Kathryn Parsons has just completed her first year working as Langdyke’s artist in residence in which she led the Langdyke Stories project which coincided with our 20th anniversary celebrations. Here we ask about the project’s progress and plans for the future …
Q: How did you feel the project went?
A: Langdyke Stories was a great success in so many different ways! More than 500 people participated in one way or another, with more than 300 of those creating miniature artworks inspired by Langdyke’s wildlife and heritage. It was magnificent and I’m hugely grateful to everyone involved.
Q: What exactly did it entail?
A: Langdyke Stories was managed by Art Pop-Up, an arts organisation based in Stamford who specialise in community projects. Working closely with Langdyke, we devised a project designed to draw people in and share with them some of the stories of our local wildlife and history.
We wanted to enthuse, to build new networks, reinforce existing relationships by giving people as many different opportunities as possible to be part of the celebrations around Langdyke’s 20th anniversary.
There’s far too much to list everything that happened, so here are a few of my personal highlights….
teaching so many art workshops at local community groups and festivals, including working with schools, W.I., Scouts, Guides and GLADCA. I loved seeing the enthusiasm to take part as different groups came together to support one another – sharing their space for the workshops, welcoming others along and once even lending equipment to another group. Thank you all!
the Peterborough Heritage Festival, when we took over the Vivacity unit in Queensgate for the whole weekend. While outside the Civil War re-enactors fired their echoing guns and canon, indoors with us there was an oasis of calm with poetry readings, the art workshop and a team of friendly Langdyke volunteers with beautiful photographs of our local wildlife and a mini natural history museum too.
the Open Day in July, when visitors of all ages braved the heat-wave to come to Etton-Maxey and join in the fun. I hung some of my own artworks in the young oak trees, and my eco-printed ‘poems’ fluttered in the breeze. As part of the project we also had artist-led workshops including making mini-sheep with Sue Shields, and beautiful paper wildflowers with Rose Croft.
hearing Keely Mills read her new poem at the Torpel Open Day, on a beautiful sunlit summer evening, with a Red Kite soaring overhead. The poem was commissioned especially for the project, and is included in …
the beautiful Langdyke Stories book. It was a real labour of love, with contributions from many Langdyke members and well-wishers. The book was edited and designed by Sam Roddan of Art Pop-Up – it’s gorgeous Sam, thank you! We’re hoping to print more soon, so that it can be made more widely available.
the “Langdyke Museum of Objects”. Conceived by David Cowcill, this virtual museum is a collection of personal stories and images of objects that tell of individuals’ connection with our local countryside … the objects and their stories are included in the book.
the display of the 300+ miniature artworks at Castor St Kyneburgha Church, and later at John Clare Cottage, where they were enjoyed by hundreds of visitors. The artworks will be treasured and displayed again in the future.
and for me the art residency part of the program, from which the workshops were developed, was a real delight. I got to work with so many amazing people along the way, and have loved learning about Langdyke’s amazing nature reserves. I’ve explored and developed new ways of working with leaves from those reserves, and created a series of new artworks using those techniques. The final collection of artworks in the series is a “Herbarium” of pressed leaves which I patterned into photographs using sunlight (see www.kathrynparsons.co.uk for more photographs) … I aim to develop this further in the future.
and most importantly….. seeing the enthusiasm and enjoyment of the project participants as they learned about Langdyke and worked to create their own miniature artworks in response to the wealth of history and wildlife … and the delight of new connections made with other people from our local community and with the natural world, both of which are so good for us all.
We’re extremely grateful to Peterborough Community Fund and Athene Communications for sponsoring the project, and enabling us to offer all of this at no cost to Langdyke or the workshop participants.
Q: Will you be continuing your work with Langdyke?
A: The Langdyke Stories project has finished now, but I’m delighted to be continuing as Langdyke’s Artist in Residence. We’re putting new plans in place at the moment, but it’ll definitely include an exhibition of new Langdyke-inspired artworks at the Langdyke Open Day on June 27, at Barnack Hills and Holes.
I’ll have some of the leaf-photographs with me, and I hope to see you there!
Meanwhile, I’m continuing to blog about my Langdyke-related work on Langdyke’s Facebook group which is open to everyone to follow and join in the conversations here
John Clare Countryside Our joint vision for a heritage landscape with nature at its heart …
Written by Richard Astle, Chair, Langdyke Countryside Trust
As residents, businesses, parish councils, landowners, farmers and visitors we want the countryside around us to be an area where nature is at the heart of our lives. Where swifts and swallows are a central feature of our summer evenings, where otters continue to enthral people as they play in the Maxey Cut, where bees and other insects thrive, not decline, and where there are far more, not less, ponds, meadows, wild flowers, hedgerows and trees. And where people can walk or cycle out in safety and tranquility across this thriving countryside, enjoying the sights and sounds and even the silence of the natural world; enjoying dark skies and cherishing the heritage around them – both natural and man- made. That sounds like a countryside worth living in. But it is a countryside under threat and increasing pressure from housing growth and traffic and sadly even from lack of appreciation.
In recent years, despite many successes on and off the network of nature reserves, there have been significant declines in many key species, particularly farmland and woodland birds, such as lapwing, yellowhammer, nightingale, spotted flycatcher and woodcock; and decreases in the number of mammals such as hedgehog and hare and the variety of butterflies and moths.
Working in partnership, the Langdyke Countryside Trust now wants to ensure that we conserve the beauty of our landscape and conserve its rich local heritage.
We will endeavour to do this by establishing an area characterised by:
Outstanding natural biodiversity through major habitat restoration connected through a mosaic of smaller wildlife havens and corridors
An unspoilt landscape that is used by local people and the people of an expanding Peterborough, providing them with a large area of unspoilt countryside on their doorstep
Well-kept heritage sites, accessible to all and working together to involve and attract visitors
Cyclepaths, footways and ‘quiet roads’ – a green transport infrastructure – where priority is given to walkers and riders
Prosperous and successful farming, profiting from a combination of environmentally friendly farming practice, sustainable tourism and recreational activities
To create, launch and deliver an ambitious and accessible nature recovery area across the landscape areas west of Peterborough, designed, led and supported by residents, landowners, farmers, businesses and parish councils of the area.
This nature recovery area would be recognised by Natural England and other statutory agencies and recognised in local policy documents including Local Plans.
It would be distinguished from other nature recovery areas because it is community led and because of how it combines the natural and built heritage and its links, through John Clare, to literature and the arts.
Building on the substantial work of the partners to date and on the heritage and legacy of the work of the poet John Clare this project aims to:
1. Deliver significant increases in key wildlife habitats,particularly those of limestone grassland, wetland and arable farmland
2. Raise levels of local pride, aspiration and community cohesion by helping local communities to understand, appreciate and enjoy their local natural and built heritage
3. Pilot and champion best practice sustainabledevelopment in all aspects of future development within the area including sustainable techniques of land management both on and off the existing nature reserves
4. Promote public health and wellbeing, providing large areas of accessible green open space for the people of Peterborough
5. Create new jobs and economic opportunities within the area, allied to the delivery of these objectives, particularly in tourism, visitor attractions and farming and nature conservation.
The achievement of these objectives will create a better quality of life for residents and visitors through the creation of a more sustainable local environment with easy access to rich and inspiring nature and greater appreciation of its heritage and history
John Clare Countryside lies between the Nene and Welland valleys to the west of Peterborough and to the east of the A1. The area sits across two National Character Areas – 92 Rockingham Forest and 75 Kesteven Uplands.
The birthplace of John Clare, one of the country’s most significant poets of the natural world, it already boasts a network of existing nature reserves across a varied range of habitats, including two Natural England national nature reserves (Barnack Hills and Holes and Castor Hanglands), a number of SSSIs and several local nature reserves run by the Wildlife Trusts and the Langdyke Countryside Trust.
To the south of the area, the Nene Park Trust manages large areas of land in the interests of the community and for nature. The William Scott Abbot Trust operates the Sacrewell Farm visitor centre on the western edge of John Clare Countryside.
This distinctive landscape is rich in heritage – from the Roman roads of King Street and Ermine Street, the remains of Durobrivae, the Normanmanor house at Torpel, the beauty of the Medieval parish churches and the history and landscape settings of Burghley House and Milton Hall and their respective parks.
Another important visitor attraction, the John Clare Cottage, a museum in the birthplace of the poet in Helpston, lies at the centre of the area. Clare himself, lived and worked here and wrote poignantly about the environmental pressures the landscape was under in the 19th century. His voice can provide an important focus for the development of this nature recovery area.
The John Clare Countryside project is a partnership of local organisations, initially co-ordinated by the Langdyke Countryside Trust, a voluntary, membership-based organisation but in time likely to develop its own organisational structures. The project will be created and delivered by local residents, businesses and landowners.
Since its foundation in 1999 the Langdyke Countryside Trust has established a network of seven nature reserves across the area – Swaddywell Pit, Torpel Manor Field,Bainton Heath, Etton Maxey Pits, Vergette Wood Meadow, Etton High Meadow and Marholm Field Bank. The Trust has an active membership of over 120 households and runs a variety of events throughout the year.
In that time the Trust has also created a new visitor centre at Torpel Manor Field and a range of educational materials to help people understand its heritage. It has put up nearly 200 nest boxes across the area and helped plant new hedgerows and new trees. As a result, orchids thrive at Swaddywell, avocets have bred at Etton Maxey and rare moths and butterflies prosper at Bainton. We have planted a community orchard at Etton High Meadow.
Working in close partnership with Natural England, the Wildlife Trusts, Nene Park Trust, PECT, William Scott Abbot Trust, John Clare Society, the John Clare Trust, parish councils and landowners the Trust now wants to take its work to a new level and create a nationally recognised, but still locally led, nature recovery area across the John Clare Countryside.
Key deliverables of the project
1. Increases in key indicator species
This will be achieved through a significant increase in the area of land actively managed in the interests of nature and heritage including both
Land under the direct management of the partners – through the expansion of existing nature reserves, particularly around Hills and Holes, Castor Hanglands, Swaddywell Pit and along the Maxey Cut, linking the reserves at Bainton Heath and Etton Maxey Pits
Land managed by other landowners as part of new agri- environment schemes designed to help the recovery of key species and as part of nature rich wildlife corridors which join up the network of nature reserves
As part of this work and working with partners and other landowners we would aim to::
Create additional hectares of limestone grassland
Create additional hectares of wetland, wet woodland and wet meadows
Create new ponds including in gardens and on farmland
Plant trees as part of new hedgerows and as standards
Create actively managed wildlife corridors
Create habitat and nesting space for key target species such as orchids, hedgehog, bats, barn owl and swift
2.Increase levels of public engagement, understanding and participation in the natural and built heritage of the area
This will be achieved through the active and co-ordinated promotion of visitor facilities at existing centres such as the John Clare Cottage, Sacrewell Farm and potentially at new facilities within the estate of the Nene Park Trust.
A jointly managed natural and built heritage engagement and education programme would be run across all the partners, providing multiple opportunities to learn about the natural and built heritage of the area and to participate in all aspects of the project, including volunteering opportunities.
The project aims to link the existing visitor attractions through the creation of a network of well-maintained footpaths, bridleways and cycle paths, making John Clare Countryside a visitor destination with multiple easily accessible points of interest, without increasing levels of car traffic in the area.
Within this context we would aim to work with local landowners to consider:
Creating and maintaining new way marked cycleways
Creating and maintaining new way marked permissive footpaths
Designating more local roads as quiet lanes and establish a clearer priority for pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders on key roads.
The project would actively involve local people in the achievement of its natural objectives by choosing to target key species that people are familiar with, but which need help, such as hedgehogs and swift and encouraging them to provide nesting and feeding habitat in their gardens and houses.
We would look to use on-line platforms to teach people how to recognise and support these species and to encourage them to record their sightings and to take pride in their role in the recovery of these populations.
The partners would work together to reach out to residents of Peterborough, particularly those with limited existing access to green open space and help them to visit, enjoy and appreciate John Clare Countryside. This would include educational programmes run at locations within the city, with the aim of taking the countryside into the city, rather than waiting for people to visit the countryside.
The project would also build on existing work designed to engage local people and residents of Peterborough (and indeed visitors generally) in the history and heritage of the area, making use of heritage assets at Durobrivae, Castor, village churches, John Clare Cottage and Torpel Manor Field.
We would seek to replicate the successful Torpel Heritage Lottery Funded project and expand Langdyke’s existing history and archaeology group to engage more local people.
Finally, there would also be a creative theme throughout the project, linking the natural world with art and literature. Again, this would build on existing work through the John Clare Society and John Clare Trust and previous and current arts-based projects supported by local artists and members of the Society of Wildlife Artists.
3. Pilot and champion next practice sustainable development in all aspects of future development within the area including sustainable techniques of land management both on and off the existing nature reserves.
3. Pilot and champion best practicesustainable development in all aspects of future development within the area including sustainable techniques of land management both on and off the existing nature reserves
Small scale housing and commercial development within the village envelopes and to support local farming are encouraged within the existing policy framework, including the neighbourhood plans (either in place or emerging) of Castor, Ailsworth, Glinton, Peakirk, Northborough, Helpston and Barnack.
The project would develop guidelines, based on the local nature partnership’s Developing with Nature toolkit, to help developers support the objectives and aims of the project in terms of best practice design concepts and for achieving net biodiversity gain and work with local landowners to identify and promote new techniques of sustainable land management and techniques of nature conservation.
4. Promote public health and wellbeing,providing large areas of accessible green open space for the people of Peterborough
A primary function of the John Clare Nature Recovery Area will be to provide the combination of accessible green open space and protected areas for nature necessary to complement the economic growth agenda of the local and wider region.
JCC would be planned and managed to offer opportunities for local people to enjoy the countryside, and its thriving natural world and well conserved built heritage.
The project would consider carefully how to manage increased access to the landscape area to ensurethat we do not create additional traffic or put undue pressure through disturbance on important sites for nature.
Initial thinking is that we would encourage people to use existing (and improved) access points rather than create new ones and look at ways in which they can be linked by well-maintained footpaths and cycle ways. It might also be worth considering developing improved access point(s) (car park with footpaths etc) in the northern part of the area, perhaps as part of the evolving Etton-Maxey Pits complex, which already attracts dog-walkers and birdwatchers.
Another idea is to create access points into the JCC within the urban area of Peterborough from which people could walk or cycle out into the area.
5. Create new jobs and economicopportunities within the area, allied to the delivery of these objectives, particularly in tourism, visitor attractions and farming and nature conservation.
The creation and long-term delivery of the John Clare Countryside vision would create a small number of jobs both directly and indirectly.
Directly we would expect to see between 2-5 permanent jobs created to manage the delivery of the vision and of key projects within it. These would include a partnership and project manager role, plus conservation jobs in managing the expanded network of nature reserves and public education and engagement roles. Commercial opportunities would also be created through
contracts with local suppliers to deliver projects such as creating new ponds, mowing areas of grassland, planting hedgerows etc, where these cannot be delivered by volunteers.
The increased visitor numbers would also support the creation of new jobs at existing visitor destinations.
We also expect that the increased visitor numbers would lead to new jobs in other leisure facilities through increased demand at local shops, cafes and pubs and potentially to the creation of new facilities in the area, such as tea-rooms, cycle hubs etc.
The partnership would like to explore whether it could link into the University of Peterborough to support the local skills agenda with an emphasis on courses linked to sustainable development; natural sciences and land use.
The John Clare Countryside concept will deliver significant benefits to both people and wildlife. The strength of the concept lies in the fact that it already exists. JCC is an established landscape feature that contains a mosaic of nationally important natural habitats, nature reserves, heritage sites and is supported by ambitious and like- minded local partners. It is already happening – much has already been done and will continue be done through the efforts of the existing partners. But our ambition is to make this so much more. JCC has the potential to combine improvements to the health and wellbeing and social cohesion of local people with landscape-scale nature recovery. It can support the wider environment capital ambitions of Peterborough and the natural capital plans of our statutory partners. It is an ambitious, but relatively easily achieved long-term project that can be sustained because it has been created and will be delivered by local people and landowners who have a personal interest in making it succeed. It is about creating a thriving and cherished landscape – good for people, good for nature, good for the future.
Current supporters (September 2019)
The following organisations have been involved in developing this plan and support its aims and will be involved in its delivery
Langdyke Countryside Trust
Nene Park Trust
Wildlife Trusts for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire
There is a chance for Langdyke members to help create a unique piece of sculpture.
As part of the Langdyke 20th anniversary September celebrations the Trust has asked Harriet Mead – who is a leading guest at the event – to produce a piece of Langdyke art.
Harriet has chosen to create a sculpture of an otter.You can see examples of the kind of wonderful artwork that Harriet produces using scrap metal of all kinds – like the Wisbech Hare above – on her website: http://harrietmead.co.uk/
Harriet has asked if Langdyke members could bring bits and pieces of metal along to the celebration event on September 13 so we can take them away and blend them into the artwork.
Richard Astle has two pieces of Harriet’s work made up of things like dog chains, scissor blades, screws, slotted spoons, rakes and nuts and bolts – so have a look in your shed or garage and bring them along,
The finished work will be on display at various locations next year.
It is time to start applying for tickets for one of the highlight events of Langdyke’s 20th anniversary celebrations.
The theme will be the Future of Nature and we will also be launching the John Clare Countryside Vision.
Although the event is free to members you are asked to apply for tickets online so that the organisers know how many people are attending. There will be a limited number of tickets for non members as well at a cost of £6 each.
The event – taking place from 4pm on Friday September 13 at Castor Church, Castor, Peterborough – will incorporate the organisation’s annual meeting but also boasts a fine array of guest speakers, the launch of a major local nature initiative and the culmination of our arts and stories project.
Our guest speakers are Harriet Mead, President of the Society of Wildlife Artists, Mark Cocker, author and naturalist, Jeremy Mynott, author of Birdscapes andBrian Eversham, Chief Executive of our Wildlife Trusts.
The theme will be the Future of Nature and we will also be launching the John Clare Countryside Vision.
Kathryn Parsons, our artist in residence will also lead an art workshop as part of the Langdyke Stories projectwhich will culminate at the event with the publication of the Langdyke Stories book.
The line up of speakers promises a lively discussion with a chance for guests to join the debates and pose questions.
There will also be updates on Langdyke business as well as a series of displays.
Langdyke chair Richard Astle said: It promises to be a great, celebratory and positive event – I do hope you can join us.”
To control numbers we are using Eventbrite – an easy to use online booking system. Even if you are a member you will need to book through the system.
If anyone has trouble booking they can email email@example.com and assistance will be given.
If you would like to come, please book your tickets using the link below – please book as a member (free) – although food and drink on the evening are not included.
Non members can also use the link to book. There will be a charge of £6 per person.
Langdyke trustee David Cowcill is calling on members and supporters to submit items for the Museum of Objects.
As a permanent record of the 20th Anniversary, the Trust will publish a book in September (to coincide with the Annual Meeting) showcasing the work of 2019 Artist in Residence Kathryn Parsons, who has so far engaged over 300 people with her art project and innovative “plant printing” techniques.
Some results were on display in situ on the Etton-Maxey reserve a couple of weeks ago.
Also in the book will be a Langdyke Museum of Objects – an attempt to capture an image and descriptive record of the items that trigger people’s thoughts of (and responses to) the natural world of John Clare Country.
David said: “We have been collecting ideas from the general public at all the recent anniversary events, and now want to throw open the process to all the members too.
“So – please take a look at the attached invitation to submit an object (and within reason it can be ANY object that brings to mind our wonderful natural environment) – and to share your thoughts with others and for the future. “
The deadline for the book is getting close, so if possible please send the form before July 24 to firstname.lastname@example.org
A performance of Romeo and Juliet, music, morris dancing and poetry renditions are just some of the highlights of Friday’s Langdyke 20th anniversary celebrations at Torpel Manor Field.
The Lamphouse Theatre Suitcase Shakespeare presentation of Romeo and Juliet is likely to be one of the key highlights of the evening.
The event – the first of two over the weekend- is between 6pm and 9pm on the Torpel site at the edge of Helpston.
The plan is to enjoy a summer’s evening on the site of Roger de Torpel’s Norman manor house with music, drama, poetry and Morris dancing. Bring a picnic and something to sit on. We will be providing some drinks in return for donations – beer, wine and soft drinks.
The programme for the evening in the paddock area around the Cabin is subject to change, but will run something like this:
6pm Opening of event
6-9pm Refreshments and bring your own picnic
6-9pm Langdyke exhibition
6-8pm Arts workshop (members only) in the cabin
6-630pm Music with Dave Maylor
630-7pm Morris Dancing
7pm Guided walk of Torpel, tour of meadow
7-720pm Poetry with Kealey Mills and friends
720-750pm Music with Dave Maylor
8- 820pm Poetry with Kealey Mills and friends Cabin area
820pm- Romeo and Juliet extracts
Please note; Parking is restricted, with some spaces at the Helpston Garden Centre, but access to the field is strictly on foot (or by bike).
If you come by car, you will need to park either at the garden centre or in the village and walk up to the reserve, entering along through the pedestrian gate off King Street.
There will be something for all age groups at Saturday’s open day at Etton-Maxey reserve – the second day of this weekend’s activities to make Langdyke’s 20th anniversary.
The event, starting at 2pm and finishing at 5pm has a a particular focus on family activities.
Attractions include arts workshops, nature trails, bug hunts, pond-dipping and guided walks and exhibitions of fossils, some of which have been found on the site during earlier gravel extractions. There might even be a dinosaur (but only in mascot form).
And, of course, there are the many nature attractions on the site including hundreds of orchids.
Tarmac, who are sponsoring the event, will also be on hand to show how the reserve has come about following the company’s work there over the years. They are also bringing along a giant loader machine with prizes for guessing its weight.
The weather forecast for the weekend is for high temperatures. There will be limited supplies of drinks, so you are advised to perhaps bring along some water (no single use plastic bottles please) and sunscreen. Toilets will be on site.
The site can be reached by driving through Etton village on the main road towards Maxey. Go past Etton church, over a bridge and then follow the road until you reach the site which will be signposted.
There is parking on site, through the gates off the road between Etton and Maxey (see map for details of the reserve). Please take care when you arrive at the site because there may be children making their way from the parking area. A 5mph speed limit will be in force.
Finally, as part of our Langdyke Stories project we encourage you all to think of an object that reminds you of our local countryside and particularly the Langdyke reserves and bring this – or a photo of it – along to the Saturday event. We will be publishing a collection of these images in our 20th anniversary book. Langdyke Stories is funded by the Peterborough Community Fund and organised by Art Pop-Up.
Timings for Saturday are subject to change, but the plan is:
2pm Opening of event
2-4.30pm Arts workshops in the main marquee
2-3pm Building a bug hotel
2-3.30pm Sweep netting
3.30-5pm Bug hunting
2-3.30pm Pond dipping
2-5pm Bird-identification 230pm and 330pm Guided walks Start from welcome table
4pm Nature treasure hunt from the Wildlife Trust stand
2-5pm Pop up poetry
2-5pm Wildlife Trust display
2-5pm Tarmac display
2-5pm Langdyke Trust display
2-5pm Fossil exhibition
2-5pm Museum of objects exhibition
5pm All events and stands close.
Planning is underway for the Langdyke Stories celebration event and annual meeting.
There are some key topics and nationally acclaimed speakers lined up for the evening.
The event, on Friday, September 13, will take on an extra special air to mark the organisation’s 20th anniversary.
The future for nature locally, regionally and nationally will be up for discussions with a host of important guest speakers.
Harriet Mead, wildlife artist and sculptor and President of the Society of Wildlife Artists
Brian Eversham, Chief executive of the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordhsire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire
Jeremy Mynott, author of Birdscapes and Birds in the Ancient World
Mark Cocker a naturalist who has published a host of books including Birds Britannica, Crow Country and Our Place, Can we save Britain’s wildlife before it’s too late.
There will also be updates on Langdyke business as well as a series of displays. More details including the venue and timings will be announced nearer the time.
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