Risley Moss is a popular spot with locals looking for a pleasant walk. I’ve always enjoyed the hidden, mysterious side of it – most people just stick to the woodland paths around the edge, but if you are lucky and go on a guided walk, you can visit the hidden moss at the centre of the site – a proper bog in the middle of urban Birchwood! Not at all what you would expect on driving up to the site from the surrounding housing developments.
The main bog has 5 species of Sphagnum, so we were hopeful we would see something interesting when Warrington Plant Group visited in February 2015. The ranger suggested we might like to visit the “mini-moss”, an area which is being restored to bog having previously been damp woodland. Amazingly, it is only two years since the trees were removed:
That beige stuff you can see is purple moor-grass. It’s rare among grasses in being deciduous – the leaves die off in winter and go that beige colour which is very distinctive once you get your eye in. Purple moor-grass is very common on bogs modified by drainage or tree planting, so it’s exactly what I’d expect to see coming back after tree removal. The rangers are making a lot of effort to block up the drains and re-wet the area and it seems to be working – look at this lovely spread of Sphagnum in one of the former drains:
With the main bog being so close by, the mini-moss has a great chance of successful restoration as other Sphagnum species and bog plants naturally colonise. We found evidence that other bog species like Aulacomnium palustre have recently arrived on the mini-moss, which is a really good sign.
The group did pretty well on the mini-moss, finding Sphagnum species, acrocarpous mosses, pleurocarpous mosses and a leafy liverwort. Of all the major groups of bryophytes, this just left thalloid liverwort and branched acrocarp to find. We set off into the woodland to see whether we would be able to tick off all the major groups in one visit!
In a rather wet place under a bridge we found a thalloid liverwort (possibly Pellia endiviifolia) and another one on the trees (Metzgeria furcata). Another box ticked! I wasn’t hopeful of finding a branched acrocarp, I’ll be honest, as I’ve always equated these with Racomitrium which I associate with Wales and upland places – anywhere inhospitably wet and cold. Yet as we were just talking about packing up, Julie found this on a concrete trough:
It’s Schistidium crassipilum, a branched acrocarp !
I’d call that a successful morning out 🙂