Identifying woodland plants is a course for those wishing to develop their skills in woodland plant identification, concentrating not just on trees and the more colourful woodland herbs, but also on the traditionally difficult groups such as woodland grasses, sedges and ferns.

On this woodland ID course we will also look at some common mosses and liverworts, as these form a very important component of some woodland types. In order to see a wide range of woodland plants we will visit a variety of different types of woodland. This may include typical base-rich, species-rich lowland woodlands, sessile oak woods with a distinct ‘upland’ feel to them, wet alder woodlands, a range of scrub communities and secondary woodland. We will also discuss aspects of how woodland plants are adapted to succeed in their environments and the communities of plants often found together.
Please note that some of the woodland paths are steep.

Your course takes place on a 12-hectare estate, surrounded by a rich range of habitats, including the River Severn and semi-ancient woodland, set in the heart of Shropshire with views disappearing into Wales.
PLEASE NOTE the course fee is for tuition only. There is no accommodation provided with this course. If you would like to book accommodation, lunch and an evening meal at FSC Preston Montford please email [email protected]  Please book early to ensure availability of accommodation.

Who Should Attend?

Natural history enthusiasts, students, rangers, ecologists, environmental professionals. This intermediate level course is open to anyone with some knowledge of the subject.

Knowledge Level – Intermediate. Level descriptors can be found on the following webpage: Framework and Course Level Descriptors

What will be covered during this course?

  • The course will be delivered through a combination of seminars, laboratory identification sessions and practical field work.
  • Woodland plant families, major families of common woodland plants
  • Ancient woodland indicator species and similar species
  • Collecting and surveying woodland plants
  • Presenting voucher specimens of woodland plants for refereeing

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Identify a range of woodland plants (including ferns and bryophytes) using dichotomous keys and field guides.
  • Evaluate whether species are ancient woodland indicators and critically assess the role they have in woodland ecology.


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. MMU students complete assessed work after the course. For further details about Manchester Metropolitan University degree programmes please contact:

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

  • See the ‘Example Timetable’ and ‘What’s Included’ sections below for more information about this course.
  • Upon booking you will need to provide individual details of all attendees
  • Please email [email protected] if you have any questions.


For Manchester Metropolitan University students, the Unit will be assessed through, for example, identification tests, survey reports, field journals, production of keys, essays or other forms of assessment. In course tests are optional and less formal for participants who are not MMU students.

MMU students will be required to complete a portfolio comprising of two parts:

Part 1: A test with a range of specimens. Points awarded for correct identification, and critical comparison between specimen and superficially similar/related species. (Equivalent to 500 words).

Part 2: Collect a number of woodland plants (trees, herbs or bryophytes) that are either related taxonomically or look superficially similar and prepare voucher sheets for them. Justify why you have chosen these five, and then describe each specimen in terms of ecology and diagnostic features. Construct a dichotomous key to identify your five specimens. (1500 words).

Tutor: Sally Peacock

Sally’s interest in natural history began at an early age but was fanned into flames by involvement in leading groups in the hills and mountains of the UK as a teacher. This led to a fascination with the plants of the UK, so that seeing plants when out walking is like seeing old friends.

Example Timetable

Example Timetable

This timetable is subject to change but should give an outline of what to expect.

If you have booked accommodation and meals with the centre your bedroom will be ready from 3.00 pm onwards on the day of arrival and we ask that you vacate by 9.30 am on the morning of departure.

If numbers are sufficient a station pick up will be arranged at 5.30 pm from Shrewsbury Station.

The evening meal is at 6.30 pm (not included in the course fee - please book separately).

The course starts after dinner with a classroom session 7.30 pm - 9.00 pm

The course ends at 4.00 pm on the final day.

Time will be made available for eating packed lunches during the day (not included in the course fee - please book separately).

Friday evening
There will be an introduction to a small number of important woodland plant families.

Saturday and Sunday
Field trips, plus evening sessions either within the classroom or Preston Montford grounds.

There will be a short field trip on Monday morning followed by a classroom-based test in the afternoon (optional for those who are not MMU students).

Accrediting Agency

Manchester Metropolitan University

What's Included

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

What’s included?

  • Classroom learning covering the theory of the subject
  • Field excursions to apply new knowledge
  • Expert tuition for which the FSC is renowned
  • Clear objectives and progression

You can rest assured that the absolute best content from an expert in environmental education will be provided. In choosing an FSC course, you will be joining thousands of people who learn with us each year.

PLEASE NOTE the course fee is for tuition and refreshments only. If you would like to book accommodation and meals, including packed lunches, at FSC Preston Montford please email [email protected]  Please book early to ensure availability of accommodation.

Before You Attend

There will be a member of staff with first aid training and access to a first aid kit on site. If you have special medical or access requirements, please let us know as soon as possible so we can make any necessary adjustments.

What To Bring

As we will be visiting a number of different sites with varying degrees of slope and wetness, it’s advisable to bring both wellingtons and walking boots, (if you don’t have your own wellingtons, don’t worry - there are adequate supplies available for hire from the Centre).

  • A hand lens x10 and/or x20; lenses can be purchased from the Centre shop.
  • Field note books are for sale at the centre or you may wish to bring one with you.
  • A couple of large plastic bags for keeping specimens fresh.
  • A sandwich box, water bottle and vacuum flask.
  • A small rucksack and waterproof clothing.
  • Sun hat and sun screen.
  • Two pairs of fine pointed forceps (available on loan) and/or two mounted needles (not essential).
  • Recommended Reading
  • For reading material, the following would be useful:

Useful Books

  • Rose, F. & O’ Reilly, C. (2006). The Wild Flower Key – How to identify wild flowers trees & shrubs in Britain & Ireland. Revised and updated edition. Frederick Warne (Penguin Group): London.
  • Streeter, D., Hart-Davies, C., Hardcastle, A., Cole, F., & Harper, L. (2016). Collins Wild Flower Guide – 2nd Edition. Collins: London.
  • Stace, C. (2019). New Flora of the British Isles – Fourth edition. Cambridge University Press or Stace, C. (2010). New Flora of the British Isles – Third edition. Cambridge University Press.
  • Merryweather, J. & Hill, M. (2007). The Fern Guide - A field guide to the ferns, clubmosses, quillworts and horsetails of the British Isles. 3rd Edition. Field Studies Council AIDGAP series.
  • Atherton, I., Bosanquet, S. and Lawley, M. (eds.). (2010). Mosses and Liverworts of Britain and Ireland – a field guide. British Bryological Society.