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University wildlife area offers perfect space for staff and students to unwind


University wildlife area

Wildlife area is a great place for staff and students to unwind

With its meandering paths, ponds and abundance of wildlife, it looks like it could be in the middle of the Yorkshire countryside (well, from some angles), but this closeted greenspace is actually right in the middle of Bradford city centre.

The urban nature reserve is nestled on land owned by the University of Bradford, and is leased by Bradford Environmental Education Service (BEES) for the use of staff, students and invited groups, such as local schoolchildren.

During the pandemic, it has been much quieter than usual but organisers are keen to make more University staff and students aware of its benefits.

Unwind and detox

Manager Amanda Smith says they are keen to promote the space as a way of increasing wellbeing and tackling mental health issues, in addition to working with local schools, colleges and University students.

“It’s a wonderful space right in the heart of the city,” says Amanda, who works on numerous wildlife areas across Yorkshire. “We recently had a grant to put in new benches across the site and we’re keen to make more people aware of it.

“We offer a broad range of environmental education opportunities to young people, individuals, community groups, schools and businesses; enabling and inspiring people to make a positive contribution to their local environment, develop skills and explore the natural environment.”

Dragonflies and newts

The Reserve began life in 1990 and offers a wonderful space for wildlife near the city centre. It consists of two medium sized ponds, an area of trees and wildflower rich grassland. The ponds host a large population of dragonflies and several species of damselfly. Birds regularly seen include goldfinch, great tit, blue tit, long tailed tit, blackbirds, thrushes; there are even newts.

BEES was awarded a grant from the Postcode Local Trust, a grant-giving charity funded entirely by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. This has made essential work at the Nature Reserve possible, including a project called Living Ponds.

Back to nature

Richard Kirby, who runs Outdoor Classrooms Ltd in Calverley, works with BEES and makes education resources and buildings, including classroom, for schools, all sourced using local grown, environmentally managed wood. He has provided wood for benches and fencing on the site.

He said: “The reserve is a great opportunity for local schools and other groups to visit and learn new skills linked to  environmental education. We have a campaign called ‘Healthy Garden, Healthy Children, Healthy Planet’, which is all about getting people, and particularly children, into the outdoors and letting them interact with nature.

“All our wood is locally grown and managed to be environmentally friendly. We do not use pressure treated wood for any of our equipment. We are all about getting people outside and into nature because this is wonderful for improving mental health.”

Mr Kirby added he was also open to working with University academics and students on any volunteer or research projects which involved conservation.

Additional information

BEES (Bradford Environmental Education Service) is the environmental department of City of Bradford YMCA. It has been delivering environmental education and conservation work for 25 years across the District. Contact BEES here or ring 07970 621732/01274 371303, Twitter: @BEESBradford, Facebook: BEESBradford. Email:

Contact Richard at Outdoor Classrooms Ltd on 07808 304198 or email:

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