Due to Covid-19 we have had to cancel courses from March to 1st August, we hope you will find an event later in the year that you can attend.

Arctic-alpines are a part of Britain’s most ancient plant communities.  They were here when the glaciers retreated at the end of the last ice-age and represent the first pages of our island’s current interglacial natural history.  Most are now only found in difficult to reach mountainous areas and suffered extensive losses due to over-zealous collectors in the Victorian era.  Snowdonia is home to a number of these hardy plants and in spring many are in bloom.

This weekend provides an introduction to these plants and looks at the ecology of the communities in which they grow, as well as reasons for their survival in North Wales where several of the species present are at their southern limit in Europe.  Flowering plants might be the stars of the show, but we’ll also take time to look at the more cryptic plants of the mountains; the grasses, sedges, ferns, and club mosses. Along the way we’ll take time to enjoy any of the birds and other mountain wildlife we come across.

The course will consist of two days in the mountains of Snowdonia.  It is suitable for dedicated botanists (a chance to see some very rare native plants) through to the absolute beginner who is interested in seeing and learning about some of the most spectacular and rare plant communities in Britain.  During the walks, you will have plenty of time for photography and to take in the broader aspects of the history and natural history of the upland landscape.

Over the weekend we’ll visit the cwms and crags of two of Snowdonia’s most spectacular mountain areas – Cwm Idwal and the Gribin, and the Snowdon range itself.  Highlights should include moss campion, several saxifrage species, mountain avens, and possibly even the Snowdon lily.

Due to the conditions and altitudes at which these plants are found, participants MUST be able to walk for up to 6 miles/10 kilometres a day over rough and, at times, steep ground.

Course objectives

  • Introduce alpine/arctic plant communities, and consider where they thrive and why.
  • Identify a range of arctic alpine plants, including rare species such as the Snowdon lily.

Tutor: Matt Parratt

Matt Parratt is a qualified biologist and has worked as a research scientist for the Forestry Commission for 18 years. During that time he has worked extensively on tree and shrub seed and seedling biology and ecology. His work on the conservation of rare and endangered trees from around the world has taken him as far afield as Vietnam where he worked on endangered endemic conifers in association with the UK National Pinetum at Bedgebury and Fauna and Flora International. He is an Associate Tutor for the FSC, as well as running other identification courses throughout the year.

Example Timetable

Course participants are requested to arrive on the first day at our reception for registration from 4.00 - 5.15pm. An introductory talk to the Centre is at 5.45pm. Dinner is at 6pm, followed by an introduction to your course. Departure is after breakfast on the last day.


Day: 4.00-5.15pm: Arrival and welcome to the Centre. 5.45 pm: Centre Introduction.

Evening: After dinner there will be an illustrated talk introducing course participants to different plants which may be seen over the weekend.


The day will be spent on the slopes of Snowdon. We’ll gradually ascend the mountain taking in the changing vegetation as we do so. Our target is Clogwn D’ur Arddu, the Black Cliff, where we should be able to get close up to plants such as arctic mouse ear, northern rock-cress and stag’s horn clubmoss.


We will spend the day in, around and above Cwm Idwal National Nature Reserve, a site famous to botanists for many centuries, visiting habitat where amongst others mountain avens, quillwort and moss campion can be found.


Depart after breakfast with a packed lunch for your journey home.

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

  • Sun cream and sun hat (hopefully these will be essential!)
  • Waterproof jacket and waterproof trousers (can be borrowed from the Centre).
  • Warm layers.
  • Outdoor footwear (walking boots can be borrowed from the Centre).
  • Day rucksack, warm hat and gloves (can be borrowed from the Centre).
  • A torch, water bottle, thermos flask and lunch box.
  • Midge repellent if susceptible.
  • Binoculars and a camera.