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A new book for everybody - The Nature of Cambridge





Nature Notes Bob Jarman, of the Cambridge Natural History Society, explores the outcome of a three-year project.

In 2016 the Cambridge Natural History Society began a three-year project to study the wildlife and natural history of Cambridge city.

The purpose of this study was to create a snapshot of the flora and fauna of Cambridge and increase public awareness of the diversity of its wildlife.

A fox in All Saints' cemetery. Picture: Bob Jarman
A fox in All Saints' cemetery. Picture: Bob Jarman

The idea came from Mark Hill, of the society, who inspired and led the project. The study area was an eight by eight kilometre square centred on the junction of Mill Road and Covent Garden.

Twenty-five local wildlife experts joined Mark and covered the geology of the area, insects, mammals, all aspects of plant life, birds, reptiles, slugs and snails, fish, wildlife hotspots and conservation. They also looked at the changing physical geography and development of Cambridge and the effects this has on nature.

The years 2016 to 2019 were the main period of recording wildlife. The area surveyed included the city itself and extended to Orchard Park and King’s Hedges, most of Girton and Grantchester, Trumpington and Cherry Hinton and parts of Teversham and Fen Ditton.

Garden surveys were carried out in each of the 1km squares plus a survey of college gardens.

A kingfisher at Bin Brook. Picture: Bob Jarman
A kingfisher at Bin Brook. Picture: Bob Jarman

For some groups of plants, birds and mammals with detailed longer-term records the period covered was extended to include records from 2010 to 2020.

Historical records were also considered to monitor the effects of climate change. One obvious change throughout the city is the growth of mistletoe that has flourished in the last 20 years. The study included which species are parasitised by mistletoe and the reasons for its recent abundance.

New species have been discovered, some species have been lost, and the distribution of other species have shown remarkable changes.

Emperor moth in Cambridge. Picture: Jon Heath
Emperor moth in Cambridge. Picture: Jon Heath

Two gardens in the city have each recorded a total of more than a 1,000 species of all insects, birds and mammals, including species new to the city and the county. More than 570 species of moths were recorded in a garden in north Cambridge and new species of damsel and dragonflies recently colonised in the UK have been found along Hobson’s Brook. Mammals have shown remarkable changes, some are winners, and some are losers; eight different species of bats have been found in one part of the city.

Species of slugs and snails have come and gone. Species of reptiles are just holding on. Trumpington Road was once described as the best place in England to hear nightingales, but is not any more.

A wasp spider at Logan's Meadow. Picture: Bob Jarman
A wasp spider at Logan's Meadow. Picture: Bob Jarman

They have been lost to the city with other species of woodland breeding birds, probably due to global warming and the loss of insects to feed their young.

Birds of prey and species of herons have increased remarkably.

Plants have shown surprising resilience, and species once thought extinct in Cambridgeshire have been rediscovered. An orchid last reported in 1770 was rediscovered. More than 120 species of mosses and liverworts have been found. The flora has the highest total outside the London area.

A southern migrant hawker dragonfly. Picture: Jon Heath
A southern migrant hawker dragonfly. Picture: Jon Heath

The study is finished, and the book “The Nature of Cambridge” is published on October 21.

But our city is still changing and so will its wildlife. Will ravens return to breed? They have been seen over the city and are now breeding nearby. Our city is expanding, especially in the north. Housing developments are pushing breeding farmland birds especially skylarks up to and beyond the city’s boundary. Hopefully, this study will establish a benchmark against which future changes can be measured.

Frogs and spawn on Logan's Meadow. Picture: Bob Jarman
Frogs and spawn on Logan's Meadow. Picture: Bob Jarman

The Nature of Cambridge has been written for everyone, for the specialist and for those with a general interest in our wildlife and nature.

Every aspect of the natural history of our beautiful city of Cambridge is covered. The book celebrates the nature of Cambridge and is richly illustrated with original photographs.

The Nature of Cambridge front page
The Nature of Cambridge front page

Published by Pisces Publications, it has 322 pages and will be available from the city’s bookshops, priced £27.50.



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