ECO DU x Josephine Butler: Rewilding Durham

Rewilding is having its heyday. The process of restoring biodiversity by encouraging wildlife to return and reconnecting damaged eco systems has been harnessed by initiatives across the UK. From large scale operations such as the Wilder Blean project which plans to reintroduce bison to the UK from spring 2022 to smaller local efforts, organisations are encouraging more and more people to improve the green spaces they have access to. Increased biodiversity is beneficial to all. As no species is independent from all others, flourishing ecosystems ensure continued access to fresh water and fertile soil which in turn provides the basic requirements for our continued existence, whilst also enabling other species to continue to thrive.

Students at Durham University have also jumped on the bandwagon, planning ways to put long-neglected green spaces to much better use.  

On 1st May, Josephine Butler College began creating its new wildflower meadow. Students from across the university congregated to clear the ground and prepare it for wildflower seeds to be planted. The idea first surfaced after Kian Hayles-Cotton, co-chair of Butler’s green committee, noticed that much of the college’s green space was unused and could be improved to benefit both the environment and students. At the start of this year, Kian and his co-chair Victoria began researching ways to put their plan into action. In collaboration with Olivia Henderson – the Biodiversity Officer for ECO DU who has been working to implement university-wide biodiversity initiatives – and a wider group of staff and students, 0.25 acres of meadow have been planted at Butler so far. Kian hopes this “will provide for pollinators and insects and in turn birds and mammals as well”. The main aim of the meadow, aside from increasing biodiversity, is “to create a space which students could enjoy especially during exams, so paths have been cut to make the area accessible”, and Kian and Victoria also hope to add a pond to the area and continue to expand the meadow over the next few years. There are still opportunities to get involved with this; the Butler meadow is not yet finished, and Van Mildert is also planning to create a similar space within its grounds, with plans in place for the spring and autumn.

Aside from this, Greenspace has also been working to improve Durham’s biodiversity. They are currently collaborating with Professor Stephen Willis from the university’s Biosciences Department to create a new Biodiversity Action Plan. Its previous Environment Sustainability Action Plan ran from 2017-2020 and a Biodiversity Action Group (a sub-group of the Environmental Sustainability Strategic Planning Group) has been established to reinforce this, who have created ‘a comprehensive database of the flora and fauna present in the University Estate’ to determine future actions.

Featured Image: taken by Pascal Tchen

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