Sometimes I’m happy just to do a rough bryophyte survey on an excursion as it gives me an excuse to return to a lovely bit of countryside and look further. The downland between Jevington and Willingdon is one such place.
I unexpectedly had a free Saturday and my niece Anna was also at a loose end with a dog to walk so we went to Jevington. We were taken by the cuteness of the hamlet nestled between Friston Forest and Eastbourne and famously, the birthplace of bannoffi pie.
Leaving the village we stopped at a lone Ash tree in a grazed field and both collected Zygodon to check its gemmae at home. It was Z. viridissimus with hand grenade shaped gemmae. Some access land to our left had steep areas of grassland with exposed areas of chalk so I made a mental note to return.
An overgrown hedge of mature Field Maple was spongy with bryophytes after recent rain, a drooping fringe of pale Neckera complanata at their base and Cryphaea heteromalla with an upright, spiky fringe of fruiting shoots on higher branches. This bracket fungus looked like an abandoned fur mitten. Further along I offered Anna a hand lens to look at the leafy liverwort Cololejeunea minutissima but her eyes were good enough to see the tiny (.25mm long) leaves and star-shaped perianths without.
Woodland nestled in the bottom of Willingdon Bottom was humid and Hypnum cupressiforme and Metzgeria furcata grew in abundance on tree trunks but there was room for Zygodon conoideus to fruit happily in between.
The wind blasted as we reached Butt’s Brow and I spotted scraps of Dicranella varia, Hypnum lacunosum and Didymodon fallax on the exposed chalk track but didn’t realise that we had crossed into another tetrad.
It was still windy when we stopped for lunch on a rich patch of chalk grassland pungent with Thyme and Marjoram. The dog sniffed the air and looked as if she was expecting pizza!
Back in the village the church seemed busy and well attended and the churchyard well tended. There was plenty of Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus, Calliergonella cuspidata and Plagiomnium undulatum in the turf but the gutter where we often find the best things was newly repaired and clean. Some mossy, shaded steps were chained off with a warning notice and I think we were overheard discussing sneaking down to have a closer look. We thought better of it as the mosses didn’t look interesting and, with slightly guilty faces looked at a bit of Zygodon viridissimus on a flint wall on the sunny side of the church and sauntered on.
A few days later I went back for a more thorough moss search.
The shaded rough track that led out of the village past Cloth Farm was lined by an ancient Ash hedge and I searched the gnarled roots hoping to find scarce bryophytes even daring to hope that the habitat would be right for the extremely rare Rhynchostegium rotundifolium. Unsurprisingly I didn’t find any and my best find from here was Rhynchostegiella pumila on earth between tree roots. Thamnobryum alopecurum and Neckera complanata were the dominant mosses and were both quite variable here.
I cut across a field back to a lower footpath and did slightly better on a large fallen Ash tree. Its roots were covered in Didymodon sinuosus and fruiting Amblystegium serpens. Some areas were too much of a challenge to survey though:
The ancient track was chilly so it was nice to get to some more welcoming access land on the other side of the field; a vast area of south facing chalk grassland basking in autumn sunshine.
Devil’s-bit Scabious flowers dotted the slope and the cucumber smell of Salad Burnet reminded me that it was lunchtime. There was lots of moss but it was nearly all swollen shoots of Pseudoscleropodium purum which made a soft but damp cushion to sit on. This vast field covers an old field system and the raised edges of the much smaller ancient fields could still be seen. There were tiny patches of Weissia on bare earth a few strands of Didymodon fallax and a large Fissidens. The latter has a pale, toothed leaf edge, the leaf cells are small but with no obvious bistratose areas I’m still working on it.
I hadn’t come across any north facing grassland so I climbed to the top of the field and dropped down the other side to a damp area sheltered by trees. There was more large Fissidens and this patch was convincing Fissidens adianthoides with long shoots and leaf cells of 12 microns or more.
Back at the car park there was a tiny clump of fruiting Microbryum rectum on an earth bank. That rounded off a day walking from Willingdon Bottom up to Butt’s Brow via Cold Crouch nicely.
On the Saturday trip we boosted the bryophyte records for TQ50Q from 17 to 35 taxa and inadvertently got TQ50R up to 40 species; a happy accident! On my second visit I only added 10 species to TQ50Q but it’s another green tetrad.