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Watlington Hill – 5 March 2022

Icy blasts of bitter wind did not deter members from attending the annual moss walk, this year at the National Trust’s Watlington Hill on the afternoon of Saturday 5 March. Leader Sean O’Leary wisely introduced the gathering to species of sheltered woodland near the car park first. Here we found examples of acrocarpous mosses, growing as upright shoots in tufts, such as Dicranella hetromalla and various species of Orthotrichum on tree trunks. In addition, there were pleurocarpous mosses, growing in horizontal mats on the ground such as Kindbergia praelonga and Brachythecium rutabulum.

Having warmed up, bold members now headed out into open chalk grassland on the slopes of the hill. The rabbit-grazed turf here is very rich in bryophytes such as Flexitrichum gracile, Trichostomum crispulum, Barbula unguiculata, Homalothecium lutescens and spectacular patches of Hylocomiadelphus triquetrus and Pseudoscleropodium purum. However, the more sheltered southern slopes beckoned. The yew woods here provided a less hostile environment on such a day and some interesting finds. The male ‘flowers’ of Bryum capillare were discovered, and tiny shoots of Seligeria calycina growing on loose chalk.

The views from Watlington Hill are very lovely, especially on such a clear day, and the bracing weather was certainly invigorating. There were few complaints however when we neared the car park for a well-deserved slice of Louise’s legendary muesli crunch. Serious bryologists poo-pooed the idea that this was the main reason members attended the walk.

Report by Sean O’Leary

Pictures by Sue White