Nene Wetlands

Central to the Nene Valley is the Nene Wetlands nature reserve, a unique one square mile of wild and man-made habitats, managed for wildlife and people.


Nene Wetlands Visitor Centre
The Boardwalk
Rushden Lakes
NN10 6FA

OS Map Reference

SP 938 679
A static map of Nene Wetlands

Know before you go

270 hectares

Parking information

Please note there is a 5 hour parking limit at Rushden Lakes

Grazing animals

Highland cattle, sheep

Walking trails

Many wide, smooth trails for walking.



Wheelchair and pushchair friendly. Mobility scooter available for hire at the Visitor Centre.


Under effective control


Visitor centre
Picnic area
Accessible toilet
Baby changing facilities
Outdoor play area

When to visit

Opening times

From 2024, the visitor centre will be closed on Tuesdays.

Visitor Centre 10am - 4:30pm (Every day of the week except Tuesdays).

Best time to visit

10am - 4:30pm

About the reserve

The Nene Wetlands is part of the Upper Nene Valley Gravel Pits Site of Special Scientific Interest and Special Protection Area. Four Wildlife Trust nature reserves - Irthlingborough Lakes and Meadows, Ditchford Lakes and Meadows, Higham Ferrers Pits and Wilson's Pits are now linked up with Skew Bridge Lake, Delta Pit and Higham Lake - flooded gravel pits, wet meadow, wet woodland and reedbed at the heart of the Wildlife Trust's Nene Valley Living Landscape.

This extensive series of shallow and deep open waters are surrounded with a wide range of marginal features, such as sparsely vegetated islands, gravel bars and shorelines, and habitats including reed swamp, marsh, wet ditches, rush pasture, rough grassland and scattered scrub. This range of habitat and the varied topography of the lagoons provide valuable nesting, resting and feeding conditions to sustain nationally important numbers and assemblages of breeding and wintering birds.

Twenty thousand waterbirds use the wetlands every year, for breeding, for their winter quarters or as vital stopping points on their long migration routes, from as far away as Arctic Russia and southern Africa.

Reserve map

Maps of the reserve are also available to buy from the Nene Wetlands' Visitor Centre.

Activities at the Nene Wetlands

Visitor centre

Our Visitor Centre - a low-lying wooden, grass-roofed building on the edge of Skew Bridge Lake - is hugely symbolic for the Wildlife Trust BCN. A first visitor centre for the Trust's three counties and a wonderful opportunity to engage with an entirely new audience coming to experience the retail park at Rushden Lakes. Visitors will experience an adventure at a place where wildlife, industrial history and modern retail culture come face-to-face.

The Trust's visitor centre officially opened in July 2017, and is open 10am-4.30pm every day except Christmas Day.

Sculpture trail

Outdoor play specialists Flights of Fantasy have created 14 beautiful wildlife sculptures in a trail along the edge of Skew Bridge Lake. Designer Russell Bowlby's creations also include interactive installations in a Wildlife Discovery Area - an abandoned barge and an otter holt. Carefully positioned trail cameras around the lake deliver footage to screens in the visitor centre (e.g. images from the heronry on Delta Lake - not publicly accessible).

Wild paddling

We collaborate with Northamptonshire company Canoe2 to offer a unique way to experience and appreciate nature. With the boathouse of Canoe2 just next door, access to the lakes - with portage on to the river Nene - couldn't be easier. 

Thank you for your support

Donations are our single biggest source of income, help us stop nature's decline in your area and maintain our reserves by making a small donation today. 

Donate now

Additional information

  • Wilson's Pits: to protect the wildlife communities, this path will remain closed for the foreseeable future.
  • Wildlife restoration at the Nene Wetlands Nature Reserve has been supported with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund
  • Ditchford Lakes & Meadows car park: we have taken the hard decision to close the car park, on Ditchford Road, with effect from the start of October 2021. It has suffered from repeated fly-tipping and littering over recent years and this has meant large amounts of time and money have been spent on the resulting clean ups, which is not sustainable. We understand this will be disappointing to the small number of legitimate car park users. Free car parking (up to 5 hours) is available at Rushden Lakes shopping complex, from where it is a 10 minute walk into Ditchford Lakes & Meadows nature reserve.
  • Scroll down to see the reserve boundary. Please note the boundary map is for indication purposes only and does not show the Wildlife Trusts definitive land boundary. 


Location map

Current activities

Nene Wetlands Visitor Centre

Nene Wetlands Visitor Centre

Nene Wetlands Visitor Centre

The Nene Wetlands Visitor Centre hosts regular events and activities. We have a wonderful shop on the Rushden Lakes boardwalk, plus a Discovery Play Area, sculpture trail and education area. Welcoming staff and volunteers will explain the work of the Trust at the Nene Wetlands and answer any questions. Why not pay us a visit?


Wildlife restoration at the Nene Wetlands Nature Reserve has been supported with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. 

Heritage Fund Logo
Betony at Upwood Meadows June  - c. Robert Enderby

Betony at Upwood Meadows June  - c. Robert Enderby

Support our work

Did you enjoy your visit? From donating to volunteering, there are many different ways you can help us restore and protect local wildlife. We can't do this without you!

How you can help

Become a member

Help fight the rapid decline in wildlife across Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire and enjoy some fabulous benefits. From only £3.50/month

Join us today