Ferry Meadows was created during the 70s and 80s
Ferry Meadows was created during the 70s and 80s

Looking back: How Peterborough’s Ferry Meadows was created

Nene Park is regarded as the outstanding feature of the Peterborough Master Plan which saw a huge growth of the city in the 1970s. Opening in 1978 it covers 2,000 acres of the Nene Valley.John Ratcliffe was the chief planning officer with Peterborough Development Corporation. In this article, reproduced from the Peterborough Story, (a special PT supplement published in 1992), he tells the story of the park’s creation...

Saturday, 21st August 2021, 3:29 pm

There can be no doubt that one of the major achievements of the expansion of Peterborough during the 1970s and 1980s was the creation of Nene Park.

There are lakes for sailing, windsurfing, canoeing and model boating, two public golf courses and a pitch and putt, some of the country’s finest coarse fishing and many miles of footpaths, cycleways and bridleways.

There is also a horse riding centre, birdwatching areas, adventure playgrounds for children, caravan and camping sites, miniature railway and through the entire park the Nene Valley Railway runs preserved steam trains.

From the outset the pattern of the park was set around the focus of gravel reserves. Just as the Hills and Hollows nature reserve at Barnack was created by the quarrying of stone to build East Anglian cathedrals, so in turn Ferry Meadows was created by the excavation of materials to help build the new city.

The Master Plan identified the opportunity to dig out the gravel reserves and create a water park. There were, therefore, negotiations with the landowners, gravel company and county council (as the minerals planning authority) to secure the creation of lakes suitable for recreation.

The initial work of removing soil overlying the gravel was assisted by further agreement that this would be used to construct the embankments for the Nene Parkway. Hence, a set of interrelated agreements created the basis of the park at virtually no cost.

During the period of gravel extraction from 1972-77 there was constant liaison between the gravel company and the corporation enabling changes to be made to the agreed plan.

Two early changes were:

That the gravel company agreed to leave a promontary on the eastern lake (Overton Lake) so that the foundations of Roman buildings, discovered during the stripping of soil, could be retained.

And in a small area of excavation originally intended for backfill, there was less usable material than had been expected, so it was agreed to excavate to a depth of only three feet and make a children’s boating pool and thus Lynch Lake was created.

The park was opened on July 1, 1978.

Prior to the opening of Ferry Meadows, another part of Nene Park provided a popular area for family relaxation - it was the area now known as Orton Mere. The development of Orton Mere as an attractive recreation area is a prime example of how a series of opportunities created by the expansion of the city were utilised.

The area was originally part of settling ponds belonging to British Sugar and was acquired by the development corporation in February 1972 as part of the land required for the Nene Parkway.

The rowing course at Thorpe Meadows on the north side of the river - only the second purpose-designed course in Britain - was made possible because of the construction of Frank Perkins Parkway.

This final section of the parkways system, providing a third river crossing, was built on embankment within the river flood plain. The then river authority - Anglian Water - required that a balancing lake be provided in the Nene Valley to compensate for the loss of flood storage.

Although this lake could have been any shape it was decided that it should be designed as a linear stretch of water to provide for rowing and canoeing.

To meet the required local, regional and national use the course is 70 metres wide and 1,000 metres long with an additional 20 metres at the start and 80 metres at the finish for circulation.

The excavation 0f 200,000 cubic metres of soil was necessary.

The creation of the Thorpe Meadows Rowing Course has led to the establishment of Peterborough as a venue for some of the nation’s major events.

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