Not put off by the grotty weather on our first visit to Cowbeech, Jacqui and I set off to work on the area just to the east of the village. There weren’t many places to leave Jacqui’s car on the narrow lane leading to the hamlet of Trolliloes and possible places were waterlogged. The lane ran downhill and grew more promising for bryophytes but verges just got muddier as we descended.
We crossed the Trolliloes stream and found a large car park attached to a fishing lake and only one other vehicle; a London taxi decorated in Pearly Queen patterns. A long hut was full of creepy mannequins dressed in tweed waistcoats and I was relieved that we weren’t here a day later on Halloween.
The usual array of ruderal mosses edged the car park. Didymodon luridus was less lurid and a clearer green than usual.
Across the road the footpath led to a wide path between the stream and an ancient Hornbeam hedge. We quickly spotted the usual common woodland species and plenty of these were fruiting in the damp conditions. Both Isothecium myosuroides and I. alopecuroides were growing thickly around the bases of Ash trees which grew alongside the Hornbeams. The latter are less interesting as a bryophyte substrate but attractive with their twisted trunks and contorted shapes. And they were still alive and standing, unlike some of the Ash trees.
One Ash was covered in Homalia trichomanoides and the spaces between roots was home to Plagiothecium nemorale with fat leaf cells in neat rows. Jacqui and I both took home samples of Rhynchostegiella pumila, also growing between roots. We don’t often see this small-leaved pleurocarp fruiting and the short, rough seta was distinctive.
This is an old sketch and I think I have drawn the leaf with an overly drawn out tip.
The stream had been inaccessible for most of its length but a sharp bend had steep banks with isolated colonies of three thallose liverworts: Conocephalum conicum, Lunularia cruciata and Pellia endiviifolia. The sun came out so we found a relatively dry spot by the stream for lunch.
In the same area there were a few Hazel trees with low spreading branches dotted with acrocarps; Orthotrichum lyellii was a nice find and there was Zygodon conoideus too. A Zygodon growing on Ash was Z. viridissimus. Further on we found more Z. conoideus but this time on Willow.
We left the stream and crossed a meadow before joining a metalled track covered with Bryum argenteum and passed new farm buildings full of cows sounding as if they would rather be in the streamside meadows just outside. The footpath took us across a field of Rye-grass with enough bare patches of earth for hundreds of plants of Tortula truncata to grow and fruit. They were interspersed with the thin leaves of Dicranella schreberiana.
It took us a while to find a stile hidden in a hedge and it signalled the border with the next tetrad. We found ourselves in the yard of Hole Farm and set about recording the small mosses between paving stones and on rough gravel. There was plenty of Bryum dichotomum with bulbils in the leaf axils and a few other common acrocarps. We must have missed some things as two large, friendly dogs came to greet us and it wasn’t the best time to be on hands and knees peering at mosses on the ground.
A Willow leaning over a pond provided us with Orthotrichum affine and the Zygodon conoideus mentioned earlier. Two smaller dogs came to investigate from a cottage, I don’t think this footpath is well frequented and it was nice to see dogs able to wander freely.
Back into our target tetrad we at last found Calliergonella cuspidata in a wet meadow and there was plenty of it. I thought a group of Willows would be worth checking but was mistaken and we were lucky to extricate ourselves and our wellies from the mud.
Jacqui found a nice patch of Metzgeria consanguinea on another Willow as we crossed the stream and our last record for the day was lawn moss or Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus which spread through this sloping meadow alongside huge Parasol mushrooms.
We had just nibbled at the corner of TQ61M, (we didn’t nibble the toadstools), and recorded 12 taxa around Hole Farm in a previously unrecorded tetrad. TQ61H was also virgin territory and we found 47 different bryophytes here.