12 January 2012
Following four years of close cooperation between local authorities, developers and key stakeholders, 1386 hectares of Northamptonshire’s wetland and surrounding areas across the Upper Nene Valley were designated last July by Defra.
This is the first time an area in Northamptonshire has been given international environmental protection and this month a series of events are taking place to celebrate the new designation.
Special Protection Areas are among the most highly protected sites in the country for our wildlife. Many support significant numbers of overwintering ducks, geese, swans and wading birds, which visit the UK each year from northern Europe and the Arctic, where food and shelter becomes impossible to find beneath snow and ice.
Upper Nene Valley is pitted with ponds and lakes as a result of gravel extraction. Fringed with areas of reeds, woodland, grassland and fen, these watering holes have become a winter Mecca for 20,000 birds. During the summer, a huge range of birds live along the valley including common terns and Cetti’s warblers.
However, it remains a key area for the environment, tourism, housing and recreational development within Northamptonshire. Natural England will continue to work with local partners and organisations so that any future development is carefully designed and planned so as not to impact on the area, to fragment the habitat, or disturb the species.
Speaking at Stanwick Lakes visitor centre at an event for organisations and businesses who have been involved in the area’s designation and who will work within its boundaries, Jim Smyllie, Executive Director said, “SPA status is first and foremost an environmental designation – this is about safeguarding the most important places and protecting our most vulnerable species. When we protect nature, we enhance the entire landscape - and gain much more into the bargain. We know this designation will create better places for people to live and work, as well as a wildlife-rich landscape to explore and enjoy.”
Brian Eversham, CEO of the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire added ‘The designation of the Upper Nene Valley Gravel Pits SPA is a landmark moment for the wildlife of Northamptonshire, not only in recognising its importance for overwintering wetland birds but also in enabling nature conservation at a landscape scale’
This weekend, 14 -15 January, celebrations continue with free wildlife watching events and guided walks which will be held across the area. Natural England, RSPB, the Wildlife Trust and the Rockingham Forest Trust have organised activities and visitors will be able to glimpse the populations of birds who make the area their home during winter and see why the area has been given this high level protection.
Steve Holliday, RSPB Midlands Regional Director said: “It’s wonderful to be celebrating the Nene Valley as one of the best sites in the UK for nature and as an area so many local people can enjoy. It highlights the potential for mineral sites to restore lost habitats and play a vital part in bringing wildlife back to the Midlands.”
Wetland Wonders – Summer Leys 10am – 12pm
The Wildlife Trust will lead a walk around Summer Leys Nature Reserve, taking a glimpse at some of the overwintering birds. Learn about the conservation work that is happening along the Nene Valley and future plans to make it even more special for Wildlife. Meet at Summer Leys Nature Reserve car park near Great Doddington, Northamptonshire. How to get there. Bring suitable outdoor clothes and footwear and binoculars if you have them. The walk is 2 miles in length on surfaced footpaths. No booking required.
Wildlife activities for children – Stanwick Lakes Visitor Centre 12-4pm.
Join wildlife experts from the Rockingham Forest Trust in the Discovery Zone and learn about the beauty and importance of the area through a range of activities and games. How to get there. A guided walk will begin at 2pm, please contact Luke Johns at Stanwick Lakes on 01933 625522 to book a place.
Flock to the Valley – Northamptonshire Washlands 8am to 4pm
Staff and volunteers from River Nene Regional Park and the RSPB invite regular and new visitors to the Washlands, to come and view glittering golden plovers and whistling wigeon through high-powered telescopes. Access via public footpath across the Nene from Weston Mill Lane, off Billing Road East. No booking required.
Wetland Wonders – Titchmarsh Local Nature Reserve, 10-12pm
A walk around Titchmarsh Local Nature Reserve led by the Wildlife Trust and Natural England, taking a glimpse at some of the overwintering birds that make the Upper Nene Gravel Pits Special Protection Area so important. Learn about the conservation work that is happening along the Nene Valley and future plans to make it even more special for Wildlife.
Meet at the Titchmarsh Nature Reserve car park near Aldwincle, Northamptonshire. How to get there. Bring suitable outdoor clothes and footwear and binoculars if you have them. The walk is 2.4 miles in length and on uneven ground. No booking required.