This beginner to intermediate course will introduce you to British ferns including their biology, ecology and identification.

Ferns and their relatives belong to a group of organisms called Pteridophytes, and they can form a significant part of our flora, many have interesting stories to tell about the habitats they occupy and their life histories. Whilst ferns might not have the showy flowers and floral part that we are used to in wildflowers, they are equally as fascinating.

The day will start with an introduction to British ferns, first what is or is not a fern, and then encountering and identifying the ferns themselves. Enjoy looking at the complex beauty of ferns and identifying and interpreting the structures visible through a hand lens. Using a range of botanical features, we will become familiar with the terminology and techniques to make accurate and successful identifications, as well as learn about their natural history and ecology along the way. Working through the ‘Fern Guide’, participants will discover a range of botanical characters that are used to identify ferns and leave with the skills to confidently identify this wonderful group.

Your course will take place in our centre which occupies a dramatic setting at 300m up the south facing slope of Blencathra in the Lake District National Park.

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 Blencathra, please email [email protected]

Focusing on practical skills, with group and individual keying out, this course is ideal for amateur or professional botanists/ecologists both in the voluntary or ecological sector.

Who Should Attend?

Nature enthusiasts, Students, Early career ecologists, Citizen scientists, Volunteer surveyors.

Knowledge Level

Beginner. Level descriptors can be found on the following webpage: Framework and Course Level Descriptors

Prior Knowledge

Prior knowledge of botanical terminology and experience of looking at Ferns and their relatives is useful but not essential.

Course Requirements

As part of this course, you will need to purchase the Field Studies Council publication – Ferns AIDGAP before you attend, as you will be using this throughout the course. This is a great tool to use both during and once you have completed the course allowing you to continue exploring and understanding this subject.
Purchase your copy here: https://www.field-studies-council.org/shop/publications/ferns-aidgap/
You will also need your own 10x magnification lens.

What will be covered during this course?

    • Introduction to British ferns
    • Fern biology and ecology
    • Identifying ferns using the AIDGAP guide and the limitations it has

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

    • Describe fern biology and ecology
    • Identify ferns from familiarity
    • Use the ‘Fern Guide’ to identify many of the species you may come across.
    • Share this knowledge with friends, family and fellow volunteers

The course gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in a new subject and acquire novel skills. Our fantastic tutor will combine the use of classroom-led learning and outside learning opportunities to give individuals the skills and confidence to progress their learning.

    • 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.

Group Bookings Made Easy

If you have a group of 10 or more individuals wanting to complete one of our courses, our team are available to discuss your options – from discounts to private team courses.

    • Discounted rates
    • Privately run courses for your group
    • Bespoke courses developed specifically for your needs

Click here for more information!

If we are unable reach viable numbers for this course, we will inform you of the course cancellation 14 days prior to the course run. We would recommend when purchasing accommodation and/or travel you should take out your own insurance.

Tutor: James Merryweather

James Merryweather is the author of two FSC AIDGAP field guides: a comprehensive key to all British pteridophytes and a folding chart that covers 38 common ferns. He has been teaching fern identification and ecology since he first came to the Blencathra Centre, shortly after publication of The Fern Guide in 1991, and has taught at several other FSC centres and around the Highlands where he now lives, not far from Skye. In 2012 he completed a project for the Highland Council, introducing seashore biology to all comers which was added to a suite of ‘Merryweather Natural History’ guides on DVD that includes his lavishly illustrated picture guide to ferns (free - enquire). His latest field guide, following the AIDGAP method is user friendly Seashore Guide available from Amazon.

Covid Measures

In order to keep our customers and staff safe, we ask that anyone attending our centres:

  • Wears a face covering when in shared indoor space (unless exempt).
  • Maintains social distancing.
  • Cleans their hands regularly.
  • Takes a Covid-19 test before they arrive.

Book with Confidence

We understand the difficulties of making plans in the current situation when guidelines continue to change, and insurance conditions are being tightened. In response, we will continue to offer additional flexibility. Find out more here

Example Timetable

Example Timetable

This timetable is subject to change but should give a clear outline of what to expect

    • Please arrive in time for the course to start promptly at 10:00am
    • The course will end at 5:00pm

Day 1

10:00amWelcome, H&S, introductions
10:15amIntroduction to ferns
11:00amBreak and prepare for field session – refreshments not provided 
12:30pmField session
1:30pmLunch in the field - not provided
2:30pmContinued field session
4:00pmReturn to classroom - plenary and final questions
5:00pmFinish
Please note accommodation, refreshments and an evening meal are not included. 

Day 2

10:00amRecap of Day 1 and more complex species
10:45amPrepare for field session – refreshments not provided 
11:00amField session
1:30pmLunch in the field - not provided
2:30pmContinued field session
4:00pmReturn to classroom - plenary and final questions
5:00pmFinish

Please note accommodation, refreshments and an evening meal are not included. 

What's Included

  • Expert Tuition

What’s included?

  • Classroom learning covering the theory of the subject
  • Field excursions to apply new knowledge
  • Expert tuition for which the Field Studies Council 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 a Field Studies Council course, you will be joining thousands of people who learn with us each year.

Before You Attend

Course Requirements

As part of this course, you will need to purchase the Field Studies Council publication – Ferns AIDGAP before you attend, as you will be using this throughout the course. This is a great tool to use both during and once you have completed the course allowing you to continue exploring and understanding this subject.
Purchase your copy here: https://www.field-studies-council.org/shop/publications/ferns-aidgap/
You will also need your own 10x magnification lens.

What to Bring

  • Stout walking shoes or boots
  • Outdoor clothing suitable for all potential weather conditions
  • Lunch and refreshments
  • Small rucksack or bag
  • Field notebook and pencil
  • x10 or x20 hand lens

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.

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