Saturday, 5 November 2016

South Wales gets Bigger

Having recently moved to Wales I thought I’d share some of the bryophytes near my new home but it would be stretching it a bit to call it South Wales!  We now live in Goginan which is about 6 miles east of Aberystwyth in one of the many valleys that penetrate into the Cambrian Mountains from the coast.  The stream here is the Melindwr which joins the better-known Rheidol a few miles downstream.  There is much evidence of mining in the valley, the local spoil heap having good quantities of Lophozia incisa under heather but none of the real specialities of some of the lead mines in the area.  Lane banks as you start walking upstream are notable for an abundance of Diphyscium foliosum and rock outcrops often have some Rhabdoweisia crispata cushions.  Further still up the valley the sides steepen and there are extensive rock outcrops.  Both Hedwigia stellata and H. integrifolia can be found here, the latter in impressive sheets over wide areas of rock.  Judging from the comments in Jeff Bates’ excellent book, this must surely be one of the best spots for it in this part of Wales so far discovered.  Many patches are over a foot across.

Also on these rocks are numerous cushions of Cynodontium bruntonii.  The mamillose cells are readily apparent in section but the way the leaves get markedly longer going up the shoot is proving to be a useful indicator in the field, at least for separating it from Dicranoweisia cirrata.  No rare Grimmias as far as I can see but will keep looking.

The valley opens out into moorland at the top with some very old sunken trackways.  The banks of these have fine colonies of bryophytes, in some places with good patches of Anastrepta orcadensis easily picked out from surrounding Barbilophozia floerkii by the dark brown gemmae.

On the vertical peat edges of one of the tracks, where cut by vehicle tyres, are tiny patches of Cladopodiella francisci, difficult to find buried under filamentous algae and surely much overlooked in this most unglamorous of habitats.  Another under-recorded moss on these tracks is Polytrichum commune var. perigoniale.
 I’ve spent many hours identifying Racomitrium spp.  To start with I couldn’t find anything other than R. affine but after cutting innumerable leaf sections, R. heterostichum was finally found but only on the rocks along the ridge at the top of the valley with all material from the valley sides proving to be R. affine.  Also on rocks at the top are many small cushions of R. sudeticum, hardly resembling the other members of this group.  I'll try and put some notes together on some of these segregates, including R. obtusum I hope, but I'm still learning at the moment!

I’ve followed in Sam’s footsteps to a few other sites nearby, particularly where basic rock intrudes through the very acid shales that dominate the geology here.  Bryn Bras proved an excellent spot and I refound most of Sam’s goodies but Sphagnum skyense eluded me.  I was able to add Cephalozia pleniceps from a small bog on the moorland above the cliffs and there was Barbilophozia atlantica on a boulder by the river.  The Bwlchglas mine still has Ditrichum plumbicola but clearly much reduced from 2005 when Sam described it as being abundant in the identical spot.  A walk to Craig y Pistyll via Banc y Garn got no further than Banc y Garn as the basic outcrops and flushes there were just too tempting with sheets of Preissia quadrata pointing the way.  Not much new for the site although a large colony of Rhabdoweisia crenulata was a nice way to end the day.

More news soon.  Tom.


  1. How different from Sussex! Nice to hear about your new environment

  2. Some lovely bryos there Tom, quite a few we don't see in the Southern part of Southern Wales ;-) I'm sure in good time we be pestering you to show us some these goodies, especially any you think may be found further south. C. Francisco is one species I've thought could be found locally, so any tips helping find it would be welcome.
    Anyway, it sounds like you've had no problem settling in and I look forward to more of your posts.

  3. It's great to have you contributing to the Blog, Tom, especially as your home patch is so different to mine in Monmouthshire or those of the Glamorgan trio.

    I spent quite a few weekends recording in northern Ceredigion with Arthur Chater in the mid/late 2000s, but there are very many sites that we didn't visit. Wide-ranging recording in Ceredigion should turn up lots of surprises, and your finds so far have included some very good stuff that I seldom found during my visits. Your large colony of Hedwigia integrifolia is particularly interesting, because it is so rare in VC46 and is unknown in VC44 (there are a couple of sites on the igneous rocks of VC45). Preissia is also very interesting, and I'm not sure I saw it at all in Ceredigion.

    Please blog regularly! Thanks.