NPMSSupport's blog

    Welcome Jen Farrar! BSBI Botanical Skills Officer - Northern Ireland

    Submitted by NPMSSupport on

    We’re delighted to introduce a new member of our NPMS support team.  Jen Farrar became the Botanical Skills Officer in Northern Ireland for the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) in October 2023.

    Can you tell us about yourself – what were you doing before you started this post?

    My interest in the natural world was encouraged from a very early age and I became completely bewitched by plants in my early 20’s. I am particularly fascinated by the relationships between plants and the places they grow. How plants can indicate the type of soil they are growing in and the climatic conditions they can endure and at times require. 

    I have been involved with the BSBI as a volunteer for several years and have worked and volunteered in the provision of plant identification skills training since 2012. 

    Prior to my new post I worked at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh as part of the education team. I have volunteered as a practical leader teaching plant identification at the Gatsby Plants Science Summer School and as part of the Outreach committee for the BSBI in Scotland providing plant identification workshops and field events to complete beginners. 

    What does your new role in BSBI entail and how will you be involved with the NPMS?

    My role with the BSBI is Botanical Skills Officer in Northern Ireland. This is an entirely new position, and the aim is to increase involvement in the botanical world. 

    I will be developing and delivering events around the province specifically to provide more opportunity for anyone keen to learn more about our native flora and habitats. 

    Events will be a mix of workshops and field meetings. 

    The workshops planned are a combination of classroom and field training and there will be something for all levels of botanists – complete beginners to experts.  

    The field-based events will be held in various habitat types around Northern Ireland and will include recording days and in field training days.


    How do you foresee yourself supporting the NPMS volunteers in Northern Ireland?

    An important part of my role will be supporting and mentoring NPMS volunteers in the setting up, monitoring and submission of records for their squares. 

    I will be holding NPMS specific training days in each county across the province for both new and existing volunteers. 

    I would love to hear from current volunteers and would particularly appreciate any feedback from them about what kind of training they would like and what they wished had been available when they first took on their squares.

    I will also be supporting volunteers in the setting up of their squares, facilitating acquiring access permissions and assisting with identification of plant species found.


    Are there any parts of N.I. where you’d really like to see more people getting involved?

    It would be great to see more people volunteering for NPMS squares across the whole of Northern Ireland. Currently Down has the highest proportion of allocated squares. There are lots of squares available in all six counties and I’m really looking forward to supporting new people starting with NPMS.


    Are there any parts of the role that you are most looking forward to? 

    I get a great deal of satisfaction from supporting people in their exploration of the world of plants. Amongst the best moments are when a wee story about a plant ignites their wonder and awe, and when they can independently identify a species that they had found truly challenging a short time before. 

    I am also looking forward to travelling around Northern Ireland getting to know the plants, habitats and people I will encounter while supporting folk in their journey to and through the wonderful, fascinating world of plants.


    What are the plans for the NPMS in Northern Ireland for the next field season? What do you hope to achieve from those? What is the ultimate aim for N.I., from your perspective? 

    • The plans for the next field season for the NPMS in Northern Ireland are: 

    • To see an increased uptake of squares in each of the six counties. 
    • To support existing volunteers to enable and encourage them to continue recording and submitting records for their squares. 
    • To take on an NPMS in each county for the purpose of providing sites where new and continuing volunteers can come for training and support in habitat assessment, quadrat establishment and plant identification. 
    • To identify venues where workshop-based training can take place and provide in person mentoring and support in, for example, record submission.
    • To facilitate the development of a community of NPMS volunteers which provides support, encouragement and the opportunity to buddy-up with others for recording visits.


    I will be reaching out to other organisations involved in the natural world and conservation to encourage them to enable staff to take on an NPMS square as part of their CPD.

    Through the combination of increased training availability, mentoring support and the development of a loose network of volunteers across the province, I am hoping that more people start to enjoy and explore the natural world around them. 

    I hope many more people start gaining pleasure from their growing interest in and confidence in recognising plants. That people become more able to read the landscape around them and gain a deeper sense of place, their place. 

    That they pass their enthusiasm for plants and the natural world on to their friends, families and colleagues, growing a community of nature lovers who have developed the skills necessary to assist in gathering the data we need to understand the changing world around us.


    What would you say to anyone thinking of volunteering with NPMS?

    Please do! By doing so you will be contributing invaluable scientific data not only about the plants that grow in our local environments but also how the populations of those plants fluctuate over time and because of environmental changes. 

    Plus, plants are awesome and great fun to get to know.

    Introducing a new member of the NPMS support team

    Submitted by NPMSSupport on

    We're really excited to introduce a new member of our support team, Karen Fisher who has recently joined as Volunteer Support Officer. Karen joins us with a wealth of experience supporting volunteers and has great ideas for expanding our volunteer community.










    Can you tell us about yourself – what were you doing before you came to the NPMS?
    I have spent most of my career working in the environmental sector, having worked for over 15 years for a well-known woodland conservation charity in the world of woods and trees. I spent over 10 of those years working with volunteers in some form, both as part of funded projects and as part of large UK wide volunteering schemes. During this time, I volunteered as a recorder for a citizen science project recording ancient trees in my area. This involved measuring the girth of the trees and over the years I stuck my face into many a hollowing trunk keeping an eye out for hornets! Outside of work I love photography and I especially enjoy close-up nature photography. I’d like to think I’m great at capturing detail and beautiful light but put me in front of a sprawling landscape and I wouldn’t know where to start.

    What was the main thing that attracted you to the role do you think?
    Plantlife has always been in my field of vision and I’ve always kept up to date with the great work it does. I have lived within the Meirionnydd Oakwoods and Bat sites IPA and walked the woodlands daily looking at and photographing the fascinating assemblages of lichens and bryophytes, and I had heard about the translocation of some of the lichens there. This all fuelled my interest. When I saw the Volunteer Support Officer opportunity, I was so excited about it and I applied straight away. Now I feel like I’ve landed my dream job. To celebrate I bought myself a copy of the Wildflower Key. Working with volunteers and looking closely at plants, for me, it doesn’t get better than that.








    Above - one of my funky finds in Meirionnydd: Cobalt Crust

    Are there any parts of the role that you are most looking forward to? 
    I'm on a learning curve now and I’m looking forward to meeting and learning from volunteers that are part of the NPMS and seeing how I can best support the great work they do. I'm also looking forward to being in the company of others who like to slow down in nature and look at the tiny details. I’m keen to learn and support volunteers on the practicalities of recording, from getting permissions and setting up the plots right through to entering the data. So much so that I’m looking to take on a square in my area. I hope we can grow our network of volunteers and find a home for some of the more overlooked or harder to reach squares, so we have good geographical coverage in all UK countries.

    What would you say to anyone thinking of volunteering with NPMS?
    I would say don’t worry if you’re not a botanist! We have plenty of people who are and can help with any plant ID that’s particularly tricky. If you’re keen and can identify some of the more common species this is a great staring point. Come and join our community.

    Verification of NPMS plant records

    Submitted by NPMSSupport on

    Biological recording has long involved some process of checking or verifying the correctness of an occurrence by the community or scheme interested in the records. There are several ways in which this is done within the NPMS and the first step on this journey is with you, the recorder!


    When you record a plant species, as well as direct recognition of what you see, you may also consider things such as the habitat, region, or altitude of the location, and how likely a certain species is to be there based on this information. You might consult botanical keys, local Floras, and possibly other botanists through various forums, to confirm your record where you are not sure.

    We all make mistakes though, whatever our level of expertise, and verification provides an efficient means of identifying and, where-ever possible, correcting them. Some checks are automated within the digital recording systems we use; the NPMS app, for example, helps ensure that the location and date is automatically in the correct format, and a pre-defined species list reduces the likelihood of transcription errors. The NPMS also uses automatic checks based on the known range, identification difficulty and length of time since a species has been recorded previously, to flag records that could contain errors. Ultimately though, verification still relies on a human to make a judgement on whether a record is correct or not. This is carried out by expert botanists, usually associated with the BSBI, with good knowledge of the flora of the area, county, or region from where the record originated.


    NPMS records are collected and stored in the same data management system as iRecord, a free online biological recording website and app which accepts records of any and is used by many different recording schemes. The NPMS uses the inbuilt verification interface of iRecord (as do many other recording websites), to enable botanical experts to access and verify your NPMS records. This is why, if you have an account in iRecord, you may have noticed your NPMS records appear there too!


    This system allows verifiers to add a comment or question about your record, to which you can then reply if required (see below). This can be an excellent opportunity to receive feedback on identification of records submitted and can provide a learning opportunity for inexperienced surveyors keen to improve their identification skills, so please make the most of them!


    For more detail about the NPMS verification process, and how it is implemented within the iRecord platform read the full NPMS guidance on verification Here.


    To help with the verification process you can...

    - Ask for help if you are unsure of an identification. NPMS staff will be happy to check photographs for you and there may be local botanists, including BSBI vice-county recorders (see the BSBI’s local botany page), who would be happy to help, especially if the species is potentially rare or new to the area.

    - Add photos to your records whenever possible. This is easy to do either via the NPMS website or smartphone app. Try to ensure that the images are in focus and provide close-ups of features that are important for identification such as leaves and flowers. For some great advice see the Botanical photography for beginners webinar available HERE.

    - Include information in the comments field about why you decided on a particular ID, especially for records that are unusual or rare.

    - Check verifier comments/questions on your records and edit records where required (if you are an iRecord user you can also respond to comments on iRecord, and may also receive comments via email, depending on your notification settings there).

    - If you would be interested in becoming a verifier for NPMS data in iRecord, please do email and we can arrange a call to discuss this.


    Sam Amy, Botanical Data Assistant, UKCEH

    NPMS volunteer coordinator in Northern Ireland: Emma Mulholland

    Submitted by NPMSSupport on

     At the start of Autumn 2023, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) appointed a new Scientific Officer who will oversee the National Plant Monitoring Scheme (NPMS) in Northern Ireland; Emma Mulholland.  Read our conversation and welcome Emma to the scheme!


    Emma out in the wilderness, plant hunting. Photo credit: Clare McKinney

    Emma out in the wilderness, plant hunting. Photo credit: Clare McKinney


    Can you tell us about yourself – what were you doing before you came to DAERA?

     Before joining DAERA I worked as a Seasonal Assistant Ecologist in the East Midlands, carrying out Bat, Bird, Great Crested Newt and Hedgerow surveys. Prior to this I was with DAERA on a temporary basis working with Priority Species and Pollinators. I have carried out a few different roles involving GIS (Geographic Information systems) and Data Management for various companies, so have quite a bit of mapping experience. I was a Nature skills Trainee with the Living Seas team at Ulster Wildlife and have a soft spot for coastal habitats and dune systems. Whilst working in these different roles I was also studying part time with the Open University and graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Natural Sciences, which involved a large focus on pollinator plant interactions.

      I regularly carry out surveys and bird ringing for the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) in my spare time and enjoy spending the weekends outdoors, birding and plant hunting with my friends. I grew up in the Antrim Hills and spent a lot of my childhood outside, exploring the local fields and clambering among the heather on Slemish Mountain. Nature has always been a big part of my life and it’s very important to me. I’m very fortunate in that both my parents are horticulturalists, so my family walks as a child involved listening to lengthy taxonomic debates and a lot of pouring over ID books along country lanes. This year I’m planning on making my own moth trap to record the moths in the garden. I also intend to spend a few nights recording bat species to keep up my bat ID. Essentially this year is looking more and more like a 365-day bioblitz and I’m very happy about that!


    What does your new role in DAERA entail and how will you be involved with the NPMS?

     My new role with DAERA is within the Conservation Science branch of the department and is specifically focused on the Data and Evidence side of things. Much of my role involves creating, managing, and processing data, including spatial data (mapping/GIS) for habitats in Northern Ireland. In addition to this I will be supporting the NPMS volunteers in Northern Ireland and within DAERA this year. I will be assisting with survey equipment for the survey season so hope to be out in the field later this year and will also be out surveying my own NPMS square. I also occasionally will be carrying out species and habitat surveys as and when required to help other teams in my branch.


    Emma exploring Ronan’s way in the Glens of Antrim. Photo credit: Jo Mulholland

    Emma exploring Ronan’s way in the Glens of Antrim. Photo credit: Jo Mulholland


    How do you foresee yourself supporting the NPMS volunteers in Northern Ireland?

     I will be available to provide support and advice for the NPMS volunteers in Northern Ireland where possible and will be just an email or phone call away. I want to be able to help assist volunteers with the selection of new squares, helping set up squares for the first time or resolving issues with data input. Even if it’s just a friendly face to ask questions to I’m happy to be of assistance and will take on any good problem-solving challenge with enthusiasm.


    Are there any parts of N.I. where you’d really like to see more people getting involved?

     There are loads of squares available all across Northern Ireland, so I’d really like to see more people from every County getting involved. County Antrim and County Fermanagh in particular both have a large number of available squares. It would be really nice to have a spread of squares across both coastal and inland habitats, as well as increased coverage across upland and lowland habitats. I’d also add that regardless of where the squares are located, having more new volunteers is very important and it’s good to increase the network of biological recorders in Northern Ireland as a whole, as every little helps. 


    Emma on an adventure up Cave hill, probably looking for Kestrels and other exciting species. Photo Credit: Sarah Jane McQuillan

    Emma on an adventure up Cave hill, probably looking for Kestrels and other exciting species. Photo Credit: Sarah Jane McQuillan


    What are the plans for the NPMS in Northern Ireland for the next field season? What do you hope to achieve from those? What is the ultimate aim for N.I., from your perspective?

     For the upcoming field season, we want to see more volunteers getting interested in taking up a square and potentially current volunteers taking up an additional square.

    With increased coverage of squares across a broad range of habitats and a larger volunteer base, we will be able to maximise the amount and accuracy of data collected. The ultimate goal for the NPMS in NI is to build upon the growing dataset of botanical and habitat data which can provide evidence for species trends and distribution to help more effectively inform decisions on protecting species and sites. 


    Thank you for the opportunity to introduce myself and for your continued survey efforts and support of the Scheme. I look forward to working with you all this year and fingers crossed we get some excellent weather for the upcoming field season. 

    The NPMS 7 Years on - By volunteer Anne Griffiths

    Submitted by NPMSSupport on

    I have been recording with the NPMS since it started in 2015. I had very little botanical knowledge then as I was still working as a GP. This is my first plot at Longtown in Herefordshire overlooking the Black Mountains. I was lucky enough to have a wildflower meadow in my patch, fortunately unchanged in the quality of the plants in 7 years.


    Anne Griffiths Survey plot

    Since retiring 3 years ago, I now devote 5 days of the week to botany and am Hon. Sec. to the Committee for Wales of the BSBI (nobody else wanted to do the job!). I also regularly botanise with the Brecknock and Monmouthshire botany groups and am lucky to have had great support from the Vice Recorders of both counties. I have to admit that I flinch at the some/most of records I made in the early days (and more recently)! I also did the Identiplant online course during lockdown, this was at a reduced rate, thanks to the NPMS. I learned loads from this course especially about the different plant families and how to use a key etc.


    To read the rest of this lovely and encouraging blog post from one of our longest contributing volunteers and view Anne's gorgeous images from her plots in Herefordshire and the Brecon Beacons, follow the link below:

    The NPMS 7 years on | Anne Griffiths....Hills, mountains and more ( 

    Introducing our new Ecological Modeller, Oli Wilson

    Submitted by NPMSSupport on

    Oli Wilson is our new ecological modeller here at the NPMS. This exiting new role for the scheme will involve analysing the huge amount of data that is collected by our fantastically dedicated volunteers. Oli has great plans for exploring what the data can tell us. Read below to find out more about him and what he will be bringing to the scheme!

    Oli Wilson

    Can you tell us about yourself – what were you doing before you came to the NPMS?

    I kind of struggle to define what kind of scientist I am – I think I’m probably a biogeographer because I’m interested in environmental change through space and time, but I’ve also got an MSc in ethnobotany (the study of the relationships between plants and people) and a degree in biological sciences. I’m just coming to the end of a PhD at the University of Reading which is a mix between ecology, palaeoecology and archaeology. I’ve been studying the links between plants, people and climate change in the past, present and future, focusing on the unique Araucaria forests of southern Brazil. And going back a bit further, I spent a few years as a school science teacher and a few more working in botanical gardens.

    What was the main thing that attracted you to the role do you think?

    The relationship between plants and climate change interests me a lot, and this role offers the opportunity to look at it in detail – particularly focusing on ecosystems and species that are (literally) closer to home than the ones I’ve studied so far. Researching UK plants is proving to be quite a step change though – the amount of data that’s available is mind-blowing! We’re so fortunate in this country to have genuinely world-leading data on our biodiversity – largely thanks to initiatives like NPMS – and the difference from what’s available for tropical diversity is really stark. These rich datasets make it possible to use much more complex research methods and advanced modelling techniques than I’ve employed previously, so I’m looking forward to getting to grips with them.

    Are there any parts of the role that you are most looking forward to? Any specific areas of analysis for example?

    Well the opportunity to develop new analytical techniques on fantastic data is certainly one, but I’m also looking forward to exploring how the research can connect with policy and the public. Working with the NPMS, those connections are already stronger than in other projects I’ve done, with national nature conservation organisations involved in running it and hundreds of members of the public actually conducting it. I think it’s really important to communicate research beyond just the research community – it’s something I’m really passionate about – and I’m looking forward to sharing our findings with these audiences, to showcase the importance of the UK’s plants and surveys like NPMS.

    Why do you think it is so important to have someone investigating the dataset in real depth?

    The NPMS is a really valuable dataset, brought to life by hundreds of people investing many thousands of hours of work over several years, and holding a potential goldmine of information on the UK’s plants in the early 21st Century. Research like this is a way of honouring that work and reflecting its importance – and it’s also a way of bringing to the foreground the plants and landscapes that everyone involved is so passionate about. I hope the research I do benefits all those parties – plants as well as people – but it’s also important to note that there’s so much data here I’ll only really be able to scratch the surface. I hope and expect that more researchers will use the data over the years to come, possibly even with methods that don’t yet exist!

    One of the questions or comments we get from volunteers sometimes, is that they say their plot is boring or has none or little of the indicator species. Could you describe why data from these plots is equally important?

    Boring plots are super important! Records of where species are form the foundation of so much ecological research, but records of where species aren’t open up a tonne of extra possibilities. For example, my PhD involved quite a bit of species distribution modelling, which depends hugely on the locality data you use as an input. The gold standard is to have both presences and true absences – sites that somebody has visited, surveyed, and recorded whether species were found or missing. You can work with just presence data that’s been recorded opportunistically, but you’re left with the problem of working out whether gaps in your species’ distribution are real or a result of patchy observations. True absence data points put species distribution patterns into sharper relief and let you tackle a whole range of important questions. So please keep surveying boring plots and entering null data – ecologists really will thank you!

    NPMS Volunteer mentors

    Submitted by NPMSSupport on

    The National Plant Monitoring Scheme is lucky enough to have a team of regional volunteer mentors. These are experienced surveyors and botanists that have volunteered to support fellow survey volunteers both locally and nationally.

    Dr Oli Pescott offers advice at QA event 2021

    Image: Dr Oli Pescott and volunteers at Arne reserve QA event


    When it comes to our volunteers looking to get in touch with a mentor, they can do this through accessing our mentors contact directory, provided on the resources page of the NPMS website here. Within the directory volunteers can find the contact name, an email address for that person and a list of areas in which that mentor feels confident and happy to advise or help with, depending on their strengths and of course availability. These include:

    • General enquiries
    • Survey methodology
    • Species identification
    • Habitat classification
    • Data Entry
    • Regional Volunteer meet ups
    • And for some - Developing a local network/community of volunteers, something we are increasingly seeing a demand for both online and on the ground.


    Ever since the initial development of the NPMS, we have undertaken regular reviews by requesting feedback and experiences from our all-important volunteers, both surveyors and mentors. A part of this is considering how we can develop our volunteer community, an area we are keen to continue evolving.

    We find there is often a desire for connection to local volunteers and therefore support in facilitating local links, including with mentors. Informal field events and opportunities to get out on the ground with like-minded volunteers for support and comradery can also be beneficial. Buddying opportunities are becoming more popular, where volunteers are interested in teaming up to survey sites. We are also seeing more online sharing of experiences and advice.

    So you can imagine, with the positive effects of shared experience, shared learning and guidance, the huge value of regional mentors. Please do reach out to your nearest mentor to introduce yourself if you have any queries or are looking for some friendly guidance.

    Image: Louise Marsh, Snowdonia Society training

    Image: Louise Marsh, Snowdonia Society training


    Think you may be interested in becoming a mentor with us?

    We know mentors can be hugely valuable to our wider group of volunteers, but what motivates mentors to take on this role? We find that motivations of course vary from person to person.

    • Some enjoy the contact and relationship building with like-minded volunteers with similar interests.
    • Others take real satisfaction and fulfilment in supporting other dedicated volunteers and feeling part of a team working towards a common goal.
    • For some it is a further opportunity to get out in the field and discover new places and practice their botany.
    • Conversely for others, they do not have the means or are no longer able to get out in the field, and this presents a way of taking part in the scheme, using their skills and continuing their hobby or interest, in a desk-based role.
    • Some enjoy the opportunity to share their skills and experience, and indeed, in return use the opportunity for their own personal development.


    There are varied activities and means of taking part. Which of these any mentor choses to be involved with is of course dependent on their interests, motivations and time availability. You can just let us know which you are keen to get involved with and again if this changes at all. Mentors can support in any roles they feel happiest and most suited to, whether desk based, in the field or indeed both.

    Examples of desk-based roles include proving regional email and telephone support on areas such as general methodology i.e. plot set-up, species ID, habitat ID. Also Acting as a contributor on the NPMS Support Facebook group, responding to queries or encouraging conversation and sharing.


    There are also a number of ways our mentors can be active and offer support in-field, of course with the support of the NPMS team helping to facilitate. These are region and mentor dependent and include regional group meets such as Walks, Square/plot visits with volunteers, season reviews and get togethers, even socials. These are just a few and you may have ideas of your own, which we'd love to hear. All of these are course supported and facilitated by the NPMS team but with mentors taking the lead.

    You can view a full webinar recording discussing NPMS mentor opportunities and how we support these on our YouTube channel here.


    mentor path

    If you decide that you would like to become a volunteer mentor with us and offer support with any of these activities, please do email and we can arrange an call to discuss your interest and availability, along with how to proceed in setting you up as an NPMS mentor with us.

    Wildflower Spotting and the NPMS

    Submitted by NPMSSupport on

    Check out this wonderfully written blog post from one of our fantastic NPMS volunteers. Michelle has been part of the scheme since even before it's official launch, having volunteered on Plantlife surveys prior to this.

    Emily Wilkins tells us about her NPMS experience and unique square location

    Submitted by NPMSSupport on

    (Photo of the Slender Scotch Burnet Moth and vews of the square and plot locations)

    My name is Emily Wilkins and I work as a countryside ranger for the islands of Iona, Staffa and the southern part of Mull off the west coast of Scotland. It’s a partnership role between the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) and the local Mull & Iona Community Trust (MICT).

    “I’m enjoying having a reason to visit this remoter part of my patch”

    A few years ago I was delighted to notice that an NPMS square was available on the NTS Burg estate, part of my ranger patch. Burg is an area of spectacular coastal landscape at the end of Mull’s Ardmeanach peninsula. The area is protected for its unique geology and wildlife including the imprint of a 60 million year old fossil tree in the cliffs and nesting golden eagles. You have to pay close attention to notice the real stars of the show however! Burg is home to the lovely day-flying slender scotch burnet moth, on the wing for a few weeks in June each year and found only here and a few neighbouring sites – and the equally rare Iceland purslane, a tiny plant growing in our summit gravel terraces and found only here and a few places on the island of Skye. That’s the entire UK distribution for both of these species!

    Although I can look across the loch to Burg from my living room window, getting there is not so easy. Visitors must walk for an hour and a half from the carpark before they reach the boundary and even then they are only halfway to the fossil tree. Although I can drive a bit closer down a rough track, monitoring the NPMS square still involves a full day hill walk. Sometimes I split the visit over two days as half of the square is above the cliffs and half below and it’s a long walk around to find a safe route up or down! I’m enjoying having a reason to visit this remoter part of my patch…not for nothing is it known as The Wilderness!

    I was lucky to have some expert help in setting up my plots from Helen Doherty, Grassland Specialist for Scottish Natural Heritage who was visiting to undertake her Site Condition Monitoring checks on some of the protected habitats. Being close to the sea makes conditions more extreme so I have ended up with a ‘montane calcareous grassland’ and a ‘dry montane heathland’ plot, even though they aren’t at a high altitude, along with a ‘flush’ and a ‘wet heath’ plot. With such an impressive location I’m never short of volunteers looking for an interesting day out so I have plenty of help to complete the surveys each year too. On one memorable visit we had just crested the hill on the way to the upper plots and were faced with a whole family of golden eagles cruising at eye level above the clifftops in front of us!

    Taking part in NPMS has definitely helped to improve my plant identification skills, especially on grasses and sedges. It’s been an enjoyable experience that’s taken me to a really interesting place. As I write this we are still in a coronavirus lockdown situation and for now I have switched to citizen science projects I can undertake in my back garden, but I’m looking forward to the day when I can visit my square again.