For an event that celebrated the opening of the new UEA Wildlife Trail, the sight of a gleaming, young otter fishing in the Broad was perfect as an example of the magnificent abundance of flora and fauna to be found at UEA. This elusive mammal, paid no heed to the crowd gathered by the Mathematical bridge on a cold January lunchtime, and brazenly swam out into the water, dipping and diving for its dinner. Dr Iain Barr, an ecology lecturer at UEA, who recently led a biodiversity audit of the campus, welcomed the interruption to his speech, stopping briefly in order for everyone to witness this wonderful wildlife encounter.
The biodiversity audit has revealed how the UEA campus is thriving with an incredible variety of mammals, birds, insects and plants. Thanks to a generous £9000 grant from the Big Lottery Fund’s Community Wildlife Fund, four impressive new interpretation boards (and accompanying leaflet dispensers) have been placed around the Trail, highlighting what can be found along each of the four different trails. It was one of these interpretation boards that was unveiled by guest speaker Mark Cocker, a naturalist, author and UEA graduate, who spoke with passion of the importance of allowing people to experience the wildlife that can be found on our doorstep.
The project was organised by Volunteer Administrator Elaine Sherriffs and UEA Volunteers, a group that gives students the opportunity to get involved with exciting projects, such as the Big Beach Clean and the Campus Conservation project. Speaking to Concrete she said “Two things inspired me to start this project and apply for the funding. The first was an awareness that we all spend far too much time sitting in front of our TV and computer screens and as a result we become disconnected with nature. I hope the wildlife trail will attract people to spend an hour or so outdoors and reconnect with the natural environment.” A number of students gave up their time to help bring the UEA Wildlife Trail to life, whether it was by writing the content for the interpretation boards or by helping with guided walks on the day of the opening.
The lush grass meadow, the winding woodland and the beautiful Broad have been the setting of many a daily dog-walk and midnight musing, for students and the public alike. We are so lucky to be surrounded by these wonderful habitats, which are home to many creatures other than ourselves. With the help of the information available on the boards and leaflets, you might discover something new next time for yourself.