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“Lichens are cool because they are everywhere. Once you notice them, you realise they are crazy, weird, colourful and interesting.”

Rob Hodgson started his lichen journey in lockdown as a complete beginner. Walking around Bristol one day, a lichen peaked his interest and from then on he was gripped by these secret miniature forests.

As an illustrator, Rob has created dynamic and lifelike lichen characters to help more people starting out.

We went to chat to Rob and join him on a lichen hunt.

Man looking at a tree for lichens

What’s it like as a lichen beginner?

“It was kind of my lockdown project and I just got interested one day, like what is this crazy thing. When I first started looking at lichens, you go online and there’s a million Latin names and I was just like, no this isn’t for me – I’m not a lichen expert. But once you learn the common names and you start to spot different ones, it gets easier. You don’t have to go anywhere far away, you can see these things just on the street. There’s one called chewing Chewing Gum lichen that you can see everywhere once you tune into it, just on the pavement.

Where are all these lichens?

“You do definitely notice if you go to the countryside, it’s like a lichen explosion. But I live in the centre of Bristol pretty much and there’s still lichens everywhere. On my doorstep, you see them on the pavements, you see them on walls and in my local parks there’s loads of lichens.

It’s a really good time of year to go lichen hunting [autumn/winter] and you don’t need any stuff. You can just go and as soon as you get out of the house you are on a lichen hunt – that’s as easy as it is. You just need to look on the floor, look in the tress and you’re good to go.

Let’s meet the lichen characters…

Rob Hodgson looking for lichens on a wall

How did you make the lichen characters?

“The way I work things out sometimes is through my work. When I was looking at lichens, I thought how can I make this more interesting than all of these super technical, botanical drawings. I drew one, and then once you notice one, you notice another, and then all of sudden I had drawn 20 different lichens.

There was a lot of back and forth between going out and looking at lichens and going back and modifying them.

That was where I was coming from, trying to make them fun and accessible.”

 

Rob has made beautifully designed lichen characters including dust lichen, shield lichen and oak moss. Follow him on social media here.

Ash trees suffering from dieback

One of the biggest issues facing our nature reserves is the ongoing management of Ash trees suffering from dieback – Augill is no different as the woodland there is about 10% Ash. Some of the ash trees were identified through our tree safety surveys as being diseased and close to footpaths and the car park.

Two of the diseased trees were overhanging the Augill Smelt Mill. Any limb shedding would cause further damage to this structure, which is on the Historic England Scheduled Monument At-Risk register.

We made the decision to employ a local firm of tree surgeons to remove both these trees and several other ash trees around the car park. This work was delivered working with our tenant for the reserve; Cumbria Wildlife Trust.

An ash tree trunk with no branches and left as a monolith

This tree was left as a 5m tall ‘monolith‘, which as continues to decay, will provide habitat for birds and bats.

The trees were removed in Mid-January and I went recently to check on their progress. When I arrived they had cordoned off the car park and footpaths and had their climber in the larger of the two trees removing the higher limbs. By the time I left about 2 hours later, they had removed the majority of the limbs, while the ground crew had processed the brash and timber into log piles and brash windrows

The grassland at Augill Pasture is managed by grazing and unusually for our reserves it is grazed by ponies. Two small ponies were put on the reserve in October and were taken off recently, as the weather became very cold at the beginning of January. This grazing will have controlled the growth of the grass species, allowing the forb species enough space to grow as the weather turns warmer.

Alison from Plantlife’s Building Resilience project visits a temperate rainforest in Dartmoor, dripping with lichens, mosses and liverworts, and a richness in diversity rivalling the cloud forest of the Andes. Watch our video to see what she finds, and discover why we need to take action to protect this precious fragment of our ancient woodlands for the future.

Still not sure if you’re walking through the rainforest?

Take a look at the guides below and see how many rainforest indicators you can spot – maybe a huge long-lived Oak tree smothered in colourful lichens, or a meandering river carving it’s way though the woodlands.

Plantlife is at the forefront of taking action for our temperate rainforests. We’re working with land managers across the UK to bring more rainforest into appropriate management, providing unique, specialist advice to collaborative partners, and campaigning for better protection for this important habitat.

Join our fight to save the UK’s rainforest by becoming a Plantlife member today.

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Rob Hodgson with lichen characters

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