Here in the Nene Valley in the heart of Northamptonshire we are proud of our beautiful countryside, riverside scenery and attractive villages with their cream-coloured limestone cottages. And we’re happy to let you into a few secrets about our lovely region because we think you and your family will enjoy spending time here just as much as we do.
We believe the key to making the most of your time off this year is to consider what will make you truly happy, and leave you feeling relaxed and restored. Time spent on a river can absolutely do that, providing you with a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Meandering from Northampton through to Peterborough and beyond, the River Nene is one of the UK’s most attractive yet little utilised inland waterways in Britain, meaning you really will be leaving the crowds behind. Hire a cruiser or a narrow boat and take a slow journey up or down the river and let nature be your world.
Focus on what makes you happy
In the last year many of us have embraced new hobbies and interests. Walking became an an essential activity, so why not take those walking boots away with you on a summer break this year? From strolls around gorgeous country parks to the 110-mile Nene Way long distance route, our region has no shortage of paths to follow, whether you’re looking for something strenuous and challenging, or something the whole family – including your dog –will enjoy.
From simply watching feathered garden visitors from an armchair, many more of us are keen to pursue a new-found interest in birdwatching. The Nene Valley is absolutely ‘the’ place for fledgeling birdwatchers to come. The river banks and expanses of wetland are a haven for a variety of waterfowl, native residents and rarer species including Great-Crested Grebes, Shovelers and Pochards, so bring your binoculars for a rewarding and unforgettable experience.
For those looking to build on their outdoor experiences and skills this year, we’ve got plenty for you to try. From the thrilling white water rafting on the river at Northampton (Northampton Active), to kayaking and canoeing at Rushden Lakes (Canoe2), and the fun of stand-up paddle boarding at Yarwell Mill (Adventure Rutland), to sailing at Nene Park in Peterborough. Lessons and guided water safaris are great options, but hourly hire is also available if that suits you best. Fancy giving open water swimming a go? Head to Sywell Country Park and Nene Park in Peterborough.
Fishing has been proven to have numerous benefits for the human spirit, not least the opportunity to be at one with the river landscape. In particular, the waters surrounding Barnwell and Oundle are renowned in course fishing circles. If your approach to riverside activities is more serene, and boating doesn’t appeal, simply find somewhere where you can enjoy a bite to eat with a beautiful view – like the Kings Head at Wadenhoe or The Water Mill Tea Rooms at Ringstead, for example.
Away from the water, if you love golf, you’ll love the Nene Valley. We’ve got an excellent choice of top-notch clubs and courses for you to try. But if two wheels is your preferred option, numerous cycle paths, bridleways and quiet roads make cycling around Northamptonshire pleasurable and safe.
Family fun guaranteed
It can be a challenge to find a destination that offers something of interest to every member of the family, but here in the Nene Valley we’ve got a few brilliant family-friendly and dog-friendly solutions.
Rushden Lakes, mentioned above, is a modern lakeside venue with big name shops, entertainment and eateries all in one well-laid out location. Activities include indoor climbing and trampolining, soft play for the little ones — here’s even a cinema! One of the gateways to the Nene Wetlands, there are walking trails and cycle routes, as well the water-based activities.
A short drive away, Stanwick Lakes is a unique 750-acre countryside attraction and nature reserve. It boasts extensive and imaginative play areas, open spaces and paths that families, walkers, cyclists and nature lovers can explore. There’s a visitor centre, with café, shop and function space where craft workshops are often staged.
Although the focus of any visit to Castle Ashby should be its beautiful gardens, there’s plenty to keep children entertained too, including a menagerie with pigs, rabbits, monkeys and meerkats. Set in the heart of a 10,000-acre estate, the gardens were designed by Capability Brown and you can wander through the romantic Italian Gardens, a unique orangery and impressive arboretum. Don’t miss the plant centre, tea room and gift shop!
A day (or a stay) at Sacrewell Heritage Farm and Country Centre is a must for learning about the countryside, farming practices, and food and drink production. There are friendly farm animals to meet, outdoor spaces to discover, a restored 18th century watermill, a large children’s adventure playground, and an artisan courtyard where you can watch makers at work.
Lovingly restored heritage steam trains await to take you on a fun journey at Nene Valley Railway. Learn all about the railway’s history at the Wansford station then take a ride through the picturesque surroundings to Peterborough’s Nene Park, our next destination of recommended family-friendly days out.
Nene Park is an ideal location for active families with energy to burn. Our friend the River Nene meanders through this wide-open space made up of parkland, meadows, woodlands and lakes. There are numerous children’s play areas, and a miniature railway, a boating lake with fun pedaloes, as well as sailing, walking trails, cycle routes, and more.
Culture and heritage
History buffs will find a lot to discover in the Nene Valley, from an exploration of the lives of the early residents at Stanwick Lakes, to Katherine of Aragon at Peterborough Cathedral, and to Mary, Queen of Scots, and Richard III at Fotheringhay. Lovers of art and architecture, fashion and shoes should head to Northampton to visit a house designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the town’s Museum and Art Gallery which has the largest collection of historical footwear in the world.
This is but a short summary of what’s waiting for you this summer in the Nene Valley. Visit our website nenevalley.net for more information, including events and activities for your diary and recommendations for places to stay.