The colleges of Oxford and Cambridge collectively own more land than the Church of England and have a portfolio of properties across the UK worth £3.5bn. Amassed over the centuries, this massive estate amounts to 126,000 acres - an area more than four times the size of Manchester.
You might have heard that you can walk from Oxford to Cambridge on land owned by the colleges. Whilst this is almost certainly a myth, there’s still a lot to be surprised about by the Oxbridge portfolio. The O2 arena in London, a betting shop in Brent and a castle conquered by Robert Bruce are to be found amongst the colleges’ more unusual property possessions.
Details of this land are hard to come by. It took investigators years of Freedom of Information requests to uncover the picture that we have today. Indeed, above and beyond the 126,000 acres there are also thought to be unmeasured land holdings “under ancient possession” which could amount to another 4,000 acres.
Today, just like the other large institutional landowners in the UK, this land is managed as a profit making investment. Whilst a lot of good is done with this money - funding the vital research and educational work of the universities - not a single one of the colleges has a rewilding plan in place for its land. With biodiversity plummeting across the country, it’s urgently time to change this.
We’re currently speaking to student groups, local action groups and figures within the universities in preparation for launching our Rewild Oxbridge campaign. If you’d like to get involved, please sign up to our mailing list or contact us directly.