Crawley Down and other churchyards

Field meeting reports
Picture of Selaginella kraussiana
Selaginella kraussiana. Photo: Brad Scott

Meeting date: 12 April 2017

(Leader: Arthur Hoare)

Ten members gathered at Crawley Down churchyard to contribute to the Churchyard Survey. Arthur had seen it in late summer last year, and came armed with an already impressively long species list. Brad informed us that no bryophytes had been recorded previously in the tetrad (TQ33N) and he rapidly improved the situation. Most of the churchyard consists of grassland, some short-cut, some rougher, but there are patches dominated by Calluna vulgaris (Heather) with a more heathy flora. Woodland species occur on the shaded margins. Of spring-flowering plants, we admired glorious drifts of Anemone nemorosa (Wood Anemone). Carex caryophyllea (Spring Sedge) was common in short turf, along with Conopodium majus (Pignut). Both native Hyacinthoides non-scripta (Bluebell) and the introduced hybrid H. x massartiana were present here as in so many churchyards – a useful lesson in distinguishing the two. Overall, we managed to add a number of early species to the list. There was a rich flora of later-flowering species: we saw leaves of Betonica officinalis (Betony), Succisa pratensis (Devil’s-bit) and Solidago virgaurea (Goldenrod) amongst others, and some of us vowed to return later in the year. We were impressed by the number of Hieracium (Hawkweed) rosettes present and Mike Shaw and Arthur returned in June to collect specimens. The locally frequent H. sabaudum (Autumn Hawkweed) occurs – but also a good number of H. cheriense (Cher Hawkweed), of which there had been no confirmed Sussex records for many years – a splendid find, unfortunately just too late to be reported in the new Flora.

Picture of lunch break at Turners Hill
SBRS members pause for lunch. Photo: Brad Scott

We moved on to Turners Hill churchyard (TQ33H) for lunch – a fortunate choice as it is furnished with many seats and has a delightful view: it perches on the watershed between the Mole, Medway and Ouse. Although less species-rich than Crawley Down churchyard, we saw plenty to keep us interested. Carex caryophyllea was common here too. Arthur showed us Galanthus plicatus (Pleated Snowdrop) and its hybrid with G. nivalis (Snowdrop) – it’s easy when you know how.

The group then moved on to Ardingly churchyard which had a carpet of Selaginella kraussiana (Krauss’s Clubmoss) around many of the gravestones: this was a first for many of the recorders and was much admired.  Leontodon saxatilis (Lesser Hawkbit) was there – I wonder, is there any churchyard where it is missing? We had fun sorting out the Veronica hederifolia agg. and found both ssp. hederifolia and ssp. lucorum to be present.  It was great to see one or two of us guided by Brad’s enthusiasm to take a look at a few mosses and liverworts.  A good day and as always most enjoyable.

Picture of Didymodon rigidulus
Gemmae-laden leaf of Didymodon rigidulus. Photo: Brad Scott

See also: Brad Scott ‘Three churchyards’. Sussex Bryophytes. 25 April 2017