The ‘Needs to Know’
Distance: 6.5 miles (10.5km)
Time to walk: Roughly 2.5 hours at a leisurely stroll, although (although as usual, I took longer – dawdling to look at things, taking photos & making notes, having cuppas from my flask, etc)
Difficulty: It’s all on pavements, or footpaths – nearly all paved, except for a short section of grass (a tree has fallen over the path there, so fine for walkers, but not for anyone on a mobility scooter or similar). Nearly all on flat ground, except near the start & the end
Parking: Free parking at the Racecourse Pavilion
Map of the route:
This the second walk that Annie (& Nina) have done for me. Her first was from Cotton End along the river & canal. This walk was done in early February 2021, again from Annie’s doorstep
It takes in the well-known ‘Racecourse’ before walking through the town down to the beautiful riverside meadows & then back via a different route. It’s a terrific way to look at some of the town’s gems so come on then Annie (& Nina) show us your walk…
1. This walk starts at the Racecourse Pavilion. The postode for the car park’s NN1 4LG (free parking)…
Walk out of the car park towards the basketball courts, & then either take the path left, between the backs of the houses & the basketball courts. Alternatively you can walk down through the Racecourse, with the Lift Tower ahead. The Pavilion is home to the Umbrella Fair, with its many activities
The Racecourse has had many varied uses over its long history including, as well as horse racing, being where public executions (and burning witches!) took place, quarrying for freestone & for tobacco pipe clay. It also hosted Barnum’s Wild West Show starring Buffalo Bill in 1903!
For more history, see http://www.friendsofnorthamptonracecourse.org
2. Continue to the end of the Racecourse, passing the Dragon Mound with its play area…
…& take the main exit on the left, heading down to the Barrack Road
3. Turn left, cross the road, & head left for a short while. Then turn right down an alley at the end of Leicester Terrace
Keep going straight ahead, downhill, on the edge of Semilong with the Northampton International Academy on your left, & the Lift Tower ahead. The path becomes Mill Road, which you continue down. Next walk down the jitty at the end (Mill Lane), & cross over St Andrews Road at the bottom, & into a small park
This is the first of our riverside meadows, called Miller’s Meadow, although older people (including me) think of it as Paddy’s Meadow (which is still on the maps as further up, on the same side of the river going towards Kingsthorpe). There was a lovely flock of redwings there, as we walked through
4. Keep to the main footpath, & at the end turn right onto Spencer Bridge Road. Walk along the pavement over the river, past Martin’s Yard, over the railway line & then cross the road into Victoria Park…
5. Take the path going left, and follow this path along the side of the river, over one bridge, & then another. You can see the train station on your left…
6. Go through the arches under the road bridge…
…into our second riverside meadow, Foot Meadow…
It was called Foot Meadow due to its tendency to flood & was originally probably owned by the Monastery of St James, & was one of the town’s old Freemen’s Commons, started in 1582, where freemen of the town could pasture their livestock. This ended in 1882, when all rights to those commons were sold to Northampton Corporation. The other Freemen’s Commons were The Racecourse, Cow Meadow, Midsummer Meadow, Calves Holme & Baulms Holm (all of which we which are on this walk)
7. Carry on through Foot Meadow, underneath the railway bridge, & you will get glimpses of St Peter’s Church through the trees on your left, over the river. The present building dates back to the 12th century…
8. At the end of Foot Meadow, the path continues on a pavement. Turn left & then cross the road towards the old Northampton Gas Light Company building. Walk in front of this, turning right into Western Wharf by the Carlsberg factory…
9. Take the footpath to the right of the car park, & follow this, crossing left over the river at the first bridge (signposted Riverside Walk leading to Nene Way)
Follow the path by the river, with The Island, & the start of the Northampton Arm on your right until you come to South Bridge.
Mike Ingram, a local historian, has since informed me that The Island was formerly called Baulms Holm, one of the old Freemens Commons, & that there were three bridges on to it. This was possibly before the building of the Northampton Arm, 1813 – 1815.
Cross over & down through the gap to continue along the same side of the river past the footbridge
10. Carry on along this path, with all the swans, cygnets, geese & other wildfowl, & the lovely narrow boats, down by the side of Northampton Lock (the Marina is straight ahead).
We now enter out third meadow. Although now called Becket’s Park, before 1935 this was called Cow Meadow, one of the old Freemen’s Commons. Over the river, is Calves Holme, another old Common, where now the Sea Cadets are based….
11. Carry on over the road towards Avon, and then down the path by the side of the car park, under the bridge, for the road going to the University of Northampton, and then into our fourth riverside meadow (and former Freeman’s Common) – Midsummer Meadow, or Middy Meadow. Between 1908 & 1983 there was a very popular open air swimming pool on the meadow, & now there is a well used skateboard park…
12. Follow the path keeping the river on your right. Just past The Ark restaurant (closed at the moment) & the Illicit Cafe on your left (open sometimes), walk over the bridge & follow the path round to your left…
13. This is where our last riverside meadow starts, Barnes Meadow, which is a wildlife reserve. For more details click on this link
An old lady once told me the meadow was called after a man named Barnes, who left all his clothes by the side of the river, & either drowned while swimming & his body was never recovered, or he swam away to escape (but she did not know what or whom). Hmmm? (The Battle of Northampton took place not far away, over the river towards Delapre). Connected??
On your left you will see an old chimney rising from the ground. This is Victorian, & was from the steam room for the old sewage works in Barnes Meadow. It’s not been there for a long time!!
14. Continue along the path, going under the bridge for the A45 at the Barnes Meadow interchange, then over a little bridge, & then another….
When we were there, a group of emergency service personnel had just finished training in the white water – despite dry suits etc they told me they were very cold. I’ll leave winter wild swimming to my dog, Nina!
15. Take the right hand path under the Bedford Road, & continue along the path (sign posted to Riverside & Billing)…
There are good views over the start of the Washlands &, when we were there, a flock of Canada geese & two friendly cobs…
16. At the top of the slope, turn left onto the footbridge over the A45…
…& carry on round to the Road (Rushmere Road), where you turn right, going past the Old Scouts Rugby Football Club
18. Continue with Abington Park on your right, until the pedestrian crossing by St Peter & St Paul – “The Church in the Park”
Cross over & continue walking in the same direction. At the junction, cross the road into Park Avenue (I thought it was the Wellingborough Road), & turn right towards the Park Avenue Methodist Church, where you turn left
This is Abington Avenue, & you walk all the way down it, past Northants County Cricket Club on your left, over a mini roundabout, to the Kettering Road, where you will see the Racecourse Pavilion directly in front of you
Well Annie…what can I say? I know most of the areas covered on this walk, but I’ve never thought of putting them together – I think this is brilliant!
Plus it’s also go me thinking that when I get to Carlsberg, I could lengthen it by doing your Cotton End Walk 144 & then continuing on this one!
How good is this! Thanks Annie (& Nina!)