Destination Nene Valley was delighted to work with presenters of BBC Countryfile earlier this month when they filmed an episode dedicated to the area which was screened on Sunday, 21st February.
Viewers of the flagship countryside programme watched scenes filmed in the stunning landscape surrounding the River Nene in Northamptonshire, looking at the flooding in the area, its impact on local communities and how the river has shaped the lives of the people and wildlife who live beside it.
In the programme, Tom Heap was shown exploring the Nene Valley, which stretches from the county town of Northampton through to Peterborough in Cambridgeshire, discovering how farmer John Gent works with the natural ebb and flow of the river and has embraced wetland wildlife to make his land sustainable. Tom also gets hands-on with a project that has unearthed evidence of riverside residents dating back to Neolithic times.
Helena Darragh, Nene Valley Land Adviser for The Wildlife Trust in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire & Northamptonshire, appears on the programme. She said: “I was speaking from floodplain farmland near Oundle, where in 2019 we carried out wet grassland improvement work for wading birds as part of the Farming for the Future project. The features were created to attract lapwing, snipe, redshank. Unfortunately, the flooding this year meant that the shallow V-shaped ditches we dug with the RSPB’s rotary ditcher were totally underwater, meaning the wet grassland habitat was too soggy for waders to be seen on the day, but demonstrates how the ditches fill up with floodwater, and then retain this water once the floodwater has receded.
“It also shows the carrying capacity of floodplain meadows to hold floodwater – much of which has been lost due to development pressures and intensive agriculture over the past decades.”
Destination Nene Valley is the official tourism body for the area, funded by East Northamptonshire Council, working closely with the Nenescape Landscape Partnership Scheme. Nenescape is a five-year National Lottery Heritage Fund initiative, which is delivering a number of partnership-led projects tasked with promoting and protecting the heritage of the Nene Valley. Farming for the Future is one of these projects, which involves working with farmers and landowners in the Nene Valley to help restore and create meadow and wetland habitats, as well as undertake vital infrastructural improvements to tackle diffuse pollution and aid water quality, such as the one featured in the Countryfile episode.
Cllr Sarah Peacock, chairman of Destination Nene Valley which was instrumental in bringing the Nene Valley to the small screen said: “I thought the programme did us proud. It highlighted how, in under 40 years, we have uncovered the biggest archaeological site in the country, completed incredible conservation work, reduced flooding and continue to benefit the current settlers of the Nene Valley for future generations.
“Destination Nene Valley is committed to promoting the area as an incredible place to visit, work and live and we hope Countryfile has inspired visitors to discover our hidden valley and all it has to offer.”
Amanda Johnson, Project Manager at Nenescape, said: “We are so grateful to BBC Countryfile for recognising the hard work that is going into restoring and conserving the natural flood plains along the River Nene. Farming for the future, alongside our partner project Resilient River, bring together landowners, wetland managers and charitable trusts to ensure the valley does what it was naturally intended to do by our ancestors and is conserved for generations to come.”
Another Nenescape project that was featured last night was Settlers of the Nene Valley, a three-year project, telling the stories of the people who settled in the Nene Valley over the last 5000 years, from Neolithic to Medieval. Working with local communities and schools, the project has explored, recreated and celebrated the lives of those settlers as they travelled, settled and traded along the river. The project is run by the Rockingham Forest Trust, an environmental charity which has been connecting people and places for over 20 years.
Settlers of the Nene Project Manager, Becky Gill said: “The project has allowed us, working with the local community, to better understand how previous settlers would have lived and how the river would have influenced their lives.”
For more information visit www.nenevalley.net