Worcestershire Record No. 28. April 2010
The recording of species incidence is uneven across the county. In particular the northern and north-east tip extending into Birmingham, the eastern fringe, particularly around Redditch and Evesham, the Tenbury and Kyre region and the very southernmost tip around Longdon, stretching towards Tewkesbury, have been neglected. Most tetrads have fewer than nineteen records but there are a few places which have been intensively studied. In addition the major towns of Kidderminster, Stourport, Bromsgrove, Redditch, and Worcester are areas where little has been recorded. Interestingly, there is reasonable recording around Droitwich where Richard Fisk lived for over a decade.
Locations where the species richness for bryophytes is known from Worcestershire Biological Record Centre data to exceed 55 per tetrad are Wissetts Wood area (SO 6772 with over 126 species), Highwood and Death’s Dingle region (SO6667) with more than 108 species and the adjacent Mill Coppice, all on private land. Hunthouse Wood (SO 7070) with over 126 species, Sapey Brook and Rock Coppice, Ravenshill Wood, the Knapp and Papermill Reserve, the Wyre Forest region with tetrads over 144 species, the Malverns, Larford and Shrawley Wood, around Holt Fleet, Potters Park at Chaddesley Corbett, Chaddesley Wood, the Clent Hills, Bredon Hill, Tunnel Hill, and Cleeve Prior are all relatively rich areas. However, there are other interesting sites which are distinctive but which have not such a range of species. There are, no doubt, many other rewarding sites which have not yet been explored thoroughly for bryophytes. However, the sites described below have all been visited and have already proved of interest.
Within the Worcestershire section of the Wyre Forest (SO77), many of the wooded areas are not exciting with regard to bryophytes, but there are some regions which are particularly rich. These include the stream valleys, such as Gladder Brook as it runs through Ribbesford and Areley Woods where the 2004 BBS meeting recorded 23 species of liverwort including new county record Porella cordaeana, and more than 60 species of moss, Park Brook (SO 7576) with 30 species of liverwort and 60 species of moss, Hitterhill valley (SO 7675) where 25 liverworts were recorded and new species Fissidens osmundoides was recorded by Mark Lawley in 2004, Bryum bornholmense was first noted in 2004 and Didymodon spadiceus by Mark Lawley in 2005, parts of Dowles Brook (SO 7476) including the steep banks in Knowles Coppice (SO7676) and to a lesser extent Baveney Brook (SO7176, outside VC37 but part of the Wyre Forest). Often the valley sides are steeply sloping and the small streams and their tributaries, with their varied geology, provide a great variety of microhabitats. The Great Bog (SO746762) does not hold large numbers of species but there are four recorded species of Sphagnum, a genus which is rather sparsely represented in Worcestershire. It is also the site of the first records of Leucobryum juniperoideum, found by Mark Lawley in 2001, and of Entosthodon obtusus, found by Richard Fisk on the BBS meeting in 2004. L. juniperoideum occurs alongside L. glaucum on the steep slopes of the Hitterhill valley. The banks of the old railway line (SO 7576) have a good bryoflora with several species of Sphagnum and there are also Sphagnum species in Park Brook and Hitterhill valleys. Also in the Wyre Forest but outside VC37, Hawkbatch (SO 763777) and particularly Seckley Wood have a good diversity of bryophytes.
The Malvern Hills do not have as great species richness as parts of the Wyre Forest and lack the numerous liverworts, but there are some specialities . The area includes acid grassland and scrub, base rich flushes, igneous rocky outcrops as well as the adjacent commons and some woodland. Schistostega pennata is visible in some rabbit holes and Buxbaumia aphylla, was first recorded by Joy Ricketts in 2003, beside a path on the Worcestershire side of the Herefordshire Beacon (SO7639). Grimmia trichophylla grows on some rocks and Grimmia laevigata is found with Pterogonium gracile on one east-facing rock on Hangman’s Hill (SO 7639). Although with restricted access, the area around the reservoir on the eastern slope of Herefordshire Beacon is of interest, both for ephemeral bryophytes around the concreted area and for bryophytes of damper places on the banks beside the reservoir itself. The shrubby area above the reservoir is also worth examining.
Hedwigia ciliata var. ciliata occurs on a large rock on the east side of the Worcestershire Beacon (SO 7744). The first vouched record for Racomitrium heterostichum since 1950 was that by Ann Hill on Perseverance Hill (SO770426) in 2002 although several unverified records exist (SO77 tetrad T (Arley or Ribbesford Wood) and SO 767466 (North Hill) but R. heterostichum is also present on Worcestershire Beacon, alongside the H. ciliata var. ciliata while Racomitrium aciculare occurs in a small spring nearby. Racomitrium fasciculare was noted near North Quarry during the BBS meeting in 2004 (and also at Frankley in 1979). Fossombronia incurva was found on the Black Hill quarry floor on Worcestershire Beacon (SO 769412) by David Long during the BBS meeting of 2004 and all the quarries are worth exploring for interesting bryophytes. For example, Encalypta streptocarpa in Earnslaw Quarry (SO 771445).
There is still much work to be done exploring the vast areas of the Malvern Hills and the adjacent land. The damp north-east corner of Castlemorton Common (SO 7939) has yielded an interesting range of species including Syntrichia laevipila var. laevipiliformis (found by Richard Lansdowne and Mark Pool, 2004). Climacium dendroides was recorded by Ann Hill from the Common (SO 7638) in 2002. The accessible parts of The Gullet (SO 7638) are just in VC37, and, although obviously much depleted since Thompson’s time, are worth examining. Microlejeunea ulicina was discovered by Rita Holmes on nearby Swinyard Hill (SO 763387). On the west side of Worcestershire Beacon, Park Wood (SO 762442) is of interest since it includes limestone outcrops, but it is difficult to explore except in winter because it is so dark.
The calcareous rocky grassland and slumps of the north slopes of Bredon Hill provide the habitat for a wide variety of species. Nearly every rock supports a different combination of species and, almost certainly, there are more species to be identified. In the damp woodland and on the grassy areas at the base of the hill about one hundred species of bryophyte have been recorded, including liverworts Lophozia excisa, Porella platyphylla and Scapania aspera and mosses Bryum donianum, Encalypta vulgaris, Rhodobryum roseum, Seligeria calcarea and Weissia controversa var. crispata. Higher up the hill there are extensive growths of Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus, as well as more Porella platyphylla and Bryum donianum, together with a rich bryoflora including Entodon concinnus, Fissidens gracilifolius, Seligeria pusilla, S. recurvata (unconfirmed), S. calcarea, S. donniana, Taxiphyllum wissgrillii, Campyliadelphus chrysophyllus, Neckera crispa and Neckera pumila (so far not recorded from elsewhere in VC37).
The Cotswold fringe which lies within VC37 (SP 120369) includes some wooded area and small rocky excavations beside the road up Broadway Hill, the car park at the top of the hill with rocks and scrubby hawthorns and the calcareous grassland around Broadway Tower. The bryoflora here is characteristic of calcareous areas but is not particularly rich in species. However, it is worth further exploration.
Along the banks of the Rivers Severn and Teme and the Avon, such riverine species as Hennediella stanfordensis, Leskea polycarpa, Rhynchostegium riparioides and Syntrichia latifolia are frequently present as well as Fontinalis antipyretica and Dialytrichia mucronata. As already mentioned, there are also some specialities to the area. Duncan first found Octodiceras fontanum, firstly at Bewdley and later at Stourport, and recently it has been found at Marlcliffe (SP 092504) on the Avon. Besides Cinclidotus fontinaloides, Cinclidotus riparius occurs along the River Teme, for instance on the concrete at Stanford Bridge, lower down than the C. fontinaloides.
There are a number of canals running through Worcestershire. Most have not been explored for bryophytes, but the Birmingham-Worcester canal near Tardebigge (SO 9868) proved interesting, since it contained two forms of Fontinalis antipyretica close together. The more typical plants are in the lock areas but a different form without keel occurs in the overflow areas.
Several wetland areas exist and efforts to restore wetland at the Gwen Finch Reserve and Longdon Marsh may make more such sites available. Both the wet fen areas of Feckenham Wylde Moor (SP 0160) and Ipsley Alders (SP0767) Nature Reserves have Drepanocladus aduncus, a species which is relatively rare in the county. The bryophytes of the two sites are little known and deserve further examination. Wilden Marsh Reserve (SO 8273) is another site which may merit exploration.
The draw-down of Upper Bittell Reservoir (SP 0275), a lake privately owned by Barnt Green Sailing Club, has proved interesting. In particular the nationally rare Ephemerum cohaerens was found in 2004 in several places and also Weissia rostellata. Additionally, there was a good range of ephemeral species on the exposed substratum.
Many small streams feed into the River Teme. These tend to be calcareous, with tufa formations, and with stony or rocky substrata. They frequently run through steeply sloping, wooded valleys, creating a shaded, humid habitat, ideal for bryophytes. Often the trees in the valleys support a good range of epiphytes, including Metzgeria fruticulosa and M. temperata as well as the more common M. furcata. All of the valleys which have been visited have proved to have a rich bryophyte flora, often with more than twenty species of liverworts and lush expanses of such mosses as Palustriella commutata and Eucladium verticillatum and a combination of species similar to that recorded by Pentecost and Zhaohui (2002, 2006) for Shelsley Walsh.
In Wissetts Wood (SO 6772, privately owned), which has a less steeply banked stream running through it, there are impressive sheets of Radula complanata. In this wood the rare observation of fruiting Platygyrium repens was made and Trichostomum tenuirostre var. tenuirostre were recorded during the 2004 BBS visit.
Hillwood Farm, again privately owned, has a number of deep tufa valleys, Death’s Dingle (SO 668678), Foxholes Coppice (SO 660673) and Mill Coppice (SO668673), all with many species of liverwort and luxuriant growth of mosses, particularly of Palustriella commutata. Sapey Brook (SO 7060), otherwise known as Paradise, is in the ownership of several landowners. It has side rivulets and tufa is present. Again, it is good, humid habitat for bryophytes but the diversity is less rich than in the Hillwood valleys. To the north, Hanley Dingle (SO 6866, Worcestershire Wildlife Trust access with permit) has a steeply sided valley, often making quite difficult terrain. It was visited by the BBS in 1979 and more recently by the Border Bryologists but deserves further exploration. Further south, Hayley Dingle (SO 7553) is a more open but humid valley, with more than twelve species of liverwort, including Micolejeunea ulicina as well as the moss Zygodon viridissimus var. stirtonii.
Worcestershire Wildlife Trust’s woodland reserves are of varying interest. Most are not outstanding for their bryoflora, but all support a range of common woodland mosses and liverworts. Hunthouse Wood (SO 7070), lying as it does on Carboniferous Coal Measures, and with a stream, damp areas and remnants of mining, probably has the most diversity, with at least 20 species of liverwort and over 70 mosses. Crews Hill Wood (SO7353) has a range of interesting habitats, including some steep banks. Knapp and Papermill Reserve (SO7451) includes a stretch of the Leigh Brook, wet areas, meadow and orchard, as well as woodland, this variety of habitat leading to quite good diversity. Chaddesley Woods (SO 9173) and nearby Randan Wood (SO9172) both have a wide range of woodland species, the latter having a wet area containing Sphagnum squarrosum. Each of the other woodland reserves, Grafton (SO 9756), Monkwood (SO 8060), Ravenshill (SO 7453), Tiddesley (SO 9245) and Trench Wood (SO9358) contain a range of typical woodland bryophyte species, but there are no records of unusual species. Similarly, although Piper’s Hill Common (SO 9564) has many splendid old trees, there are no outstanding bryophyte records but it would be worth further examination as would many of the other woods in the county.
There are a number of large rock exposures in Worcestershire and each has proved worth examination, yielding a few unusual species for the county. Osebury Rock (SO7355) on the bank of the River Teme, not far from its confluence with the Severn, has a bryoflora ranging from species such as Cinclidotus fontinaloides, Dialytrichia mucronata, Lejeunea lamacerina, Neckera complanata and Leskea polycarpa to Bartramia pomiformis and Orthotrichum cupulatum, the latter found on the asbestos roof of a shed. Zygodon viridissimus var. stirtonii, Metzgeria conjugata and Fissidens dubius, F. pusillus and F. viridulus have all been found here. Lophozia excisa occurred on another rock exposure in a nearby field.
Kingsford Country Park (SO 8282), near Kinver, has a number of exposed rocks on which the liverworts include the relatively rare Barbilophozia attenuata. Several Plagiothecium species are present in the park.
Devil’s Spittleful Reserve (SO8074) has typical heathland species but it is the rock in the centre which has proved most interesting, with Tritomaria exsectiformis the most outstanding record. Bartramia pomiformis has been found along the track leading to the reserve. Nearby Blackstone Rock (SO 794740), overlooking the River Severn near Bewdley, is likely to be productive but has not been explored.
Southstone Rock, Rock Coppice (SO 710640) is potentially interesting but the records available do not suggest any outstanding finds, perhaps the most notable being liverwort Plagiochila britannica and mosses Palustriella commutata and Tortula marginata.
Another site with exposed rocks is Habberley Valley, near Kidderminster (SO 8078). Liverworts include Barbilophozia attenuata and Ptilidium ciliare and among the mosses are Cynodontium bruntonii and Pleurozium schreberi.
In the past Hartlebury Common (SO 8270) was considered a good site for bryophytes but it has declined. In 1980 Richard Fisk recorded about 80 species including three species of Sphagnum; recent visits have also yielded three Sphagnum species but fewer other bryophytes. The wet area is reduced and scrub encroachment on parts of the common as well as public use have reduced the typical heathland bryoflora.
The 25 hectares of heath at the Devil’s Spittleful and the Rifle Range Reserve (SO 8075) show the typical heathland species composition. An added bonus is the collection of species already noted on the shaded rock, including Tritomaria exsectiformis.
The extensive areas of heath and acid grassland on the Clent Hills (SO 9279) and the Lickey Hills (S0 9975) have been little explored by bryologists. Both regions have a variety of other habitats including wooded and wet regions.
There may be many brownfield sites of interest within Worcestershire, only a few of which have been explored. In addition, roadsides and roundabouts have been neglected.
Larford (SO 8169) is an area of mixed habitat including long-established set-aside, industrial debris, bare sandy patches, encroaching bramble, woodland and a small pool, concrete blocks and the bank of the River Severn. Accessibility and biodiversity of parts of this site may be affected by future management. Bryophytes recorded include a range of Bryum, Didymodon, Orthotrichum, Syntrichia and Tortula species, Aloina aloides, Drepanocladus aduncus, Leskea polycarpa, Radula complanata and Ulota phyllantha, a mix which reflects the variety of habitat.
Cherry Orchard (So 8553) beside the Severn in Worcester is another mixed area, with a scrubby nature reserve owned by Worcester City Council and an area of dredgings, with dune-like piles of sand, owned by British Waterways.
Honeybourne Triangle (SP1244), a triangular area of barren land enclosed by junction railway lines, is noteworthy for the variety of small acrocarps, particularly for members of the Pottiales. The most interesting species found on the site is Microbryum davallianum.
Among other man-made sites of interest are three damp areas with ponds created by extraction procedures. Beckford Gravel Pit (SO 9736 in VC33) has a mixture of habitats and species, including a bank of Aloina aloides. Grimley Brick Pits (SO 8460) lies alongside the Severn and the occurrence of such species as Hennediella stanfordensis and Leskea polycarpa reflect this. There is a good range of species present. The presence of open water, marsh and willow scrub at Broadway Gravel Pit (SP 0837) suggests that it might have a reasonable bryological biodiversity but the site has not been visited by bryologists.
The Cleeve Prior Community Orchard area (SP 0748) is of interest, since it has a combination of old fruit trees and small ponds. Ulota phyllantha was found on one of the trees. The nearby Cleeve Prior Reserve (SP0749) includes a steep slope with scrub down to the River Avon, which is bryologically uninterestingexcept at the water’s edge, where Leskea polycarpa and Rhynchostegium riparioides were found.
Other habitats which have been neglected are arable fields. Perhaps one of the most interesting fields examined was on St. Catherine’s Farm (SO 942403), at the foot of the north slope of Bredon, where 21 species of bryophyte were found, including the rare Weissia squarrosa. In the rhubarb fields at Holt Fleet (SO 825639) both Sphaerocarpos texanus and S. michellii have been found recently. In one field 21 species were counted including Ephemerum serratum. A nearby sage field yielded only 8 species. Some of the fields examined in Worcestershire have contained no more than three species.
Those older churchyards which have been examined (Fladbury, SO 9946; Cotheridge, SO 786547; Cropthorne, SP 000452; and St. Kenelm’s, Romsley, SO 944807 and its associated well) have all contained over 20 species. Old paths and the base of the church buildings are home to a variety of acrocarps. Didymodon nicholsonii seems to occur regularly in such churchyards. Possibly, some of the older churchyards may retain species which are now rare in the rest of the county. Newer churches may also include several species and may be one of the main habitats for bryophytes in suburban districts. For example, along the sides of the Spadesbourne Brook in the grounds of All Saints’ Church, Bromsgrove (SO 965714), there is extensive growth of Conocephalum conicum.
There are a number of records from parkland but there has been no systematic exploration of such sites. A brief visit to the Croome Estate (SO 84) proved disappointing, with very little of interest. Other parklands may well show greater diversity of species.
An interesting list of species was obtained from the nursery garden at Potters Park, Chaddesley Corbett. Similar nursery sites may be worth examination. Every private garden has a number of species and, although these are mostly very common species, that is not necessarily always the case. After all, the Thatch-Moss Leptodontium gemmascens is found in thatched roofs although it has not been recorded in Worcestershire. Incidentally, since another habitat where it is found is in hollows among reeds, search for this species has been made on Castlemorton Common with no avail.
Probably, many more species occur within Worcestershire than have been recorded. Before the 2004 Spring Meeting of the British Bryological Society, Mark Lawley listed 74 species that were found in VC37 before 1950 but have not been recorded since that date and so are bracketed in the most recent Census Catalogue (Blockeel and Long, 1998) and also nineteen species never found but judged likely to occur on the basis of their distribution nationally. Of these, fourteen and two species respectively have now been found. The challenge is to keep recording and to build up knowledge of the county’s bryological diversity and the distribution of species and to establish more firmly whether or not these species do occur locally.
BLOCKEEL, T.L. AND LONG, C. D. (1998) A Check-List and Census Catalogue of British and Irish Bryophytes Cardiff: British Bryological Society.