Bayfordbury Field Station
The undergraduate curriculum has incorporated a range of practicals and projects at Bayfordbury field station since the mid 1970s.
The field sampling and associated laboratory work at the site form an essential and integral part of the BSc degrees in Geography and Environmental Management, together with postgraduate research supervised by the ecology and plant pathology staff.
The original Estate was developed in 1757, and included an ornamental lake, plantation woodland and a Pinetum (from 1767). Some grazing land was retained and coppicing continued in semi-natural ancient woodland, with the Estate as a whole bounded by farmland.
The current University-owned site covers over 40 ha (including amenity grassland) and the woodlands and grasslands incorporate areas of different management, ponds and rides. Academic staff from the subject area put together the original Management Plan for the Bayfordbury Field Station and continue to update it for the University Estates Department.
How students use the facilities
Controlled environment chambers in the laboratory block are used for practicals and for projects on plant growth and nutrition and the glasshouses provide facilities for projects on plant diseases and aquaponics as well as accommodating a model stream that has been used for invertebrate conservation research.
The field plot near the glasshouse complex is available for experimental crop trials; currently the weather station and Burkhart spore trap are located there.
All students on the BSc degrees undertake field sampling, identification of plants and invertebrates and some basic soil and water analysis at the field station, primarily in the Hook's Grove woodlands and the Lake samples and use the weather station data.
More advanced practicals on plant and animal ecology in second and final year modules make use of the grasslands, woodlands and Lake and involve examination and processing of samples in the laboratories.
BSc research projects
The availability of the range of habitats at the site, together with ongoing monitoring of weather conditions and access to laboratory facilities, allow students to carry out their individual research projects and build on the historical records for the site.
BSc Honours project topics in recent years have included:
- woodland ecology (Hook's Grove, Sailor's Grove) in relation to management (plants, soils, invertebrates, small mammals, muntjac deer)
- Pinetum: soil properties, plant colonisation in relation to the restoration activities, epiphyte associations with tree species
- freshwater ecology: invertebrates in ponds (Hooks Grove and Sailors Grove); invertebrates and fish in the lake
- grassland ecology: plants, butterflies in grassland compartments
- Aquaponics: glasshouse
- Strawberry mildew: glasshouse
Sandwich students and voluntary work
Sandwich degree students have worked on mapping, management and species recording at Bayfordbury. Voluntary work on coppicing and hedge laying has contributed to the management of the site and provided students with extra practical skills relevant to working in conservation.
The Bayfordbury site, with its range of habitats, laboratory and glasshouse facilities and its heritage interest provides a core facility for teaching students on the degrees and a wonderful asset for the Department and the University.
The Lake was created in 1772 and is approximately 0.8ha of fairly open water, with four small islands. The only inputs are from a small stream to the south and a spring to the east and from surface runoff. The depth fluctuates considerably over the seasons, with a maximum of about 3.5m. The fish population is monitored annually (publications below), and surveys of the plants and invertebrates have been carried out over the years. Surrounding specimen trees, mainly non-native, were planted in the mid 19th Century.
Copp GH, Cerny J and Kovac V 2008 Growth and morphology of an endangered native freshwater fish, crucian carp Carassius carassius, in an English ornamental pond. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 18: 32-43. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/aqc.820/abstract
Copp GH, Warrington S and Wesley KJ 2008 Management of an ornamental pond as a conservation site for a threatened native fish species, crucian carp Carassius carassius. Hydrobiologia 597: 149-155. (DOI: 10.1007/s10750-007-9220-0)
Tarkan AS, Copp GH, Zieba G, Godard MJ and Cucherousset J 2009 Growth and reproduction of threatened native crucian carp Carassius carassius in small ponds of Epping Forest, south-east England. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 19:797-805. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/aqc.1105/abstract
Tarkan AS, Gaygusuz O, Godard MJ and Copp GH 2011 Long-term growth patterns in a pond-dwelling population of crucian carp, Carassius carassius: environmental and density-related factors. Fisheries Management and Ecology 18 375-383. (DOI 10.1111/j.1365-2400.2011.00791.x)
Rough Hills Grassland
A series of grassland areas, approximately 2 ha, are surrounded by scrub and are managed by an annual mowing regime. They had previously been grazed, and in the 1950s and 1960s some parts were used for horticultural trials.
They are broadly neutral grasslands and normally support large butterfly populations in mid-summer.
Warrington S 1994 Field evidence for intra-specific competition between trees. Journal of Biological Education 28:186-190.
Warrington S and Brayford JP 1995 Some aspects of the population ecology and dispersal of the small skipper butterfly Thymelicus sylvestris (Poda) in a series of linked grasslands. The Entomologist 114: 201-209.
The 4 ha Pinetum contains over 150 species of conifers from all over the world. Plantings of conifers were started in 1767 by the Baker family, owners of the Bayfordbury Estate, and extended by the family (Baker and Clinton Baker) during the 19th Century.
Restoration and conservation is now carried out by the Friends' Association, with over 200 members drawn from the local area and further afield in Hertfordshire. For more information visit
The largest of the woodland areas (approximately 20 ha) planted primarily in the 18th and 19th centuries and some has extended into the Rough Hills grassland. Some pre-plantation features remain, including a double-hedged trackway, ponds and some fine veteran trees. Hornbeam, ash, oak form the main canopy trees, and although some coppicing was carried out in the past, most of the area is growing to high forest, with some selective felling.
An almost circular area of semi-natural ancient woodland (4.4.ha) of ash, hazel, hornbeam and field maple with oak standards. The woodland has a long history of management as coppice with standards and has a rich ground flora, including ancient woodland indicator species. The habitats include ponds and rides among the coppice compartments.