The sunken track crossing Southwick Hill needed more work so I returned on a sunny morning and, as before clouds appeared as I started walking. A dew pond was marked right next to the footpath on the map but I hadn’t noticed it on previous visits. Most ponds have a wooden fence to keep livestock and dogs out and many have a gate, information board and bench on which to sit and watch dragonflies . Not this one. I could just see a deep pond but it was protected by a series of barbed wire and electric fences as well as thick Hawthorn scrub with brambles. I gave it a miss and sped on to the sunken track.
There were more areas of Microbryum rectum but mixed up with this was another moss with the drooping capsules of Microbryum curvicolle. On one plant the short seta had wound itself round the long perichaetal leaves in a tight knot. There were large, dark patches of Seligeria on the vertical chalk. None of it was fruiting but it had the thin, pointed leaves of Seligeria calycina.
On the steep grassy slopes above the vertical chalk I eventually found Neckera crispa and on a more gentle slope some Dicranum scoparium. The old holloway survived the building of the A27 and the two roads, both sunk into the chalk and crossing each other when the bypass tunnels under the hill. Looking up, pylons marched alongside the track towards Truleigh Hill. Derek Jarman called this juxtaposition of urban sprawl and countryside, native plants and invasive species, and the way it affects the ecology of a place, Modern Nature.
The track led to the edge of the reserve and Mileoak Barn where footpaths and tetrad corners meet. I was wrong to think that this might be a good place to pick up records as the whole place was covered by a muddy puddle. I skirted the small lake and took a dry track towards Hazelholt Bottom. I passed between arable fields and picked up plenty of Phascum cuspidatum which is easy to spot at the moment as capsules emerge.
The hills now blotted out the growl of cars on the bypass but the quiet was eerie with just the odd pheasant breaking the silence. What looked like shooting hides loomed in the distance. The access land at Hazelholt Bottom was made up of rough grassland and mature scrub on a north facing slope.
The grassland was mossy but it was nearly all Pseudoscleropodium purum.
The woods were more varied. In the damp air the epiphyte covered trees and mossy ground reminded me of West Wales. However the bryophytes were all the typical species of Hawthorn scrub on the Downs.
The bare chalk under the trees was too mobile for Seligerias and I just found Rhynchostegiella tenella.
TQ20N now has 44 taxa recorded. I’ve made a start on TQ20J but there’s plenty more work to be done here.