Hampshire bryophytes

Back to home page

BBS Southern Group meetings

The British Bryological Society's Southern Group meets about once a month during October to April to record bryophytes in Hampshire and occasionally parts of neighbouring counties, including the Isle of Wight, Dorset and West Sussex (often combining forces with our neighbouring groups). Because some meetings are arranged at short notice and may be cancelled due to bad weather we operate an email contact list for the group, so please get in touch if you would like to be put on this list to receive advance notification of meetings. Beginners are welcome. Meetings start at 10.00 or 10.30 (check details before attending), end at around 3-4 pm and take place on weekends. Wellington boots (as well as rainproofs, food, drink, etc.) are advisable for most meetings but stout walking boots may be preferable for those on dry or hilly ground. Don't forget to bring a hand lens. If you are coming to a meeting for the first time, please take a moment to read the BBS health and safety information.

Winter 2023/24 programme

Forthcoming meetings

Wednesday, 31 January 2024, Town Common, St Catherine’s Hill, Christchurch, Dorset (VC11)

Leader: John Norton. We plan to look at the northern section of this site within SZ19NW quadrant. This is an interesting area of heath and mire with some damp sandy areas which are rich in liverworts. Due to the way in which records were entered in the past, there were only 14 bryophyte records for this quadrant until a few of us made a brief visit in September 2022. Jean Paton recorded the only VC11 records of Calypogeia neesiana and Orthocaulis attenuatus (Barbilophozia attenuata) here in December 1958 but neither has been seen since. There are also old records for Cephalozia macrostachya, Scapania undulata and Sphenolobus minutus (Anastrophyllum minutum). On the 2022 visit we also updated Paton's 1958 records of Odontoschisma denudatum and Odontoschisma francisci, and found Lophocolea bispinosa and L. semiteres.

Please email John Norton (john@hantswightbryology.net) if you intend to come. Meet at 10.30 near the marked footpath which goes N to the Blackwater Hill / Town Common area marked on the OS 1:50,000 map at SZ 1390 9582, off Hillside Drive, BH23 2TF. If no parking on Hillside Drive then try the side roads, e.g. Orford Road. Bring lunch and walking boots (I don’t think we will head into boggy areas).

Sunday, 10 February 2024, Pamber Forest, Tadley, Hampshire (VC12)

Leader: Jonathan Sleath. Pamber Forest is a large ancient semi-natural woodland north of Basingstoke on sand and clay. The north part merges with the heathland of Silchester Common and is fairly acid, but the south part is more basic. There are several streams to explore as well as tracks, open areas and some wet woodland. There are very few records from Pamber Forest in the BBS database, although the Flora of Hampshire says that Hookeria lucens, a rare plant in North Hants, is present. Wellington boots would be desirable.

Meet at 10.00am at the parking area on Impstone Road, Pamber Heath, SU6166 6212. Please email jonathan.sleath@btinternet.com if you plan to attend. The meeting may be postponed if the weather is bad.

Saturday, 6 April 2024, Shipton Bellinger Down, Hampshire (VC12)

Leader: Jonathan Sleath. Shipton Bellinger is at the extreme western edge of VC12 and at the extreme eastern edge of Salisbury Plain. The most recent record on the BBS database is Abietinella abietina var. hystricosa from Ted Wallace in 1936, so there should be ample opportunity to update the bryophyte list. The area we will be visiting is mostly in SU2346 and comprises military tracks, chalky banks, rabbit grazed turf, mature beech woodland and plantation. So there should be plenty to find.

Meet at 10.30am. Turn east off the A338 just north of Shipton Bellinger at a tank crossing at SU233462 and park at SU23594621 in the area shown on the photograph with a cross. Walking boots or shoes will be fine. This is an MOD site and it is important that Jonathan knows in advance who will be attending as numbers may be limited. It is possible that the meeting may need to be cancelled because of bad weather or for military reasons. If the latter, we can always visit the iron age camp of Danebury Ring which is not far away and is also a chalk grassland site. Email jonathan.sleath@btinternet.com if you plan to attend.

Shipton Bellinger meeting place map
Shipton Bellinger meeting place


Status codes: CR = county rare; CS = county scarce; NS = nationally scarce; VU = Vulnerable (GB Red List).

Saturday 25 November 2023: Wishmoor Bottom, Barossa, Camberley, Surrey (VC17/VC22)

Wishmoor Bottom is the site of a small valley mire in the Barossa nature reserve, just over the Hampshire border, straddling Surrey and Berkshire. It is an MOD site, managed by Surrey Wildlife Trust who invited the BBS Southern Group to visit. The meeting was held entirely within the Surrey portion.

Unfortunately on the day of the visit there had been quite a frost and most of the bog was frozen solid. This made doing justice to the target habitat something of a challenge, but we were able to find nine Sphagnum species, including S. medium which is only the second recent record for Surrey. There were some good patches of the bog liverwort Cephalozia connivens with its large, glistening, bulging cells but there may well have been other species encased in the ice. There had clearly been some recent grazing which had caused some welcome disturbance and opened areas up for the Sphagnum, but much of the site was dominated by Bog Myrtle and dense tussocks of Molinia.

The other notable habitat consisted of a few patches of wet woodland with the inconspicuous Oxyrrhynchium speciosum spotted by Pete Flood. Of note also were a few small cushions of the epiphyte Dicranum tauricum with its characteristic fragile leaves. This is a species of acid bark that seems to have declined recently, possibly due to the reduction in acid rain, and is not often seen in Hampshire.

Saturday 21 October 2023: Janesmoor Plain, New Forest (VC11) on National Moss Day

Thanks to Andrew Branson for writing the following report. download spreadsheet

Having watched the weather fronts and Storm Babet swirling around Britain over the days preceding National Moss Day, it felt like it was touch and go whether the joint Wessex Bryology and Southern Group meeting in the New Forest would go ahead. Happily, a showery window seemed to open up on the day and 15 intrepid bryologists gathered at Janesmoor, south of Fritham, to explore the area. In addition to those from Hampshire, people came from Somerset, Wiltshire, Dorset and the Isle of Wight and included no less than four vice-county recorders, so there was plenty of expertise to help people who were less sure of their plants. With everyone togged up with waterproofs and wellies, we headed across the heathy plain. The target area was formerly part of the northern section of an airfield (Stoney Cross) during the Second World War. The remains of the runways from this short-lived facility (1942-1948), together with post-war reseeding and fertilising, has made the area more calcareous than one would expect in the Forest, providing an interesting mix of both calcifuge and calcicole communities.

Before we set off Jonathan Sleath showed us some impressive colonies of Bryum riparium and B. mildeanum collected from the BBS meeting in the Lake District that he had since cultivated in vitro. However, we were soon scouting around looking at low-growing cushions of acrocarps that were scattered throughout the turf. These included much Trichostomum crispulum, Streblotrichum convolutum var. convolutum, a strange form of ‘New Forest’ Bryum capillare growing in sterile clonal patches, scattered Fissidens dubius and Ctenidium molluscum growing next to Archidium alternifolium and Polytrichum juniperinum. Soon many were on their knees checking patches of mosses or scanning the turf through close-focus binoculars. It was a bit of a baptism for some of the beginners as so many of the species required close scrutiny or even double checking later under a microscope. The edges of the disused roads across the plain proved especially interesting, with scarce species such as Aloina ambigua, Didymodon icmadophilus (new to the vice-county) being found, as well as more common species, including Pseudocrossidium hornschuchianum, Orthotrichum anomalum and various Syntrichia. John Norton later came to the conclusion that a confusing little acrocarp was in fact Campylopus subulatus, a county notable species. The find of the day was made by Robert Sharp who spotted a nice patch of Plagiomnium cuspidatum growing in the turf amongst Bryum capillare. It was later confirmed as new to VC11 by Sharon Pilkington. It is a scarce and apparently declining plant in southern England.

Campylopus subulatus
Plagiomnium cuspidatum
Lunch on Janesmoor Plain

After lunch, we made our way to a gap between North and South Bentley Enclosures where some woodland and a flushed area at the head of a valley provided different habitats. Scapania irrigua was soon found in the turf at the edge of the gap and some calcifuges, such as Diplophyllum albicans, Dicranella heteromalla and Dicranum majus, were noted along a woodland bank. A rich area with a good range of Sphagna attracted much attention, with species including much Sphagnum palustre, S. auriculatum, S. subnitens and S. cuspidatum. Jonathan spotted a strand of Straminergon stramineum growing out from a hummock. More Scapania irrigua was noted, as was Lophozia ventricosa, showing its pale green clusters of gemmae. One of the highlights of the day was an excellent patch of Blasia pusilla found by Sharon on the edge of the flush. This showed well this liverwort’s peculiar combination of star-shaped gemmae in clusters on the surface of the thallus and gemmae in flask-like structures, as well as the dark patches of the blue-green alga Nostoc in the thallus. This is another plant that is scarce in southern England. Further up the slope the calcareous influence was more noticeable, with large patches of Campylium stellatum; some Scorpidium cossonii and Sarmentypnum exannulatum were also found. The surrounding sallows had a slightly disappointing epiphytic flora, but there were at least three species of Ulota on the branches.

The rain was starting to set in and the walk back to the cars was rather quicker than the walk out. We paid our respects again to the Plagiomnium cuspidatum, also allowing those who had missed it earlier to see it. It was a successful day out amongst the showers and more than 100 species had been recorded. As Sharon pointed out, for some ‘sploshing around in a mire in the pouring rain’ is a form of ‘Bryotherapy’!

Saturday 18th March 2022: Walbury Hill and Gallows Down, Combe (VC12)

Leaders: Jonathan Sleath and John Norton. These sites are in the extreme north-west of the county and the southern slopes of the hills are in VC12, within the Inkpen and Walbury Hills SSSI. Walbury Hill is the highest point in SE England. The localities consist of unimproved grazed chalk grassland and could potentially yield many interesting species, although currently there are only a handful of old records, including Entodon concinnus.

Saturday 14th January 2023: Castle Bottom NNR and Eversley Common, Yateley (VC12)

Leader: Jonathan Sleath. These sites are both in SU75 on Eocene sands, gravels and clays. Castle Bottom NNR consists of heath, woodland and an extensive complex of valley mires, one of the most important areas of this habitat in the north of the county. There are no localised records for the site on the BBS database, but Francis Rose visited on three occasions and recorded 10 Sphagna and the uncommon bog liverworts Mylia anomala and Calypogeia sphagnicola. There is also an intriguing record of the rare Kurzia sylvatica, though a voucher was presumably not submitted and this taxon has never been confirmed for VC12.

Sunday 30 October 2022: Ogdens and Latchmore Brook, New Forest (VC11)

Joint meeting with the Wessex Bryology Group. Leaders: John Norton and Andrew Branson. This meeting is to an area in the north-west of the Forest which has been rarely visited in the past and has very few localised records. The plan is to investigate Latchmore Brook and the Alderhill Inclosure area. We should find a good range of common species of bog and wet heath as well as epiphytes of willow and alder carr. We will also check the stream banks for Fissidens species (two taxa, F. celticus and F. bryoides var. cespitans, were recently added to the VC11 list from the stream to the south and could occur here as well). We may hopefully also find some New Forest specialities such as Hypnum imponens and Dicranium spurium. This should be a useful meeting for beginners and those wanting to brush up on their Sphagnums, though we may see quite a number of species on the day. Wellingtons are essential as we may need to wade through streams. Meet at the Frogham car park at SU17801280; on minor lane east of Fordingbridge.

Saturday 26 November 2022: Shortheath Common, Bordon (VC12)

Leader: Jonathan Sleath. A return visit to this site (last visited in 2013), a valley mire complex with associated heath and woodland on an area of sand and clay overlying early Cretaceous Folkstone sandstone. There are a variety of habitats and there should be enough to occupy us for a day. There are extensive Sphagnum-dominated areas and existing records of the usual species one would expect, as well as old records of Cephaloziella spinigera and C. elachista which it would be nice to refind. Wellington boots are advisable if you do not want your feet to get wet. Meet at 10.00am at the main car park at SU774369 beside the pond used by anglers.

Sunday, 25 October 2020: Bramshaw Wood, New Forest

* to follow *

Sunday 2 February 2020: South-east Hayling, Hampshire. download species list

Most of the day was spent on a walk around the south-eastern coast of Hayling Island, at Selsmore. At the edge of a campsite we found colonies of Sphaerocarpos michelii (NS, CS) and the rare but likely under-recorded fungus Octospora axillaris growing on Phascum cuspidatum var. cuspidatum. Nearby we also collected P. cuspidatum var. piliferum (CS), identified by its long hair-points, and Tortella flavovirens (CS), two saline-tolerant taxa strongly associated with saltmarsh habitats. Eventually, we also managed to find another typical coastal species: Hennediella heimii (CS). Also at Selsmore we found several patches of Rhynchostegium megapolitanum (as expected) growing mainly on sections of concrete sea defence, but more of a surprise was finding Fissidens incurvus under coastal scrub. We also found Syntrichia papillosa unusually growing on a section of north-facing concrete sea defence, together with fruiting Orthotrichum diaphanum. In the afternoon we had enough time for a short look at Black Point where R. megapolitanum was abundant on sand, especially under grassy vegetation. The overflow car park by the lifeboat station was also very productive, with species including Brachythecium mildeanum, Drepanocladus aduncus and Dicranella varia; however, we were unable to confirm an interesting Bryum species (possibly B. creberrimum) through lack of mature capsules.

Hayling coast at Selsmore Sphaerocarpos michelii spores Phascus cuspidatum var. piliferum Rhynchostegium megapolitanum with capsules

Saturday 7th December 2019: Harting Down, West Sussex. download species list

The highlight of this meeting was finding several thriving colonies of Rhodobryum roseum on the numerous ant-hills on the site, along with a few small patches of Dicranum bonjeanii. Read the See South-east Group blog here.

Rhodobryum roseum at Harting Down Rhodobryum roseum at Harting Down

Sunday 24th November 2019: Hogmoor Inclosure, Bordon, Hampshire. download report.

The long spell of rainy weather in autumn 2019 had provided ideal conditions for liverworts and ephemeral species to grow in the open sandy areas, especially in the north of the site and along the main tracks. These areas supported a bright green Cephaloziella, probably C. hampeana (CS), along with Lophozia excisa (CS), L. ventricosa (with red and green gemmae respectively) and Pohlia wahlenbergii. One small patch of Fossombronia sp. was also found in this habitat (perhaps F. incurva). A small Philonotis near the car park appeared to be a good candidate for P. arnellii, which would have been new for Hampshire, but the BSBI moss recorder thought that it was a similar-looking young form of P. fontana. Other species recorded from sandy areas included Lophocolea semiteres (along with abundant L. bidentata), Pogonatum urnigerum (CS) and Polytrichum piliferum.

At the pond in the south-east of the site there was still a little Pohlia bulbifera* present (first recorded on 18 May during a Hampshire Flora Group meeting), on previously disturbed ground with Leptobryum pyriforme. The adjacent willow carr was rich in epiphytes, including Ulota bruchii (surprisingly new to the 10km square), plus U. crispa s.s., Orthotrichum pulchellum and all three common Metzgerias. Amongst some fruiting Hypnum cupressiforme on the roots of an old fallen willow a patch of something with slightly different looking capsules was checked and found to be Sanionia uncinata (CR), new for VC12 and a very local species in southern Britain. Nearby was a small patch of Polytrichum commune.

The group checked a small area of wet heath dominated by overgrown heather at the southern end of the site where John Norton had recorded Dicranum spurium (VU, CS, NS) during a heathland survey in 2002. After quite a bit of searching we eventually found two small patches. There were also several other typical heathland species here, including D. scoparium, Aulacomnium palustre, Pleurozium schreberi and three Sphagnum species in very small amounts. Aulacomnium androgynum was also found nearby.

New 10km square records (SU73) during the 2019 visits (18 May, 24 Nov) were: Archidium alternifolium, Drepanocladus aduncus, Lophocolea semiteres, Pogonatum urnigerum, Pohlia bulbifera, Sanionia uncinata, Ulota bruchii and Ulota crispa s.s.

Sanionia uncinata at Hogmoor Inclosure Dicranum spurium at Hogmoor Inclosure

Sunday 27th October 2019: Crockford Bottom marl pits, New Forest, Hampshire (joint meeting with Wessex Bryology Group). download report.

An excellent day with nice sunny weather and a good turnout. Campyliadelphus elodes (NS, CR), last seen here in 2010 by Des Callaghan, was found in three places, including the recently managed marl pit on the east side of the road (see photos). There are about four other sites in Hampshire, but recent records at only two of these, both in VC11. Large quantities of tuberous Bryums were present on pony-grazed damp acid grassland on the west side of the road, north of the stream. The consensus was that these comprised B. subapiculatum and B. bornholmense (CS), both being new for SZ39. A good selection of mosses of calcareous flushes was recorded, including Scorpidium cossonii, S. scorpioides, Palustriella falcata and Sphagnum contortum (all CS). Also of interest were records of several calicole liverworts and mosses on the calcareous clay around the ponds, including Leiocolea turbinata, Campyliadelphus chrysophyllus, Ditrichum gracile and Fissidens dubius. This is the only known site in the New Forest  or the first of these; the others are locally commo , particularly on old airfield sites. Another good find was Climacium dendroides (CS) in the turf by the car park. Also new for the 10km square (SZ39) were: Aulacomnium androgynum, Cryphaea heteromalla, Didymodon vinealis, Orthotrichum striatum, Polytrichastrum longisetum, Sphagnum fallax, Straminergon stramineum, Trichodon cylindricus and Ulota crispula.

marl pit at Crockford Bridge Campyliadelphus elodes