiurium circinatum and the acrocarp Didymodon sinuosus, two mosses with distinctive toothed leaf tips.

I didn’t add much from the gutter on the north side of the church. There was some more Scorpiurium at the west end and some Fissidens taxifolius and Oxyrhynchium hians on the steep bank behind but the grass has been left to get too long for bryophytes and this patch of Scorpiurium might be doomed.

The South Downs Way crosses the village and is well trampled by walkers even on a weekday but the tracks heading east were empty. The lower road, surfaced with imported stone, was dry so I cut through the woods, picking up the odd epiphyte including Cryphaea heteromalla, to a higher route on the north facing slope. This path was treacherous compacted chalk, dark green and slippery with liverworts; lovely!

There was masses of the stuff but for some reason I just collected a tiny sample, not enough to check for the rarer Leicolea badensis with wide leaf bases alongside the more common Leicolea turbinata. Otherwise there was plenty of Pellia endiviifolia with autumn fingers bright green against the Leicolea.

On the steep banks Ctenidium molluscum, Thamnobryum alopecurum and Eurhynchium striatum  grew in feathery splendour. The trees were not rich in epiphytes but one Beech was dotted with Zygodon conoideus and Cololejeunea minutissima. Frullania tamarisci was recorded by Francis Rose on Oak trees in 1989 but even Frullania dilatata seemed scarce on the trees that I looked at. One pile of rotting logs was traced with shoots of Lophocolea bidentata.

An endless flight of steps edged by a crumbling flint wall sprouting a mini forest of Thamnobryum alopecurum leads to a well loved sunny spot with a panoramic view over the Cuckmere estuary. The landscape hasn’t changed much since Eric Ravilious painted this watercolour in 1939. The flint wall is still there as is the field layout on the right hand side. A round copse just to the south of the square field is new.ACC064F4-D140-4E00-97A3-B05860B1624A

This wasn’t a thorough search of the forest but TV59G is now up to 46 taxa. There is more to be found here and a winter visit would be good.

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