Much of the early work at Waterbeach Barracks has been around protecting the strong existing environment of this unique former airfield and barracks site. Some of these areas are not the standard definition of “natural” – such the man-made lake, and plantation woodlands established by the Royal Engineers back in the 1970s and 1980s – but over time they have created valuable woodland, grassland and water habitats. These in turn provide important homes and feeding grounds for birds, mammals and invertebrates from hobbies and owls to badgers and water shrews, to bees and butterflies.
We caught up with James Patmore, from Bradley Murphy Design, who has been the lead ecologist on the project from the very start of Urban&Civic’s involvement in the site in 2013. He and his team have been conducting daytime and nightime surveys throughout the autumn and winter months, during his regular survey work of our priority species. The survey work is part of ongoing habitat improvement works, which are embedded into the development strategy and aim to improve the scale and quality of the habitats at Waterbeach Barracks, and to support increases in the numbers of key priority species. The work is the result of partnership discussions with the local authority ecology team, the Wildlife Trust and Natural England, and our commitment to delivering a net gain for nature through the development of the Barracks.
“Waterbeach Barracks is the most amazing location and right from the start all of the team have taken a nature-led approach to how the future development comes forward: working with and enhancing the ecology that is here, and integrating it fully into how the development comes forward.
I am very lucky that part of my job is to explore every inch of the site, but it also fills me with personal and professional pride, that we will be creating an environment in which the development will really improve the condition of the habitats that are here: putting them into proper management approaches for nature; designing in areas that are for nature specifically and to protect key species; but also open up aspects for more people to enjoy and understand the nature on their doorstep. If nothing else the last few months have shown the importance of that for everyone’s health and wellbeing.”
All of the sounds in this video were recorded on site, by local sound artist Richard Youell.
Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing some of the outputs from James’ work in interactive maps, which help you explore the habitats we are working on.