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Free events to celebrate new wildlife protection for Northamptonshire wetlands

4 January 2012

Andy Waters
Public Affairs Officer - Media

A programme of free family events and guided walks around the Upper Nene Valley will showcase visiting winter wildlife and their newly protected habitats.

Natural England, RSPB, the Wildlife Trust and the Rockingham Forest Trust have arranged family and wildlife watching activities around the Upper Nene Valley between the 14th and 15th January.

Experts will be out and about at some of the area’s best wildlife-watching spots, including Summer Leys, Stanwick Lakes and Titchmarsh Local Nature Reserve to show visitors the winter bird spectacles and explain why the area is now one of the UK’s most important wildlife sites.

The 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 are a winter Mecca for 20,000 ducks, swans and wading birds from Europe and Scandinavia.  During the Summer, a huge range of birds live along the valley including common terns and Cetti’s warblers.

The sheer number of over-wintering and rare birds meant the area was recognised last year as one of the UK’s most important wildlife sites.  Nene Valley Gravel Pits has been designated as a Special Protection Area and Ramsar site, which is the first time an area in Northamptonshire has been given international environmental protection.

Nicola Orchard, lead advisor at Natural England said: “This is an exciting programme of free walks and events which we hope will inspire and raise awareness of the importance of the newly protected area.  The sites will reveal some of their winter wildlife secrets and show why this part of Northamptonshire is so special and worth protecting at such a high level.”

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.”

Brian Eversham, CEO at 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."

Saturday 14th January

·       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.  For directions visits:  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.  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. No booking required. Access via public footpath across the Nene from Weston Mill Lane, off Billing Road East. 

15th January

·       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.  For directions visits: 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.



Notes to Editor

·   The status of Special Protection Area covers 1386 hectares over 35 km between Thrapston and Northampton, which include the lakes glimpsed from the A45.  SPA designation specifically protects birds. More information about Special Protection Areas and Ramsar sites

·   The designation means the area has the same level of protection as Camargue and the Danube.  SPAs in the UK also include the Humber Estuary, the Wash and several sites in our upland areas. 

·   The area is also a Site of Special scientific Interest.  8% of England is designated as SSSI but drops to only 2% in Northamptonshire. 

·   Defra confirmed the SPA designation in July 2011.

To download copyright-free images (for this story, only) of the birds of the Upper Nene Valley and a family enjoying nature, click on this link and type in the user name and password:


User name:  MRO_NVSPA

Password: RSPB

About Natural England

Natural England is the government’s independent adviser on the natural environment. Established in 2006 our work is focused on enhancing England’s wildlife and landscapes and maximising the benefits they bring to the public.

·   We establish and care for England’s main wildlife and geological sites, ensuring that over 4,000 National Nature Reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest are looked after and improved.

·   We work to ensure that England’s landscapes are effectively protected, designating England’s National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and advising widely on their conservation.

·   We run Environmental Stewardship and other green farming schemes that deliver over £400 million a year to farmers and landowners, enabling them to enhance the natural environment across two thirds of England’s farmland. 

·   We fund, manage, and provide scientific expertise for hundreds of conservation projects each year, improving the prospects for thousands of England’s species and habitats.

·   We promote access to the wider countryside, helping establish National Trails and coastal trails and ensuring that the public can enjoy and benefit from them.

For further information (media enquiries only) please contact Emma Lusby on 0300 0604231 or 07900 608073 in Natural England’s press office. Out of hours, please call the duty press officer on 07970 098005.

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