Our Head of Education, Families and Youth - Jim Wardill - has been out exploring the countryside with his two daughters. Here's his account of lichens in the Lakes: 

It’s the Easter holidays, we’re in the Lake District, and we're high above remote Ennerdale, climbing a Fell called Haycock. We’ve got all the kit - waterproofs, boots, gloves, hats, etc., and most importantly - the Kendal Mint Cake and Jelly Bean ‘Power boosts’. Add to that a determination to get to the top, and we have all we need!

It’s a steep start through a forestry plantation, then we break out onto rocky heather moorland. We’re looking out for wildlife, but there’s not much to be seen here... Or is there?

Looking around, we did see lots of coloured patches on the rocks – the unassuming and often ignored lichens. The girls ask some simple questions that I don’t really know the answers to - Are they plants? Fungi? How old are they? How did they get here? We could see there were different types, so we set a little challenge – how many different types we could find. On your marks... Get set... Go!

Within ten minutes, the we think we found eleven different species – green ones, white ones, flat ones, textured ones, ‘sticky outy’ ones... We had to look at them closely to see the differences, and when we did, we had a lovely surprise. It was a bit like exploring coral reefs, or tiny forests – really!

Here are some of the lichens we found. We don’t know their real names, so we made some up:

The little coral reef


The mini forest

Pixie cup!

The cracked pot

We get pretty immersed in the micro-world of the rocks and their living blankets. I’m put in mind of those lines from a William Blake poem ‘To see a world in a grain of sand, and a heaven in a wildflower’.

We realised we didn’t know very much about lichens. I think they are a mix of fungi and algae and live to a ripe old age. We think the pixie cup is a lichen ‘fruit’. Something to look into when we get back to an internet connection!

We know they like fresh air, which is probably why there are so many here. The trees in Ennerdale are covered with lichens and mosses. When we get home, we are going to see how many of these miniature masterpieces of nature we can see in Leeds. Now our eyes are tuned in, I think we might be surprised what we can see!

If you have some ideas what lichens Jim saw please do comment and let us know (you'll have to sign-in to our Community if you haven't done so yet. Or if you don't have a login you can comment on Twitter).