The Native Woodland Discussion Group is running a lichen workshop at the Beinn Eighe offices, led by Brian and Sandy Coppins. On the way up I gave a lift to Matilda Scharsach, the new lower plant officer for Plantlife, and great company for the drive up the A9. The workshop is a chance to be with lichen folk and other naturalists, get out in wonderful Scotland, and soak up some lichen ecology tips from the experts.
On separate days we search the oak woodland and pine forests near Loch Maree, returning to the lab with specimens to identify. There are the usual gorgeous, leafy, Atlantic Oakwood lichens, such as Lobaria pulmonaria, L. virens, Degelia atlantica, Sticta sylvatica and Pannaria rubiginosa. I never tire of seeing these because you don’t get them where I live and they look so fresh and succulent in the wet oceanic climate. There are also some tiny leafy ones such a Parmeliella parvula and Pannaria conoplea. Pachyphiale carneola is very common here and fruiting abundantly, looking like tiny orange-red fruit gums. Andy Acton showed me Pertusaria ophthalmiza. It starts raining hard but some of us decide to stay out a bit longer. I am rewarded by finding Hypotrachyna taylorensis on a birch; apparently it has not been seen here for decades. I was just lucky to look at the right tree, one of hundreds – but it still leaves a warm glow to find it.
Native Scottish pinewoods have a special character. The trees are usually more widely spaced and often occupy more interesting, craggy ground. At first sight the trunks seem clean but looking more closely, in the bark crevices, there is lots to see. The acidic bark has a distinct lichen flora. It is always nice to see the pure white fruits of Micarea alabastrites. Mycoblastis sanguinarius is everywhere. We find Platismatia glauca in fruit and a nice patch of Chaenotheca brunneola. Other species are less distinctive, such as Mycoblastis caesius, but to a lichen fan they are all interesting finds.
The best bit was when someone spotted Ochrolechia szatalaensis on a rowan tree – gorgeous. Fruits like sugar-dusted jellies. Confectioners could get inspiration from things like this.
Our evenings are spent at the Kinlochewe Hotel where the food, bar and conversation are excellent.
I am camping in order to try out my new Vango Tornado 300. It pitches in one go – inner and outer together - and has nice shiny blue and gold poles. It is built for three although you would be like sardines, but plenty of room just for me. It copes with the awful weather with no problem. It is wonderfully satisfying to be inside a trustworthy tent when all hell is raging outside.