This beginner course is aimed at those looking to explore a new skill or improve an existing one, providing an introduction to the identification of common ferns and their relatives.

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 fern structures, terminology and the life cycle of ferns and their allies. These features will be used to help identify a range of commoner fern species, progressing throughout the day to more unusual and difficult groups. 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’ together or individually, participants will discover a range of botanical characters that are used to identify ferns. Later on, we will look at techniques for determining the more unusual species.  By the end of the course, you will be confident in separating Shield Ferns from Scaly Male-ferns, and Lady Ferns from Buckler Ferns, as well as recognising a host of other species plus how to confidently identify them using a key.

Your course takes part at Benthall Edge Wood. This location is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and an area of national conservation importance, set in the heart of Shropshire with views disappearing into Wales.

PLEASE NOTE: The course fee is for tuition only. There are no accommodation, lunch or evening meal facilities available

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.

What will be covered during this course?

    • Fern life cycle
    • Fern structure and terminology
    • Identifying ferns using the AIDGAP guide and the limitations it has
    • Observing a wide variety of woodland species in situ, as well as a variety of other species brought either as dried specimens or living material by the tutor.

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

    • Describe the fern’s lifecycle and how this can help with identification.
    • Explain the structures associated with ferns and their allies.
    • Use the ‘Fern Guide’ to identify many of the species you may come across.
    • Explain the limitations of the ‘Fern Guide’ for some particular genera/species groups.
    • 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: Mark Duffell

Mark Duffell has had a lifetime interest in plants, gaining the RHS Diploma in Horticulture and completing an MSc in Biological Recording. He now runs Arvensis Ecology, splitting his time between conducting botanical surveys and teaching botanical identification and survey techniques to undergraduate and postgraduate students, consultancies and environmental organisations.

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 4:00pm
10:00amMeet at car park. Welcome, H&S, introductions
10:15amField Session
11:00amBreak – refreshments not provided 
12:30pmContinued field session
1:30pmLunch in the field - not provided
2:30pmContinued field session
3:30pmReturn to car park- plenary and final questions

Please note accommodation, refreshments and an evening meal are not included. Toilets are not available on site but public toilets can be found in nearby Ironbridge. 

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

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

  • 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 if you possess one

Recommended books and resources:

Getting to your course

Address: Benthall Hall carpark, Broseley, Shropshire TF12 5RX
By road - 1 mile north-west of Broseley (B4375), 4 miles north-east of Much Wenlock, 1 mile south-west of Ironbridge (B4373)