Thor's Kin

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday, 30 December 2011 11:53

I went to see my good friend and tattooist Gerry Carnelly in Derby and we went out to Thor's Cave in the Manifold Valley, Staffordshire. This is one of the most striking places I have ever been too and I am always captivated by the sheer scale of this cave entrance. I took the high powered torch in the hope of finding some moths and spiders. However, progress was impeded by me stopping to look at every moss on the limestone walls. They were indeed a varied bunch with a lot of overlap with mosses that I see on the Downs. The striking moss I found at Woods Mill (Anomodon viticulosus) was plentiful as were Ctenidium mollusconum and the liverwort Plagiochila porelloides. I spotted this rather broad-leaved acrocarp with a glaucous tint to it and managed to get it to species. It's Encalypta streptocarpa and has the rather stupid English name of Spiral Extinguisher-moss that is about as useless at helping me with the ID as the Latin name is!
The Manifold Valley is over-shadowed by the more popular Dovedale but nothing at Dovedale compares to Thor's Cave AND I reckon there are SEVERAL order's of magnitude more people at Dovedale. I have found you have to queue there to cross the stepping stones. Not my idea of fun. I was a bit gutted that I only heard a Dipper very briefly but I did get to grips with this moss that was growing all along the Manifold. It's Cinclidotus fontinaloides and is perhaps my last new species of the year. I doubt I will get any further than 3735 now.
Anyway, enough mosses. The cave is where all the fun is. After a steep climb you finally come to the vast house-sized entrance of the cave. You have to clamber up a rather slippy limestone entrance to find a huge entrance chamber. If you know where to go and you have a decent torch you can go quite far in and that's where all the fun stuff is. I spotted the rather awesome cave spider Meta menardi deep in the cave. This is a big creepy spider and if we had found this on the podcast (like I had hoped) Blencowe would have been quaking in his boots.
We also found five Tissues (fortunately they were unused) hibernating in the back of the cave but no Heralds.
It was a great day and I was grateful to have the high-powered torch with me. I'll leave you with this monstrosity. It looks like one of the dead facehuggers from Alien but it was actually quite a large fungus (20cm long) that had started to decompose. It was totally out of the light where it was growing.
Although this part of Staffordshire is a world away from where I grew up, it's a magical place that I do not think of as Staffordshire as I walk around it. It is a beautiful county really if you can get over the cold, the lack of species and the lack of coastline. Watch out Sussex I'm coming home!

1 Response to "Thor's Kin"

Gerry Carnelly Says:

Good day mate, peppery stuff and everything! Will try to get the videos to you at some point!

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