The beautiful Nene Valley is situated north west of Northampton. With considerable help from Hanson UK’s network of operational and restored quarries in the area, it has been possible here to create one of Europe’s newest Special Protection Areas for vulnerable bird species.
Originally, this valley was intensively farmed. When permission was given for gravel extraction, it became apparent that that there wasn’t sufficient overburden available to backfill to agriculture. Wetland was the obvious route and a 16-mile long string of carefully managed wetlands was created. As well as biodiversity benefits, the scheme design and objective was for landscape and habitat continuity and floodplain character-reinstatement along the valley, reconnecting and enhancing the river as a feature again, instead of just a drainage channel.
Each site has significant biodiversity credentials in its own right, but it is the continuous linkage into one comprehensive wetland that yields massive benefits for nature. This watery park also helps to protect the local area from flooding by providing a natural reservoir when water levels rise.
The restoration design has benefited public access, especially relating to the river bank and old railway line route, which was either retained or reinstated throughout all the restored sites to some extent .This contributed toward sections of the 'Nene Way' as a major footpath route linking the entire valley.
Further potential still exists for Hanson UK to extend continuity of this valley-scale landscape habitat improvement for both wildlife and people within the recently planned extension to their last in the chain of sites - at Earls Barton. This 150 ha site will contain all the same variety of habitats that are restored within all the old sites and that are shown to be so valued by their SPA designation, as well as previous awards for restoration and high bird numbers.
Species benefitting include: bittern, gadwall, lapwing, reed bunting, black-tailed godwit, savi's warbler and yellow wagtail.