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Swyncombe – 14 March 2020

On Saturday 14 March, Sean O’Leary led the annual moss walk at Swyncombe. This is a favourite site for the walk, as it combines interesting and varied habitat with wonderful views of rolling countryside.  In addition, there is always a good chance of seeing a Raven in one of the first areas to experience its recent expansion across the country.  Meeting at the lovely church of St. Botolph, about a dozen of us followed our usual route up Swyncombe Hill through fine sloping woodland.  This yielded many mossy delights such as Orthotrichum stramineum, pulchellum, affine, diaphanum, lyellii and tenellum all growing on a single log.  Spectacular Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus, Thuidium tamariscinum and Thamnobryum alopecurum leavened the dough of bryological minutiae with the yeast of their flamboyant beauty. 

However, the most interesting bryophyte awaited us at the top of the slope as we emerged near a rather boring looking arable field.  On the path, in some quantity and spotted first by Sue White, was a mysterious moss later identified using the microscope as Hennediella macrophylla, confirmed as new to Oxfordshire – a very significant find, and congratulations to Sue. 

The remainder of the walk took in lovely views, two Hares, swirling Red Kites and honking Ravens as expected, through fields and more woods, returning to the church for a departing slice of Louise’s muesli crunch as usual.

Report by Sean O’Leary

Pictures by John Thacker, Sue White and Laurie Haseler