'The Kotch saved me and I wanted to save it back'
We speak to Wellingborough YouTuber David Purnell about why he decided to create videos about the town
By Natalie Bloomer
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David Purnell is not a historian nor by his own admission is he an expert in anything. What he has is a passion for his local area of Wellingborough and a thirst for knowledge about it.
His enthusiasm is infectious. His YouTube channel PurpleVision has 2.6k subscribers with people in the local area engaging with him on anything from nature and history to town developments and trains. He fits this in around a job as a removal man and juggling a young family.
A few years ago though he was in a bad place, he’d moved back into his mum’s house in the Hemmingwell estate in the town and was really struggling emotionally. It was then that somebody suggested he should spend some time outdoors for his mental health.
“A friend told me to spend three days in nature and said I’d feel better for it, so I did and it really helped.”
That was in an area he calls ‘The Kotch’ near The Slips between Wellingborough and Finedon. He would take a tent down and camp beside the river finding that the more time he spent there the better he felt. His love for the spot grew and he started taking care of it, tidying rubbish, raking the banks and even building small structures like a deck and a bridge.
“The Kotch saved me and I wanted to save it back,” he says.
He began making short videos of the area on his phone and posting them online. He would update viewers on his progress and take them on little tours along the river. This was during lockdown and people started coming down to visit the area for themselves.
“I wanted to show people The Kotch and talk about what I was learning about it. It was during those really hot months of lockdown and people wanted to get out. It gave them a chance to come away from their screens and get out in nature, kids really loved it.”
The Kotch now has several different areas, there’s the butterfly bank, the willow den, the auditorium, and even swings. There are signs made by Purnell and rubbish bags hanging from branches to deter people from littering.
As his videos became more popular local people started to donate equipment including a GoPro camera and a drone to enhance his filming. He’s also started going further afield. Now he is just as likely to make a film about a historical spot in Wellingborough or inform viewers about proposed developments in the town as he is to talk about The Kotch.
Purnell kindly allowed NN Journal to go on a walk with him around some of his favourite places in the town. After meeting at the Ock n Dough pub our first stop was Glamis Woods and the historic Red Well spring.
Tucked behind a housing estate and next to some fields the small woodland was once visited by King Charles I and Queen Henrietta who camped alongside it and drank water from the spring due to its supposed fertility properties. Purnell has already done a video on the area but he wanted to stop by again as locals have contacted him upset about some repairs done by the local council to a damaged culvert.
“I’ve had people saying they’d made a real mess of the land down here, so I’m doing a before and after video to show the damage. We all understand the need to do repairs but you have to take care of the land at the same time.”
From there we headed down Hardwick Road and through Bassetts Park towards town. All the way, Purnell points out different trees and areas of interest. In the park we stop to read a sign about how the green space has been used over the years.
As we made our way through Croyland Gardens and past the site of the old Wellingborough zoo we bumped into Anita Neil, Britain’s first Black female Olympian. She is now part of a local walking group and met Purnell while out on a walk along the old railway towards Irthlingborough.
“There are so many great walks around the town, I’ve watched some of his [Purnell’s] videos and thought ‘Oh I’ve walked along there’. There’s so much history.” Anita says.
Through his videos Purnell has connected with local archaeologists, historians and foragers. He is learning all the time and says his aim is to do so alongside his viewers.
“I’ve made mistakes, I’ll put a video up and somebody will say ‘No, you’ve got that wrong’ but I take that on board. I’m learning too so I don’t mind constructive feedback but most of the reaction I get is really positive. I just want to show people the area and learn at the same time”
His first love is trains. His grandfather was an engine driver and he says as a child he’d be sitting on his knee ‘learning about steam’. It’s perhaps no surprise then that he now also has a YouTube dedicated to the subject.
The recent Stanton Cross development next to Wellingborough Train Station has combined all of his interests into one. As we walked from the town centre towards the area Purnell talked about some of the videos he has created around the development.
“I’ve talked about the old train sheds and large turntable that were discovered during the works. I sent a drone up so you could see the turntable properly before it’s gone. All the security guards down here know me now and they stop and have a chat, they’re just doing their job. I’d like to see these sheds used for something for the community now.”
The railway sheds date back to the 1870s and were recently saved after campaigners feared they might be pulled down as part of the local works.
During our walk we were stopped repeatedly by people who either know Purnell or watch his videos. It’s something he is getting used to.
“I’ve met so many people through doing this and have met up with others that I haven’t seen in years. There are people that have been watching my videos since the start and have watched how they’ve grown and others that are new to it. One of the biggest things I’ve learned through all this though is there is a real power in unity.”