Wicksteed Park river rewilding creates wildlife and well-being haven

The project creates new public spaces and boosts biodiversity
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An environmental scheme to reinstate a river’s natural watercourse has created a series of new wildlife habitats and green spaces for visitors to Kettering.

The Slade Brook realignment project is being carried out in partnership with the Nene Rivers Trust in Wicksteed Park in the area known as South Meadows.

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As well as improving wildlife habitat, the project, part of the River Ise Partnership Scheme, aims to prevent flooding and making new areas of the park accessible to the public for the first time.

Wicksteed Park's rewilding project includes trails designed by hiker Ellie DowningWicksteed Park's rewilding project includes trails designed by hiker Ellie Downing
Wicksteed Park's rewilding project includes trails designed by hiker Ellie Downing

Park bosses have enlisted the help of outdoor adventurer Elise Downing – the first woman and the youngest person to run around the coast of Britain – to help devise new trails.

She said: “Big, exotic adventures are all well and good, but I think that giving people access to outdoor space in a more accessible way is the most valuable thing we can do when it comes to reaping the physical and mental health benefits of spending time outside.

“I'm excited to help design these new nature trails at Wicksteed Park and hope they'll provide a new place in Northamptonshire for people to connect with their local environment.”

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The initial phase of the project is now complete, with the next step to include a series of new waymarked paths, viewing platforms and a footbridge to enable users to access the site safely for the first time.

A before picture of the lake/Wicksteed ParkA before picture of the lake/Wicksteed Park
A before picture of the lake/Wicksteed Park

Included in the project is the planting of native trees, the planting of a new wildflower and wetland habitats that have the potential to become a focus for educational visits in the future.

Wicksteed Park’s director of finance and governance, Kelly Richardson, said: “As a park, we are looking to install signage to waymark some short trail walks through this site and the other wilder sections of the park.

“With Elise’s help we plan to devise a network of trails which are short, flat and manageable even for our younger visitors.

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“Getting outside and enjoying the natural environment is hugely important to all our happiness and well-being and we are excited to be able to open up new spaces for visitors and park users to enjoy.”

The project aims to prevent floodingThe project aims to prevent flooding
The project aims to prevent flooding

The scheme has already been tested recently mitigating the effect of flooding.

Andy Sadler, catchment coordinator, Welland and Nene, said: “There were many objectives we wanted this project to deliver, but a key one was floodplain reconnection as this not only creates new, richer habitats, but also reduces flood risk to properties upstream.

“The recent storms and wet weather have shown this in action when the Slade Brook inundated its new lowered floodplain. This is something that previously would have happened every five years or so but has already happened at least five times since the project was constructed.

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“By recreating this natural flooding of the water meadows, the scheme will help reduce the danger of people’s homes being inundated as we face the effects of climate change.”

The project is a joint initiative between Wicksteed Park, the Environment Agency and Nene Rivers Trust.