Jennie Orrell, Greeniversity's Development Lead, looks at what our fine city has to offer.
This week is Visit England’s English Tourism Week, which got me thinking – what attractions and things to do are there on our doorstep in Peterborough that are worth celebrating?
There are the obvious ones of course, like our beautiful Cathedral, which during certain times of the year runs tours up the tallest tower for breath taking views of the city centre. For those pressed for time, small but breathtaking Longthorpe Tower is home to a unique set of wall paintings and information about medieval life.
Then there’s the museum with its diverse range of events and activities for all ages; a particular favourite during school holidays. The museum often works with Metal, who put on even more events at Chauffeur’s Cottage, a piece of Peterborough heritage that the enthusiastic community arts team are currently looking after.
Then there’s the John Clare Theatre, which shows alternative films every week and of course The Key Theatre, hosting a range of performances as part of Vivacity’s culture programme in the city. Out of the city centre there’s the Cresset Theatre, offering variety for those living on the outskirts.
But what about things to do outside? Bordering the Fens, Peterborough is surrounded by a unique landscape that has been characterised by agriculture. Surrounding the city there are therefore several farms that are open to the public. Of course there’s Sacrewell, which is in the middle of rebranding for a fresh new look to show off all of the things on offer there. Open your eyes wider and you can get involved with others that are supplying our city with fantastic local produce: groups can book an educational visit at Moor Farm and keep an eye out for family open days at Willowbrook.
On the edge of the city there is Flag Fen, a very important archaeological site that boasts Bronze Age artefacts, re-enactments and storytelling sessions. In Helpston you can visit the home of former local poet, John Clare, where you can see a stunning array of flowers in his garden. Holme Fen Post marks the lowest point in Great Britain and serves as a reminder of the dramatic change in the landscape following the draining of the Fens. I’d highly recommend this area for a Sunday afternoon walk and you can learn more about the future of it via the Great Fen Project.
As fantastic as these places and the people that run them are, not everyone is able to easily make the trip out to visit them. That’s why green space within the city is extremely important, in accessible locations for everyone from all walks of life to enjoy. The most talked about example recently is The Green Backyard, which has been raising money to buy the land that it is situated on. The Green Backyard is open four days a week for anyone to come along, and hosts a food shop as well as regular events throughout the year, all run entirely by volunteers. There are other community gardens too; I recently visited the Olive Branch Community Garden in Dogsthorpe and was amazed by this little gem tucked away behind some Cross Keys housing.
Moving on in the green space list, let’s not forget some of the city’s parks. Itter and Central Park have both been awarded Green Flag awards by the Keep Britain Tidy Scheme. Other Green Flag awards in Peterborough have been given to Victoria Gardens in Millfield, which even has its own performance area, and Manor Farm Park (Eye Community Gardens), a three-acre site that has a skate park, play area, orchard, meadow, picnic zone and pond.
Ponds can be found all over Peterborough so it isn’t a surprise that two national wildlife charities, Froglife and Buglife, are based here. Froglife in particular has been working closely on one of the many nature reserves in the city at Hampton. This site is unique as it is home to Europe’s largest population of Great Crested Newts! Another nature reserve of significant importance is Barnack Hills and Holes, which helps to conserve some very rare wildflowers.
A list of green space in Peterborough would not be complete without mentioning Ferry Meadows, run by Nene Park Trust. Many of our Greeniversity classes are held here and you can see why – the country park is home to a variety of species in its expanse of lakes, meadows, riversides and woodlands.
Ferry Meadows isn’t the only area to find interesting woodlands in Peterborough however. Another of our projects, Woodland Heritage in Action, with the help of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, has been striving to reopen Bretton’s Ancient Woods to the public. Regular sessions are run in the woods, teaching skills that connect people to nature. All of these sites make me realise how lucky we are to be one of the places in the UK with one of the highest ratios of green space per person.
This list is extensive but by no means has it all. There’s nothing to do in Peterborough you say? Think again…