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Durham University


Biodiversity Policy

The University has a wide and varied estate consisting of woodland, landscaped grounds, and a Botanic Garden. These are significant assets and provide unique opportunities for social, environmental, visual, educational, and recreational use.


There are approximately 46 hectares of woodland in the University's ownership all of which are designated as Areas of High Landscape Value (AHLV). Hollingside Wood, Blaid's Wood and Great High Wood also have the following designations: Ancient Semi-Natural Woodland(ASNW), Site of Nature Conservation Importance(SNCI), Site of Ecological Value. The number of designations covering the woodlands reflect their importance in terms of landscape, amenity, and conservation.

On the peninsular, the riverbank woodlands are adjacent to the World Heritage Site, and as such, are of significant importance to the landscape of Durham City.

Low intervention maintenance is practised in the woodlands. For example, fallen timber is made safe and left in situ to encourage natural habitat development. Great High Wood, and Hollingside Wood, are used for undergraduate teaching and research.

College and University Grounds:

The College and University grounds cover an area of approximately 112 hectares in and around Durham City, the majority of which fall within, or are adjacent to, the Durham (City) Conservation area and are of high landscape value.

The grounds are managed with biodiversity in mind. For instance, on the Howlands site, areas are set aside for conservation and have been extensively planted with native trees and shrubs. A wildflower meadow has been cultivated to promote and encourage an abundance of flora and fauna.

Ponds and lakes in various colleges support a diversity of species. A management plant for the lake at Van Mildert College has been implemented to include a meadow area around the perimeter. The balancing lakes at Mountjoy support breeding bird species and various insects.

Botanic Garden:

The Botanic Garden is approximately 9 hectares in total and is a major tourist attraction in the region. The Garden has plantings and collections representing a range of habitats, including a North American Arboretum and tropical and desert regions of the world.

In 2008, an ancient meadow and unspoilt woodland came into the care of the Botanic Garden. The meadow has never been treated with pesticides, and a diverse range of species can be found, including meadow brown butterfly, small copper butterfly and chimney sweep moth. To increase the biodiversity in the meadow, a flock of rare breed sheep, Manx Loghtan and Hebridean, graze from October to March.

The woodland was used for many years for teaching and research and has been untouched for approximately sixty years. A wide variety of wildlife including mammals, birds, and insects thrive in this sheltered habitat. A circular walk has been created for visitors to experience these two diverse habitats.

All maintenance operations are carried out with consideration given to conservation and biodiversity. No pesticides are used in the Botanic Garden, and 80% of green waste is composted. Spent potting compost is recycled as mulch. Biological control is used as a method of controlling pests and diseases in the glasshouses.

In 2006 a planted example of the rare limestone native species found growing in County Durham was installed to provide a reference collection for a Durham Wildlife Trust and Natural England conservation project. One of these species, rock rose, was propagated for reintroduction to land reclamation sites across the county.

There is a bird hide where visitors to the Garden can observe the number of diverse species that visit, including migratory birds. Bird ringing is carried out at various times of the year.

Currently, there is in excess of 1500 school visits annually. To increase this number, we are actively working with other Botanic Gardens to provide curricular advice to schools and teachers.

There are 350 members of the ‘Friends' organisation and the junior group of the Durham Wildlife Trust hold their monthly meetings in the Botanic Garden.

In the past two years, the Botanic Garden and University Grounds Team have achieved three awards from Northumbria in Bloom for conservation projects and the condition of the grounds.

The estate and Botanic Garden already provides opportunities for local wildlife including mammals such as bats, foxes and badgers. However, it is recognised that there is a need to explicitly measure and monitor species, both flora and fauna, to ensure there is a continued and active management plan to protect and enhance biodiversity throughout the University estate.


  • As far as is practicable preserve and enhance existing valuable habitats.
  • Introduce interest groups amongst students, staff, and others to record and map habitats and species.
  • Review and monitor annually recorded habitats and species.
  • Identify and implement specialist protective measures for vulnerable species.
  • Identify new opportunities to conserve and create new biodiversity habitats.
  • Where practicable continue to practise low intervention horticulture.
  • Review and identify management techniques to minimise the use of pesticides in the wider estate.
  • Incorporate the principles of biodiversity into estate planning and management.
  • Recycle green waste whenever possible.
  • Work with new and existing partners to sustain and enhance biodiversity in the University and where possible within the local area.
  • Build on our links with the community through annual events and interest groups.
  • Introduce sympathetic management techniques to stimulate natural habitats.
  • Increase interest and awareness of biodiversity issues using interpretation/information panels at strategic points throughout the estate including areas adjacent to ponds and woodlands.

In practice:

  • In the University woodlands dead timber will be left standing to act as a habitat for vulnerable species such as bats, owls, and woodpeckers.
  • Make safe fallen timber and leave in situ.
  • Estate operations will be timed carefully to reduce the impact on breeding, feeding and hibernating species.
  • Have sheep grazing in the arboretum and other areas of the Botanic Garden.
  • Communicate biodiversity issues through the Botanic Garden website to engage with staff, students, and others.
  • Work with schools across the region to assist with biodiversity education through our Growing Schools programme in partnership with Botanic Gardens Education Network.
  • Research and implement new methods of pest and weed control.
  • Update plant and equipment to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of estate operations in order to reduce waste and fuel consumption.
  • Review this policy annually with the Environmental Sustainability Strategic Planning Group.