We followed the original Nene Way route, which meanders into and up to various places of interest along and above the valley.
A shaky sort of start - the map and the signs on the ground were at odds, and the directions in Mia Butler's book left us confused! Near the car park at Wellingborough Embankment, across the river from the Victoria Mill the Nene Way signs indicated following the river, either up stream towards Northampton, or downstream towards Irthlingborough. On the map the Nene Way crosses the A45 towards Little Irchester. But how?
|Victoria Mill from the Embankment|
Quarter of an hour's wandering - back to Upper Wellingborough Lock, then downstream for a while, and we were not a lot wiser. Though we had met the biggest collection of swans I've seen in one place:
|Swan lake has nothing on the Nene|
Eventually, after much thought, consulting the map and the guide, we went back to the London Road, and took the road to Little Irchester, which crosses the Nene. When we reached the bridge we could see a path coming up from the river - the spot where the signs directed us along the river bank. Maybe an alternative route has been developed, along the river, rather than with the diversions. The meandering path marked on the OS map is more varied.
|The path leaves the riverside just before the bridge on this pic. Then you walk over it! |
So, over the bridge and under the A45 into Little Irchester.
When we got to the Cafe we decided a coffee was in order -
|Pathway to heaven?|
The weather vane is a catherine wheel - the way St Katherine was tortured to death, so not too jolly.
We followed the path as far as the cemetery, then went down St Katherine's Lane as far as the main street, where we turned left.
The path runs alongside this road, Chester Road, right up to the A45.
We had to cross the busy road on foot - there is a central reservation, but it's not ideal.
Obstacle overcome, we crossed a field next to Chester House, which is dilapidated, but clearly being renovated - maybe this will be the latest health spa and hotel?
The field is full of the bumpy remains of the old Roman settlement of Chester-on-the-Water, a village which existed in the fourteenth Century, but was deserted by the eighteenth. Chester House was the manor house.
(Update October 2012 - there are plans to open this as a heritage site)
|Deserted village of Chester on the water|
|The bridge was built when the Nene Way was opened.|
We followed the Nene downstream to Ditchford Weir, and crossed the bridge over the weir, but soon realised that the path was too overgrown to be much use. The path we wanted ignored the bridge and continued to Ditchford Mill, which is labelled simply Works on the OS map. We crossed Ditchford Road, to a somewhat overgrown area. The blackberries were good! It looked like a rather odd smallholding, with a few sheep and some chickens, some out-buildings and notices about fishing in Isabelle's Lake. One of the fairly rare signs for the Nene Way was stuck to the side of a shed.
The path took us past sewage works, and an abandoned caravan, where someone had clearly spent a bit of time. Skew Bridge Water Ski Club and lake was hidden by trees. The path was easy to follow through Higham Ferrers Pits Nature Reserve , eventually taking us over the river and the A45 via a striking footbridge, with views over the noisy road and the tranquil fishing lake beyond.
It's clearly too tempting for the local motorcycling youth, in spite of barriers! Now, in my day . . .
On the other side of the bridge we soon came to a road leading up-hill, and letting us know that Higham lives up to its name. We left the Nene Way itself in search of food, and explored the main street, ending up in a small cafe and deli - 'Savour the Flavour'. Great £4 meal deal - sandwich, drink and a 'treat'.
|Not sure about our morals, but food improved our morale|
The town itself is very attractive, with its church, market place and further down the hill the remains of Chichele college.
The Nene Way follows Saffron Road, parallel to the main street, passing the cemetery, and Vine Hill Road.
We continued behind the Kings Meadow estate on a rough track which took us to another footbridge over the A45.
Straight ahead across the valley, then climbing up towards the odd-looking church tower of St Peters.
We went past the church to have a quick look at Irthlingborough market cross in the High Street, before returning to walk through the churchyard and along Nene View. Then it was downhill across fields to the A6, and we finished the walk outside Kettering Town Football Club's new ground.
Total so far - 50 miles - 5 separate days - average 10 miles per walk. I think we have three walks left to make it to Wansford, though the whole Nene Way in Northants is 70 miles. We did cover 5 and a half miles twice on the second leg.
Map and details, including our deviations from the route: You can work out where our coffee stop was, and our lunch stop, by the criss-crossing lines, like scribble!