A neglected area of wetland has been transformed following a successful project to turn the site into a haven for both wildlife and people.
The Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire bought the land at Irthlingborough Lakes and Meadows in August 2012 with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, SITA Trust and the general public.
Since then, the neglected site of special scientific interest (SSSI) has been transformed.
New islands have been created and willow and electricity pylons have been removed to make the area more attractive to breeding and overwintering birds, including skylark, lapwing and widgeon.
Drainage has been improved, reducing flooding and improving access to the site, as well as having a positive impact on the biodiversity of the meadows.
In addition to the work carried out for wildlife, more than 125 outreach sessions and events have taken place to involve, educate and inspire the local community.
These have included school visits, reminiscing sessions, craft and wildlife events, guided walks and ‘have a go’ opportunities such as fishing taster days and a stone carving workshop.
There have also been opportunities to gain practical experience with the Wildlife Trust through a variety of voluntary roles, including practical volunteers, education and community event helpers and Little Bugs Club leaders.
More than 30 people signed up to the Walking Wardens scheme where regular site users, such as dog walkers, act as the eyes and ears of the reserve, reporting any issues as soon as they occur, and it has been so successful that it is now being rolled out across the three counties.
One practical volunteer said: “The changes to the reserve have been excellent.
“I love walking there and seeing the seasons change.
“Helping with the practical conservation work and seeing the benefits to nature is very satisfying.”
Sustainability has been a key theme of the project and all of the information and resources that have been gathered will be made accessible through a combination of a new web app, a heritage trail, a resources pack for teachers and three learning lanterns.
Each learning lantern will contain a selection of educational games and activities and will be free to hire from Irthlingborough Library.
Although the Living Nene project is now drawing to a close, it is not the end of the Wildlife Trust’s work in the Nene Valley.
The new multi-million pound leisure and retail development at Rushden Lakes will see Irthlingborough Lakes and Meadows linked to several other nearby reserves, including Ditchford Lakes and Meadows and Wilson’s Pits, to create a new ‘super reserve’ known as the Nene Wetlands.
As part of this, the trust will be getting its first visitor centre.
For more information about Irthlingborough Lakes and Meadows go to www.wildlifebcn.org/reserves/irthlingborough-lakes-and-meadows.