Not many people know of, or have even heard of this place, most will simply brush it off as a hobbyist place to visit, but trust me it’s not that at all.

Take a relaxing walk over Town Bridge coming out of the city centre and then either walk down along the River Nene pathway or go through the arches from Fair Meadow car park (where the fair usually sits when it comes) to NVR Peterborough station and you will find Railword Wildlife Haven.

With just a £4 entry for adults and £3 for concessions and children, you can spend as much time here as you want. It’s been 2 years since I’ve been and in that time there have been a few lovely additions.

Entrance and car park to Railworld Wildlife Haven

The first thing I noticed is that the car park has been upgraded with wooden fencing for the new Steve Baker Walk (in memory of one of their wonderful volunteers) and granite curb stones – Donated by Peterborough City Council they come from the curb of an original town centre road which now edge lots of flowers and shrubs!

Bob’s Garden Railway

On entry you’re greeted with a small shop and cafe area under the massive RTV31 Hovertrain project overhead. This was saved from scrap and has been sitting for nearly 50 years in the outdoors. Railworld are currently looking for funding to tidy her up, so fingers crossed. Next, to your children’s delight you will find Toby the Tram Engine working hard along with other trains circling in the Garden Railway – A lovely miniature model outdoor railway track that starts at the press of a button. This is just the beginning. You may be thinking you need to be a train buff to be here, but please wait…

River Nene looking west of the city

Walk up and over the river and the Geoffrey Steels Bridge with its new lick of paint. Here you’ll have great views both ways of the river and the set of bridges there too. You can stay a bit while you watch the barges or boats going past. Walk to the end and you will find yourself surrounded by overhanging leaves and branches of age-old trees, brightly coloured flowers within both shady and sunlit walkways along with the tweeting of birds, buzzing of bees and fluttering butterflies – It’s like entering the secret garden. Whether you’re a flower lover, a nature lover or just need some peace and quiet this really, really is the place for you. Ponds, waterfalls, walk over bridges, viewing seats, bug hotels with over 300 species of flora and fauna to catch your attention.

All hardware you see has been renovated or used ‘as is’ as a feature in these gardens; from Victorian aqueducts from the 1840s at Abbotts Ripton (donated from Network Rail) to a renovated 1921 signal box. You’ll be amazed at what the volunteer team has done with it. Freshly painted and cleaned up you it has created a viewing platform where you can watch the main line trains go past with a live link Railcam UK unit and for non-train spotters look into the Haven with binoculars to see which birds or butterflies you can spot. It’s a great authentic addition and absolutely everything has a place.

rail features

It all started many years ago in 1968 when the Rev Richard Paten bought a scrap locomotive 73050 from British Railways – the start of Nene Valley Railways. In 1985 he then had the opportunity to purchase the 25 acre derelict power station coal yard (remember that the Power station used to be here) and that was that….

Outside is full of surprises but don’t forget to visit their enormous indoor model railway worked currently by Joe Fitzjohn and his team of volunteers. There’s actually over 2000 square foot of it! You can control trains with the Schneider electric touch screen instigated by their electrical engineers in Coventry or maybe you’ll catch sight of Thomas the Tank Engine flying round the tracks with steam trains and high speed engines. I did.

Indoor model railway

The other interesting side of this lovely haven is that there is an Education Centre open to everyone who visits as well as for schools and groups. With a huge rotating world in the centre you can walk around and read lots of interesting things about the state of our world. Learn how we need to look after what we have to minimalise its destruction and all about climate change.  Its motto ‘Entertain & Educate’.

Globe Hall Education Centre

I’m going to leave some things for your own discovery when you visit; see if you can find the Mediterranean garden, the Lake District mural, the bee hives (please don’t touch) and even the Swedish rail bike!

This entire place is run by volunteers! Yes entirely! People are always needed so if you want to you can, just contact them. Whether it’s a bit of painting, gardening or cleaning up there’s something for everyone to do. Businesses help too whether it’s a great chance for some team bonding or donations: Caterpillar Inc, BGL Group, Perkins Engines, Peterborough Rotary Clubs to name but a few.

You’ll find their whole story at   Why not combine your day with steam train ride on the Nene Valley Railway too?

Happy tooting.

Also published in Spark Magazine 1st July 2021

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