Through collaborative management with our grounds contractor, we aim to increase conservation areas on campus.
Since 2013 the University has been steadily improving habitats on site and increasing the area set aside for biodiversity actions. The area set aside has gone from zero to around 10% of the main campus area by 2020/21.
New target to increase biodiversity on campus
In 2020 the University Council committed to a new set of environmental targets, including a target for 'net environmental gain including biodiversity to be increased by 20%' to compensate for areas being developed as part of the campus masterplan, with this to be achieved on campus if possible. Biodiversity will benefit from the new target to ensure any development on site results in a net environmental gain. The masterplan for the University sets out areas for new buildings and also a wildlife corridor where new habitats can be established. You can read about our latest progress, including KPI, in our annual report on our Environmental Policy and Governance page.
Biodiversity Action Plan
We now have published our first version of the Biodiversity Action Plan. The plan describes the habitats and species we have on the Cranfield University campus and outlines future plans for conservation and management. You may also be interested in reading about our urban BESS research project.
Biodiversity walks and volunteering
As Cranfield is a hotspot for a variety of plant, animal and fungi species, we run a series of lunchtime walks around the campus to help staff and students interact with wildlife, and host annual Springwatch events. We encourage staff and students to submit photos to us and report wildlife on campus via our social media pages, or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
Staff and students are actively involved in volunteering, including honey harvesting, conservation tasks on and off campus, and tree planting. Our partners include the Wildlife Trust for Beds, Cambs and Northants, and the Forest of Marston Vale. Please see our Engagement page for more information. To keep up to date with the latest events, please visit our social media pages.
Bug hotels, nest boxes and bee hives
We have numerous features for the benefit of wildlife across campus, including bird boxes, leaf/log piles, a bat house, hedgehog houses and bug hotels.
We also have active bee hives on campus with honey harvested every year and sold to raise money for charity.
On campus, areas which are managed for biodiversity or left to grow naturally (without mowing or trimming) are known as ‘biodiversity action areas’. Examples on campus include:
- Orchard area (behind The Green)
- 6x Bee hives located near the woodland trail
- Woodland Trail
- Water bodies such as the brook, Martell house pond
- Planted pollinator beds seen outside IT building, the library and sports hall.
- Areas left to grow naturally like the Fedden house sports field and the meadow by the woodland trail
- Hedgerow and scrubs which act as a wildlife corridor
Our efforts help to encourage and increase populations of important pollinator species such as bees, butterfly’s and other insects. This in turn helps support birds and endangered mammals such as hedgehogs.
For more information, please see our Biodiversity Action Plan and latest Annual Environmental report.
Wildlife monitoring and Hedgehog Friendly Campus
To create a baseline for our Cranfield campus Biodiversity Action Plan, we undertook a 'BioBiltz' event, together with the Bedfordshire Natural History Society (BNHS), as a way of surveying the wildlife on campus in 2014.
Each year, we engage staff and students in wildlife monitoring activities. This is done via wildlife walks and recording, transect surveys, or using small mammal footprint tunnel surveys.
We monitor wildlife throughout the year. During the spring and summer time we have specific events such as butterfly counting, photography and surveying for hedgehogs with footprint tunnels as part of our Hedgehog Friendly Campus accreditation scheme.
Each year, we aim to increase the amount of land set aside for biodiversity and improve diversity of species on campus.
With funding from Central Bedfordshire Council, we have created a new walking trail within our woodland. Behind Handley Page close (grid reference D1 on our Cranfield campus map), a new bridge connecting the sports field (behind Fedden House) to the woodland area has also been installed. Within the woodland walk, we have installed bug boxes, and deadwood piles for insects.
Our biodiversity action areas have won the following awards:
- 2018: 'Overall Winner – Best Wildlife Garden' – Wildlife Trust Wildlife at Work Award,
- 2018 'Best Employee Engagement in Wildlife Garden' – Wildlife Trust Wildlife at Work Award,
- 2017: 'Best Employee Engagement in Wildlife Garden' – Wildlife Trust Wildlife at Work Award,
- 2016 'Best Newcomer Wildlife Garden' – Wildlife Trust Wildlife at Work Award,
- 2021: 'Hedgehog Friendly Campus' Bronze Award,
- 2022: 'Grounds Maintenance – Free Public Access' Bali Landscape Award 2022.
Protected/notable species on campus
Our campus is home to a range of species, including creatures which are considered endangered, or scarce. This includes bee orchids, hedgehogs, a variety of red listed bird species including yellowhammers, grizzled skipper butterflies, great crested newts, birds of prey, badgers and pipistrelle bats.
Sustainability gardens and growing food
During winter 2021, we worked with enthusiastic staff and student members to set up a sustainability garden behind our student union building (CSA). This consists of raised beds for growing fruits and vegetables (including reused tractor tyres), rainwater harvesting, a bug hotel, pollinator beds, wild grasses and a hedgehog house.
Gardening clubs run from spring to autumn. Harvested fruit and vegetables are shared amongst the volunteers. The sustainability garden is a continuously growing project and needs support from the staff and student community.
To volunteer, please contact email@example.com.
On 23 March 2023, Cranfield University worked in partnership with Earthwatch UK to plant a Miyawaki (Tiny) Forest based near Martell House on campus.
The ‘Tiny Forest’ is based on Dr Akira Miyawaki's method of careful soil preparation, followed by densely planting a mixture of native tree and hedgerow species. Altogether, over 600 trees were planted in the area roughly the size of a tennis court.
The nature of the planting system means that, as well as supporting wildlife, the Tiny Forest areas absorb more carbon than conventional woodland schemes, as they grow more quickly and establish healthy ecosystems. The Tiny Forest is currently being maintained by a group of voluntary ‘tree keepers’ and will be used for research purposes in collaboration with the Living Lab.
The Tiny Forest was funded by the Forestry Commission under the Local Authority Treescape Fund, in collaboration with Central Bedfordshire Council. For more information and to sign up to be a voluntary tree keeper, please visit the Earthwatch website.
Below are some highlights of wildlife on campus. Please see our Flickr account for more.