Pebble Dash

Tide Mills

It’s hard to believe as wind and rain batters the windows that just a week ago it was too hot to spend more than an hour bryologising on the coast before needing to run into the cold sea.

We had gone for a swim at Tide Mills on probably the last summer weekend of the year. After the childish excitement of watching the ferry arrive from Dieppe we had a walk along the shingle and in passing I plucked a tuft of tightly curled yellow moss. I had been looking out for Pleurochaete squarrosa but this turned out to be Tortella  flavovirens.C7741537-C6C8-44A2-BB07-A838238A0EE3

A couple of days later it was still hot, dry and completely unsuitable for moss hunting but I wanted to check the extent of the Tortella on the vegetated shingle that slumped behind the beach and stretched across three tetrads. As I walked west from Bishopstone station the first mossy area of shingle was solid Bryum but without capsules at this time of year I didn’t try to identify it/them. The Tortella flavovirens was quite extensive and did indeed cover large areas of stable shingle in each of the tetrads TQ40K, TQ40Q and TV49U.


Tortella flavovirens

There was one patch of invasive Campylopus introflexus in TQ40Q. It was fruiting and leafy clumps were loose on the ground so it will no doubt spread rapidly.


Campylopus introflexus

The area amongst the old walls and foundations of Tide Mills itself will take a bit longer to investigate properly but I found a small area of Hypnum lacunosum and Brachythecium albicans threaded its bleached branches across the shingle. A single star-shaped chalky pink Centaury flower stood out against the browns of autumn and some Lesser Centaury was a more concentrated fuchsia colour.

Further towards the harbour a huge cement works is being built on the beach and I wonder how much this will affect the archaeology and ecology of Tide Mills in the future.F32E7B81-FDF2-45D9-8F3B-5D1880908FB8

Following a narrow path back through the shingle I picked a squashed clump of a tiny acrocarp. The hunched leaves looked to me like Pterygoneurum and I thought I could see the shadow of lamellae around the nerve. There were no capsules and the plant was not in good condition. I sent the small sample to Tom who was unfazed as ever by the scrappy specimen and thinks it is probably Tortula lanceola.

I will be going back in February or March to look for the plant in fruit and hopefully it will be able to produce capsules in this trampled spot. The Bryums should be ready a little later.

Refreshed by a swim I had a quick look at St. Leonard’s Church in central Seaford but just recorded Homalothecium sericeum which was on the church roof but not on many gravestones here. Wild Clary was flowering in the turf.

The Tortella flavovirens is new for all three tetrads but TV49U still needs work as it only has 18 species recorded. The area is mostly sea so just reaching 20 would be great.


2 thoughts on “Pebble Dash

  1. Great drawing as usual. I’m sure you’re right about those particular Bryums being unidentifiable but a lot of people shy away from the genus when a great many of them are identifiable even without capsules. Obviously all the ones with tubers or bulbils or gemmae are usually nameable when not fruiting and then sometimes all that is needed is to show an inflorescence is synoicous and that certainly doesn’t require capsules. But there is a group that likes that vegetated shingle habitat where you most certainly would need fruiting material in good condition. It would make possible B. archangelicum, B. algovicum, B. intermedium, B. creberrimum, B. pallescens and a few more besides. Fortunately they are long-lived and as long as the habitat remains it should be possible to keep trying but it’s worth checking the fruiting periods too as some species are best found in the Autumn, B. warneum being such a coastal moss for example.


    • Thanks for the tips Fissidens. I was a little dismissive of the Bryums in their parched state and I’m sure I neglected some other mosses too! The habitat should survive for now as they were concentrated at the western edge of the shingle away from cement works.


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