The banks of the Nene

Enjoy a riverside meander around the Northamptonshire town of Oundle.




6.75 miles (10.9kms)

115ft (35m)

About the walk

The popular paths along this stretch of the Nene form part of 'Oundle Riverside Walks', a series of routes that are usefully waymarked and described on a leaflet available from the tourist information centre on West Street, Oundle. Some of it is also the route of the Nene Way, a long distance recreational trail of 110 miles (177km) that follows the course of the river from one of its three sources near Badby in Northamptonshire across Cambridgeshire to its mouth at Sutton Bridge in Lincolnshire, where it exits into The Wash.

During its early, meandering progress through Northamptonshire the Nene is rich in deposits of sand and gravel, and their extraction has left a long series of pits and lakes around Northampton, Wellingborough and Thrapston that are now used for recreation and conservation. One collection just to the south of Oundle, has been transformed into Barnwell Country Park, an outdoor area with a visitor centre and wildlife garden.

Keen on the Nene

The Nene is navigable from Northampton, where its three tributaries combine and an arm of the Grand Union Canal joins the river at Cotton End Lock. It forms an important part of Britain's inland waterways system, linking the Grand Union Canal to the River Great Ouse via what's known as the Middle Level System. Beyond Peterborough the Nene crosses the Fens and becomes a different river, often canalised and carefully regulated, and tidal over the last 26 miles (42km) below Dog in a Doublet Lock.

Built in stone

Oundle is famous for its public school, which is housed in a series of impressive buildings around the town. The original Laxton Grammar School was boys-only, but today Oundle School is co-educational. Most of the buildings in the centre of Oundle, fortunately preserved by a conservation order, are built from local limestone with Collyweston slate roofs (a gentle blue-green tile). They span several centuries, and include the Talbot Hotel, said to incorporate a stone staircase taken from the ruins of Fotheringhay Castle, and St Peter's Church, whose 208ft (63m) spire is visible from the riverside path. Oundle Museum, in the old courthouse on Mill Road and open weekend afternoons (March to November), explores the town's development over the last 2,000 years, and includes a number of Roman and Saxon finds.

Walk directions

From the end of Market Place, in the centre of Oundle, walk down St Osyths Lane, then South Road until it curves right, then go straight on into Bassett Ford Road. Where this bends left into Riverside Close go ahead to the gate at the end. There are two riverside walks indicated – make sure to go half left across the field and follow the bank downstream (not over the footbridge ahead).

For the next 2.25 miles (3.6km) the route follows the bank of the Nene as it completes a giant loop. Go underneath Oundle bypass and eventually out by open meadows.

Eventually, beyond weir, you reach a long, high footbridge where you have the chance to cross the river for a visit to the picturesque village of Ashton (see Where to Eat and Drink), a round trip of 0.75 miles (1.2km). Otherwise continue straight ahead and back under the bypass to reach the old bridge.

Cross over the road and turn right across the bridge. On the far side of the river turn left at the Riverside Walk sign, past the boat sheds, and strike out along the flat eastern bank of the Nene via two weirs. Take the path around the second weir and cross the footbridge to continue walking along the riverside path.

Cross the river via the so-called 'guillotine' lock and continue to the lane at the far end by a converted corn mill. Turn left and walk through the pretty village of Cotterstock, and after 550yds (503m) turn left before Woodpecker Lodge for a narrow path between a fence and hedge.

This heads out along the left-hand side of an open field, then beside a narrow plantation with the river on the far side. Go through a gate before a sewage works and directly down through two more fields before reaching a playing field.

Half-way along the pitch turn left for a gap in the hedge and a boardwalk out to the Nene - this is a permissive route through Snipe Meadow nature reserve. Turn right and walk along the river bank until just before the bridge, then head right for Oundle Wharf. Go through a field beside the buildings to reach New Road.

Turn left to the end of the road, then right into Station Road/ North Street to the town centre.

Additional information

Waterside meadows and farmland tracks, several stiles

Winding river valley with woods and open pasture

On lead through fields of livestock

OS Explorer 227 Peterborough

Oundle town centre (long-stay car park off East Road)

By short-stay car park off St Osyths Lane

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About the area

Discover Northamptonshire

Northamptonshire is a mainly rural county of gentle beauty, with farmland, forest and great country estates. Rivers, canals and meadows are all part of the tranquil scene, providing a haven for wildlife. 

This is a great area for walking, touring and exploring villages of stone and thatch. There are also some impressive Saxon churches at Brixworth and Earls Barton. Northampton is the county town, and along with Kettering, has long been associated with the production of footwear. Kettering was the second largest town until it was overtaken by the rapid development of Corby as a major centre of the steel industry.

Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park is set in Northamptonshire, although it seems that Austen never actually visited the county. Other famous connections include the poet John Dryden (1631-1700) who was born in the tiny village of Aldwincle; King Richard III (1452-1485) born at Fotheringhay Castle; and American revolutionaries George Washington (1732-1799), whose family came from Sulgrave Manor, and Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) whose father was born in another tiny Northamptonshire village called Ecton.

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