Since its opening in 1978, Nene Park and Ferry Meadows has been a brilliant place for outdoor family fun while also serving as a haven for wildlife in Peterborough. However, as a result of the coronavirus lockdowns, all of these popular activities had to unfortunately grind to a halt. Now is the time to take advantage of Spring and Summer, a time of year where the park usually thrives.
One big change coming to Ferry Meadows is the construction of a landmark bridge to replace the current Pontoon Bridge. The Nene Park Trust is currently developing design ideas alongside the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The new bridge will form a range of activities that are a part of the Trust’s Your Community Greenspace project. This project is aiming to ensure that Nene Park will be a great place for visitors in Peterborough, for many years to come. It also will empower and engage its community to help conserve the park and its wildlife. Over the years, Ferry Meadows has done a lot to help the wildlife habitating the park.
I spoke to Chris Park, Project Development Officer for the environment at the Nene Park Trust, who told me all about the updates and improvements the trust has made to help the wildlife. He said: “What we’ve done is gradually look at the areas in the park where the footfall is less, where we can let the grass grow. We’ve introduced quite a lot of wildflower seed into areas, making it better for insects and pollinators.”
They have also been creating more natural woodland habitats, to benefit the birds who will nest in these places; birds actually prefer to nest nearer to the ground. Chris said: “We’ve put in a couple of nest boxes and we’re putting a new turn raft in. We looked at the park thinking ‘what used to nest here, what used to breed here, what don’t we have anymore and what can we do to get some of this back.’”
It is important now more than ever that we learn to look after our environment. When I asked Chris about this, he said: “It was always taught to me that we need the natural world, we are part of it, we can’t survive without it.”
“Most of our plants that we grow as food depend on the natural environment’s pollinators - the honeybee can only do 10-20% of pollination. The rest is done by wild insects. If we don't have those, then we’re gonna be in big trouble.” However, there has been quite a steep decline in these species over recent years. Chris explained to me that we need to make people aware of the everyday activities they do that cause harm to the species. For example, spraying chemicals and pesticides is very damaging to the environment. There is hope, however, for the younger generation to take control and look after the environment for years to come. Chris said: “About ten years ago, we started our environmental education programmes. We employ two or three teachers and they regularly take school groups. The park is now a visit destination for educational groups.” The education programmes are designed for pupils of all ages, ranging from primary school age to sixth form age; they are our future, after all. Chris said: “If we can get one or two of them to appreciate what’s on their doorstep and look after it, then it’s a win.”
Ferry Meadows has many exciting events lined up, ranging from a holiday trail around the park beginning on March 26th to an Easter egg hunt on April 3rd. These activities are sure to be popular among families; many people have a newfound appreciation for nature because of lockdown. People have been stuck at home for quite some time, and as a result they have been going on walks and have learned to enjoy nature in ways they didn’t before. Issues with the environment and wildlife often go under the radar when we are living such busy lives, but the coronavirus lockdown encouraged people to take a step back and look at the beauty of the world around them.
Ferry Meadows has always offered an escape from the stresses of everyday life, whether that be with fun-filled activities or allowing the public to just spend a day relaxing outdoors. It is vital that everyone keeps a check on their mental health during this difficult and turbulent time, and one way to do this is by simply going outdoors and getting some fresh air. I asked Chris if he felt that we had a new respect for the natural world, and he said: “We’ve noticed a big upsurge in footfall not just in Ferry Meadows, but into the rural estate. People are now getting out to places right on their own doorstep that they wouldn’t think twice about before.”