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Make the Small Things Count!

Plantlife is delighted to announce a pioneering new project funded by a grant of £62,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), which throws the spotlight onto the South West’s most diminutive group of wild plants.

October 24 2013

Oakmoss lichen © RG Woods

Oakmoss lichen © RG Woods

They may be small but lichens, mosses and liverworts play a massive role in our lives.

They tell us how clean our air is, filter our water, help prevent flooding, provide shelter for wildlife and over the centuries have been used for medicinal purposes, to dye wool, silk and even hair! The project will focus on the outstanding landscapes of the Mendip Hills, Quantocks, Exmoor and Dartmoor, which are internationally significant for these beautiful and important plants.

Did you know?

  • Famous as the setting for Lorna Doone, the “Romance of Exmoor”, the area is characterised by its mystical oak woodlands that are the only place in England where you can find the Biatoridium delitescens, Bacidia subturgidula and Rinodina flavosoralifera lichens.
  • Without mosses, Dartmoor would have no peat bogs which are vital to prevent flash flooding! In the First World War, mosses were collected from Dartmoor to dress battle wounds.
  • The lichens, mosses and ferns that cloak the woodlands of the Quantocks add to the captivating scenery which fed the imagination of some of the country’s most famous romantic poets including William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

In just two years, “Make the Small Things Count” will:

  • Enable thousands of people to learn more about these exquisite plants, their importance and heritage.
  • Offer guidance and training to those who look after the South West’s Atlantic woodlands which we have an international responsibility to conserve.
  • Launch a “lichen apprenticeship scheme” to combat the chronic shortage of experts who can identify survey and monitor these species.
  • Offer children and families the opportunity to explore the hidden world of lichens, liverworts, ferns and mosses as part of a series of road shows.

Plantlife’s Felicity Harris explains: “Woodlands where the trees are cloaked in lichens, mosses and ferns are enchanting and mysterious places.  So often unnoticed, but vital for the functioning of ecosystems, our lichens and mosses form miniature forests within forests.   This project will introduce this mysterious world to a wider audience, so they can learn to identify and appreciate them, which will be crucial if we are to successfully monitor and understand how these species are faring in our ever-changing world”

Barbara Hilton from the British Lichen Society says “ We are delighted the go ahead has been given for “Make Small Things Count” as it puts into focus the beauty and variety of lichens in the South-West, one of the richest lichen areas in the country! By recording lichens we contribute to knowledge of our environment and the changes it is undergoing”.

Commenting on HLF’s grant award, Head of South West Nerys Watts said: “Our natural heritage is crucial for our survival and well being, yet we know from scientific research and ecological surveys that it is being lost at a fast rate. Consequently we are delighted to be able to support projects such as ‘Make the Small Things Count’. We want to ensure that projects we fund enhance natural heritage whenever possible and this project will do exactly that, ensuring people of all ages can understand and appreciate the importance of even the seemingly insignificant aspects of our rich natural world.”

Plantlife’s “Make the Small Things Count” project has been welcomed by “Devon Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty” and “Quantocks Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty” who have supported the project from the start.

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