Winter in the Nene Valley is a time for exhilarating walks in the countryside rewarded with a visit to a warm and friendly local pub. Here are four routes to inspire you to lace up your boots and come to Northamptonshire. Wrap up warm, put some binoculars in your bag… and book ahead at your chosen pub to avoid disappointment!
Thrapston Lakes, Aldwinckle & The Rose & Crown
There are a variety of options for walks from the market town of Thrapston and its neighbouring village Islip around Thrapston Lakes. You can follow the Nene Valley Way from Islip as it connects with Harper’s Brook, with views of the attractive lakes on either side. Well loved by those who enjoy fishing and sailing, it’s a fantastic spot for birdwatchers, particularly because you can explore Titchmarsh nature reserve to the north. Winter is the best time to see large numbers of wildfowl here, in particular, goosander, wigeon and gadwall.
A 4-mile circular route to the pretty village of Adwinckle, via the nature reserve, will take 1½ to 2 hours. For detail on what to expect to see in the area, with a map showing the routes, follow this link https://nenevalley.net/see-and-do/discover/trails/
The Rose & Crown on Islip High Street is a traditional friendly pub that welcomes walkers all year round. It’s a picturesque 17th century pub with an original fireplace and wooden beams. Take a seat by the fire or sit outside in the child-friendly garden. They serve both local and national beers, authentic pizza and Sunday lunches. It’s open every day except Monday – opening from 11am on Tuesday to Friday and 12noon on Saturday and Sunday.
Wandenhoe wander & The Kings Head
This short but attractive route starts in the small ‘chocolate box’ village of Wadenhoe, regarded as one of the county’s prettiest villages. Do take the time to explore the village lanes lined with quaint limestone cottages with thatched roofs. The walk begins and ends on in the centre of the village and you’ll follow footpaths across fields with views of the River Nene and the surrounding meadows and on through woodland, discovering an ancient church along the way at neighbouring Achurch.
The Wadenhoe Circular is just 2½ miles long and is Walk 31 walked and described by Dave Askew at www.northamptonshirewalks.co.uk It’s a good idea to take a map with you for guidance – you’ll need OS Landranger 141. Allow 1 to 1½ hours.
It’s well worth building up an appetite for a bite to eat at The Kings Head, an attractive 17th century pub with a reputation for warm and attentive hospitality. Wadenhoe, approximately 4 miles from Thrapston, is on both the Nene Valley Way and Lyveden Way footpaths, so the Kings Head is an ideal stop-off point if you enjoy walking. You could pop in for coffee before you set out and return for lunch which could be sandwiches or your choice from a menu of delicious mains, washed down with a locally brewed beer. The Kings Head is open every day from 9am.
The Fotheringhay Circular and The Falcon
There’s a great deal of history attached to this walk, especially in the tiny village of Fotheringhay itself. This picturesque village sits on the River Nene and is most famous for being the site of Fotheringhay Castle, renowned as the birthplace of Richard III and where Mary, Queen of Scots was executed. Today all that remains of the castle is an earthen mound beside the river and a plaque describing it.
Most of this walk is off road on well-marked paths taking you alongside fields, water and woodland, so you’re always likely to spot a variety of wildlife. It crosses the river and takes in the village of Elton, catching a glimpse of privately owned stately home Elton Hall. The route returns to Fotheringhay via Warmington, passing the site of the castle which was dismantled around 50 years after Mary, Queen of Scots’ death in the 1630s. Pop in and take a look; it is open to the public and protected as a Scheduled Monument.
Don’t miss the chance to have a look in Fotheringhay Church, St Mary’s and All Saints, which is noted for containing a mausoleum to leading members of the Yorkist dynasty of the Wars of the Roses.
You will find a full description of this 6 mile route at www.northamptonshirewalks.co.uk (Walk 58). You’ll need OS Landranger 141. Allow about 2½ hours.
Your walk begins and end at the home of the top notch The Falcon Inn, a pub which has long held an excellent reputation for good food, from pub classics to a la carte and afternoon tea. It opens at 12noon every day and has tempting bar and snacks menu with lots of choice, including a pie of the day served with mash or triple cooked chips.
Nassington Circular & The Queens Head Inn
Nestled beside the River Nene, Nassington is an attractive village in the top corner of East Northamptonshire. There are lots of footpaths and bridleways in the area, including the Nene Way, so walkers are spoiled for choice here. Take the Nene Way from Fotheringhay Road and follow it a short distance to Yarwell Mill where you can stop off for a coffee in the Yarwell Mill Country Park, before heading off on the footpath to Yarwell Junction to catch sight of a steam train from the Nene Valley Railway.
For a longer walk, we suggest following the Nassington Circular route described by Dave Askew of Northamptonshire Walks which will take you on an interesting adventure through the Old Sulehay Forest Nature Reserve (managed by the Wildlife Trust for Beds, Cambs & Northants), a fragment of the ancient Rockingham Forest. You’ll walk on established footpaths and bridleways, exploring woodland and heathland, with a former railway track thrown in for good measure. History buffs will be interested in the fact that the route takes you past a memorial commemorating the site of an airfield hangar where the famous musician Glenn Miller and his band played in the Second World War.
You will find a full description of this 7½mile route on https://northamptonshirewalks.co.uk (Walk 122). You’ll need OS Landranger 142. Allow about 3 hours.
Walkers can expect a friendly welcome at the popular Queens Head in Station Road, Nassington, which is renowned for good beer and award-winning food. In the warmer months it is very pleasant to sit outside and enjoy the view of the river from the beer garden. The kitchen specialises in dry-aged steaks and grills with an emphasis on beautifully prepared fresh produce. Closed on Mondays, The Queens Head is open for lunch on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 12noon. It’s also a great place to stay if you’d like to spend a few days exploring the area.
Do be aware that some footpaths can become muddy in the winter, especially after rain.
All of the pubs mentioned here are dog friendly. You can find details of these and other pubs in the Nene Valley here https://nenevalley.net/eat-and-drink/pubs-and-restaurants/
There’s an extensive list of walking trails and attractions available as downloads here https://nenevalley.net/see-and-do/discover/walking/