The University of Kent has been awarded a gold award at the Wilder Kent Awards 2023

The Wilder Kent Awards is a scheme set up by Kent Wildlife Trust (KWT) to recognise and reward the work schools, Universities, businesses, and community groups are doing in helping to create a Wilder Kent. By taking positive actions to restore nature, collectively, we are helping to create a more climate-resilient county and provide a home for wildlife.

Emily Mason, Sustainability Coordinator, receiving the Gold Award on behalf of the University. Alongside former student Bella Sabin-Dawson who now works for KWT; and Lewis Smith, President of the Conservation Society who received a commendation.

This award reflects the cumulative work of the Landscape and Grounds Team, Commercial Services & Estates Department, Sustainability Team, Conservation Society, Kent Community Oasis Garden and BioBlitz Committee to deliver work across our campuses to deliver sustainability improvements, support and enhance our natural spaces for wildlife and to engage our staff, students and the local community in our actions to address the climate and nature crises.

Kent Wildlife Trust commented that, “The University of Kent have developed a robust landscape and biodiversity strategy which ensures the entire campus supports a range of wildlife as well as hosting a biodiversity forum which allows students and staff to directly engage in decision making and project creation. With 300 acres of woodland, grassland, and seven ponds across their sites, there is plenty of space for wildlife to thrive at the University of Kent.” 

The award is split into three categories: Protecting Wildlife; Sustainability and Carbon Reduction; and Engage with Nature. Here are some of the activities and projects we have been working on to support wildlife and reduce our impact in 2023.

There have been some large and small scale landscape projects over the last year including the planting of 300 fruiting trees to create an orchard on our Southern Slopes. This project is creating a habitat and landscape feature that we do not already have on our campus, and because orchards are a mosaic of trees, grasses, and wildflowers, they support a wide range of wildlife. As fruit trees age quickly, they create the perfect habitats for invertebrates and birds, such as the lesser spotted woodpecker and the rare noble chafer beetle.

Andrew Bailey from the Landscape and Grounds team, supporting student Jessica Collins in planting trees at the orchard.

We also introduced No Mow May to our central campus for the first time, with students from the Conservation Society surveying for species changes across the month. The project received 98% positive feedback from students, staff and community members walking by. Signage for the project was designed by students from our School of Architecture and Planning as part of their graphic design module.

These projects are underpinned by the ongoing management of our landscape by the Landscape and Grounds Team, including the rotational coppicing of our woodlands and extensive grassland management for meadow retention. The Landscape and Grounds Team have been instrumental in supporting the changes across campus and adapting their management techniques to support nature. This and more is outlined in our Landscape and Biodiversity Strategy which targets us to make year on year improvements.

The University’s Sustainability Strategy for Climate Action and the SDGs underpins much of this work setting out our key strategic objectives to reach Net Zero by 2040; regenerate the ecology of our campuses; and to ensure our students have access to learning, teaching and research that enhances their understanding of sustainability.

Our carbon management work saw emissions reduce by 14% from our baseline keeping us on track to achieve our net zero target and we are currently finalising a strategic partnership with Siemens to develop this further and to develop the culture of a whole-university approach to net zero.

A key part of our activities is engaging people with nature and making them feel connected to their local environment. Within the University we host a Biodiversity Forum which is made up of students and staff with an interest in biodiversity, as well as key operational and academic staff that can support action and research opportunities. The forum is an important way of making the work we do on campus more collaborative and informed by a broader audience.

The student led Conservation Society are also instrumental in engaging their fellow students in conservation action across campus and the local area, supporting local conservation organisations, the Kent Community Oasis Garden and the campus with their volunteering and expertise.

Beyond our own campus we engage with the community through our annual BioBlitz. Organised predominantly by students from the School of Anthropology and Conservation, the bioblitz hosts an engaging 24 hours of surveys, activities, and is a celebration of nature. The blitz is open to everyone and designed to be family friendly, with students engaging the local community if their passion for wildlife.

MSc Conservation Biology graduate Kieran Richardson leading an invertebrate survey during the BioBlitz.

We are also members of the Canterbury District Biodiversity Network, representing Kent on the coordination committee and supporting the network to bring interested parties together and raise awareness of the incredible wildlife and work being done in our district. As part of this network we are the proud home of a Bison Mural to raise awareness of the local wilding project happening on our doorstep in Canterbury.

For those that are working to support wildlife across our campuses this award is a wonderful recognition of all our efforts. It is particularly special to receive this acknowledgement from Kent Wildlife Trust who are doing incredible work across the county and local to us in Blean. This award spurs us on to continue with our biodiversity work and continue to build partnerships with those working to create a wilder Kent.

You can listen to more about our work and the award in episode 6 of KWT’s Talk on the Wild Side Podcast.

 

Inspired by nature

Guest blog by Rebecca Smith, Sustainability Champions for Kent Business School.

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Understanding the potential for nature to inspire ideas was the topic of the first Business Start-Up Journey Ideas Hack bootcamp.

Using the Canterbury campus as a living lab, students went into the ancient woodland of Brotherhood Wood, near to the Sibson building, to explore how nature can inspire solutions to problems in the human world, using this problem solving as the basis for starting to develop business ideas.

The bootcamp began with an overview from the University’s Sustainability Coordinator, Emily Mason, on the biodiversity crisis facing the planet. She explained how careful management of the University’s natural capital was trying to counter it. Then, using the woods as their inspiration, students were set the task of developing an idea which would either tackle the issue of biodiversity or of improving mental health.

Ideas included a woodland adoption programme and classrooms based in the woods to promote a closer connection to nature.

In the afternoon, students took part in a further interactive workshop in the Sibson building, generating ideas based on understanding of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and looking at the subject of biomimicry. Biomimicry uses the solutions which animals, plants, and microbes have found to help solve problems in the human world.

They were led through a rapid idea generation session by the ASPIRE’s Innovator in Residence, Jo Pullen, and ASPIRE Project Officer, Rebecca Smith.

The bootcamp on Saturday 24 October followed a successful launch event with a keynote speech by entrepreneur, Mick Jackson, who founded of the multi-million pound global company, Wildhearts. Mick talked about the purpose of ‘business for good’ and the importance of finding your ‘why’.

The Business Start-Up Journey programme is a mix of interactive workshops, mainly online in Teams, real life bootcamps and one-to-one support. Students are guided through the process of starting a business, from finding, developing and testing an idea to creating financial and marketing plans and pitching for investment. The programme, which is philanthropically supported, ends with a pitching competition where student entrepreneurs can win £1000 to help start their business.

Sustainable Development Goals – Canterbury Campus Trail (coming soon)

The Sustainable Development Goals (also known as the Global Goals or SDGs) are 17 goals that outline a vision for a sustainable world by 2030. The 17 goals and underlying targets were created and signed by 193 countries at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in 2015.

The goals seek to finish the job that was started by the Millennium Goals which ran from 2000 to 2015 and brought 850,000,000 people out of extreme poverty and yet saw carbon emissions increase by 9,850,000 kilotons.

The University of Kent has signed the SDG Education Accord that commits us to embedding all 17 goals into our operations, teaching and research. As part this we would like all staff and students to become familiar with the goals by getting out and about across campus and discovering all 17.

Launching in autumn 2020 a new trail around campus showcases each of the 17 goals whilst leading you across central campus and to the Kent Community Oasis Garden.

The trail starts with SDG 1: No Poverty, which aims to eradicate extreme poverty and reduce overall poverty by 50% by 2030. You will find this post on central campus near the Library.

The trail ends with SDG 17: Partnerships, which you will find at the Kent Community Oasis Garden, our flagship community partnership project at the Canterbury campus where food growing is used as a way of meeting new people, reducing stress, learning new skills and getting some fresh air.

Please check back once the trail has been installed for more information and a map of all the posts.

What has changed in 35 years?

The original nature trail on the Canterbury campus was devised in 1985 and written by John Kesby and Ian Swingland. Here are the opening paragraphs from the original guide:

“The nature trail around the University’s 300 acre campus, with its magnificent hillside setting overlooking the Cathedral City of Canterbury and the valley of the Great Stour, has been devised for the benefit of its staff and students, members of the local community and of the thousands of people who visit us during the year, be they conference delegates or holiday makers.

The trail combines the opportunity for attractive walks around the grassy slopes, ponds and woodland of the campus with a challenge to discover how much you can see or hear of the abundant wildlife around us. This brochure will guide you to places where you can find nightingales, willow warblers, great spotted woodpeckers and even the occasional kingfisher, to observe damselflies or Essex skippers; to watch out for lizards, newts, three-spinned sticklebacks or voles; to identify parrot wax caps, prickly lettuce, bristly ox tongue or red goosefoot. We hope it will be enjoyed by those who have difficulty putting a name to even the most common flora and fauna. At the same time, we hope it will be of interest to knowledgeable naturalists and of value to parties from the schools of other groups of wildlife enthusiasts.”

Whilst the description of the campus overlooking the Cathedral may still ring true the list of species that could be seen on campus in 1985 would be much shorter today.

In order to map out what we have lost it is useful to fully understand what we had. Thankfully we have a few copies left of the 1985 guide with its detailed species lists. The Sustainability Team will be digitising all of this information so that it will be available to everyone so that as a community we can start to identify what we still have on campus, what is hard to find and what is gone.

Some trends of population decline go far beyond what we control on campus, however, there may be some species that are found locally that we may be able to encourage back through how we manage our campus and connect to habitats beyond our borders.

We would like students, staff and community members to help us with this undertaking by, in the first instance, recording what they spot. Big or small, common or rare we want to know what you have seen and where you have seen it. At the moment we are just asking people email their information into us at sustainability@kent.ac.uk and we will collate it all as a first step to building a clear picture of what we have on campus.

We are also working on rejuvenating the information about the nature trails and rerouting the original trail around some of the new buildings on campus that now block the original route.

If you are interested in this project and want to volunteer your time on this, please do get in touch.

Maximising our green space at Medway

The Medway campus has a patch of green space that is underused and not particularly relaxing to spend time in (it is next to a busy road). However, the Medway sustainability group
made up predominantly of champions from Student Services know it has great potential to be developed into a space that could provide an alternative to an otherwise urban environment.

We aim to maximise the limited green space at the Medway campus by creating a quiet space for reflection that can be utilised by students, staff and the wellbeing team. As a group we have come up with a series of ideas and designs that utilise the campus’ small patch of woodland as a focal point for a wellbeing and art trail, incorporating music and natural sounds to break up the noise from the road. This will provide a unique space for alternative outdoor therapy for students accessing the University’s mental health services, and a space for all campus users to get away from it all.


We are now at the stage where we want to turn our ideas into a reality and are looking for students and staff to join our group to help us create a space that we can all benefit from.
We are looking for people who will bring new ideas into the group, are resourceful and are happy to volunteer their time on the site. At the moment we are on a break due to the Covid 19 pandemic, however if you would like to join the Medway Sustainability Group please email sustainability@kent.ac.uk and we will add you to our mailing list.

What is coppicing?

At the University of Kent we carry out coppicing across the Canterbury campus as part of our woodland management plans.
The practice of coppicing can be dated back to the Stone Age and is the traditional woodland management technique of repeatedly felling trees at the base and allowing them to regrow. On campus we usually wait around 15 years for a tree to regrow before we fell it again. We work on defined areas within our woodlands, coppicing one section each winter then moving onto the next section a year later. This means we end up with a very diverse range of ages in our trees across our three areas of woodland – Parkwood, Brotherhood wood and Bluebell blue.
Coppicing was traditionally done in order to provide a sustainable supply of timber, however this is not why we coppice at Kent. Our primary goal for coppicing is to improve the health of our trees and create additional benefits for other wildlife. Coppicing is a human intervention that somewhat simulates the act of retrenching (when trees naturally drop their branches to extend their life) which helps our trees live longer within our woodlands. By removing sections of canopy we are increasing the amount of light that can reach the woodland floor. This allows other species of vegetation that are dormant in the seed bank in the soil the chance to grow and increase the diversity of that area. This increase in vegetation increases the amount of habitat and forage opportunities for insects, birds and mammals.
When we coppice we do not clear fell the sections, instead we ensure that very mature trees are left in place, species such as oak and ask are left and we leave a proportion of ivy, holly and bramble to ensure there is cover and forage for other species. We also leave any newly emerging vegetation and any deadwood we find which is useful for insects.
Whilst coppicing we also take the opportunity to remove any invasive vegetation from the area and collect any litter we uncover.

Hedgehog Awareness Week 3rd – 9th May

Hedgehog Awareness Week is organised by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) and takes place every year. It aims to highlight the problems hedgehogs face and how you can help them.

The hedgehog is in trouble, with populations plummeting 50% since 2000. Increasing habitat loss means hedgehogs are moving out of their rural homes and into built areas. But here they face a whole host of challenges, including road traffic, litter, poisoning and lack of access to food and water. In 2019 the RSPCA saw Hedgehog admissions to their wildlife centres break all records with 2770 hedgehogs being admitted.  Reasons for this include variations in weather causing a reduction in food availability meaning hedgehogs struggling to make it through the winter.

We are lucky enough to have hedgehogs on our campus however, the roads that cut through campus are causing particular issues with hedgehogs being hit by vehicles, as well as litter causing issues for hedgehogs and other wildlife on campus.

In July 2019 The University launched it’s participation in the Hedgehog Friendly Campus project- created at the University of Sheffield to use the unique spaces that university campuses are, to raise awareness of the plight of UK hedgehogs and take action to safeguard their future.

The University has a hedgehog action group made up of student and staff volunteers from across the University working together to address these issues. This group has taken a number of actions to help support hedgehogs on campus including litter picking, awareness raising and providing toolbox talks for the Landscape and Grounds Team so that they know what to do if they find an injured hedgehog, how to check for them before strimming and what are the biggest risks to hedgehogs on campus.

The University was awarded a Bronze certificate for its efforts by the Hedgehog Friendly Campus Project earlier this year and since then the action group have been developing plans for further initiatives we can do, including surveying and signage.

Whilst we are all in lockdown there are number of things we can all do to help support local hedgehogs, especially those of us that have gardens. Simple actions like: creating a log pile, checking areas before strimming, and building a hedgehog home can make a huge difference to your local population of hedgehogs. This year the BHPS are asking people to talk to their neighbours (from a distance) about cutting a CD case sized hole in the bottom of fences to create a hedgehog highway between gardens.

You can find out more information about things you can do on the BHPS website and get involved with the University of Kent Hedgehog action group by emailing sustainability@kent.ac.uk. Throughout the week the Sustainability Team will be posting tips, actions and activities on their Instagram @unikent.sustainability

You can also download some activities for children by clicking on the images below:

The University of Kent is working to become a Hedgehog Friendly Campus!

Hedgehogs are declining rapidly in the UK, with populations dropping by up to 50% since 2000. Loss of habitat and exposure to many threats, such as road traffic, litter, poisoning from slug pellets and lack of food, are having a significant effect on this iconic mammal.

The University of Kent is working to help make its Canterbury campus a safer place for hedgehogs. Hedgehog Friendly Campus is a national accreditation scheme through NUS and funded by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society. Through signing up to the Hedgehog Friendly Campus scheme, Kent aims to improve staff and student awareness about the decline of hedgehogs and hedgehog friendly behaviour, and look into how we can help our hedgehogs living on campus.

Our Hedgehog Friendly Campus working group is made up of staff and students from across the University. The group runs awareness campaigns, organises events, such as litter picks and hedgehog surveying, and promotes hedgehog friendly practices.

If you are interested in helping our campus hedgehogs, please get in touch with: sustainability@kent.ac.uk

If you see a hedgehog that looks injured, sick or out in the daytime, contact the British Hedgehog Preservation Society on 01584890801 and/or take it to your local vets – find more advice here.

https://www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk/found-a-hedgehog/

Did you know hedgehogs are nocturnal? This photo was taken at night using clever filters to enhance the lighting conditions. If you ever see a hedgehog out during daylight it could be a sign of distress. Check out our online guides that can help you take the right course of action, if any is required. Hedgehog Preservation Society.