The NPMS launch

The new National Plant Monitoring Scheme (NPMS), launching today, will for the first time enable scientists to take an annual stock take of the UK’s wild plants and their habitats, but to do this we need the public’s help. We are looking for volunteers to carry out surveys of wildflowers and their habitats that will provide robust evidence of which widespread plants are increasing or declining, as well as indicating the changing state of our most valued habitats such as grassland, fenland and even road verges. Plants are nature’s building blocks and this new monitoring scheme will sit alongside existing schemes for the UK’s birds and butterflies to help us understand more about how the countryside is changing.

Chris Cheffings, from the Joint Nature Conservation Committee says “Currently, information on plant species’ abundance and change is very limited, and it is difficult to gauge the condition of habitats outside protected sites. JNCC is delighted to be able to support the NPMS, which will fill this significant gap in UK biodiversity surveillance.  The annual results collected by volunteers will help to identify trends in hundreds of species, allowing us to assess plant community changes.”

The search is now on to find 2000 volunteers to take part in the NPMS who will play a vital role in gathering information. Together the volunteers will monitor wild plants in 28 important habitats, ranging from hedgerows and meadows to salt marsh and scree slopes.
Small Scabious
Small Scabious

Hayley New, from Plantlife says “The NPMS is hugely enjoyable and over 400 volunteers have helped us set up the new scheme. It’s easy to do and everyone will receive free training and guidance plus support from the partnership for volunteers who have queries, as well as web support and illustrated guidance notes – so volunteers will have the perfect survey tool kit to get them started!”
Dr Kevin Walker, Head of Science, Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) says:
“It’s really great to finally have a national scheme that everyone can take part in. Whether you simply love wildflowers or are a budding botanist, input from volunteers will provide sound evidence on how our wild plants and habitats are changing. It’s a fantastic achievement and should mean that wild plants are at the forefront of discussions on how our environment is changing and what we should be doing about it.”
How does the NPMS work?
  • Volunteers will be able to choose from three options depending on their level of expertise: recording from a short or an extended list of target species in each habitat or recording all species they find in their plots.
  • Volunteers will be given a 1 km square with a grid showing up to 25 locations. Surveyors will be asked to visit three of those locations and carry out surveys in square plots and then identify two linear features such as hedgerows, rivers and road verges and survey these locations too.
  • The squares have been randomly chosen, but with a focus on squares containing habitats of interest.
Volunteers surveying
Volunteers testing methods in 2014

Oliver Pescott, from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology says “The results from this new scheme should allow us to quantify the smaller changes that are occurring within our most valuable habitats. In the past, volunteer-collected data have been able to demonstrate the results of large-scale habitat loss over the last century, now we would like to reveal even more detail about the changes within the remaining areas of these habitats in our landscape.”


Available squares

The system seems not to work.   It won't accept my post code.   I'd love to take part,  but if the system doesn't work . . . .



Hi John, Apologies for the

Hi John, Apologies for the delay. The website is constantly being improved as we discover unexpected bugs, I believe the postcode lookup should now be working (as long as you have specified a postcode on your account). Please contact if you have any other problems. Many thanks

Square near me

Hi Tricia, If you have problems using the 'Square near me' function, then please contact . If there is currently no square near enough to you, then please check back in the future, one may be released. We can only release squares that have been randomly selected; this is to ensure that the survey provides an accurate picture of the state of the coutryside. Best wishes

square allocation

Have checked for new squares but firstly could not access account despite using correct password, then there are no squarea appearing on the map when using the 'square near me' function. Can i ask, why disrupt a perfectly good existing survey when the new method is obviously not working properly?

square allocation

Hi Tricia, I've also replied to your email. The new method of random square selection ensure that the data collected is statistically robust enought to produce the national trends that the scheme is aiming for. These trends will provide a much clearer picture of plant populations and the health of habitats in the UK. If you have any further queries then email Best wishes Hayley


I would like to get involved in the wild plant survey but I can't use the 'find a square' part of the website. Please allocate me a square.


Hi Sue, If are still having problems using the 'Square near me' function, then please contact . If there is currently no square near enough to you, then please check back in the future, one may be released. We can only release squares that have been randomly selected; this is to ensure that the survey provides an accurate picture of the state of the coutryside. Best wishes

Squares near me

Please allocate me a square within ten miles of my postcode. I can't get the system to do this for me.


Hello, If you are still having problems using the 'Square near me' function, then please contact . If there is currently no square near enough to you, then please check back in the future, one may be released. We can only release squares that have been randomly selected; this is to ensure that the survey provides an accurate picture of the state of the coutryside. Best wishes

Land ownership question

I've managed to allocate myself a couple of squares, but I'm not sure how to go about ascertaining the land ownership details. Is this something I must do myself? Once this is done, I will be asking more questions, undoubtedly!

Land ownership

Hi Rosa, At the moment our resources won't allow us to organise access (where necessary) for volunteers, therefore it is something that you will have to do yourself. We may be able to offer some advice if you contact us on Best wishes

Printing a map of 1 km square?

How do I print a map showing the 1 km square to enclose with the NPMS Access permission letter please? No success so far.

Selection of Species Groups

The options for selecting my preferred recording groups seems to include all the 'badly-formed' species groups i.e. including many alternative spellings, capitalisations and duplications etc.   This is very confusing.  Can it be refined to single groups?

Site improvements

Hi Jo-Jo, We are of course striving to improve the usability of the site all the time. If you have specific things that you have found challenging, then we would very much appreciate it if you could forward your feedback to . Many thanks

no response

I joined 13 days ago and thought I had  a square in fife.I have not heard anything from the administrator.Attempts to find out via the website have proved frustrating . I am now unsure if I have actually succeeded in getting  a square. As commented above this does not seem to be an easy site to negotiate.

I had chosen a square at St Monans. Could you confirm if this has been allocated to me. Thank you


Hi Diana, I have had a look

Hi Diana, I have had a look for you and your square has been successfully allocated. As long as a square appears under "Request squares and create plots" then it has been allocated to you. I do apologise for any frustrations caused by the website and if you would like to feedback any specific areas for improvement then please email me on Best wishes, Hayley

Use of the site.

I have found using the site quite confusing when navigating to the various sections. However with patience, up to  now I have managed to extract and log on to information that I  have needed.

I must admit that the team of youg ladies in the office have been very helpfull and understanding.. All in  all, I think that the whole site concept will  prove to be very informative, and an excellant leraning platform ( for myself anyway.)I also think that it  will prove to be a good "lead in" method of encouraging youngsters to expand any interest that they might have in the natural world.  I look forward to being a small part of it.

david wareham




Who on earth put this together? I cannot make it work therefore remove my details please IF this is complicated I cannot imagine what the rest will be like.


Hi Zuleika 48, Apologies if you are having problems. If you could email me to let me know what, in particular, you need help with then I can get back to you - Best wishes, Hayley

Introductory letter for landowners

Where is this introductory letter for landowners?  Can't find it anywhere.  I will need it as all my square is farmland with just a few footpaths and one small wood.  Although there are no fences it is all private property.  I have received all my survey material and it says to download the letter from the website.

Can't Understand The System

So, the instructions for being allocated a square are gobbledegook.  Click on the icons - nothing happens.  Click on the circle on the map which is around my postcode - nothing happens except I get a list of 2159 grid references beginning with HU.  Is this a Hull postcode?  If so it's a bit of a way from Herefordshire.  Has anyone at NPMS actually tried to use this system? 

Can't understand the system

Hello, if you are getting a circle around your postcode but no squares it means that there are none available within the distance you've specified so you could try increasing this or alternatively waiting for the next batch of squares for a closer one. If you are still having problems then please feel free to email me on Best wishes Hayley

getting squares near me.

Hello, I have registered for this exciting project but cant seem to work the map. My husband briefly mannaged to see some sites near us at Newburgh, sites we know !! Yet neither of us can get to the point of getting them.

After I have requested a square?

 Hello. I think I have identified and requested a square near me at Newburgh. However I am not confident that I have done this as I was having difficulty. How will I know if I have been successful or if I should start again?  Thank you. Rachel.






Square allocation

Hi Rachel,

It appears that the square NK0024 has been succesfully added to your account (see your 'Request square and create plots' page). Please email if you have any further problems. All the best, Oli

Initial survey

I thought I was going to enjoy this as much as the previous Plantlife surveys which I have done for quite a few years. I am finding it a bit of a nightmare! Why is a decimal 1km square divided into nine smaller squares? It makes finding the place on the OS map and by gps very difficult (my gps doesn't have a reading 3.333 recurring, strangely enough . . . ) The maps provided are so pale it is hard to find features to orient oneself by, such as roads and boundaries – and I was in a square I am actually very familiar with – so I had to keep looking at the OS map as well. The coloured bits identifying the habitat do not always agree with what one can see on the ground, and I couldn't find any guidance on what to do in that situation. I could go on, alas.  I am an experienced botanist; I just don't know how people are going to manage who need to check IDs all the time etc. I have said I will do it, so I will carry on, but I just hope it gets more enjoyable. Sorry to be so negative, but I have just spent several hours simply doing the inital survey and am worn out!

I'm new to undertaking

I'm new to undertaking botanical surveys but not new to using maps. So, although confused by the use of the 3 x 3 grid at first because on face value it makes determining the the exact position of the grid intersections difficult as previously described (due to the recurring decimal), and worse still it makes determining the position of the SW corner of the proposed 25m x 25m plots, (which are centered on the grid intersection, which themselves can only be approximated decimally), most difficult (because it means subtracting 12.5m from a coordinate expressed to either a third or two thirds of a metre); I assumed this was some kind of standard mapping protocol for these kind of surveys, with some internal logic yet to be revealed.

So is there some rationale for dividing the 1 km square into a 3 x3 grid? And is there some easy method for determining the coordinates of the SW corner of the proposed 25m x 25m plots? Indeed why not simply provide these coordinates on the printed maps?


I of course was refering to the SW corner of the 5m x 5m plots (not 25m x 25m), but the point is the same.

Plot grid references

Hi Geoff, the rationale behind the 3x3 grid is that it provided an adequate average number of intersections with linear features without making the map look too busy. It was also decided not to put the grid references on because of space restrictions and simplicity as they would have been to the nearest metre which would be almost impossible to find in the field and we didn't want volunteers to worry about locating the plot to that level of accuracy. The squares on the map are also bigger than 5x5m and are just meant as a guide to an approximate location. Providing a 6 figure grid reference is adequate. It is more important that the plots are consistently surveyed from year to year so taking photos and making a field sketch to aid re-finding the plot in subsequent years will be useful.

In response, we are working on a map crib sheet that will give the precise co-ordinates of the plots. I will let you know when it is available on the resources page of the website.

If you would like to discuss this further or have any other queries then please do get in touch on 01722 342743 or

Best wishes, Hayley

Some ideas

Thanks for that.

I think the question of accuracy of locating and identifying plots is an interesting one which begs further questions for which I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all answer, but perhaps some useful things that can be done to make the job easier.

Consider two squares.

The first one is SH3040 and is my Mum’s. It is centred around a large village and therefore there are many man-made features that can be used to identify locations on the ground and most of the surrounding land is enclosed.

But her first problem is not how to record the location of actual plots, but how to relate the NPMS habitats, and the proposed plots, to the ground. She is perfectly happy reading OS maps and using six figure coordinates, and she knows this area very well, but she cannot see exactly where the NPMS habitats are relative to the various man-made features (and this is important if you don’t want to find yourself surveying someone’s garden).

The main reason for this problem is twofold; firstly the faintness of the OS map underlying the NPMS habitats as provided makes it difficult to see any map features that can be related to the ground, and secondly the different printed scale of the NPMS square and the actual printed OS map that makes comparison between maps difficult.

This difficulty is significant in the context of this particular square because either some of the habitats are small in size, (and are not necessarily obvious unless you can find their exact location), or they are quite large, (but their boundaries need to be accurately ascertained as physical access may be limited to a few points).

I have therefore produced some clearer maps for her which relate the NPMS habitats to the OS map, both more clearly and at the same scale, (I have also related the NPMS habitats to an aerial image of the square). You can download these from if you wish;!70555&authkey=!AAErTdSM8uVJ02o&ithint=folder%2cpdf

Could NPMS provide something similar for others?

Once my Mum has found the habitats and their plots I don’t think she will find it too difficult to record their locations, or too difficult for someone else to find them.

But the second square, my square, SH 3544, is a different situation. It is open access country with few man-made features. Here the habitats are self-evident and easy to find.

What will be more difficult will be recording the location of the plots. Field diagrams, photographs and six figure coordinates will be of little use (unless accompanied by off-sets and bearings, or if marker posts are used). Here GPS will be of most use, otherwise the 5 x 5 m plot could be anywhere within a larger 100 x 100 m sub-square of moorland.

Re: Initial survey

Dear Faith, I'm sorry you found your initial survey hard work at least things will get easier now that you have located your survey plots. The rationale for dividing the square was to provide an adequate number of intersections with linear features without making the map too busy. The map is only a guide and we would expect volunteers to use it alongside other mapping tools. The habitat shading may well be different to what you find on the ground due to inaccuracies in the data or changes since the data was collected and this is explained on page 4 of the survey guidance notes. If you encounter a different habitat on the ground then you can still survey the plot if it is an NPMS habitat or ignore that plot if it isn't.

We are producing some more guidance for using the map and working out the plot grid references and I will let you know when this is available on the website.

Do get in touch if you have any further queries on 01722 342743 or

Best wishes, Hayley

squares in my area

There are none available in the Central Bedfordshire area.  When will the next batch be set up?

Re: squares in my area

Hi Gillie, there are some new squares for your region due to be released and they will be available on the website within the next week. If you send me an email to I can let you know when they are available. Best wishes, Hayley

Frustrating ...

I very nearly lost the will to live!

This site is not at all user-friendly or intuitive ... I have Dyspraxia and was at the point of pulling my hair out and I 

still don't know if my attempt to secure a square was succussful or not ... please confirm!

Cheers, Amanda


Re: Frustrating ...

Hi Amanda, sorry to hear that you have found the site frustrating. Your request was successful and your survey pack will be in the post this week. If you do have any further problems the please email Best wishes


Habitats map scale and GPS of suggested plots

Just a little grumble, perhaps you can improve for next issue:-

The Scale marker on the habitat map shows 0.5km, divided into not 5 or 10 subdivision, but 8 so that each subdivision is exactly err.. 62.5m. Obviously a lot of thought went into that.

For those want want GPS coordinates for their suggested squares, the centre of square No1 is at NN AB167 CD167. where the coordinate of the whole map is eg NN ABCD.  Square No2 is at AB333 CD167, No3 at AB500 CD167, No4 at AB667 CD167 and No5 at AB833 CD167. The next row starts with No6 at NN AB167 CD333, and so it goes....

My 1K square is NO2636, so my No3 suggested site is NO 26500 36167.

Good luck to everyone on this voyage of discovery, Mark

No blue squares near me

I can see a few orange squares near me ( North Enfield) but no blue squares. Am I doing something wrong or have they not been released?



Habitat mismatch

Sorry to be a nuisance, but now I have another problem.  In my second square I found five suitable square plots (no suitable linear pots presented themselves) in five different broad habitats, reasonably near to where the map suggested. I then recorded everything in them (Inventory level). When I got home I checked the booklet to assign them to 'fine' habitats  - but as far as the species lists are concerned, not a single one of them actually fits any of the fine habitats. Example: a plot which was indisputably coastal shingle, but contained only three of the species on your coastal shingle list, yet had another 17 species not on the list. The situation was similar in the other plots. How important is this?

Habitat mismatch

Hi Faith, this isn't a problem as the lists are just a carefully selected set of species based on their distribution, ease of ID and whether they are useful indicators of habitat quality (positive and negative). If you can identify the fine habitat then that is great but if not just record the broad habitat and enter your species under the inventory level. When I've been out practicing surveying on the workshops we have generally only found a few species from the list for each habitat which may just mean that the habitat is declining or in poor condition. Best wishes, Hayley

It's all getting too much for me

Why no blog entries since June? Why can't I raise a topic on a forum? No-one has done so yet – could it be because there is no captcha, so I can't prove I'm human? I would report this to the webmaster at the contact link specified – excpet that there is no contact link. I have filled in the surveymonkey form (even one of the questions there didn't work!) and I can't believe this is all just because I have a Mac . . .  I really have tried to get on with this scheme, but I do have a life to lead as well. Such as recording for the BSBI - nothing like as complicated, I assure you.


Is this still going? Very difficult site to operate but can't see anything since August last year!


Hi Jonny, yes the scheme is still running. You can sign up for a square on the request a square tab after logging in. If you need any further help then please email Thanks, Hayley

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The NPMS launch

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