Due to Covid-19 we have had to cancel this course, we hope you will find an event later in the year that you can attend.

This weekend on lichen identification is for anyone with some initial experience of this group who would like to take their interest several stages further. There will be a combination of field excursions, microscope work and use of keys to help you with lichen identification. At the end of the course participants should be able to apply a number of simple microscope techniques that are essential for proper identification.

The focus of this course is the teaching of techniques of lichen identification, using both compound (high power) and stereo microscopes. We will use these techniques to help with the navigation of identification keys such as those in ‘The Lichens of Great Britain and Ireland’ (2009). It should be emphasised that this is a course concentrating on techniques, applying them to common lichens.  We will not be searching out rare species of lichens.

Microscopes are provided but participants are very welcome to bring their own if they wish.

The content is also appropriate for anyone wishing to contribute to their Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requirements.

Tutor: John Skinner

John Skinner is the recently retired Museum Manager at Southend Museum and has been studying the lichens of the eastern region for over 40 years. He is looking forward to helping people extend their knowledge and encourage more recording of lichens.

With the generous support of the Suffolk Biodiversity and Information Service, along with the Suffolk Naturalists Society, we are able to provide bursary funding for this course for those students who meet the criteria. For more information please go to Bursaries for Natural History Courses.


Bring a friend!

If you are attending a course at Flatford Mill at the sole occupancy price, we are offering a special rate for a friend or partner not enrolled on the course to also stay at £50 per night for dinner, bed and breakfast.

Please contact FSC Flatford Mill on 01206 297110 or [email protected] to book this offer.

Example Timetable


The first evening is a review of common lichens and the terminology used in describing them, the aim being to ensure that all participants are at roughly the same level.


The day will start with an introduction to some basic microscope techniques from calibrating the eyepiece graticule to cutting apothecial sections, the techniques taught being dependent on participants’ knowledge. This is then followed by a fieldwork session. Rather than an organised introduction to common lichens, this is arranged as a recording trip. An area is chosen and the range of likely habitats are identified and then visited, the idea being to produce a lichen list for the area concerned. On return to the laboratory, participants identify any collected material to produce a master lichen list for the site.


The day will mainly be devoted to the series of exercises described below as this is what course participants usually want to concentrate upon. The day will also include a field excursion but this will be shorter and more local than the one on Saturday.


Interspersed with all the fieldwork are a number of exercises based upon different lichen genera, using especially collected lichen material and instruction sheets.  All but one of these exercises involves the use of the compound microscope.

The balance between fieldwork and laboratory work very much depends on the weather. There are enough lab exercises to keep everyone busy for weeks but so far this course has been blessed with fine weather allowing some superb sites to be visited.

What's Included

  • Expert Tuition
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Full Board Accommodation
  • Hot and Cold Drinks
  • In Course Transport
  • Personal and Travel Insurance

Before You Attend

What to Bring

  • A x10 magnification hand-lens. Your local optical supplier may be able to help you with this.  (We have x12 wide view lenses, which can be borrowed from the Centre if you do not bring your own).
  • Small plastic bags and/or boxes, or envelopes are needed for storing specimens to take home. It is important that the packets can be written onto.
  • A strong non-folding or locking knife to collect lichens. The blade should be less than three inches long.
  • A small pair of secateurs is useful (but not essential) for gathering specimens of twig lichens causing minimal damage.
  • It is essential to bring suitable outdoor clothes and footwear.  It is particularly important that you bring really warm clothing as lichenology involves a certain amount of standing still while examining habitats and Essex in early autumn can be cold!  Wellingtons or walking boots are both suitable footwear.

Stereo and compound microscopes are available at the Centre and simple chemical reagents will be provided. Participants are welcome to bring their own compound microscopes if they wish. The Centre is secure but participants are advised to see if their house contents insurance covers their possessions in this situation and, if not, to arrange temporary cover.