There are lots of historical features and interesting stories to discover as you explore Nene Park. Here are just a few highlights to look out for:

Roman history

Roman Point in Ferry Meadows

Ask at the Visitor Centre in Ferry Meadows for directions to Roman Point, only a short walk away. You’ll be able to see the outline of the Roman barn and find out its story. 

Longthorpe fortress

The ridge of Thorpe Golf Course, beyond Bluebell Wood, was the site of a 27 acre Roman fortress dating from 43-44 AD at the start of the Roman occupation as forces pressed their frontier north. The fortress occupied land on the ridge above the Nene, facing the river. Three cohorts of 2400 men could have been stationed there, part of the 9th Legion. The Longthorpe site is unique in Western Europe because it contained its own works depot for pottery manufacture. The potters, whose repertoire suggests they came from the Rhineland, made superb vessels.

Durobrivae

Normangate field in the Rural estate near Castor is the site of the large Roman town Durobrivae. The size and extent of this settlement was only discovered using a geophysical survey of the field in 1998. Although there is nothing to see when you visit this area you can imagine what was going on two thousand years ago. We are working on producing some further interpretation for this area as well as some walking guides so look out for these soon. For more information, please visit: Peterborough Archaelogy

Georgian history

Many of the heritage features still visible in the North East of Ferry Meadows are connected to the Milton Estate. The Fitzwilliam family once owned the land that was to become Ferry Meadows and collected rents from tenant farmers who worked the fields.

Milton Ferry Bridge

This handsome bridge is over 300 years old and is both a Grade II listed structure and a Scheduled Monument. It was built from local Barnack limestone by the Fitzwilliam family to replace a ferry service which operated on the River Nene and helps tell the story of how Ferry Meadows got its name. The bridge is marked on maps of the Park and a visit can be combined with a walk through the lovely Bluebell Wood.

The Sheepwash

Many visitors might overlook this site in Bluebell Wood but there is a wooden scultpture of a shepherd and his sheep carved in 1999 by Jason Thomson to remind us of the original purpose of the pool of water here. The practice of sheepwashing was an important part of the local agricultural calendar from the 15th to mid-19th century. Many hundreds of sheep were grazed in the floodmeadows, under direction of the Milton Estate. Each year estate workers would have herded them over Milton Ferry Bridge and individually washed them in the purpose dug sheepwash. By the early 20th century most sheepwashes in the country had fallen into disuse. By the 1950s the practice had disappeared in all parts of the country.

The Mount

The Mount in Bluebell Wood in Ferry Meadows is a small, man-made hill sited to enjoy the views over the Nene to Milton Ferry Bridge and beyond. The Mount in Bluebell Wood is thought to be constructed from the spoil excavated during the digging of the Sheepwash and was the perfect location for the Fitzwilliam family to admire their new bridge and look out over their land. In 2001-2002 the Mount was cleared of rough growth, and seating installed. Several large yew trees that grace the Mount today may be the legacy of outgrown topiary from the time when the Fitzwilliam family and their aristocratic guests would have stopped here to enjoy the view.

The Boathouse 

As with the Sheepwash, little remains today to mark the site where the Fitzwilliam family had their boathouse. The stone foundations have been preserved by the Trust, but the building itself was almost certainly made from timber. An early 18th century painting by William Van Hagen shows a boathouse in the approximate location, while Victorian photographs show boating closer to Milton Ferry Bridge. Look out for the remains next to the river in Bluebell Wood.

The Willow Industry

Before the widespread adoption of plastics and other modern materials, woven willow products, such as baskets, were very important in industry and farming. Willow has the ability to annually regrow stems from a cut stump, known as a stool. It
is these strong, flexible stems - withies - that are used for weaving. Osier beds are areas where many low willow stools are grown close together in ordered rows for easy cropping. Pollards are willow trees that are regularly cut about 2m from the ground; a method suited to grazing land as the regrowth is out of reach of browsing livestock. Around the mid-19th century osier beds were planted at Bluebell Wood on land leased from the Fitzwilliam estate. You can still see these today.