Skip to content

By Ian Blatchford on

Every tree (and bee) counts

Today we’re launching a sustainability blog for the Science Museum Group.

Over the years, we’ve explored this subject in our programming – not least through the Atmosphere gallery at the Science Museum, hosting a solar farm at the National Collections Centre and innovations across our estate such as using hemcrete in conservation.

Now this regular blog will allow us to share our experiences, talk about the opportunities and challenges we face and celebrate the difference that individual members of staff and volunteers are making.

Aerial view of the solar farm at the National Collections Centre

In this first blog post, I’d like to talk about biodiversity and a commitment we’re announcing today to plant at least a thousand trees per year on our land throughout the next decade.

Our approach is being shaped by the science, through our own previous experiences – for example in planting 30 hectares of new native woodland under an English Woodland Grant Scheme – and through conversations with expert partners such as the Woodland Trust.

We have a responsibility, as a science-based museum group that offers free entry to over five million visitors each year, to be highly focused on evidence both in our approach to public programming on sustainability and in how we reduce the impacts of our own activities and buildings.

The science on trees is clear; every tree counts. Trees and woodlands absorb carbon dioxide, provide oxygen to breathe and sustain wildlife.

Setting a clear target to plant a thousand trees a year will allow us to measure and report on our progress in a transparent and meaningful way, but our work on biodiversity doesn’t stop at tree planting.

Tree planting at the National Collections Centre
Recent tree planting at the National Collections Centre

Previous achievements include installing more than 100 bird and bat boxes and creating log piles and hibernacula for reptiles and insects.

This year’s biodiversity activities include:

  • Installing several beehives on the roof of the Science Museum in London
  • Planting wildflowers along the route to our historic buildings at Locomotion in County Durham from the nearest rail stop, Shildon Station
  • Developing a wetland/pond for wildlife through our approach to water attenuation at the National Collections Centre in Wiltshire.

Our desire to promote biodiversity is reflected in ambitious redevelopments at several of our sites.

Our transformational Vision 2025 plans for the National Railway Museum in York and Locomotion include the creation of a large area of parkland surrounding the museum in York, which will include widespread planting as well as wildlife-friendly initiatives such as bat boxes.

At Locomotion, raised beds to the side of a new building will provide forage for bees as well as improving the environment enjoyed by our visitors.

At the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester our redeveloped outdoor spaces will include extensive new box planting across the seven-acre historic city-centre site.

Our greatest opportunity for impact comes at the National Collections Centre, nestled within the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Tree planting at the National Collections Centre
Tree planting at the National Collections Centre

Here we’ve carried out bat, bird, badger and reptile surveys to better understand the ecology of the site and inform our next steps on biodiversity which include:

  • Introducing hedging to create connecting corridors between existing tree plantations
  • Setting aside around 0.5 hectares per annum for new tree planting over the next decade
  • Working with local community groups to use propagation and planting in therapy for people with mental health issues
  • Building on the management of our country wildlife sites by working with Wiltshire Wildlife Trust to create open access reserves.

Colleagues from across the Science Museum Group will share more about what we’re doing to encourage biodiversity around the country in future blog posts as well as exploring how we are continuing to reduce carbon emissions as part of our wider approach to sustainability.

In sharing what we are doing, we open ourselves to challenge about what we aren’t doing as well as creating a fertile space for our own teams or partners to help us to do more.

And just as our museums are learning from each other, hopefully we can provide some useful data to other cultural organisations that are, like us, seeking to raise their game.