Shropshire Botanical Society Newsletter Spring 2021, No. 42

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Shropshire Botanical Society Newsletter

Spring 2021


Shropshire Botanical Society Newsletter No. 42 Contacts

Contents Society News – notes from the Chair

Mags Cousins..................................................................3

Newsletter Commissioning Editor: Andrew Perry email: andrew.perrynt@gmail.com

Field Meetings Programme 2021

Dan Wrench....................................................................4

SBS Spring 2021 Quiz

Secretary: Penny Wysome, 2 Christine Ave., Wellington, Telford, TF1 2DX. Tel. 01952 242617, email: pennywysome@yahoo.com

Compiled by Ruth Dawes..............................................5

The Stepping Stones Project overview

Charlie Bell......................................................................6

Membership Secretary: Martin Godfrey Enquiries to: mfgodfrey49@gmail.com

Cudwell Meadow - an unusual plant community for South Shropshire

Vice-county Recorder: Sarah Whild, 9 Albert Street, Shrewsbury, SY1 2HT. Email: sarah.whild@bsbi.org

Mike Carter.....................................................................9

Recording in Date Class 7

Alex Lockton.................................................................13

Wishes for improving botanical conservation in Shropshire

Past copies of the newsletter are available as pdfs from the Shropshire Botanical Society website: http://www.shropshirebotany.org.uk

Ian Trueman..................................................................14

Mires of the Long Mynd: Part 1

Any opinions expressed in this newsletter are those of the various authors, and are not necessarily those of the Society. Ordnance Survey maps reproduced under licence No. 100040428.

Andrew Perry................................................................16

Front Cover: Wild Daffodils in a Lime coppice near Bridgnorth (John Handley)

Our thanks to the Shropshire Wildlife Trust and the Field Studies Council for their generous support of our society. Both organisations support the work of the society in recognition of the importance of the contribution we make to understanding Shropshire botany. 2


Society News – notes from the Chair Mags Cousins The biggest news for the Society this year is that we let a contract to James Drever of Careful Digital to develop an online tool for interrogating the botanical records held in the Shropshire Ecological Data Network dataset, and this will be done via the NBN Atlas API. That was bit of a mouthful but basically it means that we will be able to easily search for species at a site, county or square resolution from a laptop or mobile device, using our own curated botanical data. We are delighted to be working with James who used to be an IT manager at the Field Studies Council, and is therefore immersed in the biological recording community and sees the future potential of this tool for us and for other recording groups into the future.

Meetings

Below: Mock-up of what the online flora tool will look like

“Three years into the North West Rare Plant Initiative”

It may have taken a global pandemic to force us into going online for the entire year, but it was actually great fun too and it was lovely to see all of those who joined in. We will be sticking with Zoom for forthcoming spring meeting but thereafter we hope to resume field meetings at some point during the season. Spring Meeting 2–4pm, Sat. 24th April, by Zoom We don’t need to do any society business as we held an AGM not that long ago in September last year, so we can go straight to the fun bit. It will be our pleasure to welcome the irrepressible, inexhaustible force for botany Josh Styles to give us an insight into the work he has been doing for the North West Rare Plants Initiative. The talk will be:

The NWRPI aims to cultivate and reintroduce

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vascular plant species on the brink of extinction at a regional level, where suitable situations exist. Josh’s talk will explore what NWRPI has achieved and learnt across the past three years including 50 rare plant reintroductions. Josh is a skilled botanist, trainer and tremendous advocate for rare plant conservation, it is sure to be an inspiring talk. Zoom invites will automatically be emailed to members nearer the time, but guests are very welcome to join in and hear the talk, so just message us: shropsbotsoc@gmail.com and we will send your friends an invite.

Field Meetings Programme 2021 Dan Wrench It is quite likely that even when field events resume we will be restricted to six people or some other magic number and will have to do the outings by prior booking. The Field Meetings Programme will look something like this but please stay in touch through Facebook, Twitter and the Shropshire Botanical Society website, in particular to check that they are going ahead and what the booking arrangements will be: Saturday 1 May. Earl’s Hill. Meet at 11:00 am in the car park at SJ409057. This will be the perfect time of year to see the wonderful woodland flowers plus the spring ephemerals in the acid grassland. The walk will have some steep climbs and spectacular views. For further information about the meeting please contact Andrew Perry, andrew.perrynt@gmail.com. Saturday 29 May. Brook Vessons Farm and Paulith Bank. Meet at 10:00 am in the farm yard at SJ395012. Parking spaces are limited so please car share where possible. For further information about the meeting please contact Dan Wrench, 07718391794, danwrench@gmail.com

Josh Styles

Sunday 6 June. Muxton Marsh. Meet at 11:00 am in Woodbine Close. This is a cul-de-sac off Marshbrook Way, Muxton at SJ7146 1351. Park between drive ways as discreetly as possible. For further information about the meeting please contact Penny Wysome, 01952 242617, pennywysome@yahoo.com

A note from the editor Thanks very much for sending in your articles, quiz questions, photos and other items for the newsletter. If you’d like to submit something for a future edition, please feel free to email me at andrewperrynt@gmail.com . We hope to resume Martin’s fern identification series in autumn (due to restrictions on field work it was not possible to get the necessary photographs in time for this edition). Thanks also to the Shropshire Botanical Society for welcoming me into the committee, and to Gordon Leel whose publishing skills make this newsletter possible!

Sunday 27 June. Smiling Tree Farm, Chapel Lawn, Cardoc and Bryncambric. Meet at 11:00 am in the farm yard at SO 3162 7582. Please car share where possible. You will see meadows, streamside vegetation, and upland acid grassland / heath. For further information about the meeting please contact Mags Cousins, 07873 532681, mags@bagbatch.co.uk

Best wishes, Andrew Perry.

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Saturday 10 July. Clive Churchyard and Grinshill. Meet at 10:00 am at Clive Church at SJ5146 2408. Please car share where possible as there are only a few parking places alongside Drawwell Street, just north of the Church. The access will be very easy in the churchyard for the first part of the walk and moderate going for the walk up Grinshill. It will be a mix of recording and training. Attending for just an hour or two in the churchyard is fine. For further information about the meeting please contact Andrew Perry, andrew.perrynt@gmail.com.

SBS Spring 2021 Quiz Compiled by Ruth Dawes I know you all love my cryptic quizzes so here is a bit of help – two, three and nineteen are all anagrams. The lignin thickens for a while at 13.

1. Sad ringer. (8) 2. Crave bums. (9) 3. Climate’s wrong for this climber. (8)

Sunday 18 July. Secret Hills Discovery Centre, Meadows. Meet at 10:00 am in the car park at SO434824. We’ll be focusing on the meadows for the morning, finishing at 1pm. For further information about the meeting please contact Mags Cousins, 07873 532681, mags@bagbatch.co.uk

4. Unfinished Lycopodium. (11.8)

Saturday 20 November. Microscopy for botanists. 10.00–1600hrs. Meet at the FSC Centre at Preston Montford, Montford Bridge, Shrewsbury SY4 1DX. This is an indoor training/ practice event in the use of microscopy for botany. Specimens will be available but do bring your own to use and share. Microscopes and equipment will be provided but again do bring your own if you would prefer to use it or would like advice on use. I recommend that you bring your own x10 lens and forceps if you have them. We will cover dissection, preparation and examination of flowering plants and ferns (bryophytes if needed) and I am happy to try and cover any particular requests, especially if you let me know in advance. The usual FSC hot drinks will be available but you will need to bring a packed lunch. Donations to help Bot Soc cover the room hire would be welcome. Contact Martin Godfrey mfgodfrey49@gmail.com.

8. Rust on motor (6)

5. The Plantagenet monarchs took their name from this genus. (7) 6. Advice to spinster who wants to get rich in the corn. (8) 7. Was this carnation ever really discovered in east London? (8.4) 9. Plays the last post. (5) 10. Spirited horse wears a cross. (6) 11. Regrets it’s a herb in a field. (6-3) 12. A curse on the “Spanish” grass. (6) 13. The floating White House. (1.1.1.7.) 14. Young Harry Potter lived here at No 4. (6.5) 15. Chased by Apollo, then she turned into a laurel. (6) 16. This twister spins a good yarn. (7) 17. This shieldbug shares its name with a conifer. (7) 18. Which tree is associated with the place name BEDW? (5) 19. Can this group of plants catch Coronavirus? (11) 20. COVID plus an R and the smell will lead you to this bulb. (4.6.) No prizes of books on gin this time, the answers are elsewhere in Newsletter.

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The Stepping Stones Project overview Charlie Bell grasslands and broadleaved woodland, and linking them by a network of wildlife-rich hedgerows, road verges, hillsides and streamside wetlands. Stepping Stones has been over twenty years in development, with a range of partners working together including the NFU, CLA, Natural England, DEFRA, Shropshire Hills AONB Partnership, Shropshire Wildlife Trust and Middle Marches Community Land Trust. Most importantly in this agricultural landscape, we have the support of a reference group of local farmers who are highly engaged with the project. Stepping Stones is currently led by the National Trust, who have secured funding to employ two project staff: Andrew Hearle and Charlie Bell.

What is Stepping Stones? Stepping Stones is a landscape-scale nature conservation project. The project area covers more than 200 km² within the Shropshire Hills AONB, stretching from the Stretton Hills in the west to the Stiperstones ridge in the east. The aim of the project is to restore or create ‘stepping stones’ and corridors of wildlife habitat between the two core sites of Long Mynd and the Stiperstones, and beyond. This means creating or improving areas of heathland, flower-rich

Why is Stepping Stones needed? For centuries traditional, low intensity livestock farming created a beautiful landscape in south Shropshire, with a wealth of natural features and

Stepping Stones Project Area

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The Stepping Stones programme is supporting and building on the good work of established local community groups such as the Marches Meadow Group, Restoring Shropshire’s Verges, Caring for God’s Acre, four local community wildlife groups, Butterfly Conservation and Shropshire Dormouse Group. These groups are undertaking environmental work that enhances the quality, quantity and connectedness of wildlife habitats within the Shropshire Hills. Stepping Stones is helping these groups extend their reach and impact. We also work closely with the Middle Marches Community Land Trust, who have ambitions to acquire and manage several key ‘stepping stones’ within the project area.

wildlife. However, the difficulties of farming with poor soils, harsh weather and challenging market conditions, coupled with the current system of grants and subsidies, have brought about changes that have negatively impacted the landscape and its wildlife. Some areas of habitat have been lost completely; others have been damaged or reduced in size. Many linking features such as hedgerows, road verges, field trees and streams have also been destroyed, isolating the remaining habitat patches. The Long Mynd and the Stiperstones have become cut off from each other ecologically. The effect of these changes is that many species such as Dormouse Muscardinus avellanarius, Curlew Numenius arquata, Mountain Pansy Viola lutea and Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary Boloria selene are in decline or have been lost completely from the area. The area’s mosaic of upland and lowland habitats means it will also be on the frontier of climate change. We anticipate seeing existing species moving north and uphill, with new species migrating in from the south and the lowland. This makes the need for connectivity within the landscape more important, to facilitate these movements and prevent extinctions.

There is a lot of momentum and existing activity within the project area, being delivered by many different organisations and individuals including statutory bodies, NGOs, community groups, landowners and volunteers. There is a need to coordinate this activity and ensure that duplication is minimised. To be most effective for nature these efforts must complement each other and contribute towards a strategic vision for the landscape – this coordination is a key role for the Stepping Stones project.

Working with farmers

Meadows and verges Neutral grassland is a target habitat for the project. Stepping Stones works closely with the Marches Meadow Group to help facilitate meadow creation and hay meadow management. In 2020, this included funding the purchase of mowing, baling and seed collecting equipment, running volunteer

The future of the Shropshire Hills depends on thriving farms which produce high quality food and take care of the landscape. We are working with local farmers to explore ways of managing the land that create a healthy natural environment, restore the characteristic landscape of the area and increase wildlife as an integral part of a profitable farm business. If the approach is a success, it will influence Government’s thinking about future approaches to payment schemes and farm planning that support farmers in delivering sustainable environmental outcomes (‘Environment Land Management (ELM) schemes’).

Working with local communities To be successful we also need to work closely with the communities who live and work within the project area, as well as with those who visit for outdoor recreation. We are trialling approaches to community volunteering on farms as well as in the wider landscape.

Green hay before being collected and spread at a new meadow site (Charlie Bell)

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Ratlinghope churchyard in July 2020, a valuable Stepping Stone (Charlie Bell)

work parties to collect and distribute green hay from species-rich meadows to be spread on new meadow sites, and providing yellow rattle seed to help reduce the vigour of coarse grasses and allow finer grasses and flower species to thrive. The National Trust is also directly managing various meadow stepping stones in the project area, at Ragleth, Jinlye and Asterton.

regime to track progress as they become more floristically diverse. Look out for RSVP’s ‘Don’t Mow let it Grow’ signs in south Shropshire!

More information To find out more about Stepping Stones, or to get involved, please email project officer Charlie Bell (charlie.bell@nationaltrust.org.uk) or visit the project website: nationaltrust.org.uk/cardingmill-valley-and-the-long-mynd/features/steppingstones-project

Our vision is for these local meadows to be linked by a series of linear wildflower meadows – along the area’s road verges! The Restoring Shropshire’s Verges Project (RSVP) has made great progress in the last 12 months, appointing a committee and agreeing a constitution, developing a social media presence, producing a film about the area’s verges, liaising with Shropshire Council and agreeing changes to a late summer ‘cut and collect’ regime along 10km of verges in south Shropshire. In addition, with the help of equipment funded through Stepping Stones, RSVP now manage a series of ‘demonstration verges’ throughout the area. These verges have an ongoing monitoring 8


Cudwell Meadow - an unusual plant community for South Shropshire Mike Carter

World’s End Wetlands, Church Stretton

wet meadows and alder wet woodland. British Geological Society records of boreholes sunk in 1961 indicate, in places, peat deposits of up to 4m in depth. The advent of the Shrewsbury to Hereford railway in 1845 to the east of the wetlands required several drainage ditches across the valley to speed the flow of water down to the Onny. Old photos from the late 19th, early 20th century suggest the wetlands had dried and become reasonable pasture. However in recent decades the ditches have silted up and blocked, with the area reverting to wetlands that regularly flood, to marshy grassland, rush meadow, swamp, and willow and alder scrub. These habitats are home to Water Vole, visiting Otter, many interesting species of invertebrate and amphibian and occasional water birds, including Snipe, Kingfisher, Little Egret, Grey Wagtail and a range of resident and migratory songbirds and raptors.

Church Stretton lies at the headwaters of Town Brook and Cound Brook. While only 500m apart, Cound Brook flows north through Coppice Leasowes Nature Reserve to join the River Severn at Cound, while Town Brook flows south to join the Onny and Teme, eventually joining the Severn at Worcester. Look at the OS map, or a satellite photo, of the Church Stretton valley and you will see an unbuilton patch just south of the town. These are known locally as the Stretton or World’s End Wetlands. This is 11 hectares of ancient wetlands fed by two catchments; to the west the immediate valley sides of the Long Mynd, to the east, the slopes of Ragleth Hill. In the middle of the valley lies the flat-topped Brockhurst Hill rising about 50m above the present valley floor. It looks like a glacial drumlin, but rather it is Longmyndian shale left isolated as meltwaters carved southwards through weaker strata. About 13,000 years ago a small glacial lake formed behind Brockhurst Hill and moraine debris.

The 11ha of wetlands are divided into a number of small fields belonging to 5 different landowners (see Figure 1). The Strettons Area Community Wildlife Group carried out flora and fauna surveys in 2016 coordinated by the Shropshire Wildlife Trust. This resulted in half the wetlands area (Fields 6 and 9) being designated a Local Wildlife Site. In 2017 the Strettons Wetlands Interest Group (SWIG) together with Shropshire Council built a boardwalk across the valley.

The lake in time silted and became a raised peat bog which through vegetation succession and human activity developed into the mixed habitats indicated on the 1840 tithe map: eel pools,

Cudwell Meadow (Grid Ref: SO449932) One field (Field 5) of about 1ha came up for sale early in 2020. SWIG joined with the Middle Marches Community Land Trust to launch an appeal to purchase the field. The appeal was successful in spite of covid lockdown, and purchase was completed late 2020. The field, known only as The Meadow on the tithe map, was renamed Cudwell Meadow after a spring higher on the Long Mynd which drains into the field. The field is a meadow by name only. For many years it has been seasonally grazed by sheep. Town (aka Quinny) Brook runs along the north edge of the field. In recent years to reduce flood risk to local properties,

Figure 1: World’s End Wetlands; Cudwell Meadow circled.

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Species were recorded and data from forty nine 1m2 quadrats were collected. Quadrat data were analysed using the software programme MAVIS (Modular Analysis of Vegetation Information System), to determine community types within the National Vegetation Classification (NVC) system.

the Environment Agency (EA) has annually excavated the brook, desilting, deepening and significantly widening its profile. This work has been done from the field side with the result that a vegetated bund has developed from the spoil. The brook water level, particularly when in spate, can be at or above the level of the field. At one point near the west end of the field overhanging branches of willow trees have restricted access for the EA excavator with the result that no bund has formed and the brook regularly overflows at this point into Cudwell Meadow. In addition during periods of high rainfall the wetlands to the east drain into the meadow. As a result much of the field is regularly inundated, parts for more than 6 months a year, other parts for 3 months. Land level contours vary across the field by only about 3 metres; nevertheless these contours are highly significant when it comes to inundation and plant community types.

a) Diversity 145 vascular plant species were recorded in Cudwell Meadow. Species recorded included six Shropshire axiophytes: i) Prickly Sedge Carex muricata ssp. pairae; rare in the meadow ii) Bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta; occasional iii) Yellow Archangel Lamiastrum galeobdolon; occasional iv) Changing Forget-me-not Myosotis discolor; rare v) Creeping Forget-me-not Myosotis secunda; frequent vi) Marsh Speedwell Veronica scutellata; occasional. 145 species is an encouraging number for a field of less than a hectare. This probably reflects two main factors: i) Management in recent decades. The field has not, so far as is known, been cultivated, resown or received artificial fertiliser for several decades. ii) Inundation. Different parts of the field spend between 0–12 months under water and diversity is enhanced by this spectrum of conditions.

For the past decade at least, the field has been let for sheep grazing most months of the year. Prior to that, we are told by local residents, the field was sometimes used for grazing and stabling ponies.

Vegetation survey findings The former landowner gave permission for bio surveys to be carried out during summer 2020. Preliminary visits were made in early summer to look for spring ephemerals and to roughly map the vegetation. Most of the surveying was carried out on 7th July.

Figure 2: Vegetation communities.

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b) Plant Communities

3) Meadow or pasture?

Plant community stands clearly relate strongly to contour and inundation; the depth and duration of flooding, especially in the spring.

Is it best managed as meadow (i.e. excluding livestock in spring and early summer to make hay) or as pasture? In recent decades the field has been managed as pasture grazed by sheep. It is this management that has led to the current diversity, so there is a case for continuing with the same. On the other hand some areas are relatively species-poor, in particular MG10 and the woodland margin mostly covered in bracken. The Management Team has decided to make hay in some areas to improve, vegetation diversity and communities.

MG5

Cynosurus cristatus-Centaurea nigra grassland

MG6

Lolium perenne-Cynosurus cristatus grassland

MG10

Holcus lanatus-Juncus effusus rush-pasture

OV28

Agrostis stolonifera-Ranunculus repens community

OV28a

Agrostis stolonifera-Ranunculus repens community, Persicaria hydropiper-Rorippa sylvestris sub-community

OV29

Alopecurus geniculatus-Rorippa palustris community

S22

Glyceria fluitans water-margin vegetation

4) Grazing which livestock, at what stocking density and when? For the next few years at least, the intention is for sheep to graze the aftermath following haymaking. The Management Team will assess other options

Some communities, in particular OV28 and OV29 are not common in South Shropshire. These open vegetation communities can be important as grazing marshes for wintering wildfowl and waders in the spring. The biodiversity value of the field is such that Local Wildlife Site status has been applied for. Two adjacent fields in the Worlds End Wetlands were awarded LWS designation in 2017. At the time, Cudwell Meadow was not surveyed in detail.

Management Issues This survey will help inform the Management Plan for Cudwell Meadow. Some issues for the Management Team to consider include: 1) Control inundation? Currently water ingress is uncontrolled; when the brook overflows it floods the meadow. There is a case for increasing the amount and duration of inundation from Town Brook. This would offer offline floodwater storage and help reduce peak flow, so would reduce flood risk to nearby houses. Some form of sluice could be installed. Since the brook is classified as a ‘main river’, the Management Team is in discussion with the Environment Agency regarding this and other flood risk mitigation options. 2) Excavate scrapes or ponds? There are substantial sewage and storm drain pipes under Cudwell Meadow so it is unlikely that excavation of scrapes or ponds is possible. However this may be feasible in other areas of the World’s End Wetlands.

(Mike Carter)

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Cudwell Meadow (Mike Carter)

References

e.g. of young conservation breed store cattle. It is important that stock are removed as soon as the ground becomes inundated and becomes poached. Flooding can happen suddenly even in the summer and getting a stock owner to remove animals quickly may be an issue.

Toghill, P. (2006) The Geology of Shropshire, Crowood Press (2nd Ed) p248 British Geological Society borehole records http://mapapps2.bgs.ac.uk/geoindex/home.html Accessed January 2021

5) Aliens and ‘weeds’?

Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, (2015). Modular Analysis of Vegetation Information System (MAVIS). Online at: http://www.ceh.ac.uk/ services/modular-analysis-vegetation-informationsystem-mavis Accessed July 2020

What, if anything, to do about ‘weeds’? E.g. nettles, bracken, docks and ragwort. This is an on-going debate in conservation. Most important is the alien New Zealand Pigmyweed Crassula helmsii. This is present in an area of about 300 sqm in total. Eradication is probably impossible. It needs monitoring and experimenting, for example, by altering the grazing regime.

Lockton, A.J. and Whild, S.J. (2015) The Flora and Vegetation of Shropshire. Shropshire Botanical Society

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Recording in Date Class 7 Alex Lockton It is very useful to be able to group records into date classes, particularly if you want to be able to work out which plants are increasing and which are decreasing. Until 2000, there was no standard unit for recording time-periods – people just made them up as they liked. Some county floras simply cover periods of 50 years or more, and some did not even distinguish plants that were recorded hundreds of years ago with what was there now. But since 2000, we make sure all records fall into decade-long date classes, and flora groups are supposed to try to make equal numbers of records in each period. Date Class 7 is the period 2020-2029, inclusive. To make this decade a challenge, I’d like to suggest that we focus on eradicating shanklins from the county. A ‘shanklin’ is a monad (1 km x 1 km square) which has no records ever; a hole in the botany layer, if you like. They are named after Jon Shanklin, who has been an enthusiastic hunter of such lacunae for us over the last decade or so. The map (below) of all recorded monads in our database reveals quite a number of these shanklins lurking in the shadowy corners of the county. (N.B., we do have records for every part of the county, but many are at tetrad level, which means we can’t be sure what was in each particular monad.)

Shanklins in v.c. 40 (January 2021)

The challenge for DC7 – if you choose to accept it – is to visit each of these squares and make a decent list of plants. It would be pointless to just record one species. We know very well that the common species are there, and we could safely fill in the gaps with records of Poa annua. But we don’t know if there are any axiophytes or rarities, so a decent effort is required to make it worthwhile. If anyone would like to take on this challenge, feel free to check with me whether the monad you choose is still available. For those who are interested, there are 3740 monads or partial monads in v.c. 40, of which 455 are shanklins. The best-recorded monad of all time is SJ4912 (Shrewsbury) with 608 species, and the richest is (was) SJ4034 (The Moors at Ellesmere) with 140 axiophytes over the years. Happy hunting! 13


Wishes for improving botanical conservation in Shropshire Ian Trueman already been lost and a further 133 damaged. I do not suppose that a repeat survey would bring many nice surprises, but it would at least give a lot more numbers to use in trying to protect what’s left. In particular, combined with maps of axiophyte species and Dan Wrench’s Opportunity Maps and satellite-derived data they would allow the further objective identification of the ecological network as it currently exists across the Shropshire landscape. This would be of enormous value in constructing a nature recovery network for the whole county. Adequately funded, it would also offer a wonderful opportunity for a new generation of ecologists and botanists (one might allow a few entomologists and ornithologists along also) to become expert. I’m told that Dan Wrench has been thinking about this also, so maybe it is a bit more than just a wish.

John Handley has asked me to make some of my own wishes on this topic – greatly aided by Fiona Gomersall’s thoughtful ideas on the same subject last time. My three are in addition to (and in part a development of) Fiona’s excellent items. My first wish would be for a new field-by-field survey of the county. When I was dragooned into helping with the first Shropshire Flora (happy day!) in the 1970s it was a place with many astounding highlights but the work on the general matrix of diversity was just beginning. That first Flora laid a firm foundation, and in addition Will Prestwood, the first (part-time) employee of the Wildlife Trust, undertook a field-by-field survey of the whole county in 1978 to 1980 together with Ed Owens, Pat Parker, John Albery, Catriona Paskell, Teresa Mahoney and Chris Leon, with further help from good old Manpower Services. The Museums Services at Ludlow, headed by Diana Kingham, surveyed the 10km squares in the south-east of the county. Some interesting names in that list! Somehow they covered over a million acres and this formed a ‘Domesday’ account of the county. From this directly sprang the county’s Wildlife Sites list and it formed an invaluable picture at a crucial time of change. Will says ‘It’s hard to recall now the sheer scale of change which was occurring in the 70s and 80s with drainage, ploughing, hedge removal and the like. Indeed, carrying out the survey was at times traumatic. I remember finding a group of acid grassland meadows in the Clun Forest full of Viola lutea and the like which had entirely disappeared when I returned a few weeks later, meadows, hedges and all. And watching Marehay Marsh below the Stiperstones being drained, with Narthecium, Viola palustris etc. being ploughed under. Awful!’

My second wish connects with the analyses I did for the new Flora and Vegetation of Shropshire, which suggested to me that there is a another layer of botanical loss in the county, in the diversity associated with marginal habitats in the lowlands such as roadsides. Plants such as Cowslip Primula veris and Crosswort Cruciata laevipes, many of them not axiophytes but still nevertheless associated with relatively low, open vegetation of higher botanical diversity are suffering significant declines and more and more interminable stretches of Cow Parsley Anthriscus sylvestris and False Oatgrass Arrhenatherum elatius are appearing along our roads. The problem is general eutrophication – in this case probably mainly associated with nitrogen emanating from the use of diesel fuels. The problem, of course, extends much further than roadsides. The farmers are not blameless, although they are much more careful with fertilisers than in the past. Another infuriating source is the innocent-sounding Combined Sewer Overflow, which allows our water companies to discharge untreated sewage into a vast array of water courses in times of flood. So many of our most cherished

These processes continued, and because of the survey the Wildlife Trust was able to produce Losing Ground in 1989 which showed that of the 750 sites catalogued from the survey, 95 had 14


plant communities are associated with soils and substrates with low levels of available phosphates and nitrogen compounds and these are everywhere being flooded with fertility and becoming dominated by much narrower ranges of more competitive species. So my second wish is that human beings will learn very quickly to keep their fertility much more to themselves. Maybe, with the advent of the electric car, there is something to hope for, but time is of the essence!

Quiz Answers

My third wish is for much more emphasis on alliance and interaction. It is not always easy and not all specialists are as tolerant and cooperative as all botanists are, without exception. However around the county there is a vast array of ornithologists, entomologists, geologists, archaeologists, historians, soil scientists, artists, musicians, educationists and rural economists (and more of whom I have omitted or am ignorant) who are all, at heart, driven by the same desire to conserve, protect and celebrate the natural world. In these days of climate change we need to start winning more often. How much stronger a force we would be if we all worked together! Bluebells (Bethany Perry)

ANSWERS to SBS Spring 2021 Quiz Compiled by Ruth Dawes 1. Bluebell. 2. Verbascum. 3. Clematis. 4. Interrupted Clubmoss. 5. Genista. 6. Marigold. 7. Deptford Pink. 8. Carrot. 9. Bugle. 10. Arabis. 11. Meadow-rue. 12. Darnel. 13. U.S.S. Sequoia. 14. Privet Drive. 15. Daphne. 16. Spindle. 17. Juniper. 18. Birch. 19. Carnivorous. 20. Crow Garlic.

Crosswort (Sarah Whild)

Juniper (Ruth Dawes)

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Mires of the Long Mynd: Part 1 Andrew Perry hostiana. Carnation Sedge Carex panicea is the most frequent, usually accompanied by Glaucous Sedge Carex flacca, Common Yellow Sedge Carex demissa and Common Sedge Carex nigra. Joined Rush Juncus articulatus, Bulbous Rush Juncus bulbosus and Common Cottongrass Eriophorum angustifolium are common, and less frequently calcicoles (calcium-loving plants) such as Fewflowered Spike-rush Eleocharis quinqueflora and Quaking Grass Briza media can be found.

Mires form the most botanically diverse parts of Long Mynd Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), with 51 axiophytes recorded in monitoring plot data, along with eight nationally notable bryophytes. This article covers the vegetation of the sedge and valley mire communities, and in Part 2, I will discuss the vegetation around springs and soakaways. As an ecologist for the National Trust, I’ve been involved in monitoring these special habitats and I’ve tried to summarise some of the key information below. Data on mosses and liverworts are mostly taken from reports by Des Callaghan (2012–2014), detailed surveys commissioned by Natural England.

Notable herbs include the sticky and carnivorous Common Butterwort Pinguicula vulgaris, Bog Pimpernel Anagallis tenella, Marsh Valerian Valeriana dioica, Lousewort Pedicularis sylvatica and Marsh Lousewort Pedicularis palustris (although I’ve yet to find the latter!). Of the bryophytes, Scorpidium mosses are abundant (mostly S. cossonii here), along with Bryum pseudotriquetrum, Ctenidium molluscum, Calliergonella cuspidata, Campylium stellatum, Philonotis fontana and Aneura pinguis.

Mires are usually dominated by combinations of sedges, rushes and bryophytes, and the composition of species can vary greatly depending on the water source, soil type, underlying geology, altitude, topography, grazing levels and geographic location. For a guide on separating the upland mire communities that occur in Shropshire see the article by Hilary Wallace in the spring 2013 newsletter, available via the Shropshire Botanical Society website.

In terms of National Vegetation Classification (NVC), these mires as best described as M10

Base-rich sedge mires These occur where calcium-enriched but oligotrophic (nutrient-poor) water flushes the soil, and are an unexpected but welcome find on the Long Mynd. Despite most of the underlying geology being fairly acidic, the water is picking up dissolved bases from somewhere and water testing at such sites by Callaghan (2012) found an average pH of 7. These mires are often very small in extent, sometimes only a few square metres, but can be recognised by their short, patchy sward of small sedges scattered amongst ‘brown mosses’. Sphagna are rare in this habitat. On the Long Mynd, they occur at a range of altitudes from the foot slopes of Townbrook Hollow to the heads of the valleys on the plateau, wherever suitable water emerges from springs or seepages. Some of our less common sedges occur here including Dioecious Sedge Carex dioica, Flea Sedge Carex pulicaris and Tawny Sedge Carex

Bog Pimpernel and Scorpidium moss (Peter and Jane Howsam)

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Carex dioica - Pinguicula vulgaris mire. This is predominantly a community of north-western Britain, commonly on limestone or other base-rich substrates (Rodwell, 1991). However, there are some notable differences in the Long Mynd type: P. vulgaris and C. dioica occur at a lower frequency; Anagallis tenella is frequent, which does not feature in the NVC floristic table for M10; Mat-grass Nardus stricta is more common; Lesser Clubmoss Selaginella selaginoides doesn’t occur in this region, and; Long-stalked Yellow Sedge Carex lepidocarpa, which is rare in the county (Lockton and Whild, 2015), is replaced by C. demissa. The latter substitution has been reported to occur in less base-rich stands and at higher altitudes (Elkington et al., 2001), and is frequent in M10a, the Carex demissa – Juncus bulbosus sub-community. The original NVC sampling only recorded M10a in the far north of England and in Scotland, although it has been reported to occur on Hope Bowdler and Caer Caradoc (Holland, 2011) where stands were lacking C. dioica and had lower frequencies of Brum pseudotriquetrum and Aneura pinguis.

Whilst the Long Mynd stands also have the increased presence of Juncus bulbosus in M10a, they also share some similarities with the more calcicolous M10 samples with higher frequencies of Carex flacca, Briza media, Euphrasia sp., Bryum pseudotriquetrum, Ctenidium molluscum, Calliergonella cuspidata, and grassland species such as Autumn Hawkbit Scorzoneroides autumnalis, Self-heal Prunella vulgaris and Yorkshire Fog Holcus lanatus. This extends to other grassland plants not in the NVC table for M10 including Daisy Bellis perennis, White Clover Trifolium repens and Crested Dog’s-tail Cynosurus cristatus, possibly reflecting the lower altitude of our mires, historic grazing levels or sampling issues. Scorpidium scorpoides occurs at a reduced frequency on the Long Mynd examples. Despite the variation in these Shropshire Hills stands, the uniting feature is the abundance of Anagallis tenella and they were best described by Hilary Wallace (2013) as a southern expression of M10 that requires further study. Such examples

Bog Asphodel (Peter and Jane Howsam)

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Bird’s-foot Trefoil Lotus pedunculatus, and without the more acidic mosses. However, this distinction is not always so apparent on the Long Mynd where the two communities often merge and form mosaics in the valleys. The abundance of J. effusus in the Long Mynd mires is likely a result of historic overgrazing and burning, with the M23 possibly representing a degraded form of M6 (Iain Diack, pers. comm.). M6b, the Nardus stricta sub-community, is present where rushes are less frequent and N. stricta grows amongst Sphagna and Carex echinata, C. nigra, C. panicea and C. pulicaris. The Long Mynd M6 is often lacking in species , although more distinctive stands can occur in places such as Catbatch, Wildmoor and Colliersford Gutter where Purple Moor-grass Molinia caerulea, Bog Asphodel Narthecium ossifragum and Eriophorum angustifolium can occur locally, and more rarely with Hare’s-tail Cottongrass Eriophorum vaginatum and Round-leaved Sundew Drosera rotundifolia. This north-western side of the plateau has a more substantial cover of peat (over 1m deep in places), whereas the majority of the Long Mynd has mineral soils with a much reduced peat cover. However, the fly-catching D. rotundifolia is also present in the eastern valleys, often near seepages at lower altitudes.

Round-leaved Sundew (Peter and Jane Howsam)

may also be present in Wales and the Peak District (Iain Diack, pers. comm.). Other sedge communities that lack formal definition also occur on the Long Mynd, which Des Callaghan referred to as ‘neutral flush’. He describes these as: “somewhat intermediate between M6 and M10, and frequently occurs with them in mosaics. It is typically a short-sedge community (e.g. Carex nigra, C. echinata and C. hostiana) with a strong presence of Sphagnum contortum, and is the principal habitat occupied by Hamatocaulis vernicosus”. The latter is a legally protected moss, and the nationally scarce Sphagnum platyphyllum was also recorded in the community.

In a few places around Wildmoor and the upper reaches of Catbatch, Juncus effusus is replaced by Juncus acutiflorus (M6d) and can be joined by Marsh Violet Viola palustris and Bogbean Menyanthes trifoliata. Bog pools also occur in this area with Sphagnum fallax and S. cuspidatum which were recorded by Des Callaghan as M2b. Wildmoor Pool is fringed with dense stands of Bottle Sedge Carex rostrata which emerge from the Sphagna, this is the M4 Carex rostrata – Sphagnum fallax mire.

Valley mires The majority of the mires on the Long Mynd are dominated by rushes and can form extensive areas in valleys, or narrow linear flush lines on steeper ground. These are mostly acidic habitats and Sphagnum mosses are common. In the NVC they are mostly covered by the M6 Carex echinataSphagnum fallax/denticulatum mire and the M23 Juncus effusus/acutiflorus-Galium palustre rush-pasture communities. On the Long Mynd they are both usually dominated by Soft Rush Juncus effusus, but in M6 it grows amongst acidloving species such as Star Sedge Carex echinata and Tormentil Potentilla erecta, over a carpet of Sphagnum (usually S. fallax or S. flexuosum, often with S. palustre), and hummocks of Polytrichum commune. M23 is characteristic of higher nutrient status than M6, with plants such as Holcus lanatus, Marsh Bedstraw Galium palustre and Greater

Sedges can be common in other communities below springs on the Long Mynd, but I’ll discuss those more in the next newsletter. For further reading on upland plant communities, I can recommend “An Illustrated Guide to British Upland Vegetation” (Averis et al., 2004). Acknowledgements: many thanks to Peter and Jane Howsam for sharing their photographs; to Iain Diack for comments on the draft article; and to Martin Godfrey for assistance with bryophyte identification. 18


References Averis, A., Averis, B., Birks, J., Horsfield, D., Thompson, D. & Yeo, M. (2004) An Illustrated Guide to British Upland Vegetation. JNCC, Peterborough, ISBN 1 86107 553 7 Callaghan, D. (2012) Bryophytes and vegetation communities of springs and flushes on The Long Mynd (Shropshire). An unpublished report by EcoStudy to Natural England Callaghan, D. (2013) Bryophytes of The Long Mynd SSSI: survey, assessment and monitoring. An unpublished report by EcoStudy to Natural England Callaghan, D. (2014) Bryophyte survey of parts of The Long Mynd, Shropshire. An unpublished report by EcoStudy to Natural England Elkington, T., Dayton, N., Jackson, D.L. & Strachan, I.M. (2002) National Vegetation Classification field guide to mires and heaths. JNCC, Peterborough, ISBN 1 86107 526 X Holland, T. (2011) ‘Hope Bowdler and Caer Caradoc Spring and Flush Vegetation’, Shropshire Botanical Society Newsletter, No.23 (autumn), pp. 9-14 Lockton, A. & Whild, S (2015) The Flora & Vegetation of Shropshire. Shropshire Botanical Society, Shrewsbury. ISBN 978-0-9530937-2-4. Rodwell, J.S. (ed.) (1991) British Plant Communities. Volume 2. Mires and heaths. Cambridge University Press. Wallace, H. (2013) ‘Upland Mires’, Shropshire Botanical Society Newsletter, No.26 (spring), pp. 20-23

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