We manage several sites in the greater Cambridge area to protect and enhance their value for nature and we campaign to ensure that new development is beneficial for nature. 

Managing for nature at Wandlebury Country Park

This 110 acre site is designated as a County Wildlife Site and is important for its chalk meadows and mature woodland. The Park also has a traditional orchard, a pond and hedgerows which all add to the biodiversity of the site, as do some of the historic buildings and structures, which are home to roosting bats. Important species include Perennial Flax, White Helleborine, Daubenton’s Bat and Slow-worm.

We manage the chalk meadows in a variety of ways, including grazing with cattle and sheep, through cutting and removing hay and by leaving areas unmanaged each year. Our meadow management is supported by a Higher Level Countryside Stewardship grant from Natural England.

Wandlebury has a wide diversity of tree species and woodland types, from magnificent mature beech trees to newly planted oaks. We retain standing deadwood for wildlife when it is safe to do so and ensure that there is plenty of lying deadwood. Our overall aim is to have a healthy and safe woodland that supports a wide range of woodland species and is resilient to climate change and disease. We carry out coppicing in order to increase the biodiversity within our woodlands.

We have created a wildlife station with small ponds and we put out bird feed between Oct-March. We have installed a range of bird nesting and bat roost boxes around the park.

Wandlebury is an important historic and archaeological site which is designated as a Scheduled Monument and has many listed buildings and structures. We try and strike a balance between conserving the historic and the natural heritage of the site.

Managing for nature at Coton Countryside Reserve

In 2004 we began an ambitious long-term project for a new 300 acre Coton Countryside Reserve on the edge of Cambridge, which combines nature, public access and a working farm. So far, this work has included creating new ponds and meadows and planting two new orchards, new hedges and new woodland copses.

The habitats are those of lowland farmed countryside and include ponds, streams, meadows, hedgerows and woodland copse, alongside farm habitats including semi-improved grassland, arable and conservation headlands and field margins.

Important species include Purple Loosestrife, Marsh Woundwort, Little Owl and Brown Hare.

The farmland on the Reserve is managed by our tenant farmer to provide habitats for wildlife, such as field margins and Skylark plots. This work is supported through a Higher Level Countryside Stewardship grant.

Coton Countryside Reserve is long-term project and we are still working to try and realise all our plans. For example, in 2018 we applied for funding from the Environment Agency to pay for engineers to draw up plans to create a new wetland area.

Managing for nature at Barnwell Meadows

Barnwell Junction Pastures (also known as Barnwell Meadows) City Wildlife Site, is adjacent to the historic Leper Chapel and was the site of the medieval Stourbridge Fair. The 4 acres of meadows support a range of neutral grassland plant and invertebrate species, including a good population of Yellow Meadow Ant. Coldham's Brook flows along the side of the meadows supporting aquatic species including Water Vole and occasionally Kingfisher. There are smaller areas of woodland and scrub.

The Meadows have been leased for the past 60 years and used for horse pasture, as a result they are not currently in good condition. As part of a new Chisholm Trail project we have taken back the meadows and plans are being drawn up to enhance their biodiversity with the aim to achieve County Wildlife Site status.

Managing for nature at Stocking Toft, Balsham

This small site was gifted to us in 2000 and has been planted with native trees and shrubs. We are allowing the woodland to develop and mature as a small nature reserve. It is connected by hedgerows to Balsham Wood SSSI and we hope that some of the woodland species from there will eventually colonise our site.

Other sites

We also protect a number of other small sites in the area which have an ecological value, such as linear woodland at Comberton and a short stretch of the River Cam at Hinxton Watermill, where Kingfishers are often seen hunting small trout.

Ecological Monitoring for Biodiversity and Long-term Environmental Management (EMBLEM Project)

Our EMBLEM Project was started in 2016 to carry out long-term ecological monitoring of our sites in order to inform our conservation management work, enhance biodiversity and increase ecological resilience.

This involves working collaboratively with expert ecological recording groups and individual volunteers to record the species using our sites and monitor their changes over time, including in response to our habitat management and conservation work. Groups we have worked with include Cambridgeshire Bat Group, Cambridge University and Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Reptile & Amphibian Group.

We carry out regular surveys for moths, bats, butterflies, slow worms and chalk grassland plants as well as spot surveys for other species.

The project also aims to improve the ecological skills of our Estate Team and volunteers through training and shared learning.

Through this project we also carry out exhibitions and events for the public, such as our annual Wandlebury Wildlife event that takes place in March as part of Cambridge Science Festival.

We need more volunteers to get involved in the project, so if you have a keen interest in nature or you are an amateur or professional expert looking to volunteer your expertise, please get in touch at [email protected] 

We have been grateful to receive small grants from Cambridge Water (Pebble Fund), People’s Postcode Lottery and a private charitable trust to help towards some of the costs of our EMBLEM project.

You can follow our ecology and nature conservation work via our dedicated twitter feed @CamPPFnature or WandleburyWarden instagram