There’s space for everyone

Nene Park

Nene Park offers the city a welcoming green space and a range of outdoor activities, come rain or shine. The Moment talked to Chief Executive, Matthew Bradbury, to find out what’s in store for one of Peterborough’s most treasured assets...

Matthew BradburyAs the Chief Executive of Peterborough’s ‘green lung’, you understand that making a real difference for people, wildlife and the environment often means thinking large-scale – it’s not just about one park or one estate, it’s about many pieces of land in one region joining together, isn’t it?
We’re working with a number of landowners locally under the umbrella of the John Clare Countryside Project, which is led by some of the major landowners to the west of Peterborough, including the Milton estate, the Burghley estate, the Langdyke Trust. We’re looking at ‘landscape-scale’ projects, very much so. Given the recent challenges around the climate emergency, we’re also looking at water management, not just in terms of biodiversity but for example – can the Park do more to stop Peterborough flooding? We’re looking at the way we manage our lands, again for biodiversity and carbon, asking questions like, what levels of tree planting should we have within our site? How should we manage the relationships between agriculture, public access and heritage? All the while we need to remember the importance of bringing the public with us, this shouldn’t be a top-down crusade; we’re a public park and we’re here for public benefit – we shouldn’t be changing things to the point where we exclude anyone.

Are there any plans to expand the Park?
We’re looking at how we can invest in land that can be farmed in a regenerative way, including areas of rewilding, looking at flood management, ecosystem services, and how these can benefit the community and the city. Most of the land that we look after is in the floodplain, so we have to be especially careful not to disrupt or undermine that in any way.

Nene ParkI have to ask – do you think you’ll be bringing back any wild species? Can we expect to see beavers and elks roaming the plains of Peterborough in the near future?
Ha! I think the honest answer is ‘no’ – but I do think if there were a scheme at landscape scale, which looked at reintroduction of a suitable species, we’d certainly be keen to be part of it. There’s a lot of good work going on in catchments around the country with beavers, that kind of thing, where the land is much more suitable, but I think we’re maybe a little too urban, too close to the edge of the city for it to be effective.

How do you encourage and help people to actually get to the Park? Advertising and press releases are one thing, but what about those who may struggle to make the journey, for whatever reason?
One of the challenges is that, if you live in the city centre or close to the city centre it’s relatively easy to walk into Thorpe Meadows, but if you don’t have access to transport and you live in east Peterborough, it’s quite difficult to get into the Park. Indeed, we regularly meet Peterborough residents who’ve never been to the Park and it’s a real problem. About five years ago we applied to National Lottery Heritage Fund for funding, for a project called ‘Your Community Greenspace’, and one of the objectives was to ‘take the Park’ to those people who found it difficult to physically get here. It could involve any piece of green space – behind a school, part of a playing field – we’d help local communities tend and maintain it to be a green space for all.

We’ve been working across the city with different community groups, working in partnership with the council, schools and other organisations, charities and private sector organisations. We’ve been working in Stanground on a very small area of public open space, next to the river, and have developed a new group, provided equipment, tools and expertise for them to be able to set up their own voluntary groups. We’ve supported the development of education around green space, the benefits of biodiversity, those kinds of things, which has worked really well, and we’re also working with the Friends of Central Park, helping other organisations, sharing expertise and experience to make sure those resources are well used across the city. There’s so much evidence out there as to the benefits of green space on health and well-being, which we saw particularly through the pandemic.

Lynch FarmWhat are you most looking forward to about the coming year, and beyond?
We’ve recently taken back in hand the Lynch Farm riding school, part of which is the beautiful house with a kind of Rapunzel-style tower. We’ll be looking at how we use that in the future for raising income, running events, for education. They’re wonderful buildings, and we’ll have to raise quite a lot money to restore some of them, but there’s lots of potential – one of the things that we’re challenged with at the Park is providing good space that can be used in the winter; we’ve got plenty of outdoor space, very little indoor space. Taking on Lynch Farm provides us with some really good quality indoor space to be able to do some of the things we’ve always wanted to do. We’re hoping we can use it to develop our schools programme, our events programme, host conferences, hopefully partner up and support stuff that’s going on in the city with, for example, theatre groups and music groups.

Is there any capacity to help out in the Park, if people want to come along and get more involved?
Absolutely, our volunteer programme is incredibly important to us and we are always looking for new volunteers to join us. In fact we have just established a plant nursery, which we couldn’t have done without a huge amount of volunteer support. The idea is that the volunteers will be able to grow plants to plant out in the Park in the future, but also we can sell some through our Visitor Centre – it’s an amazing resource.

To find out more about Nene Park, its events and activities, how you could volunteer there or get support for your community’s own ‘green space’ visit

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