Lying in approximately 18 hectares, and just 3 km from the centre of Belfast, the University College grounds provide a beautiful and peaceful rural haven in the growing urban sprawl. As the growth of Belfast continues, the importance of green places in our city can not be under-estimated. We need locations like the University College grounds as places to unwind and relax. We need them also as wildlife reserves, and although the grounds contain many examples of the more common animals and plants, they also contain some examples of more unusual wildlife. The University College grounds hold an interest for naturalists, geologists, archeologists and historians, and provide pleasure for those who simply enjoy walking in pleasant surroundings.
The landscape of the grounds is quite varied and although about half of the area is occupied by buildings, recreation grounds, roads and paths they are everywhere surrounded by trees and shrubs. Indeed, looking from any window on the campus, one cannot fail to be impressed by the surrounding sea of green. Many of the trees were planted about 200 years ago and wise planting since has created the wooded landscape we enjoy today.
On the northern side of the campus lies the Badger Wood and its name is no accident; badgers are frequently seen there, as are foxes and many different kinds of birds. In a hollow between the Badger Wood and the Central Building is a marsh fed by the natural waters of a spring which in the early years of the 19th century formed part of the Belfast water supply. Today the marsh is rich in wildlife as a visit in summer will show. Creeping buttercup and orchids provide a blanket of colour, superimposed by the sounds of a myriad of insects and of bird song. On the southern side of the campus there are further small woodlands where the sights and sounds of jays and sparrowhawks are not unusual. Here too is to be found the pond, lying in a depression in the ground considered to be a kettle hole - formed by melting ice at the end of the last glacial period. Ducks occasionally nest here and herons and kingfishers have also been seen. The water holds frogs, newts and a great variety of other aquatic life.
The University College grounds with their rich and varied habitats provide a valuable teaching resource for our own students. Visiting school children, university students and naturalists also use the grounds. At every season of the year the grounds have a particular beauty. They are a very precious natural heritage for us to enjoy, to explore, to study and to hand on to future generations.