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Coastal Wild Food Course West Sussex dawn
  • 5 day course

    23-27 July 2024

    New-Foundational Ethnobotany

    Based on the utility of plants and trees

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    Europe & The UK

    Dates now available for 2024

    Tracker Evaluations

    Trailing and Track & Sign evaluations

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Practical Ethnobotany and Plant Identification – Level 4

“If you can go on this course, I can’t recommend it enough. I learnt so much and feel very lucky to have benefited from both the excellent teachers and the knowledge and support of the other students.” Jess Rickenbach

Course Content

Identification and uses of evergreen and deciduous trees in both summer and winter. Identification and uses of plants from woodlands, wetlands, heath, chalk and coast. Identification and uses of fungi, plant history and ecology, woodland history, wild foods, pros and cons of wild medicines and herbal first aid, directional indicators, working with fibers, natural dyes, saps and resins, plants and nutrition, plant chemicals and toxins and nomenclature.

Also included is the programme Valuing and Managing Veteran trees as so much of the history of these trees is linked with our own.

This course focuses on the world of plants, trees and fungi covering in depth identification and uses. It is not a carving style craft course, a wild food or herbal medicine course it does cover applications for plants across all of these disiplines together with bushcraft applications. A big focus will be on the seasonality of the species and how they can be used. Each block is designed to cover a certain habitat and specific area of study. Wild foods form a theme running throughout the programme. Study is weighted towards the student being able to identify with confidence an array of plants, trees and fungi to species level. Ecology and history will also be studied enabling the student to spot relationships within plant and fungal communities. It is estimated we will be covering around 250 -300  species on this programme. We do not try to learn every single species found in the UK but instead focus on the most useful and effective in the time given. We  cover the uses of keys to identify species but also prefer to learn plants as our ancestors did by getting to know individuals extremely well.

The course will run in series of three day blocks. The timetable is programmed so that students are tested on species covered in the preceding block each time they attend as appropriate. These blocks are not always evenly spaced as we need to work with the seasons and the species that are available at various times of the year.

Dates 2024

  • 10-12 May
  • 14-16 June
  • 19-21 July
  • 30 Aug-1 Sept
  • 27-29 Sept
  • 1-3 Nov

If this course is full please contact us to be placed on a waiting list for cancellations.

Course Dates

Practical Ethnobotany and Plant Identification - Level 4

Please read the following information before booking:

Please note this is a self catered course and although it is non residential you are welcome to camp at our site if you prefer. It is also possible to arrive the evening before but please call us to discuss this option. There will be some travel to other venues although we will endeavour to car share as much as possible.

NB: Camping is not integral to this programme, it is something we offer for the convenience of our students it is not part of the course fee. With this in mind please be aware that should you choose to stay on site you will be expected to help with the small tasks, that facilitate the smooth running of the camp.

You need to be over 18 years of age to attend this programme.

Start May 10 2024 Full

Course: Practical Ethnobotany and Plant Identification Level 4

Training: May - November 2024

Location: Nr Midhurst, West Sussex

Start Time: 8.30 each block first day

Completion Time: 4.00pm each block last day

Course Leader: John Rhyder

Course Size: 12 (maximum)

Cost Per Person: £1675 (Deposit £175))

Course Reviews

Dan Martin

Very informative course taught by an experienced teacher. Although there is a lot of information to absorb over the 7 months, the course is taught in a clear structured way; each module is reflective of the seasons and builds on the previous one. The mix of theory and practical work is just right. Alongside the main learning outcomes, John is very open to questions, providing nuggets of info and wisdom along the way. As the person who recommended the course to me said ‘John always attracts really great people’ and I’ve found this to be true in my experience. Not only did I learn far more than I expected, I had a really great time doing it. I’d highly recommend this course

Christopher Collins

It is with a heavy heart that I write this review of the Practical Ethnobotany and Plant Identification course because it closes the chapter on what has been an incredible year of exceptional teaching, new experiences and more than enough knowledge to not only fill me with confidence in the here and now, but which will also serve as a lifetime of inspiration for future learning under my own steam.

The course was beautifully paced around the seasons. We entered the woods before the first leaves appeared and the course concluded as the leaves were beginning to fall. This ensured that we were able to cover the broadest possible range of plants and trees with the objective of understanding the importance of being able to ID species throughout their life cycles. Whilst the assessments, both the coursework and ID tests, were challenging and required commitment to complete successfully, I found the pressure to study and revise really helped to cement the knowledge in my mind.
Lastly, I can’t thank John and Phil enough for sharing their vast knowledge with the class. Unlike many courses I have attended, both John and Phil were really happy to answer questions and to talk around subjects, rather than just sticking to a script, which I think is the mark of true experts. It was a privilege to spend time with them. The same also goes for the guest specialists who joined us for specific sessions.
If I had enough time to take the course again next year I would, but having had my mind suitably blown over the last 8 months I am keen to discover what else in the natural world I have been hitherto ignorant of, so I’ll be heading back to the Woodcraft School in April for the Wildlife Identification and Tracking course. It can’t come soon enough.

Jill Ferguson

If you are looking for a practical, hands on, botanical learning bonanza, led by a leading expert in the field, then look no further, this is the course for you!
The course is fun and engaging with an appropriate level of challenge that pushes you out of your comfort zone, enabling you to deepen your connection with and understanding of our vegetatal, arboreal and mycological friends. The veteran trees we went to visit were truly awe inspiring.
The mix of fieldwork, practical uses and scientific theory is in perfect balance, with plenty of opportunities to observe and collect plants and fungi in different stages of growth across the seasons and in different habitats. Back at camp there is plenty of time to examine your findings, rustle up a foraged feast, prepare a healing tincture, investigate natural dyes and work with bark and cordage.
The tests keep you on your toes and together with notebook and herbarium requirements enable you to continue and consolidate your learning at home and meet the rigours of a level 4 qualification.
Thank you John, for an amazing experience. I am looking forward to coming back soon for the Animal ID and Tracking course!!

Sonya Keating

This was an amazing course, I learned so much about trees and plants and their uses both practically and medicinally, it has really enhanced my knowledge and connection with nature. I have had a passionate interest in herbalism for some years but limited experience in identifying the plants confidently in the wild, this course expanded my knowledge of plants and more importantly enabled me to identify them confidently and know them more intimately.

This course also taught me something about myself, despite my lack of confidence and feeling like I would never remember all the information, I did, and I am proud of that.  The locations we visited were stunning and I loved camping in the beautiful woodland setting, such a treat!

John is a brilliant, knowledgeable teacher and his passion for what he does is evident, this helps to make the subject really engaging and with lots of reinforcement easier to learn. This is the second course I have done at the Woodcraft School and I would highly recommend it!

Sophia Merchandani

Thank you John for teaching and leading such an inspiring course. As a complete beginner I found the whole course fascinating and a wonderful introduction to the world of plants, and practical ethnobotany. I was quite nervous before starting as I knew so little, but your teaching style is easy and engaging with a great focus on practical and observational skills.The structure over a year is perfect for learning about plants through the seasons and the course work forces you to get to grips with the basics which gives you a great foundation of knowledge.  I look at the natural world differently now, and will continue to apply what I have learnt every time I am out for a walk. I would recommend this course to anyone!

Glenn Russell

What an amazing course with over 20yrs professional Arboricultural experience I feel like I can finally call myself a woodsman! This course reminded me of the joys and necessity of researching and looking at the finer details of trees & plants for identification! John and Phil’s expert knowledge, great tuition in this subject gives you a great depth of knowledge in edible, medicinal and practical uses of trees, plants & fungi from woodland to coastal habitats which is an eye opener on how many edible and medicinal plants surround us and are at our finger tips.

The course being run over 8 months gives you plenty of time to enjoy all the growing seasons and plant variations with a big emphasis on the practical side from making foraged feasts , plant dyes, medicines and bark baskets plus many more. The added bonus of this course is on completion you get a level 4 qualification if you have earned it! This course is a true must for the Bushcraft instructor/natural world enthusiast. Thank you John & Phil!

Hannie Vogler

Hi John,

I’d like to say a huge thank you for all the time and energy you put into running the ethnobotany course this year.  It has been fascinating, inspiring and challenging, as well as a lot of fun to take part in.  I’m sure you’ll see me in the woods for another of your courses some time soon.

Jack Watson

This course was everything that I could have hoped for and more. Knowledge of plants, trees and the natural materials around us sits at the heart of outdoor

living and completing this course will give you a comprehensive base for your learning in these areas. Having limited ID skills coming onto the course it was incredibly useful to have John and Phil’s encyclopedic knowledge and quality tuition there to ‘bridge the gap’ from just reading about trees and plants in text books to ‘knowing’ well over a hundred on an intricate level.

The course is very hands-on and practical which was fantastic for consolidating our learning and seeing the physical attributes of the flora we looked at manifest themselves in crafts, foods, medicine and other practical ways. Seeing the trees and plants over three seasons and in different stages of growth is also a brilliant experience and one that helped tremendously in my understanding. The human relationship with the natural world is emphisized throughout as is sustainable harvesting and conservation, adding more value and a unique dynamic to the syllabus.

It is not an easy course and much independent learning will be needed in order to pass. However this is what makes completing it so much more of an achievement! It is also what has inspired me and given me the confidence to continue to build my own knowledge. After all the learning never stops!

Lucy O'Hagan

Thank you John and Phil for an unforgettable year- my knowledge has increased ten-fold, in many more ways than I could have imagined. Your teaching style and humour makes everything all the more enjoyable. Not only have I come away with new knowledge, friends and skills, but also a deeper respect for the many ways in which plants, trees and fungi can lend themselves to a myriad of different uses. From medicine, fire, craft and (not forgetting!) food, to name but a few, you have emphasized how every season can provide a rich bounty. It’s an absolute pleasure to recommend this course to others, it’s brilliant to see something on Ethnobotany which isn’t purely academic.  I also loved how you recognized limits to your own knowledge and called in experts in certain fields to ensure we had a well-informed, balanced experience. My long journey from Ireland each month was always worth it and I came away new ideas and projects. I’m really looking forward to the year ahead to put everything into practice once again! Thanks so much!

Jess Rickenback

This was a truly incredible course, offering lots of opportunities to consolidate the wide breadth of information covered. The mix of practical, craft based learning and scientific theory kept things interesting, useful, and engaging. The method of assessment was great, as it mixed seasonal and habitat based ID tests with documented evidence of learning, and tree and plant herbariums which make useful resources for the future. I have never been on such a useful fungi course, which provided an excellent ID overview. If you can go on this course, I can’t recommend it enough. I learnt so much and feel very lucky to have benefited from both the excellent teachers and the knowledge and support of the other students.

Sarah George

I completed this course in 2015 and found it fascinating, discovering many new skills that I would never otherwise have come across and that I will go on to develop further. John spent a lot of patience and time encouraging our identification skills of a large range of plants, trees and fungi from lots of different locations ranging from coastal to heathland and woodlands to meadows. However we didn’t just learn these as a dry list of names we learnt about their traditional uses; cooking, medicine, construction, toolmaking as a few examples. We then tried these uses for ourselves, collecting plants and cooking with them, making medicinal tinctures and trying traditional crafts such as dyeing, papermaking and barkwork. These experiences have enabled me to talk about our native plants with much more depth of knowledge than just knowing their names and has also very much helped prepared me for an Ecology course. I recommend this course to anyone who enjoys ‘the outdoors’ whether it be for professional uses or personal interest Thank you very much John and Woodcraft School.

Kevin Howlett

For anyone wishing to have an in-depth knowledge of UK flora and habitats I would highly recommend doing woodcraft schools ethnobotany course. The course covered several hundred species of flora and fungi over 8 months covering the seasons and when you finish you really do feel you have a knowledge of the subject. Field trips cover a variety of different habitats and species which grow on them. Edible, medicinal and natural history are covered also. This course is very much a practical one. You actually go out foraging for wild food, cooking and eating it. You learn about medicinal properties of plants and try those too. You learn, discover and practice the uses for a whole plant, and this course covered several hundred of them. John and Tim both have a massive knowledge in this subject, and have a very down to earth and unique style of teaching. This course in my opinion would be excellent for anyone wanting to embark on a career where surveying flora was a requirement. It is also accredited to a level 4 by the N.C.F.E which makes it a higher education qualification. Many thanks for an excellent course.

Graham Couling

“Having just successfully completed my final assessment, I felt obliged to pass comment on this course. As a teacher working full time outdoors I would consider myself to have had a better knowledge of the plants trees and animals of much of the British Isles than most people at the start of the course. However, the confidence I have gained from the experience cannot be overstated. This extends way beyond merely being able to identify most of the plants trees I encounter and many of the fungi, to having established more of a relationship with them, which of course means the information is far more likely to be permanently retained”.

“The course has enhanced my understanding of the plants and their environments, their past and present uses, and given me experience of working with them in a number of different ways, both practical and medicinal. I have thoroughly enjoyed each attendance as we have followed the seasons from spring to winter, and now find wh erever I am my eyes are constantly drawn to the hedgerows, verges and foliage, looking for things of interest with a new understanding. The venue, for those who don’t know it, is a beautiful mixed woodland with a good breadth and depth of plant tree and fungi diversity which makes for an excellent ” classroom” for this subject. This is supported by a series of field trips to various different habitats from coastal, to chalk grassland, riverside, ancient forest, heath land and more. The course is delivered by John Rhyder in his own unique style, with plenty of hands on experience of the species, opportunity to ask questions and a very friendly and pleasant learning environment. I cant recommend the course highly enough to anyone who is serious about getting a good level of understanding of the flora of a broad range of different British habitats. Thanks very much woodcraft School”.