– although to give this piece of land its correct name, it is The Walter Buccleuch Meadows, for in 1976, the 7th Duke of Buccleuch gave this piece of land to the village in memory of his father, Walter.
But, like any other part of this village, its history started long before that. For centuries it has been part of the Boughton Estates and it was land that was recognised as a flood plain, as it still is, including the land upriver towards Newton and downstream, beside and beyond the recreation field.
It is, of course, no accident that the village was built around a fordable part of the river. As it was described in Whellan’s Northamptonshire in 1849: “The village of Geddington, which is rather large, is seated on low ground, on the river Ise, which runs through it about 5 1/2miles E. by N. of Rothwell and 3 1/2miles N.E. of Kettering.” (Interesting how Rothwell is given more importance that Kettering, despite the latter being closer.)
The introduction of motorised vehicles during the latter part of the 19th and early 20th centuries, increased the traffic exponentially. The original Kettering to Stamford highway ran right through the heart of the village: Kettering Road curving right, into what is now known as Queen Street, then over the bridge or a dash through the ford, up to the Cross, before turning a sharp left onto West Street, then a sharp right onto Stamford Road, as the vicarage wall and grounds extended to the dyke on the far side of what is now New Road, then up Chase Hill where there was once a toll gate. (Note the ‘Z-shape’ of the red-dotted road.)
The 700 year old bridge was therefore, as vital a link in the national communications, as it was to the village. However, a traffic census in 1925 revealed: 529 tons of commercial lorry traffic, 262 tons of omnibus or charabanc and 731 tons of other traffic, passing over the bridge every day. And it was the urgent need to close the bridge for repairs that forced the building of the New Road and bridge. The cost of the repairs was estimated to be in the region of £1500. The old bridge was closed on 25 February 1926 for the rest of the year.
So, the single event of the 20th century that had the most far-reaching effects on the village, was the building of the, unimaginatively named, New Road and bridge over the River Ise. Not only did it extend the housing on Grange Road, but it encouraged the post-war building of Skeffington Close (1948-1955) and of course, enclosed the land between the two bridges – what we now call the meadows. It was only natural for residents of Skeffington Close to use the path through these meadows in order to get to the village. An act that eventually encouraged the Parish Council to create the paved path that we see today.
It was in the 1950s, after another severe flooding, that it was decided to change the course of the river, leading water directly to the bridge, rather than meander through the meadows. (Note ‘U-shaped’ loop, or to give it its proper geographical term, meander bend, of river in the map.) The river bed downstream was also widened to accommodate the water.
This created the meadows as we know them today and in 1972, the (at times) soggy patch of land was donated to the village by the 7th Duke of Buccleuch. (For more of this story, see The Walter Buccleuch Meadows in the History column of this website.)
In 1992, Kettering Borough Council commenced their Dog Fouling Initiatives. The project was intended to create dog exercise areas throughout the Borough, but they started with just two as experiments, in town and village. Initially it was suggested that it be in the Recreation Field, but the Parish Council suggested the Meadows as a better site. The Parish Council agreed, subject to the sign’s wording, and an offer by KBC to fence the area and keep the grass cut, at no cost to the PC, was readily agreed and finally accepted in March 1993. One of the issues raised at that time by those who were opposed to this project, was the possible problem of parking by those attracted from outside the village. As it turned out their fears were not realised for two reasons: the A43 an obvious place not to park along and the extra visitors just weren’t attracted to the Exercise Area in the numbers feared.
It was during shortly after the land was donated to the village, that the pond was created. There are a number of natural springs both in and near the meadows and if you have walked that path after heavy rain in the spring, you will have seen the water running over the path from the field which now contains horses. One other natural spring rose under the pond area and without the concrete surround, that area would remain soggy and muddy throughout the year. With Nature constantly feeding the pond with clear, clean fresh water, it was no surprise that watercress used to grow there.* Wildlife will find and use it, as it has for decades.
Residents remember picnicking and playing games in that area, but it could only have been in dry months as, when heavy rain came, the water backed up and flooded the area as it does to some extent today. The building of the berm in 2000/01, greatly reduced this problem, but hasn’t entirely solved the flooding problem.
The work being done by the GVFB is just the latest in many attempts at keeping Nature at bay. 2016, as many gardeners will acknowledge, was one of the best years for growth, be it bush, shrub or tree. Without management, natural growth would cover every one of man’s buildings – a list of Northamptonshire’s lost villages will attest to this. (Their sites are now designated as Ancient Monuments.) The area around the pond has not been regularly managed and perhaps should have been.
* Standing at the river end of the pond, fresh water can now be seen running over the edge. Next step watercress?
A further article will follow later this week on the GVFB and the “paddling pool” controversy, following the Wildlife Trust’s visit.