Designed to help the beginner, this course will look at both identification and ecology of coastal plants. It will give participants practical experience in the identification of saltmarsh and sand dune plants. There will be time to carry out vegetation surveys in both habitats using a variety of survey techniques and both habitats will be viewed in their environmental context, with special reference to the process of ecological succession. There will be discussion on how various plants are adapted to living in these two quite extreme environments, and during the course there will be informal slide identification quizzes. There will be a practical assessment at the end of the course on the common saltmarsh and sand dune plants. This is an accredited course suitable for professionals or interested amateurs.


This is one of a series of courses (Units) run jointly with Manchester Metropolitan University contributing to the MSc Biological Recording and Ecological Monitoring and the Postgraduate Certificate in Biological Recording. To gain university credits you must be registered for the programme in advance of this course. For further details please contact:

Department of Natural Sciences, Manchester Metropolitan University, (Shrewsbury Office). E-mail: [email protected]

The Unit will be assessed through, for example, identification tests, survey reports, field journals, production of keys, essays or other forms of assessment.

If you are aged 18-25, you are eligible for a £50 discount thanks to the Generation Green project, click here to find out more.

Tutor: John Archer-Thomson

For many years John Archer-Thomson was Assistant Head of Centre at FSC Dale Fort. He is now working as a freelance coastal ecologist, writer and photographer and runs a number of courses at Dale Fort each year. He co-wrote Rocky Shores, Volume 7 in Bloomsbury’s British Wildlife Collection.
  • Thrift flowers and other middle marsh plants on the Gann saltmarsh
  • Small White butterfly on Sea Aster (Tripolium pannonicum)
  • Sea Holly (Eryngium maritimum) at Freshwater West
  • Sea Clubrush (Bolboschoenus maritimus)
  • Grass-leaved Orache (Atriplex littoralis)
  • Early successional stages on the Gann salt marsh

Please note, the fee is for tuition, packed lunch and refreshments only.

If you would like to book accommodation and an evening meal at FSC Dale Fort, please call 01646 636205.

Example Timetable

Monday: On the first evening of the course there will be an informal introduction to the plants of Pembrokeshire, this will put the two habitats we are going to look at in their ecological context.

Tuesday: The first day will be spent looking at the “Gann” salt marsh. Species identification will be the priority but the fieldwork will be structured to provide an ecological framework to view the plants in. We may try a variety of sampling techniques and attempt to analyse the data if participants would find this useful.

Wednesday: The second day will be spent at Freshwater West sand dune system. This beautiful location will be our backdrop for plant identification and ecological analysis. Identification will be structured around a time sequence of different aged habitats to be found here. We will start by having a look at a small area of shingle vegetation and nearby embryo dunes before moving back into the rest of the dune system.

Thursday: Departure is after breakfast. For those enrolled on the University Certificate in Biological Recording and Species Identification on the last morning of the course there will be a short practical assessment, based on the slide show pictures, of common salt marsh and sand dune plants that you will have seen, departing approx. 11am.

Accrediting Agency

Manchester Metropolitan University

What's Included

  • Expert Tuition
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Hot and Cold Drinks
  • Lunch

Bursaries and Subsidies

If you are aged 18-25, you are eligible for a £50 discount thanks to the Generation Green project, click here to find out more.

Before You Attend

Start and Finish Times

Resident visitors are requested to register at the main office between 4.00 – 5.30pm. Dinner will be at 6.00pm. An introductory talk will follow. Breakfast will be at 8.00am. Departure will be after breakfast or approximately 11am on the last day for those enrolled on the University Certificate in Biological Recording and Species Identification. Non-resident guests are asked to arrive in time for the welcome talk at approximately 5.30pm.

What to Bring

  • Warm clothing
  • Waterproof jacket and trousers (can be borrowed from Centre.)
  • Outdoor footwear – sturdy shoes or boots and wellies
  • Day rucksack
  • Warm hat and gloves for inclement weather and sunhat and sun-cream for sunny days.
  • Water bottles and/or thermos flask and packed lunch box