Here’s a selection of our favourite walks, pubs, cafés, water-based activities and stately homes to enjoy in the Nene Valley…
3 Great Water-based Experiences
There really is something for everybody here on the river Nene. The three destinations we’ve chosen offer opportunities to learn new skills as well as to hire craft for a fun day out…
Looking for thrills and spills on the river? Head to the Nene Whitewater Centre, the UK’s first pumped man-made whitewater course. The discharge of water down a 300-metre course is controlled by three pumps which means that the flow rate can be altered to increase or decrease the difficulty of the course to suit different skill levels required to paddle along it.
So, whether you are a total beginner or an expert paddler, book yourself in for an exhilarating experience with Northampton Active. You’ll receive expert guidance from an experienced instructor who will brief you before you get onto the water. It is fantastic fun for groups who fancy teaming up to paddle a raft along the rapids on the course.
Offering an ideal day out for families, there’s canoeing, kayaking, fun with inflatable tubes, and raft-building on offer too, as well canoes, paddleboards and sit-on kayaks available for hire (along with buoyancy aids and wet suits). If you’re not sure what to have a go at, there are taster days suitable for all ages.
And, when the fun is done, you can relax and recount your experiences over a hot drink and a bite to eat in the on-site Waterside café.
There are several beautiful sections of the River Nene to be discovered by boat from Oundle Wharf. Hire your choice of canoe, kayak, inflatables or stand-up paddleboard and head off for a peaceful hour or two, exploring the river and picturesque countryside at your own pace. Nene Extreme Adventures has a wide range of boats to suit different ages and levels of ability, from open 4-man canoes suitable for families to single kayaks for individuals.
Boats can be hired by the hour or by the day. You could go for a leisurely paddle for an hour followed by lunch at the Tap and Kitchen next door or make a day of it and head out towards the village of Wadenhoe in one direction or Fotheringhay in the other and enjoy a picnic on the riverbank. Life jackets and equipment are provided and the friendly staff at Nene Extreme Adventures will ensure that you are prepared and have all you need for a safe and enjoyable outing.
If stand-up paddleboarding is on your ‘to do’ list, get in touch with Dan at Adventure Rutland. He runs paddleboarding taster sessions at Sibson Marina Lake and the nearby stretch of the River Nene at weekends. The sessions are for young people (aged 12+) and adults, making it perfect for families, friends and individuals keen to try something new and have fun!
Other paddle sports are on offer too, like kayaking, and raft building, which is ideal for groups. Plus, it’s possible to hire single and double kayaks, paddleboards or an 18ft long mega SUP which is suitable for you and all your mates! Private group sessions are available and there’s a SUP club for paddleboarders on Thursday evenings.
3 Pubs by the river
There really is little better than relaxing in good company with a pint of beer or a glass of wine and a good view…
Sat beside the River Nene, the well-loved pub The Britannia is an ideal spot to enjoy a drink and while away a few hours watching the narrow boats cruise past on the canalised part of the river. It’s an attractive and historic tavern a couple of miles from the centre of Northampton offering a traditional pub food menu (including a children’s menu) and, as you might expect, a wide choice of drinks, including fine wines and cask ales.
This is a popular spot for locals and boaters alike, who can moor up just outside. The pub is known for its attractive beer gardens and it is dog friendly.
Nassington’s village pub is definitely worth a visit for a leisurely drink, especially given its stunning riverside beer garden. Expect a friendly welcome at the popular Queens Head, which is renowned for good beer, award-winning food, and quality accommodation.
The chef specialises in dry-aged steaks and grills with an emphasis on beautifully prepared fresh produce. To avoid disappointment, make sure you book ahead for your lunch, afternoon tea or evening meal.
Nestled beside the River Nene, Nassington is a picturesque village in the top corner of East Northamptonshire. There are numerous attractions on the doorstep, including the historic Fotheringhay and the Nene Valley Railway at Wansford.
Also on the River Nene is this attractive 17th century pub with a reputation for warm and attentive hospitality. Wadenhoe is a charming village that’s on both the Nene Valley Way and Lyveden Way footpaths so the Kings Head is an ideal stop-off point if you’re out walking.
Take advantage of the warmer weather to enjoy the gardens and the view of the river with boats negotiating the nearby lock There’s a riverside bar serving drinks from a converted horsebox called The Tipsy Mare, as well as barbecue-cooked food and pizzas cooked in an outdoor oven. If afternoon tea is more your thing, there’s a tearoom serving sumptuous selection of sweet and savoury goodies. Inside the 17th century pub you can enjoy traditional pub cuisine and there’s a restaurant ideally suited to larger groups.
3 Delightful local walks
The Nene Valley has a network of wonderful footpaths to explore. It’s easy walking country and is ideal for nature lovers as the river and surrounding wetlands are a haven for birds and other wildlife. Dave Askew of Northamptonshire Walks selected these beauties for us. You’ll find full details of the routes on his website www.northamptonshirewalks.co.uk
Walk 1: Castle Ashby Circular (6.5 miles). OS Landranger 152
This fantastic walk features a stately home, lovely tea rooms, rivers, wildlife, spooky graveyards and a secret place…
There’s so much to see so take your time and enjoy the sights along the way. The route is mainly off road, with a mile of the route along the Nene Valley Way. There are a few hills and an especially a steep path up to Whiston church.
The route starts at the Rural Shopping Yard at Castle Ashby and takes in the villages of Chadstone, Coggenhoe and Whiston, with plenty of pretty views and opportunities to spot wildlife, so don’t forget your camera! Allow 2½ to 3 hours.
Walk 31 Wadenhoe Circular (2½ miles) OS Landranger 141
You’ll find yourself in such beautiful Northamptonshire countryside so why not take your time at the start or end of this walk with refreshments at The King’s Head pub –its riverside location is idyllic!
The route starts in the ‘chocolate box’ village of Wadenhoe and starts and ends on quiet roads, following footpaths across fields with views of the river and through woodland, discovering an ancient church along the way at Achurch.
Allow 1 to 1½ hours.
Walk 58: Fotheringhay Circular (6 miles) OS Landranger 142
There’s a lot of history attached to this walk, especially in Fotheringhay, the start and finish point. The village is most noted for being the site of Fotheringhay Castle, the birthplace of Richard III and where Mary Queen of Scots. Today all that’s left is the motte beside the River Nene.
Most of the walk is off road on well-marked paths with a good mix of field, water and woods, so you’re always likely to see varied wildlife. It crosses the river and takes in the village of Elton, catching a glimpse of Elton Hall en route to Warmington, and then back to Fotheringhay and the mound, the site of the infamous castle which was dismantled in the 1600s.
Allow about 2½ hours.
There’s an extensive list of walking trails and attractions available as downloads from our website. Simply head to https://nenevalley.net/see-and-do/discover/walking/
3 Welcoming Cafés
Treat yourself to morning breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and everything in between at one of our fine local cafés…
If you go out to the woods today… you’ll discover Grounds Café at Top Lodge in Fineshade Woods, part of the ancient Rockingham Forest. Sitting within the courtyard, Grounds Café offers sandwiches and all sorts of other freshly made goodies perfect for picnics and refreshment for families returning from activities in the surrounding woodland, whether tracking the Gruffalo, cycling the trails, or playing in the adventure playgrounds.
Choose from a selection of homemade cakes and gelato to accompany Grounds’ own blends of coffee, tea or hot chocolate at the end of a long walk on one of the trails. Fineshade Woods (run by Forestry England) is a great destination for walkers, including those with canine companions – ask in the café about the homemade dog biscuits! You can choose to sit inside or relax in one of the outdoor seating areas.
Grounds also hire bikes for all the family in their cycle store next door. And you are interested in art, the Fermyn Woods gallery, opposite the café in the courtyard, is well worth a visit.
Sitting alongside the River Nene in the village of Ringstead, near Thrapston, The Watermill Tearoom’s home is a former flour mill, an old building with a long and fascinating history. It even has links to Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. And not only did the mill grind corn, it also produced paper for a short time. Today it’s a welcoming place to enjoy quality food and drink in pleasant surroundings, whether that be in the dining room, the cosy lounge area or in the garden. This award-winning tearoom sources its ingredients and products from local suppliers, from eggs and meat, dairy products to ice cream and ales. Whether you are going along for breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea, Iona and her team ensure that all the delicious options on the menu are made fresh to order. Well-behaved dogs are welcome along too.
Note: The café is closed on Mondays.
If you like being beside the river and enjoy watching the boating activities and passing narrowboats, then head to The Boathouse café at White Mills Marina in Earls Barton. It’s managed by Carrie Hewitt (a former star baker from Northampton College) and serves breakfast all day long, as well as lunch and delicious pastries, with lots of choice on their ‘brew with a view’ menu. There’s plenty of seating indoors in a light and airy space as well as outside at the water’s edge.
The Boathouse is an ideal stop-off for walkers and cyclists exploring the local trails, as well as boaters, of course.
Note: The marina and boathouse are closed on Tuesdays.
3 Stately homes to admire
If you’re looking for an interesting day out, these three must-see destinations should fit the bill nicely…
Known as the English Versailles, Boughton House is a grand country house located north-east of Kettering. It is owned by Richard Scott, the 10th Duke of Buccleuch and isrecognised as one of Britain’s grandest and best-preserved stately homes.
It started life as a humble Tudor manor which was expanded over hundreds of years to become the grand building it is today. State rooms inspired by the palace of Versailles were built under the direction of the 1st Duke of Montagu (1638-1709), who had served as Ambassador to Louis XIV in France.
As well as the splendours of the house, it has 18th-century landscaped gardens to explore.
The house and gardens are usually open to the public every Easter and August for guided tours and at other times of the year for special events. Groups can visit year-round by appointment.
This intriguing incomplete Elizabethan lodge and the grounds that surround it are owned by the National Trust who have recently completed an extensive upgrade to the visitor experience with brand new facilities, including a tearoom, in the Manor House at the entrance to the property.
Set in the heart of rural Northamptonshire, not far from Oundle, Lyveden is a remarkable survivor of the Elizabethan age. Begun by Sir Thomas Tresham to symbolise his Catholic faith, Lyveden remains incomplete and virtually unaltered since work stopped when he died in 1605.
You’ll be able to discover more about Sir Thomas and his symbolic designs before heading out to explore the unique roofless building, the tranquil moats, an Elizabethan orchard and attractive gardens. Advance booking is essential via the National Trust website.
Although Castle Ashby is a private home inhabited by Earl Compton, the son of the 7th Marquess of Northampton and is not open to the public, visitors are welcome to enjoy the views of the exterior of this grand Elizabethan house and its beautiful gardens all year round.
The 35 acres of extensive gardens are a combination of a number of styles and include the romantic Italian Gardens, a Victorian greenhouse, an Arboretum, and a unique Orangery home with a large central pond, home to fish and an abundance of water lilies.
Castle Ashby is popular with families who enjoy meeting a variety of animals in the menagerie, including a family of meerkats and marmosets, a giant tortoise, miniature pony, pigs, goats and rabbits, plus a selection of aviary birds. There’s also children’s play area too.
No visit is complete without enjoying refreshments in the walled garden tearoom and visiting the plant centre and gift shop. Tickets must be bought in advance online.
3 Excellent cycle routes
The Nene Valley landscape is ideal for cycling as it offers quiet country lanes and gently rolling countryside with plenty of village pubs and cafés to plan refreshment stops around. There are also plenty of off-road routes and tracks ideal for taking the family on fun bike rides – and plenty of cycle hire outlets in popular cycling locations.
Stanwick Lakes nature reserve has a network of over seven miles of all-weather cycle paths ideal for family days out in the saddle. You can cycle the routes in one go or take a picnic and stop off at the various different family-friendly attractions and activities, which include an assault course and an adventure playground.
In addition to the circular routes around the attractive lakes, a haven for whildlife, there’s a four-mile linear route running from Irthlingborough towards Thrapston, along the former railway line, providing safe off-road cycling.
Oundle Rural Circular
The Oundle Rural Circular is a 26-mile route more suitable for experienced road cyclists. The route is mostly on quiet country lanes linking many of the area’s most attractive villages, and crosses the busy A43 twice.
The route begins on Glapthorn Road, north of Oundle’s town centre, and follows the National Byway loop, visiting Cotterstock, Tansor, Fothinghay, Nassington, Woodnewton, Apethorpe, Kings Cliffe, Blatherwycke, Laxton, Bulwick, Southwick and Glapthorn. Allow three hours to complete the distance.
Follow the link from https://nenevalley.net/see-and-do/discover/cycling/routes/ to find a map of the route.
The Peterborough Green Wheel consists of a perimeter route linking up with numerous routes with ‘spokes’ that take you into the city centre. It offers a mixture of traffic-free paths, quiet roads and urban cycle lanes. Well signposted throughout, it is part of the National Cycle Network and spans a total of 45 miles.
Cyclists can select sections according to their interests, abilities and distance goals. You could ride into the city to view Peterborough Cathedral, visit the Museum and Art Gallery and Railworld Wildlife Haven, or explore the traffic-free trails around Ferry Meadows and Nene Park for example. The Green Wheel route also heads out into the countryside, alongside the River Nene and through numerous quiet villages around Peterborough.
Follow this link for more cycling inspiration in the Nene Valley https://nenevalley.net/see-and-do/discover/cycling/