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Environment and Energy

The recently completed Biodiversity Baseline Report has given us a picture of the variety of habitats and species that there are across the University’s estate. Some of these habitats are rich in species while others may not be as diverse due to their location, the type of planting or site aspect. University sites, in conjunction with spaces such as College gardens, create a tapestry of wild spaces both within and outside the city.

Trees beautiful trees

Madingley and the 800 woods cover 26.8 hectares with broadleaf forest. The Western half of Madingley Wood is ancient origin forest while the 800 Wood was planted in 2008 to celebrate 800 years of the University of Cambridge. 15.4 hectares of Madingley Wood has been given Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) status and is known for its rich bryophyte flora and lichens. Bats roost in the old trees and other species like roe and fallow deer are sometimes seen roaming around.

Figure 1: 800 wood

Gems in unexpected places

When it comes to busy built up spaces we don’t expect find wildlife, but when you know where to look you can find some. In Addenbrookes the LMB has a large colony of house martins. Although sometimes unpopular, you cannot fail to be impressed when you consider that these small birds travel from the UK to Sub Saharan Africa each year. Another gem that can be found on the Addenbrookes site are the beautiful bee orchids that bloom each June. You will find these flowers on the grass verge by the Ambulance station on Robinson Way.

Hobson’s Conduit is a site where you might find the unexpected on your lunchtime walk as a kingfisher might swoop by.

Finally, a much slower creature may be spotted between the Cambridge Institute of Sustainability Leadership (CISL) and the Gurdon Institute. A hedgehog was seen by CISL staff some time ago, this helpful gap was made (figure 1) and the hedgehog may be still around.

Hedgehog tunnel

Figure 2. Protected hedgehog access CISL

Providing a home for birds whose population are in decline

Sites like Grange Farm and West Cambridge provide a home for a number of birds which are on the Birds of Conservation Concern Red List (BCCR) such as linnets, house sparrows, starlings, song thrush’s, skylarks and species such as yellowhammers which are recognised under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. Having a mixture of habitats on the West Cambridge site has also encouraged species like dragonflies, kingfishers and cranes to visit.

Curiosities in the Botanic Garden

One of things you can look out for at the Bioblitz on the 27 April is the bryophyte beric beard-moss on sandstone. Last recorded in 2008, the finding was of national importance. A second bryophyte species worth looking out for is the frizzled crisp-moss Tortella tortuosa on limestone. When this was last recorded it was the largest known population in Cambridgeshire.


These examples are just a sample of the biodiversity present in the University of Cambridge. We hope that during Spotlight on Biodiversity month you will have the opportunity to engage with some of this wildlife.