Wilding at BGS // by Melanie Leng

Melanie Leng is chief scientist for environmental change, adaptation and resilience at the British Geological Survey. Here, she tells us about the BGS wilding group...

A wild flower meadow earlier in the year

We are experiencing a period of unprecedented environmental change and positive action is needed across the board to address environmental sustainability. This includes tackling climate change and loss of biodiversity as a result of human impact. One small way in which BGS is aiming to help reduce our own impact is by supporting wildlife on our campuses. It is especially important to maintain a wildlife sanctuary in our Keyworth site as the surrounding village increases in size and by increasing our local biodiversity we will also help create a more environmentally and ecologically friendly place to be. 

Although the outdoor space is maintained by our Estates team we have a small group of staff volunteers (the Wilding Group) who undertake small projects. The group have been focussing their attention on several key areas:


Planting trees and shrubs in the more remote parts of site helps sequester carbon emissions, and by planting native broad leaf species we will help preserve the environment and biodiversity, creating an island for wildlife in an increasingly urbanised village. We aim to increase out tree numbers each year. Currently we have several hundred trees including many native trees such as poplar, birch, rowan, sweet chestnut, willows and hornbeam. We have also established fruit and nut trees on site and hope to plant more in the future. 

One of our beautiful plum trees flowering earlier in the year


Wildflower / meadow areas 

We have significantly reduced our grass cutting programme to protect areas of wild orchids and allow wild flower meadows to propagate. Currently about half of our lawned areas are left unmown between April and October. We are fortunate enough to have Bee Orchids flourishing on site and these flower in the no-mow areas. One of the main reasons for providing areas for wild flowers to thrive through the summer months is to support bee populations. Bees have fared quite badly over recent years - through both pesticide (over) use and disease (varroa mite). We have local residents close by who have beehives, and we hope that by instigating a no-mow policy we are enabling both these hives and wild bees to thrive. Bees are not the only species that we are trying to support, the wild flower meadow areas and insect hotels create great habitats for butterflies, moths and insects too. We also leave some parts of our site completely wild (no planned gardening), logs from felled (dead and dying) trees are placed in these areas and left to decay naturally. Woody debris (old bramble, wood chipping etc) provide great refuge for small animals. 

Staff building a small mammal refuge in a remote part of site

Birds and animals


Our Keyworth site is also home to various birds and bat species. During the recent site closure due to Covid-19 some staff made bird and bat boxes from home which will be erected over the winter and added to the habitats we already have in place. The Wilding Group have also started developing a wildlife database where we will record all animal species found on site to monitor biodiversity progress, and we hope to make this available through the BGS website in the near future. We have seen a huge variety of animals including hedgehogs, squirrels, foxes, badgers, and most recently a juvenile hare.

A house sparrow on the Keyworth campus

We have lots of exciting plans for the future, including planting more native fruit and nut trees, for both staff and animals, and creating small plots of ground where staff groups can grow their own produce. The benefits of growing your own food, no matter how small the amount, are well documented and should be encouraged especially for those who don’t have access to a garden of their own at home.  

I look forward to updating you on our progress in the months ahead.

A long tailed tit on the Keyworth campus