Sue White led a walk at Snelsmore Common on the chilly but dry morning of Wednesday 12 December. On heathland north of the car park we saw two fungi on pony dung: the endangered Nail Fungus Poronia punctata and the commoner but prettier Coprinus ephemeroides. Carpets of mosses and lichens made an attractive setting for flowering gorse and Cross-leaved Heath. Turning down a wooded valley we looked at ferns, including Soft Shield-fern, and saw the stream bed disappear into a sinkhole in the underlying chalk. Fungi ranged from large brackets of Ganoderma and Birch Polypore to tiny Coral Spot, all turning dead wood into a feast for invertebrates and the birds that feed on them.
Leaving the Common by a woodland path, Rob found a male Winter Moth resting between nights spent looking for the flightless females. The path followed a field headland where we found hedgerow plants and arable weeds in flower: Spurge Laurel, Ivy, Germander Speedwell, Red and White Dead-nettle, Yarrow, Groundsel, Field Madder and the orange berries of Stinking Iris.
Returning to the Common we skirted a valley mire where colourful Sphagnum and other mosses were recovering from the summer drought. At the drier top of the slope we found Bell Heather with flowers, Cladonia floerkeana lichen with bright red fruiting bodies, and a handsome little toadstool Lichenomphalia umbellata which is the fruiting body of an unusual lichen. A flock of Siskins was feeding at the edge of a small pond where Water Crowfoot leaves invited a summer visit to see which species it is. Lunchtime moved the group on to the Fox & Hounds although there was still lots to see.
Report by Sue White
Pictures by Rob Stallard and Sue White