BBC’s Mike Dilger discovers the fascinating ecology of Alconbury Weald

Urban&Civic, the master developer behind Alconbury Weald, has teamed up with TV presenter and naturalist Mike Dilger to produce the first ecology-focused episode of its new podcast series, Alconbury Weald Stories.

Alconbury Weald_Wild Weald banner

The first episode of the podcast, Wild Weald, looks at the ecological profile of the new development just north of Huntingdon. Hosted by Mike, a regular on BBC’s The One Show, it features insights from Urban&Civic’s head of communities and partnerships, Rebecca Britton and James Patmore, director of ecology at Bradley Murphey Design.

Designed with a nod to its military heritage, the new community has been shaped around some of the existing natural elements on the former airfield, including small pockets of woodland and grassland along the runway areas. But key to the landscape vision has been a commitment to establish a wider “green infrastructure” that delivers large areas of woodland, grassland and waterways, and corridors which connect them – for both people and local wildlife to enjoy.

These green routes work throughout the new homes, connecting to people’s front doors. Ecology plays a major role at Alconbury Weald, with 45 per cent of land coming forward as green spaces. With a number of habitats preserved and enhanced and the new ones being created, Alconbury Weald has achieved a net biodiversity gain throughout the site. Its residents are now able to enjoy proximity to nature with easy access to pocket parks, play areas and dipping ponds, with plenty of room to explore, play and relax.

The McDonald family, who were among the first residents at Alconbury Weald, take the listeners on a journey around the Wild Weald, starting in their garden, offering the audience an opportunity to immerse themselves into the natural world without leaving their homes. 

Darius McDonald, a resident at Alconbury Weald, said: “It’s great to just be able to open the door and go for a walk, but also make it a nature adventure for the children: from butterfly counts to studying the tree species or pond dipping. During lockdown, the kids have been able to put many miles on their bikes cycling safely along the green routes; they’re constantly learning new things about local species. It’s really important for us to make sure they get that love of the outdoors from a very young age and having nature right on the doorstep really helps.”

Mike Dilger, naturalist and broadcaster, who hosted the first episode of the podcast, said: “It was great getting involved in the podcast. The thing that gets me up in the morning is helping engage people with this wonderful world of nature around us, and it’s been really interesting exploring what has been done at Alconbury Weald to create a different kind of new community – a home for nature as well as people. And you know what, they mostly rattle along well beside each other!”

Also featured in the podcast is James Patmore from Bradley Murphy Design, the lead ecologist on the design team, who talks about the inspiration that came from the ancient woodland at Monks Wood, which sits alongside the new development, and the Country Park that will be coming forward around the development’s very own ancient woodland Prestley Wood.

Rebecca Britton, head of partnerships and communities at Urban&Civic, said: “As more and more people across the country discover a new appreciation for the outdoors after several months of lockdown, we’ve created this episode to inspire people to go out and explore the green spaces around them. The team have worked hard to build nature into the concrete landscape of the old airfield, and now Alconbury Weald is home to a variety of wildlife. Mike and the team from the local Wildlife Trust will be helping us do more activities in the coming months to help people make a difference in their own gardens, as well as working on future surveys of the species of birds, butterflies and other wildlife we are looking to support at Alconbury Weald.”

The episode is now live and available for download here.


Looking for something specific?