Nene Valley Nature Improvement Area celebrates first Anniversary

21 Dec 2012

Representatives from a major conservation project in Northamptonshire, Peterborough and Huntingdonshire are attending a special event in London today (26th March) to mark the first anniversary of England's Nature Improvement Area (NIA) programme. The Nene Valley Nature Improvement Area covers 41,350 hectares in the centre of England. It is one of 12 partnership projects which were created a year ago following a competitive bidding process for a share of £7.5million new funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and Natural England.

The aim of the NIA projects is to improve the landscape for people and nature through restoring, expanding and joining up wildlife-rich areas. Today's Forum in London will enable the 12 NIA partnership groups to share details and learning on the wide-ranging work they are doing to restore nature on a landscape scale. Oliver Burke, Project Manager for the Nene Valley NIA, will be presenting the main achievements of the project to an audience at the Forum which includes Wildlife Minister Richard Benyon, Professor Sir John Lawton and Natural England Chair Poul Christensen. Commenting on the first year's achievements, Oliver Burke said: "The Nene Valley NIA is located in a complex landscape of built up areas, farmland, and flooded gravel pits where there is strong competition for water resources, recreation, wildlife conservation, and food production. A strong partnership has been developed between local and national organisations and is delivering effectively against five key objectives. Our priorities for the NIA will address sustainable development, access and recreation, improving the river environment, providing support for wildlife-friendly farming, and attempting to put an economic value on the services that the valley provides to people."

Picture above left : 'Enhancing the river' the river Nene has been degraded over many years and now struggles to support the range of plants, insects and fish that it should. Restoring channels such as this one outside Peterborough will provide the habitats required for a whole range of species.

Picture above right : 'Wigeon' this is one of the iconic species of the Nene Valley. Wigeon flock here in huge numbers in winter to feed on the grass around the gravel pits. They are also one of the species that is easily disturbed by people and their dogs when they stray off marked footpaths and venture near to the water.

Since its creation in April 2012, the Nene Valley NIA has taken many steps to protect and enhance the area, such as:

  • Conducting surveys on existing and potential wildlife sites, and mapping Accessible Natural Green Space, in and around the NIA.
  • Recruiting and training volunteers to carry out breeding bird surveys in the Upper Nene Valley Gravel Pits Special Protection Area (SPA).
  • Enabling 1,500ha of farmland to come into the Higher Level Stewardship scheme which will create and restore at least 73ha of priority habitat such as: species-rich grassland at Burton Latimer and Newton; fens at Litchborough; floodplain meadows at Denford, Irthlingborough and Wicksteed; and improving conditions for farmland birds at Brigstock.
  • Restoring Duston Mill Channel in Northampton to improve habitat along 1.1km of the River Nene, easing fish movement and creating habitat for insects and plants.
  • Building strong connections with the planning officers in all nine local authorities within the NIA to work together on sustainable development, and neighbourhood planning settlements.
  • Trialling a new mapping tool to map and model how nature provides ecosystem services for the people who live within the NIA, and how this can benefit their well-being and the local economy.
  • Surveying the watercourses in the NIA, identifying barriers that disconnect the River Nene from its floodplain and prioritising the issues to be addressed.
  • Using the ScienceWise grant from the Department for Business, Innovations & Skills to engage local communities in a public dialogue project building on a successful online survey about community awareness (which received 200 responses), as well as 78 hours of completed visitor survey work in the Nene Valley with 90 more hours planned.

Oliver Burke continued: "The Nene Valley NIA is about connecting people and nature. The project has worked with local people, volunteers and students in its work so far, and hopes to engage many more in the next two years."

Lisa Ash, a student at Moulton College and volunteer in the Nene Valley said: "I'm proud to have played a part in protecting vital sites at the heart of the Nene Valley. Through the online survey that I ran I was able to find out how local people use and value the area. The results will inform access and interpretation plans for the Nene Valley in the coming years, to make it an even better place for people and wildlife." For more information visit: www.nenevalleynia.org

Wildflower meadow & fencing to graze wildflower meadow This meadow was starting to lose its wildlife interest because it could not be managed properly. Through the NIA and the Wildlife Trust's 'Inspiring Meadows' project the field could be fenced. Now that it is fenced the owner can graze it in a traditional way to promote the wildlife interest.

Notes to Editors:

  1. Contacts for media enquiries Project staff contacts: Heather Ball / 01604 774 032 or 07725 601 547/ Oliver Burke / 01604 774 034 or 07934 591 058/ Jeff Ollerton / 01604 893 365 or 07986 600 303/

  2. The Nene Valley Nature Improvement Area The Nene Valley Nature Improvement area is re-creating and re-connecting natural areas along the Nene and its tributaries from Daventry to Peterborough. Local organisations and individuals are working together to make a better place for nature.

    The NIA aims to reverse the decline in biodiversity and restore the ecological network in the Nene Valley. It will help meet the challenges of a growing population, changing climate, and need to produce food while realising complimentary benefits that create a naturally functioning interlinked landscape. The area covers a river and its tributaries and associated wetland habitat, within the River Nene regional park, an area under intense development pressure. The NIA aims to improve the ecological status of the river and enhance ecosystem service provision, including improvement for invertebrates and fish along the river basin and reduction of phosphate input into the river from agriculture; other objectives include woodland creation and investigating the potential to market the ecosystem services provided by the Nene Valley.

  3. Partners A broad partnership has been established led by the River Nene Regional Park CIC and Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire. Other partners: North Northamptonshire Joint Planning Unit, Northamptonshire County Council, RSPB, Natural England, The River Restoration Centre, Environment Agency, The University of Northampton, Peterborough City Council, East Northamptonshire Council, West Northamptonshire Joint Planning Unit, Peterborough Environment City Trust, Nene Park Trust, Forestry Commission, Northampton Borough Council, Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership, Groundwork Northamptonshire, Northamptonshire Acre, Rockingham Forest Trust, NFU, Anglian Water, Borough Council of Wellingborough, Corby Borough Council, Kettering Borough Council.
  4. The 12 Nature Improvement Areas Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs) were set up a year ago as part of the measures introduced in the Government's Natural Environment White Paper. There are currently 12 NIAs which are large, discrete areas run by local partnerships of land management and conservation organisations and local authorities, overseen by Natural England. NIAs will benefit wildlife, people and economic growth by creating more and better-connected habitats and by enhancing landscapes. They will increase resilience to climate change and support the landscape's ability to provide natural benefits like flood protection and clean water. The 12 NIAs' diverse range of locally-led projects are involving and engaging more people with the natural environment. For more information on all 12 NIAs, visit: www.naturalengland.org.uk/nia

In total, NIAs cover an area of 5,000 sq km in England with projects focused in the following areas:

  • Birmingham & the Black Country (West Midlands)
  • Dark Peak (Derbyshire, South Yorkshire, Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire)
  • Dearne Valley (South Yorkshire)
  • Greater Thames Marshes (Essex and Kent)
  • Humberhead Levels (Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire)
  • Marlborough Downs (Wiltshire)
  • Meres and Mosses of the Marches (Shropshire and South Cheshire)
  • Morecambe Bay Limestone and Wetlands (Lancashire and Cumbria)
  • Nene Valley (Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire)
  • Northern Devon (North Devon)
  • South Downs (Hampshire and Sussex)
  • Wild Purbeck (Dorset)