10 December, 2017

Wistman's Wood in winter

Last weekend I teamed up with budding botanist Alex Mills for a brief stomp around Dartmoor. We dumped the car by the side of the road at Two Bridges and headed off north across the moor towards Wistman's Wood, weighed down with backpacks full of camping gear and bryophyte field guides. The sun was beaming down through the oaks but it did little to subdue the freeze. Noses were running and fingers were numbing, but it didn't stop us thoroughly enjoying a few hours of daylight searching out the primitive plants that thrive in a really unique and enchanting upland habitat.

Alex won find of the day with Tunbridge Filmy-fern, thriving in sizeable numbers amongst various cracks and crevices high up on the slopes.

Spot the botanist

Tunbridge Filmy-fern

In truth, it was hard to look in any direction and not pick out something interesting to stare at. Every tree was plastered from head to toe twig to trunk with bryophytes and lichens that challenged my already extremely challenged knowledge of them. Between us we did recognise a handful of the more conspicuous species.

Scapania gracilis (Western Earwort)

Rhytidiadelphus loreus (Little Shaggy-moss)

Plagiothecium undulatum (Waved Silk-moss)

Thuidium tamariscinum (Common Tamarisk-moss)

Racomitrium lanuginosum (Woolly Fringe-moss)

We pitched up for the night on Longaford Tor; Alex had bought along his trusty Vango Banshee but I'd decided earlier that day to bite the bullet and go with a lighter (and more exposed!) bivvy bag in order to save enough room to bring along the Mosses and Liverworts of Britain & Ireland. In the end it was a gamble that paid off. The frost was already setting over a spectacularly super-moonlit landscape as we scoffed down a wholesome supper consisting of a mix of baked beans & hummus, but that was about as cold as it was going to get. The clouds rolled in and temperatures rose a bit. Cracked open a couple of beers and took in the moorland vista. Not a bad way to spend a Friday night.

01 December, 2017

Nothing does autumn like a beech

There's a quiet, tucked away patch of beech woodland on Esher Common and this was the scene there early last week. The turning of the beech leaves is something I look forward to every autumn. It'd take a lot to convince me that there's a more beautiful species of tree out there.