Peterborough’s Nene Park unveils ambitious plan for growth

Ferry Meadows, Peterborough.
Ferry Meadows, Peterborough.
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Ambitious plans have been unveiled to transform Peterborough’s historic Nene Park.

The goal is to extend the park’s reach right across the city promoting healthy lifestyles, building communities and celebrating culture.

Matthew Bradbury, chief executive of Nene Park Trust. EMN-150107-175746009

Matthew Bradbury, chief executive of Nene Park Trust. EMN-150107-175746009

Fifteen key projects have been listed by the Nene Park Trust as it seeks to cope with a multitude of challenges and opportunities over the next 32 years.

However, bosses warn that funding the proposals could be a challenge.

Alongside its aspirations, the Master Plan details a host of new attractions for the park.

These range from “wild swimming” in Gunwade Lake, more routes to walk with new things to discover to make more use of the park’s heritage from the Nene Valley Railway to its ancient monuments and Roman remains.

Action to improve indoor and outdoor play areas, develop the park’s wildlife and offering more opportunities and facilities for volunteers to work in the park, enhance skills development and grow commercial activities at the park are included in the Master Plan.

The plan also identifies ways of celebrating culture, arts and heritage, and to boost health and skills.

It states: “We see an enormous opportunity to improve the health of our community by working with new and existing partners to develop play, outdoor activities, sport and recreation in the Park.”

“We will find opportunities to develop skills, outreach and learning, both through our own education programmes and those supported by partners - and through a much greater involvement by the community in projects, and investing further in volunteering.”

However, the plan’s starting point is the growing number of visitors to the park each year, and the expectation this will increase as more houses are built in and around the city.

The park’s popularity is a mixed blessing.

The plan warns of the tensions created when large numbers of people with different interests converge to enjoy their leisure time.

It highlights reports of “conflicts between uses such as dog walking, recreation, commuting and relaxation”.

The plan also worries about the cost of repairing the wear and tear on its 22 kilometres of pathways, grassland, bridges, roads and car parks caused by the high footfall through the park.

However, park bosses are also aware that while visitor numbers are higher than ever - 1,718,00 people enjoyed the park in 2015 - access is still difficult for non-car owners from the north of the city.

They say some people in the far reaches of the city have not heard of Ferry Meadows, which makes up some 500 acres of the 1,725 acre Nene Park.

In a bid to ensure people do not miss out, the Master Plan proposes taking the park to the people with the use of a ‘park outreach’ initiative.

If successful, the plan will result in the most far-reaching changes in the park’s 40 years history.

Writing in the report, chief executive Matthew Bradbury states: “We plan to improve existing parkland at Ferry Meadows, Thorpe Meadows and the wider estate. These improvements will enhance our capacity to receive increasing numbers of visitors and address increasing pressure on wildlife by shaping and managing the park and by looking beyond our current park boundaries to support the management of existing and new green space in the city and surrounding area.

“The proposals in this Master Plan will only go forward when funding has been secured. We will need to be creative in finding new and innovative funding, support and delivery models.”

Trust bosses are in no doubt about the scale of the task involved.
The report adds: “Implementing the Master Plan will involve a huge collective effort to secure support, influence, funding and other resources. It will involve volunteers, staff, trustees, supporters and partners from the community and from charitable, public and private sectors from Peterborough and beyond.”

The Nene Park Master Plan 2017 - 2050, was revealed at a gathering of Peterborough business leaders at Ferry Meadows’ Lakeside Centre.

The Main Points:

At the forefront of the Master Plan is the intention to increase the amount of green space in Peterborough.

It aims to create green routes from the Embankment to Thorpe Meadows and it states in five years’ time, the trust will be caring for Thorpe Lea Meadows on behalf of the city council.

If housing plans are approved for Castor, the trust will help to create a new public greenspace by 2031. It also plans to help create safe routes from Flag Fen to the Embankment.

It also promises some exhilarating new attractions - such as the safe and managed “wild swimming” in Gunwade Lake and low and high ropes and climbing walls will be on offer at Lakeside Recreation.

The Master Plan wants to create a “biodiversity rich landscape” and grow the park with fun events to celebrate trees, new cameras to show wildlife on screens at the Visitors’ Centre, the establishment of a memorial arboretum, and more sensory spectacles of garden and wild flowers plus improved entrances to the park. There are plans to improve art links to city centre working with artists and install new sculptures in the park. Creating local food systems with the Nene Orchards and Green Fingers scheme are also listed.

To develop the park’s heritage attractions, there will be a Normangate Heritage Centre in the western part of the park and the station master’s cottage garden at Ailsworth will be restored. The Ferry Meadows Visitor Centre will be transformed. Visitors will be able to stay overnight at a new visitors’ accommodation and by 2050 renewable energy will power the park’s facilities.