The Biodiversity and Green Infrastructure workstream is overseeing the development and delivery of a new Biodiversity Plan for the University, setting out our ambitions to further enhance biodiversity across our estate and providing rich opportunities for learning and practical action for people across our university community.
The University’s main Whiteknights campus (see map here) is set in approximately 130 hectares of parkland which offers a superb mix of habitats for wildlife including formal gardens, managed hay meadows, woodland, wood pasture and a series of lakes. We are proud to have won 11 consecutive Green Flag awards, recognising the campus as one of Britain’s top green spaces, which welcomes thousands of visitors each year including school and other community groups as well as the general public.
Our community of academics, professional colleagues and students, which boasts botanists, ecologists, meteorologists and zoologists (to name just a small section) have been studying our campus for many decades (in fact meteorological observations have been made almost continuously since 1901).
To date, over 2000 species (a current list can be found here) have been recorded in this suburban parkland. Approximately 40% of our Whiteknights campus is managed primarily for biodiversity. The University’s detailed Habitat Management Plan is guiding current activity to enhance biodiversity in key areas.
Recent developments have included:
- Designating two large ‘succession areas’ – areas of meadow being left to grow wild naturally with no management. These have already been used for teaching purposes and their development will continue to be closely monitored.
- Establishing new ‘pollinator lawns’, which cover extensive parts of previously short mown grass on Whiteknights campus. These have proved a well-received addition to the diversity of habitats on campus, bringing wildlife closer to some of the busier parts of campus.
- Being awarded bronze accreditation for having a hedgehog friendly campus and are working towards the silver level, which demonstrates the commitment to helping to protect this ever-popular mammal.
- Launching a self-guided nature trail enabling staff, students and visitors to learn more about wildlife and biodiversity as they visit some of the notable habitats on our Whiteknights campus. Nature lovers can get lost in the Wilderness, feed the ducks that call Whiteknights Lake home, look out for butterflies on the Meadows and bees on the Pollinator Lawns, visit the Rewilding Area to see the change over time and enjoy a picnic on the Wooded Meadows.
- Launching the Harris Garden audio trail designed to help young children and their families learn more about the rare and unusual plants in a University of Reading’s ‘secret garden’. Established in 1972, the Harris Garden contains many species of trees and shrubs from around the world, some of which date back to the garden’s 18th century origins.
- We are currently developing a range of student and community projects across our campus which can provide further opportunities to be involved in enhancing biodiversity and learning about the natural world. This includes a new initiative to offer local schools and colleges structured opportunities to bring pupils to key locations on campus supported by appropriate educational materials, as part of our wider commitment to enhancing Climate Education.
Green Festival Biodiversity Tour Whiteknights 2020
Langley Mead Nature Reserve
The University of Reading also owns and manages a community nature reserve at Langley Mead, 18 hectares of wildflower meadows adjacent to the River Loddon which support a significant number of rare plant species.
An extension of Langley Mead will allow the University of Reading and EPR to further improve conditions for wildlife, with an emphasis on creating a highly connected, continuous habitat that brings traditional management practices back to the landscape. Initial works will involve translocating green hay from Langley Mead’s existing wildflower meadows, plant hedgerows, and create wetland features – vital for restoring and developing sustainable wildlife populations.
Natural History Museum coming to Reading
The Natural History Museum has announced plans to develop a new global and sustainable base for high-end natural sciences research and international collaboration with the University of Reading.
Subject to planning permission, the centre will be created at the Thames Valley Science Park (TVSP), which is owned and managed by the University, within Wokingham Borough. It will widen access to the collections for the Museum’s 350 scientists, their collaborators, and researchers worldwide through rapid digitisation and cutting-edge science facilities.
Over 27 million specimens, as well as over 5,500 metres of accompanying Natural History Museum Library material to be rehoused in the largest collections move for the Museum since the 1880s
Check out the Biodiversity Blog to see what else is going on: https://blogs.reading.ac.uk/whiteknightsbiodiversity/