Plymouth Ancient Tree Survey

Plymouth City Council

This work involved the following:

An initial desk study mapping existing records of ancient, veteran and notable trees in Plymouth on GIS using information from previous surveys and from the Council Tree Officer.

  • Site visits to record and photograph trees using Woodland Trust methodology.

Production of a final GIS layer of the trees incorporating additional GIS data from the National Trust.

Liaising with the Woodland Trust to ensure data gathered was incorporated into their national ancient tree hunt survey.

National Accreditation for DBRC’s Survey Team

Devon Biodiversity Records Centres two Survey Officers Phil Sansum and Alex Worsley, recently underwent the nationally recognised Field Identification Skills Certificate (FISC) test, which is designed to determine your botanical skill level on a scale from 1 to 5, with 6 being awarded in only exceptional cases. This test is now established as the industry standard for assessing botanical survey skills across the private, statutory and conservation sectors.

The aim of the FISC is to measure your skills in real-life situations, testing your long-term botanical ability on a wide range of plants, not your short-term memory. Both were awarded level 5, which is the standard required to deliver professional plant ID courses to other professionals. DBRC runs one of the largest habitat monitoring schemes in the country, and offers survey training to ecological consultants and individuals from other conservation organisations. Considering their role in the county, manager Ian Egerton was pleased to see Alex, one of DBRCs former trainees, be recognised at such a high level. Which is testament to his hard work, dedication and passion for botany, and with Phil missing level 6 by only a few points, DBRC continue to promote high standards of in field survey within Devon.

Grassland Plant Identification Course

20th – 21st June 2019, Woodah Farm, nr Exeter

This course will be based at Woodah Farm in Devon (approximately 10 miles south of Exeter). Course costs are £180 + VAT for ‘early bird’ bookings made before the end of May and £220 + VAT for bookings made thereafter.  To book onto the course, please call us on (01392) 274128.

A two day course based at Woodah Farm in Devon (approximately 10 miles south of Exeter). This course will provide an introduction to grassland plant identification, grassland ecology and survey. Emphasis will be put on practical survey experience and plant identification, particularly identification using vegetative features. Course participants will visit a range of grassland habitats located at nearby County Wildlife Sites and Devon Wildlife Trust reserves.

By the end of the course, participants will be familiar with a variety of grassland habitat types and will be confident with the identification of a range of grass, rush, sedge and herbaceous species. Course attendees will become familiar with unimproved, semi-improved and improved swards and will have a greater understanding of how physical features (such as hydrology and pH) affect grassland sward composition.

Day 1

Classroom session

Introduction to grasses, sedges, rushes and herbaceous species.  Learn how grassland management affects species composition in swards, with a particular focus in looking at unimproved, semi-improved and improved grasslands.

Field Visits

Field visits to grassland sites including County Wildlife Sites (CWS) and Devon Wildlife Trust (DWT) nature reserves.  Focus on grassland plant identification.

Day 2

Classroom session

  • Grassland communities and indicator species ( used to identify acid/calcareous/neutral, wet/dry and improved/semi-improved/unimproved characteristics.
  • Grassland management
  • Grassland classification ( BAP, Phase 1, and NVC.

Field Visits

Field visits to several grassland sites including CWS and DWT nature reserves. Focus on grassland plant identification, grassland management and survey techniques.


Please let us know about any mobility needs when booking onto the course so we plan our site visits accordingly.

If it is necessary for you to cancel your booking, please inform DBRC as soon as possible. If a cancellation is made less than one calendar month before the start of the course, whether deliberately or by default, the balance of fees must be paid in full, a condition which is accepted when the booking is confirmed.

Introduction to Sedge Identification

13th June 2019,  Otter Estuary, East Devon

Course costs are £55 + VAT for ‘early bird’ bookings made before the end of April and £65 + VAT for bookings made thereafter. To book onto this course, please call us on (01392) 274128.

One day field-based introduction to sedge identification for beginners wishing to gain familiarity with this ecologically important plant family. The emphasis will be on developing field recognition skills, identification resources and habitats. Participants will encounter and familiarise themselves with a range of species in the context of their natural habitats.

The sedge family are an important component of the vegetation in many semi-natural habitats and can be useful ecological and environmental indicators. In spite of a reputation for being difficult to identify, many common species can be recognised confidently with a little practice. Accurate data on the occurrence of sedge species can add value to various types of survey (e.g. Groundwater-dependent terrestrial ecosystems assessment).

This one day course aims to introduce participants to finding and identifying sedges with an emphasis on field recognition skills and resources, including the use of different keys. We will also look at related plant families such as rushes to help learn how to distinguish sedges from the ‘lookalike’ species that sometimes present an obstacle to learners. There will then be ample opportunity to observe and identify sedge species in their natural habitats. The course will be based around the Otter estuary in East Devon.

A range of common lowland species will be available for study in situ as well as some more specialist species of coastal habitats. Specimens of other common or indicative sedges will be made available for reference, comparison and practice.

The course is suitable for beginners, improvers and anyone wishing to improve or revise their id skills. Previous participants from the Dartmoor course are encouraged to rejoin and take the opportunity to extend their familiarity to a different group of species.  

The intended outcome is that participants will gain familiarity with 10 to 20 commonly encountered or indicative species to give a foundation for future study and recording rather.

This course will be based outdoors in East Devon and will go ahead in all weather conditions (unless it becomes unsafe) so please come prepared.

If it is necessary for you to cancel your booking, please inform DBRC as soon as possible. If a cancellation is made less than one calendar month before the start of the course, whether deliberately or by default, the balance of fees must be paid in full, a condition which is accepted when the booking is confirmed.

Woodland Plant Identification Course

2nd – 3rd 2019, Woodah Farm nr Exeter

This course will be based at Woodah Farm in Devon (approximately 10 miles south of Exeter).
Course costs are £180 + VAT for ‘early bird’ bookings made before the end of March and £220 + VAT for bookings made thereafter. To book onto this course, please call us on (01392) 274128. 

This two day course will provide an introduction to woodland plant identification, woodland survey and woodland ecology.  Emphasis will be placed on practical survey and plant identification with a focus on indicator species. Course participants will visit a range of woodland types located at nearby County Wildlife Sites (CWS) and Devon Wildlife Trust (DWT) reserves. By the end of the course, participants will be familiar with a variety of woodland habitat types and will be confident with the identification of a range of tree, shrub and ground flora species.

This course is suitable for conservation staff and ecological consultants looking to improve id skills for Continual Personal Development. The course will be accessible to beginners and people with little plant identification/survey experience are very welcome to enrol.

Day 1

Classroom Session

Introduction to woodlands: definitions of key terms in woodland survey and ecology; woodland classification; ancient woodland/recent woodland and the ancient woodland inventory, introducing woodland plants including indicator species and their identification.

Field Visits

The indoor session will be reinforced by outdoor sessions giving opportunities to practice and contextualise the classroom material in semi-natural woodland within a short distance of the course base. Focus on woodland plant identification and linking this to types of woodland community and other habitat characteristics.


Day 2

Classroom Session

Woodland management and biodiversity: this session will explore links between woodland management and ecology and also consider the important relationship between the cultural and natural heritage of woodlands. Stand types, invasive species, and other woodland survey features such as deadwood, herbivore impacts, and woodland archaeology will be introduced.

Field Visits

Field visits to different woodland sites (including County Wildlife Sites and DWT nature reserves) on day 2 will focus introducing survey techniques and continuing support on woodland plant species identification. There will be opportunities to revise and consolidate learning from the first day and put this into practice with a practical survey exercise.


Sites we will be visiting

Weather permitting we aim to place the emphasis firmly on learning in the field. Field visits will be made on both days and example woods will be chosen from a number of interesting local semi-natural woodland sites to reflect a range of conditions including Scanniclift Copse, Ruggadon and Dunsford DWT nature reserves, and small farm woods designated as county (or local) wildlife sites.

Biodiversity Monitoring Framework

Principle funders: Devon Wildlife Trust and Devon County Council

The Biodiversity Monitoring Framework (BMF) is one of the largest habitat monitoring projects in the UK.  It is a complex project with an overall aim of finding out how the wildlife of Devon is faring. The main part of the project involves surveying a number of existing County Wildlife Sites (CWS) following a specific methodology each year.  The information gathered helps to monitor the quality of individual CWS over time but to also determine patterns of change in habitats across the county as a whole. 

This project has been running since 2009 and during the first five years, approximately 500 CWS were surveyed as a part of the BMF project. Many of these sites had not been surveyed since the early 1990s.  DBRC carry out the majority of the surveys but a number have been carried out by partner organisations such as Devon Wildlife Trust’s Working Wetlands team and Dartmoor National Park Authority.

Following the survey, landowners are given a report for their CWS providing detailed information on the habitats present and recommended management advice tailored specifically to their site.  We can also forward landowners to sources of further advice and/or funding.

All of the information gathered is fed into annual reports, compiled by Devon County Council, which review trends in Devon’s natural environment.

For more information about the BMF project please contact us at countywildlifesites@dbrc.org.uk