Nene Park shines!

Nene Park car park

Exciting plans are in the pipeline for Nene Park over the coming year, from improved car parking to another packed calendar of events and activities. Andrew MacDermott, Nene Park’s Director of Operations and Growth, offers a taster of what we can expect.

Things don’t stay still for long. Nene Park is no exception, with bold plans afoot to enhance the visitor experience. So as the days lengthen and spring comes within touching distance, it’s time to plan your next visit to take full advantage of the Park’s natural splendour and the many activities to be enjoyed there.

Better parking
Getting to Nene Park is about to get a lot easier thanks to new and improved parking down at Lakeside. Visitors may have experienced how busy the existing car park can get during, for example, the school holidays or Bank Holiday weekends. The new car park promises not only bigger parking spaces better suited to today’s cars, but more spaces and improved traffic flow around the car park, making for a truly hassle-free experience.

‘The new car park has been a significant undertaking but is almost complete and will be opening for Easter,’ explains Andrew MacDermott, Director of Operations and Growth for Nene Park Trust. ‘It will be a lot easier to access, providing about 100 additional spaces. Bigger parking spaces are designed for the larger size of modern cars, and there will be bays specifically for minibuses as well as many more accessible parking spaces.’

The switch to electric vehicles is well catered for too, with a total of 26 EV chargers going in. The pay-as-you-go chargers will be available to anyone via contactless payment. ‘Our aim is to keep prices for charging reasonably low. They will certainly add to our current capacity of just two charging points,’ says Andrew.

Other EV charging opportunities are being explored across the Park, and it is hoped that more charging infrastructure will be developed over the first half of the year. ‘Of course, we still want to encourage visitors to come to the Park on foot, by bike or by bus as far as possible, but by offering more chargers we can dispel worries of range anxiety for electric car owners travelling in from further afield.’

Some car parks are little more than a sea of tarmac, but the new car park will be sensitive to the local environment. Permeable surfaces using gravel set into a rigid mesh will ensure rainwater can drain straight through to the ground below – no puddling or unnecessary strain on the local drainage network. New planting, landscaping, hedging, and trees should ensure a greener backdrop, while existing oak trees have been preserved.

‘The new car park will also help traffic flow a bit more naturally through the area on our busiest days, so people can find a space without having to go ‘round the houses into and out of the overflow car park and so on. The Lakeside car park will be far more appropriate for the level of visitors we are now seeing compared to when the Nene Outdoors Watersports and Activity Centre was originally built,’ adds Andrew.

New café for Thorpe Meadows
 The Thorpe Meadows caféAlso opening this Easter is the new café and play area overlooking the rowing lake at Thorpe Meadows. As well as the rowing, Thorpe Meadows is a fantastic place for riverside walks and home to many of the sculptures in Peterborough’s collection.

‘Thorpe Meadows is really popular with walkers, cyclists and, of course, the rowers,’ says Andrew. ‘Yet until now there have been no facilities to cater for all these visitors.’

The café will include both indoor and outdoor seating for those sunny days, with toilets – including an accessible toilet and baby change – available for all visitors to use. Andrew and his team have been working with award-winning company ISO Spaces to design, manufacture and install the building, which will be made from recycled shipping containers.

‘It will provide a great addition to this area of the Park, particularly for those wishing to follow the sculpture trail, offering a relaxed environment to meet friends, enjoy the stunning setting of the rowing lake, or perhaps pick up a post-workout coffee.’

Bridging the gap
Another big development is the replacement of Pontoon Bridge, which has reached the end of its serviceable life. The new bridge is expected to be installed this June and features a more robust, nature-inspired design.

‘The bridge will have a wider walkway, making it easier for people to pass, or to stop and admire the views across the water without blocking the way,’ says Andrew. ‘The bridge will last for many years as it uses metal rather than wood, which should better stand up to heavier use and its proximity to water.’

Pontoon BridgeThe bridge will feature railings that evolve into gateways of trees at either end, seamlessly mimicking the natural surroundings. Watch out for updates of what promises to be a very sculptural bridge that is sure to become a new and much-loved landmark within the Park.

Respect for the environment is high on the agenda at Nene Park, and as well as the new nature- inspired bridge, visitors may spot the recent addition of solar panels on some of the buildings within the Park. The largest is on the workshop roof and is already helping to power many of the electric vehicles and tools used across the Park. Look out for them on the Lakeside building and Visitor Centre roofs too.

Packed calendar
The 2023 schedule of events and activities across the Park is looking as packed as ever – this year promises to be a belter! Heading this year’s line-up of events is the hugely popular Peterborough Celebrates Festival.

‘We’re really thrilled to be hosting the Peterborough Celebrates Festival once again,’ Andrew explains. ‘Last year was our first time running the festival and it was certainly a huge learning experience for us, but the feedback was overwhelmingly positive, which really encouraged us to do it all again for 2023!’

Peterborough Celebrates FestivalThis year’s festival runs over the weekend of 19-21 May and will, once again, be a major community festival celebrating everything great about the city. ‘We are exploring a range of different angles but, as before, it will be a really inclusive, family-orientated experience.

‘As well as food, performances and community space, there will be attendance by all sorts of groups throughout the weekend. Hopefully it will be a little bit different from last year, but equally it will be of a similar scale and tremendous atmosphere. We’ve learned so much from last year, which makes us all the more excited about doing it this year – and doing it even better!

‘The festival brings together a lot of what we do through the year into one weekend. And there are lots of opportunities for people to get involved, either by simply attending and having a lovely time, or by volunteering. The success of the event very much depends on the enthusiasm and hard work of our brilliant volunteers, and I’d encourage anyone interested in helping to find out more.’

Anyone curious about volunteering at the festival can drop the team an email. Enquiries from potential corporate sponsors are also welcome. It is hoped the festival will become a firm favourite of the Nene Park calendar for many years to come. We’ll be revealing more about Peterborough Celebrates in the next issue, so stay tuned for that!

Until then, visitors to the Park can watch as winter gradually gives way to spring and the Park slowly comes to life once more. This is a magical time of year to visit the Park as flowering bulbs push through and the first buds begin to break. The snowdrops are already out in Bluebell Woods and, before long, the bluebells themselves will follow.

‘There should be quite a show over the next few months. It’s definitely worth visiting for an invigorating woodland walk and seeing what’s coming up. It’s a beautiful time with all the catkins on the hazel and those spring-flowering bulbs bursting to life,’ adds Andrew.

What could be better than the chance to commune with nature, or to find your own space to recharge and unwind. ‘Even on those busy days it doesn’t take long to find your own corner of the Park and enjoy some peaceful time, surrounded by nature.’

Nene Park

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