Tag Archive: Anthony Hall

  1. Moss Terrariums and Bottle Gardens

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    This is one of a series of blogs written by Anthony Hall who beginning a three-month project to explore the secret life of historical moss specimens in our natural history collection in April 2021. This week he shows us how to create our very own bottle garden or ‘terrarium.’

    Terrariums are kind of indoor garden housed inside a glass case, sometimes completely sealed,  with a naturalistic arrangement of small plants, ferns and mosses. These miniature worlds can be beautiful and calming objects to look at and create. They are also scientifically interesting.

    In recent times terrariums have become popular and they can be expensive. However, it is simple to create your own. Terrariums are self-contained ecosystems, which are powered by sunlight. The plants photosynthesise, releasing oxygen and water. The water is released into the air as gas which condenses on the sides of the tank. The water then trickles down into the soil. Bacteria in the soil break down the oxygen and creates carbon dioxide, which the plant can use. And so, the cycle continues.

    Here are some ideas for experiments with making your own self-sufficient world in a jam-jar with moss found in your garden or street.

    You can find out more about Anthony’s project from his website and discover moss trails around Oldham in our latest blog.

  2. Snipe Clough: Moss Trail 1

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    Snipe Clough is a fantastic green site in the middle of Oldham with a range of open meadows, grasslands, woodland and boggy areas where moss can be found. Lookout for liverworts and moss growing on the damp branches under the tree cover and between the grasses in the boggy areas.

    There is a pond that is teeming with life, where you might be lucky enough to see large Dragonflies or Saw Flies, pond skaters and water boatmen under the surface. Also, look out for the mysterious concrete and brick vent structures; note the moss growing on these. See what insects you can find on these concrete structures. I found red spider mites, jumping spiders, and sunbathing Sawflies. The walk extends into densely wooded areas and a viewpoint overlooking Park Bridge. You will notice more mosses under the trees beside the trail and on soil banks.

    This trail is approximately 4 kilometres and take around 1 hour.

    Routplotter.com   https://www.plotaroute.com/route/1618426

    More information on Snipe clough can be found here: https://northern-roots.uk/ 

    More information on Park Bridge here: https://www.tameside.gov.uk/parkbridge  (which can also be a starting point for this walk).

    For more walks in search for moss, go back to the main page and see trails for Daisy Nook Country Park and Park Bridge.

  3. Park Bridge: Moss Trail 2

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    River at Park Bridge.

    Starting at the car park at Park Bridge Heritage Centre, this walk takes you into the woods, and to a viewpoint overlooking the Medlock Valley, there are exciting mosses throughout the woods under the trees and on the soil banks.

    The trail then heads down into the valley again to follow the riverbank before heading along a road towards park bridge and up a hill. Eventually, you reach a moss-covered Stone bridge. Here you can follow the trail past a picnic spot beside rocky outcrops and ruins. Then at the broken bridge, follow a narrow trail alongside the Medlock take note of the moss is growing underneath the trees and on the rocks. You may even notice some succulent sphagnum mosses on the riverbank.

    This trail is approximately 6.4 kilometres and will take about 1.5 hours.

    Routplotter.com https://www.plotaroute.com/route/1618419

    For more information seehttps://www.tameside.gov.uk/parkbridge 

    Anthony has more suggestions of where to hunt for mosses, go back to the main page to find walks around Daisy Nook Country Park and Snipe Clough.

  4. Daisy Nook Country Park: Moss Trail 3

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    Daisy Nook is a beautiful woodland following River Medlock, interested by the old Waterhouses Aqueduct and Hollinwood canal. It has a mixture of woodland paths and gravely wide tracks beside the canal, which are all great for moss. Look out for Liverworts on the muddy banks near the footpath and river. Also, check the fallen trees for different moss.

    Photograph showing bluebells at Daisy Nook

    The walk starts at a car park off the A627 walk into the woods and down to the riverside. Notice the damp stones by the river and many fallen trees with interesting mosses and liverworts. Following the moss trail, through the woods beside the River Medlock, you find more fallen trees for mushrooms and mosses, notice the steep banks beside the track, and mosses between the tree roots.

    When you get to the Waterhouses aqueduct, you can follow the brick embankment to Daisy nook country park visitor centre for a cafe stop. Double back to the aqueduct and follow the path up to the Hollinwood canal. Notice the mosses on the stonework and walls.

    The trail continues to a large pond, follow it round to the old Fairbottom Branch canal and all the way along the canal path to the A627 where you can get back to the car park.

    This moss trail is about 3.4 kilometres and will take approximately 1 hour to walk.

    Routplotter.com  https://www.plotaroute.com/route/1618255

    More Information: Visit Daisy Nook Country Park website, where you can download a map and plan your own day out.

    Interest to go on other moss trails? Go back to the main page to see walks around Snipe Clough and Park Bridge.

  5. ‘Biocrusts’ and ‘Blanket-bogs’

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    Moss can bio-engineer hospitable environments for other plants and animals. In this post I write about my urban explorations of mossy carpets growing in urban space, and the ancient blanket-bogs and peatlands in the Peak District National Park.

    I have developed a permanently active ‘moss radar’. My favourite mosses to spot are still the most common species found in the urban environment. Much to my family’s irritation, I often stop to inspect random brick walls or tree trunks. Moss can survive in the most extreme environments. It can grow on surfaces devoid of soil baked dry in the sunlight and scoured by rainfall and wind. The moss somehow hangs on; it is resilient, and slowly persistent. 

    As an ‘early coloniser’ moss can grow on bare soil or rock, helping to lock in moisture and bind the soil together. It can also help to form the growth substrate for other plants. A single spore slowly develops into a tuft and then a small clump, which can eventually conjoin with others to make a moss-carpet or ‘biocrust’ as is the more delightful scientific term. ‘Spreading earth moss’ (Physcomitrella patens) is known for its tolerance to drought and rapidly appearing on bare soil. It is widely studied by scientists, with the potential to be used as a tool to combat desertification[3]. Leptobryum pyriforme is a moss that grows on bare soil after forests fires. Some of the most fascinating urban moss sites I have visited are obscure abandoned car parks and buildings. I love how the moss envelops and subsumes and softens concrete blocks and jagged rock, or with enough time, almost any object that remains still for long enough. 

    While many mosses are resilient and seem to thrive in the urban environment, some are very sensitive to pollution and are only found in more remote areas of the countryside. This panorama makes me think about what the air quality would have been like at the time. You can see the train carts arriving piled high with coal and the smoke-blowing chimneys rising into the skyline. In the distance, you can just make out the hills of the Peak District. During the industrial revolution, the hillsides of the Peaks District were stripped bare of plant life by acid rain. Sites such as ‘Bleaklow’ and ‘Blackhill’ (possibly named after the bare peat hillsides) were “downwind from some of the worst pollution the world has ever seen” [2]. Despite improvements in air quality these sites still need urgent need of protection. Pressures on peatlands from intensive land management, industrial pollution and wildfires have left them in a degraded and eroding state.

    I met up with Hydrologist Adam Johnston who took me on a walk from Edale up to the peatlands or ‘Blanket-bogs’ on the Kinder plateau. This remote site takes several hours to walk to. After a steep climb, the terrain change as we walked into the blanket bog was clearly defined by the blacked edges of exposed peat and a distinct sponginess underfoot. There is a wide diversity of plants and grasses and mosses and animals, some unique to this environment. There is something about the bleakness and quietness of this landscape that I find strangely calming. 

    Photograph of Sphagnum moss

    These unique blanket bogs are home to specialist plants, such as Sphagnum moss which can hold 20 times its own weight in water. This kind of moss play a vital role in maintaining the wet conditions necessary to slowly create peat. 

    It is estimated that these blanket bogs have been growing for up to 8000 years. Without the active ‘biocrust’, the mosses and other plants, the peat dries out. It reacts with the air, releasing the carbon dioxide trapped in the peat over thousands of years. The exposed peat is less able to retain water and is washed away by rainwater or blown away by the wind. This also contributes to flooding in the lowlands. 

    Photograph of peatlands restoration work showing small dams ['Bunds'] in the gullies.

    The peatlands restoration work involves installing small dams [‘Bunds’] in the gullies. They help to retain water and create damp conditions for sphagnum moss and other wetland plants to grow back. In this image, you can clearly see how plant life is growing back behind the dam.

    To find out more about the restoration work or to get involved, visit: https://www.moorsforthefuture.org.uk/our-work/restoring-blanket-bog

    This is one of a series of blogs written by Anthony Hall who is exploring the secret life of moss specimens in our natural history collection. Click here to see his other blog, Moss is not the Enemy.


    [1] https://www.theguardian.com/science/2021/jun/19/robin-wall-kimmerer-gathering-moss-climate-crisis-interview?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Other

    [2] Polluted legacy: Repairing Britain’s damaged landscapes https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-derbyshire-17315323

    [3] Moss biocrusts buffer the negative effects of karst rocky desertification on soil properties and soil microbial richness: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11104-020-04602

    Could you use Physcomitrella patens in the combat of desertification, a moss that is highly tolerant against drought? https://desertification.wordpress.com/2016/11/30/could-you-use-physcomitrella-patens-in-the-combat-of-desertification-a-moss-that-is-highly-tolerant-against-drought/

    [5] Find a detailed downloadable PDF of the Oldham Diorama here