Scotney Castle, East Sussex/West Kent (VC 14/16)

Meeting report of the South East group of the British Bryological Society, 25 October 2015

The first field meeting of the new season took us to the borderlands of Kent and Sussex. The Scotney castle estate was bought by the Hussey family in the eighteenth century and the present gardens around the old castle were laid out by Edward Hussey III in the mid-nineteenth century. Surrounding the ornamental gardens is over 100ha of woodland and parkland, all of which is now owned by the National Trust and which was the focus of our visit.

The part of the estate bounded by the river Bewl is one edge of a triangle of VC14 (East Sussex) sticking into the surrounding Kent landscape, which includes Kilndown wood, also part of the Hussey estate, and planted in the 1830s.[1]

Having previously undertaken several exploratory visits to the site, Jan Hendey led the meeting, taking in VC14 in the morning, and finishing off in VC16 in the latter part of the afternoon. Thirteen of us attended, including several beginners as well as very experienced bryologists, which gave many opportunities for teaching and revision throughout the day.

Picture of Plagiochila porelloides

Plagiochila porelloides

Starting off on the banks along the main route into the estate turned up a number of luxuriant patches of liverworts, Plagiochila porelloides, P. asplenioides, Diplophyllum albicans and, most significantly, Scapania nemorosa.

Picture of Diplophyllum albicans

Diplophyllum albicans

Picture of Scapania nemorosa

Scapania nemorosa

The mildly acid clay of the bank also supported some Cirriphyllum piliferum growing adjacent to Calliergonella cuspidatum, allowing the two to be compared, the former with its fine, abruptly-narrowing leaf tips, and the latter with rounded tips.

Picture of Cirriphyllum piliferum

Cirriphyllum piliferum

The side of a track on the edge of Colliers wood gave us a related and much more scarce species to examine. The upright, somewhat flattened stems of Calliergonella lindbergii, together with its curving, tapering leaves certainly had a different habit compared with the more common species.

Picture of Homalia trichomanoides

Homalia trichomanoides

Moving deeper into the wood a small patch of Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus was found, as well as Homalia trichomanoides on the base of a Sweet Chestnut stump. Another interesting find was Ctenidium molluscum, which occurs in a few Wealden clay woods.

Picture of Microlejeunea ulicina

The tiny liverwort Microlejeunea ulicina

Picture of Pseudephemerum nitidum and Tortula truncata

Bottom left, small capsules of Pseudephemerum nitidum with the larger fruiting Tortula truncata

After lunch our route took us across the parkland, in which there were many small patches of acrocarps along the path edge on sandy clay. In addition to the extensive mats of Tortula truncata were found Pseudephemerum nitidum, Trichodon cylindricus, Ephemerum minutissimum, Dicranella varia and several Bryums. However, the highlight of the day was undoubtedly Acaulon muticum, which had not been recorded in Sussex or neighbouring counties for more than 50 years. Tom Blockeel has since confirmed the record, and noted the following features that differentiate it from the even rarer A. mediterraneum:

“the spores are just about mature enough to confirm that they are not spiny. I found a capsule in which the spores were finely papillose, though still pale and colourless. For a moss that is quite widespread, Acaulon seems to be inexplicably rare.”

Picture of Acaulon muticum

Acaulon muticum

Picture of bryologists examining Acaulon muticum

Examining Acaulon muticum

Gradually approaching the Kent border we found Pseudoscleropodium purum, which afforded yet another teaching opportunity, demonstrating its rounded overlapping leaves with a small crown of points at the shoot tip.

Picture of bryologists

Crossing the Sweetbourne stream

Still not quite in Kent, the bridge over the Sweetbourne stream was the home to Barbula sardoa, Didymodon insulanus and D. luridus, as well as Gyroweisia tenuis and the omnipresent Tortula muralis and Homalothecium sericeum.

Picture of bryologists

Crowding around Hylocomium splendens

Finally in VC16 and Jan proudly showed us a magnificent huge mat of Hylocomium splendens (with a little bit of Pleurozium schreberi mixed in specially for all lovers of red-stemmed pleurocarps). What was only a relatively small colony a few years ago now extends some 5m along the bank by the side of the path.

Picture of Hylocomium splendens

Hylocomium splendens

Among the other finds in Kilndown wood were Pohlia wahlenbergii and P. melanodon, growing near each other on one of the rutted tracks.

Picture of Pohlia wahlenbergii var. wahlenbergii

Pohlia wahlenbergii

At this stage the light was just beginning to go, so we headed back to the car park. It was a very enjoyable day with a very friendly group, and I hope the new members are enthused enough to come to the next meeting.

[1] “Scotney Castle.” National Heritage List for England. Historic England, n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2015. <>.

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