The Trust's Into the Valley project in Northamptonshire's Nene Valley has been a resounding success. Spanning four years the process was made possible via the National Lottery Heritage Fund, with a generous grant of £662,800, for which all concerned are very grateful.
The aims were to:
- Create a major new one-square-mile nature reserve from seven disconnected sites, managed for wildlife but introducing new access routes and interpretation for people
- Increase the number and range of people involved in volunteering on practical conservation tasks, education and engagement activities and in our Visitor Centre
- Break down perceived barriers between retail and wildlife experiences by offering imaginative activities and interpretation and developing relationships with retailers
- Increase enjoyment of and interaction with the Nene Valley through innovative technology including trail cameras, a wildlife and heritage sculpture trail, a Discovery Area, trails and viewing points
- Act as a gateway to the wider Nene Valley by developing partnerships with neighbouring recreational organisations
- Build on best practice from earlier National Lottery Heritage Fund projects at Irthlingborough Lakes and Meadows and the Great Fen
The work has covered multiple areas and disciplines. A comprehensive programme of conservation work has restored the landscape and revived habitats including large scale reedbed restoration, 900m of ditch creation, lake edge earthworks, grassland management and the creation tern rafts. Monitoring work is ongoing providing species data on winter bird and breeding bird communities - wigeon, gadwall, great crested grebe, tufted duck - bats, butterflies, otters, grass snakes and dragon and damselflies. Infrastructure work saw paths upgraded, boardwalks and footbridge constructed, improved signage and interpretation, and for visitors the Nene Wetland Visitor Centre has provided a whole range of events and provided countless wild learning experiences for families with seasonal trails and activities.
In the course of this project we have engaged with more than 10,000 people, and none of it would have been possible, along with the funding, without the help of a superb group of 40 or so volunteers, who generously give time, bring expertise, energy and enthusiasm to help this wonderful valley thrive and stay vibrant with wildlife, both now and in the future.