Walk 9: Oundle Water Meadows Circular: Wonderful water, wildlife & willows

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 7 miles (11.3km)

Time to walk: Today the weather was threatening so we pushed round with one short stop in 2 hours 40 mins. However given the amount of wildlife, if it’s a nice day take a good pack-up, sit & admire the views – you could spend a whole day on this one.

Difficulty: Field / water meadow walking most of the way, but appears to drain well. Sometimes early on there’s quite a lot of nettles.

Parking: We parked off road in Oundle. There is 2 hour parking near the Co-op in St Osyth’s Lane where our walk starts but you’ll need more than that

Public toilets: In the public car park near the Co-op

Map of the route:

We’ve done this walk a couple of times now & it’s worth trying it at different times of the year. The best for us though was in August as there are numerous wild flower meadows & the number & species of flowers & butterflies in them at that time of the year is stunning

Also, take your time & look for the abundant wildlife – today we saw 11 herons along a 2 mile stretch (no it wasn’t the same one!), red kites, various water birds &, because of the time of year, many species of dragonflies

We really suggest you take your time, especially as there’s a chance to enjoy the beautiful town of Oundle

So…let’s get going…

1. After parking make your way to the marketplace in the centre of Oundle. There’s plenty of coffee shops & small independent shops here (great butchers!) so if you want to look around first that’s great – save the pubs until the end! Today there were lots of students from the famous Oundle School milling around all smartly dressed in suits etc

2. From the end of the Market Place walk down St Osyth’s Lane as shown below…

3. Follow the lane &, if you need the loo, turn left into the Co-op car park. When the road splits left keep straight on & then bear left down Bassett Ford Road

4. At the bottom of the lane turn right & head through the gate into the water meadow. Once through, the grass path splits. Ignore the one heading straight on to the bridge & bear diagonally left towards the bushes below – we need to keep the river on our right

5. Now it’s a case of simply enjoy the next 2 1/4 miles along the stunning river Nene. Eyes & ears open for all the wildlife & different flowers throughout the year. Like we said…walk a bit….sit & enjoy a bit

Here’s a first view sample…

6. Depending on what time of year you do this walk depends how overgrown this part of the route is – today there were lots of nettles – still gaps with great views though…

7. Through a few trees now & then we come to the tunnel under the dual carriageway…

8. Bear right on the path through another gate & we’re in an open field back by the river again – note the change – it’s wider & slower now. It’s also the start of ‘dodge the bullocks’ – there’s plenty of them over the next few miles. There’s a gate at the end of this field – pass through it into the meadows again

9. Through the gate &, if you come here in July/August, you’re in for a spectacular display of wild flowers & butterflies. If you do, sit down & keep quiet amongst the flowers & they’ll land right next to you – an amazing little world!

10. Just keep meandering along the riverbank – it was along this stretch we saw 11 herons. Pass through the gates & watch out for the bullocks!

11. As it finally bends round to the left go through the double gate – you can hear the weir below. The houses in the background are in the beautiful village of Ashton

The boats come through the lock on the right as you pass through into the next field…

12. Eventually you’ll come to the footbridge below which is a footpath leading to Ashton. We ‘hyper-linked’, but have another great walk coming which starts there. We sat on the steps for our 5 min drink…

13. Right crack on now through the next gate, under the road bridge & towards the famous Oundle arched bridge. Head diagonally left up to the road & go through the gate

Be careful crossing the road & turn right & head for the other side of the river. Just over the bridge spot the path sign, head down the steps & past the school boat sheds

14. For the next part of our walk the river will be on our left & it changes once again, becoming softer with more trees & undergrowth. Cross over the bridge…

15. Cross over another bridge into another wild flower meadow. After a couple of 100 yards you cross the first weir…

Carry on across the second weir & then take a look at the fabulous willow tree on the far bank

16. We now arrive at our crossing point…Cotterstock Lock. Walk across the ‘guillotine’ lock into the field beyond. Turn right & follow the grass field round keeping to the left hand side to exit onto the main road

17. We’ve now reached the lovely village of Cotterstock. Look out for the lovely converted corn mill on the bridge before taking the right hand road up the hill past the Manor House

If you’d have walked here in the 18th century, you may have encountered a case of witchcraft. Ellinor Shaw was aged 14 when she was left to fend for herself as her family were so poor. Her friend Mary Phillips lived in nearby Oundle & by the age of 21 Ellinor was earning money from immoral means. Children used to shout at her “There goes Nell the strumpet” which made her swear that she would wreak vengence on all she hated

The two women decided to turn to witchcraft & were accused of the death of 4 year old Elizabeth Gorman of nearby Glapthorn, together with others in the area. The woman were arrested & made up a story that they had been visited on 12th February 1704 by a tall black man. He told them that if they sold their souls to him for a year & two months he would give them all they desired. The two women sealed the deal by pricking their fingers & signing the deal in blood

No-one believed their tale & they were sentenced to death. It is said that whilst in jail they bewitched the keeper & forced him to dance naked in the courtyard in front of the other prisoners

On 17th March 1705 they were brought to Northampton where they mocked the Sheriff & called on the Devil to help them. They were hanged until nearly dead & then burnt in front of the people of Northampton

18. Keep following the road up the hill into the village

We’re not going that far though..our route lies on the left down the narrow passage between the fence & hedge below

The path opens up into a field & now it’s straight on across 3 fields…

19. Cross the bridges between fields. At the top of the fields when the hedge bares right, look straight ahead for a gate that leads into field that we nicknamed ‘Rabbit Nirvana’

20. You may also notice the sewerage works on the right if the wind’s in the wrong direction…There’s Oundle church again in the distance – ignore the big gate on the left – we need to go through the smaller one on the right of the bushes

Through one more field & across a bridge & we’re into Oundle Rugby Club pitch. Stick to the hedge on the left & cut through a gap which takes us into Snipe Meadow Reserve (another beautiful place in August)

This is a lovely stroll along the sprung boardwalk back to the river…

21. Turn right at the end, go through the gate & you can see the boathouses & bridge ahead again – we’re on the other side now

We’re on the final stretch now, so carry on through the iron kissing gate & when you can’t go any further follow the field right towards the mill pond

22. Through the gate & round to the right takes us into New Road. Turn left & at the main road turn right & head back into the town to complete the walk

Now if you’re in need of refreshment we can recommend Beans for great coffee or if you fancy half a shandy then (if you’re posh) go to the Talbot, or we like the cosiness of The Ship Inn – you can sit outside in the courtyard at the back too

So the end of our walk along the riverbanks around Oundle. As we say, there’s so much to take in here, it’s worth taking your time & exploring it during different seasons too

It’s a beauty so…

Go Walk!

15 Responses to Walk 9: Oundle Water Meadows Circular: Wonderful water, wildlife & willows

  1. Helen Carter says:

    Walked today. Fantastic walk. However the boardwalk through Snipe Meadiw is no longer there and I would recommend that others do not go this way. I was ankle deep in water at one point. Apart from that, it was fantastic.

  2. Sarah Kitchen says:

    Lovely walk yesterday, red kites, herons and lots of different dragonflies

  3. Kevin Groom says:

    Hi all,
    We walked here on the 05/07/20, it is a lovely walk following the River Nene. If you are planning to walk it now, Snipe meadow is being renovated, the springy boardwalk is being replaced.. We were able to walk through the meadow as it was dry, so no bog.. It looks like there is a few more weeks of work to be completed… You can skip this segment, but you do miss the meandering walk back to town, we will walk it again in the Autumn Lastly, top tip – we stopped at the Tap & restaurant (near the bridge heading back into town), its a local micro brewery doing great food and beer. It has a huge outdoor space, views of the mill pond and great ambiance.

  4. Graham Brown says:

    Completed 10/07/20 – They are currently rebuilding the walkway across the meadow, it looked about half finished when I went through. Shouldn’t be more than a week or two before it is completed.

  5. Derek Rogers says:

    Done this walk 11/10/20, really enjoyable, lots to see and the wildlife was great, kites above our heads to the kingfisher, lovely, bit muddy in places, definitely do it again

  6. dc says:

    At 20, it would be better to go straight on, the the left of the rugby pitch , left of the clubhouse and straight down past the bowls club and tennis courts, and straight down to the garage on the corner, turning right to get back into town.

  7. Graham Emerton says:

    Done this walk today and the first of our recommended Northamptonshire trail walk. What a cracker it was and a very welcome bitter shandy at the end.

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