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Imperial College London becomes manager of National Nature Reserve

External Sites:
-English Nature
(Imperial College is not responsible for the content of these external internet sites)

For Immediate Use
9 June 2004

The opening of the first National Nature Reserve to be managed by an English university institution has been marked in Wye, Kent.

At a ceremony this week, Imperial College London's Wye campus was given Approved Body status by English Nature to manage the new Crown Field National Nature Reserve, an extension of Wye Downs National Nature Reserve.

The Crown Field site is part of the 400-hectare estate belonging to Imperial College where it undertakes research on plant, animal and environmental science and on rural economics. The Field - a prominent local landmark - takes its name from the memorial cut into the chalk in 1902 to mark King Edward VII's coronation.

The high conservation value of the Crown's chalk grassland has long been recognised as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Its new NNR designation raises the status of the land to equal the rest of the National Nature Reserve managed by English Nature, and recognises Imperial College's contribution to management of the Wye Downs over the last 40 years. It will also help in the integration of management, access and interpretation across the whole of the Wye Downs, ensuring greater protection and public enjoyment of this nationally important area.

In a ceremony to mark the inauguration on 3 June, Professor Jeff Waage, Provost and Head of the Department of Agricultural Sciences at Wye campus, accepted a certificate conferring Approved Body status from Dr Keith Duff, Director and Chief Scientist, English Nature. Other guests included local MP Damian Green and Donald Sykes, a key figure in the recent restoration of the Crown memorial. They were joined by a number of Imperial College students and staff, local conservation representatives and Wye villagers.

As they walked up the Downs to the new Nature Reserve, participants stopped to view a unique 12-year project site at the College which was set up to determine how best to return intensive farmland to flower-rich downland habitat.

The College has recently been awarded funds from a joint UK Research Council programme on Rural Economy and Land Use (RELU). This will be used to study how farm scale scientific studies and farm level financial incentives under CAP reform may generate landscape-scale effects that conserve biodiversity while making the countryside economically sustainable.

The ceremony was preceded by a workshop involving Imperial and English Nature scientists on how to achieve conservation and agricultural objectives scientifically and economically at a landscape scale.


For more information and pictures please contact:

Wendy Raeside
Imperial College London Press Office
Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 2624
Mob: +44 (0)773 959 1462

Notes to Editors

About Wye National Nature Reserve

This stunning National Nature Reserve with its mixture of chalk grassland, woodland, scrub and low-lying pasture, each with its own distinctive communities of plants and animals, stretches for 2.5 km along the scarp face of the North Downs in Kent.

It is best known for its orchids - 19 species grow here - including all the common species and three national rarities. Most of the Reserve is open to visitors - a waymarked nature trail begins at the coach park and leads through all the main habitats on the Reserve.

National Nature Reserves give the public a chance to experience at first hand a wide variety of wildlife. There are only 214 National Nature Reserves, created as places where wildlife comes first. They were established to protect the most important areas of wildlife habitat and geological formations in Britain, and as places for scientific research. Designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) by English Nature, they are nationally significant.

The conservation of these national assets is one of the functions of English Nature, the Government's wildlife adviser. English Nature is keen to make it easier for people to have access to these areas and appreciate their natural riches.

About the Department of Agricultural Sciences at Wye campus

The Department of Agricultural Sciences was formed followed the merger in 2000 of Wye College - a leading centre of research and teaching on agriculture, food and environment for over a century - with Imperial College London. Research at Wye today focuses on fundamental science underpinning the use of plants and animals, and the management and restoration of soils and biodiversity. This is matched by a strong programme in economic and social sciences, giving Wye a unique capacity to integrate research on the scientific and social dimensions relating to new technology for food, farming and the rural environment. To find out more about both research and teaching opportunities within the Department, visit our website:

About Imperial College London

Consistently rated in the top three UK university institutions, Imperial College London is a world leading science-based university whose reputation for excellence in teaching and research attracts students (11,000) and staff (6,000) of the highest international quality.
Innovative research at the College explores the interface between science, medicine, engineering and management and delivers practical solutions that enhance the quality of life and the environment - underpinned by a dynamic enterprise culture.