A wide variety of lichens grow on every exposed surface of the Rollright Stones except where they are worn by visitors.  There have been three scientific surveys of them, two of which have been published.  The first by Vanessa Winchester (1988) looked at how the size of lichens might act as a chronological indicator of historical changes at the Rollright and Castlerigg stone circles.  One lichen (on the outer surface of the western inner entrance stone of the Kings Men) was estimated to be up to 800 years old.  This survey was updated by Vanessa Winchester, Ivan Pedley and Oliver Gilbert in 2000.  The most recent survey, by Jeff Malter and Mark Powell (2015) included the Whispering Knights and King Stone for the first time and again identified a number of additional species, bringing the total – with some taxonomic changes – to 75.  One species is listed as nationally ‘rare’ and eight as ‘scarce’, but this probably reflects under-recording except for one of the ‘scarce’ species.  Otherwise the lichens at Rollright are distinctive for two species (only on the King’s Men) which do not occur commonly in churchyards in the region;  and two others that are more abundant at the Stones than is usual elsewhere. 

Click on the link below to download the report "An assessment of lichenometry as a method for dating recent stone movements in two stone circles in Cumbria and Oxfordshire".