Stage 1: Badby to Kislingbury

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 11.4 miles (18.4 km)

Time to walk: About 3.5 hours, although there’s no rush

Difficulty: Pretty much all on field paths with hard surfaces through the villages. There are a few hilly places although nothing too difficult

Parking: On street in Badby, but this is a linear walk ie. ends in a different place

Public toilets: Pubs on the route

Map of the route:

1. The Nene Way starts in the lovely village of Badby in the west of the county near Daventry. There are several medieval charters relating to the area around Badby, but some are suspect. The land changed hands frequently as the swirling forces of Mercia & the invading Danes ebbed & flowed across middle England

The Saxons & Normans also passed through the village. Henry VIII granted the manors of Badby & Newnham in 1542 to Sir Edmund Knightley & his wife Ursula & their heirs. There was considerable unrest in the parish in the last 20 years of the 16th century, when Valentine Knightley attempted to transfer much of the land from arable to pasture & to restrict tenants’ rights to woodland. Several tenant families, despite being Puritans like Knightley, used aggressive action as well as national legal arbitration to protect their rights. The manor lands & courts were dissolved in the early 20th century

Our starting point is the village green…

Opposite is the Masters Arms which is currently closed for renovation work with, it appears, no date at present for re-opening

2. With your back to the pub walk to the left of the tree down the lane

One thing that we can say about the Nene Way is that it’s extremely well signposted & you’re unlikely to get lost

3. The track soon narrows down the side of a house & we get our first of the colourful Nene Way signposts…

Cross the bridge. All of the bridges on this route are sturdy, fairly new & well maintained so you can climb & step with confidence…

…& we’re finally out in the fields!

4. The path to Newnham, our first village today, is straight & follows the hedge on the right across several fields & through several gates

After passing through the first gate have a look in the bottom of the hedge to catch our first  glimpse of the infant River Nene – we actually had a big smile at this point as we felt that our journey had now truly begun

5. When we were planning this walk people told us to wait until the summer as much of the path could get very muddy. Even at this early stage we could see that this was good advice…

We also thought the tree on the left was looking very lonely

Cross another bridge & field to finally arrive at the road leading into Newnham. It’s at this point that we say goodbye to the Nene for a few miles. This trickle in a ditch will look very different the next time we see it near Flore

6. Turn right & follow the road into the village…

Newnham nestles below a large hill in the valley of the river which is where its name is thought to have derived from. Newnham Hill, is topped by an ancient disused windmill, & has commanding views over the nearby town of Daventry. Also on the hill is a large aerial which is part of the air traffic control system of the British Isles. It’s believed that a windmill has stood at this location since 1661, when it was first recorded in an inventory of the then miller, John Bignell. The current building dates back to the early 19th century & was three floors high. The building was in a state of disrepair until the 1980s when a group was formed to repair & reconstruct it

Pass the Green with the very attractive pub, the Romer Arms…

The Romer Arms was originally called the Bakers Arms. It was bought by a man named Romer Williams, who was a hunting man & a lawyer by profession. He renamed it the Romer Arms & it’s his family coat of arms that is depicted on the sign. Translated, the Latin inscription on the coat of arms is ‘To do & to suffer is the better way for the Roman’.
The village had another public house called the New Inn which is now a private residence. This former pub, cafe & hand-pumped petrol station, was on School Hill. A former proprietor, a Mr Howard, displayed a notice that read ‘You can have tea at teatime — you can have beer at beer time — you can have petrol at any time’

7. Continue straight on up School Hill (the school’s on the right)

There’s an interesting lamp-post on the left which shows the location of the New Inn. Newnham’s had a couple of notable residents…Thomas Randolph, the poet & dramatist was born here Newnham in 1605 at the brown stone gabled house in Poets Way. It was recorded that Randolph was one of Ben Jonson’s cleverest disciples

Nigel Lawson, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer of Margaret Thatcher’s government has a home close to the village. On 1 July 1992 he was created a life peer as Baron Lawson of Blaby, of Newnham in the County of Northamptonshire. Lawson is the father of journalist & food writer Nigella Lawson, Dominic Lawson, the former editor of The Sunday Telegraph & Tom Lawson, housemaster of Chernocke House at Winchester College

Gorgeous house

8. The road bends left & ahead’s the church called St Michael & All Angels

The Nene Way passes straight through the churchyard so look out for the signpost on the right just before the church

9. Follow the path down a narrow track & up to another lane. Turn right here & pass Newnham House on the left…

…& then down through the bushes to a t-junction, where we bear left

Just around the corner the road runs out & it’s now time to pass through the gate into the fields again, & say goodbye to Newnham & head towards Little Everdon

10. The signposts tell us to walk diagonally left up the hill minding the sheep as we go. Once at the top the views are quite magnificent

Look straight ahead to see a stile over a barbed wire fence leading into the next field where some extremely large cattle are happy to ignore us

11. Our path away from these bovine beasts is shown by a large white disk indicating another stile into the next field, also containing cows

Continue in a straight line down the hill to the next marker

Cross another field & stile by a large tree & then maintain the direction up the hill to the gate at the summit

12. Everything continues to be well signposted & in a straight line. Pass through another gate & walk down the tree lined avenue that forms the outskirts of Everdon Hall

At the end turn right & go through two more gates into the estate

The estate is managed under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme which is run by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Fisheries

13. They’ve done an excellent job of marking the path – just follow the posts…

Look across to the left to see Everdon Hall, which is located in Little Everdon, not the main Everdon village

Walk towards the large green barn & exit onto the green area which contains some superb buildings

14. Facing the house above, turn right & walk up the lane for a couple of hundred yards…

…& at the end of the building go through the gate with the sign showing our next destination which is Weedon

15. There were lots of horses in this field who weren’t best pleased to see us. Keep to the lower left hedge towards the corner where there’s another gate out of equine chaos

Through the gate the path becomes narrow & overgrown &, at this time of the year, there’s plenty of wild flowers

16. Keep left up the hill, passing through two more gates to arrive at a more defined track that’s going to take us all the way to Weedon

All we have to do to reach Weedon is keep the hedge on our right…

…although it does at one point pass straight across one field

17. Weedon soon comes into view as the fields give way to a cart track that climbs quite a steep hill to a crossroads

Walk straight over & down the hill into Weedon Bec

18. Weedon is quite a large sprawling village. Continue along the street we’re on up the hill & then round to the left

Eventually the road starts to drop & keep following it down towards the centre of the village. On the hill in the distance you can see the former Military Ordnance Depot

The former Napoleonic War Military Ordnance Depot was established by an Act of Parliament in 1803, as part of the British anti invasion preparations of 1803–05. The depot, which was the central small arms depot for the British Army, was originally served by the canal which entered through a portcullis

There was also a barracks in the village, holding a standing battalion, plus a troop of cavalry & a troop of horse artillery. The barracks were demolished in the 1950s. Three large pavilions were built between the depot & barracks to house the senior civilian officers of the depot. These were demolished in the 1960s. Next door to the barracks was the Army School of Equitation, also demolished in the 1960s. The depot became redundant in 1965 & was sold by the Ministry of Defence in 1984. It’s now used for storage & light industry

Have a look at our walk round Weedon which goes into much more detail

19. The centre of the village is a rather lovely place. Upon reaching the crossroads walk straight across…

…& if you’re in need of a cuppa Granny’s Cafe on the left will see you right

This is a particularly old part of the village with some beautiful properties

20. The road bends right, then left & eventually the shape of the massive railway bridge comes into view

Continue under the bridge passing the Church of St Peter & St Paul. As far as is known, the church was originally dedicated to St Peter & later to St Peter & St Paul. There may have been an earlier church built here as the Doomsday Book (1086) states that there was a priest in Weedon at that time

The tower was built in the early-mid 12th century & is all that remains of the medieval church. The presence of a sizeable military garrison in the parish meant that the modestly proportioned Norman church was inadequate & in 1823 the nave & chancel were demolished

21. It’s time for a short walk along the canal but, before we can do this, we need to go underneath it first so walk through the tunnel…

…turning back right on yourself up the steep steps

22. Turn left & walk along the canal passing Weedon Wharf. It all looks very idyllic until a Virgin train hurtles past every few minutes about 20 yards from your back door

Unfortunately our time by the canal is short as, upon reaching the bridge, walk up the steps on the left to leave it behind

23. Turn left & follow the track to the busy A5…

Be careful, cross straight over & continue along the track on the other side. After a couple of hundred yards cross over the wooden bridge & walk to the next one

Hello once again River Nene! We’re near Flore now (you can see the church in the above picture) & the small stream is now becoming more like a river, faster & wider

24. Continue up the hill towards All Saints Church…

The path actually goes through the churchyard, entering & leaving via kissing gates. Once through keep left towards the school at the top of the road & then turn immediately right down the footpath

Welcome to Flore! We couldn’t find too much information about the village which is divided in two by the A45. So with little to see, it’s best foot forward for the next leg which is to Nether Heyford

25. At the end of the narrow path turn right & then immediately left – the Nene Way is still clearly signposted

The road winds up the hill. Look for the thatched cottage at the top called ‘Adams Cottage’ which is said to be the home of the ancestors of John Adams, the second President of the United States of America

26. Walk between the two buildings. The next stretch is through various paddocks & fields so be careful to close the gates. When we walked there was an extremely large bull in the second field

After passing through the large field the path bears slightly right through another gate towards at the large & “buzzing” electricity pylon

27. Exit the last field across another immaculate bridge…

Keep heading in the same direction until reaching a rough road. Ahead now is the recently restored & very impressive Heyford Mill

28. Nene Way passes down the left of the Mill

 

Look back to the right to see the restored Mill Race. The Nene really now is a proper river

29. Walk through the gate & look at the unusual barn on the right. This is the ‘ox-hovel’ & was first mentioned when the farm was sold in 1758. It appears to have been built with stone from an earlier demolished manor house

The ox-hovel was used for cattle until the mid 1970s when the farm gave up its dairy herd. Over the years the thatched roof was replaced with a corrugated iron roof. In recent times it was subject to vandalism, but was eventually restored

30. Walk through the gate at the end of the track by the river & cross the bridge. Now the Nene is deeper & large fish can be seen

Once over continue down the narrow alley to arrive in a housing estate – welcome to Nether Heyford. The village pre-dates the Norman Conquest & is mentioned in the Doomsday Book as “Heiford”. At that time the village comprised around 500 acres of cultivated land, 19 acres of meadow & a mill. The population then was 11 villagers, 3 smallholders & 4 slaves. Today there are about 700 houses with a population of around 1800 people (no slaves!), an Anglican Parish Church, a Baptist Chapel, two public houses (The Olde Sun & The Foresters Arms), a hairdresser, butcher, patissierie & a convenience shop. There are also a purpose-built youth club, village hall & playing fields that are home to a clubs for bowls, cricket, football & tennis. The village also has one of the largest village greens in the country

It also has a superb coarse fishery

31. Turn left & then right though the houses walking down the narrow gap by the side of the large property

Heyford is a very social village – they even give their bins names!

Walk up the pretty street – there’s a small stream running down the side of it…

…to arrive at the village green. We decided to have lunch on the bench under the tree next to the war memorial

32. Suitable refreshed, walk past the corner shop with the green on your right there’s The Foresters Arms

Pass the school & continue along the Kislingbury Road until reaching Watery Lane. Turn left along it & look for a Nene Way signpost to Kislingbury on the right down a track between the houses

33. We’re now heading pretty much straight east all the way to our final stop, Kislingbury

As the path opens up walk through the gate on the left into the fields once more

All we need to do now is walk in a straight line through about three connected fields. In the distance the massive shape of Heygates Flour Mill starts to loom closer

34. Come out of the fields & enter the woods for a short time to emerge on a wider track…

Heygates Mill is opposite over the river. Originally known as Bugbrooke Mill, the first mill on the site was established in 800 AD & by the time of the Domesday Book it was the third highest rated mill in England

The Heygates, a family of Northamptonshire farmers, took it over in the late 19th century. The direct descendants of the first of these millers still run today’s mill, which is the group’s main location, producing the biggest share of the company’s flour output from its three mills. Bugbrooke is also the base for Heygate’s Animal Feed section & many other related industries

The Bugbooke arm of this diverse company is responsible for the group’s biggest flour output. Over 200,000 tons of wheat is milled annually, resulting in 150,000 tons of flour. This is mainly for bread production, but is also used for biscuit manufacturers & other specialist areas

35. The path bears left through the main entrance grounds to the mill. It feels like you’re trespassing but you’re not

Cross the entrance road watching out for any lorries & then exit through the gate into the fields again

After about 50 yards look for & go through a gap in the hedge on the left

The path nows goes through what looks very much a graveyard for old flour silos & feels a bit like a film set

36. Exit the graveyard through the gate & walk across a couple more small fields. We now have one last major obstacle to negotiate before we reach Kislingbury…the M1. Luckily there’s a tunnel

Once through the track continues in roughly the same direction across one final field…

…to exit into a riding centre

37. Walk between the paddocks being careful not to touch the electric fences (why are we always tempted??) & pass through two gates into Kislingbury

The earliest evidence of dwellers is the Anglo Saxons who settled in this area between 700-900 AD

38. Walk along Mill Road…the Nene Way is still well signposted

Kislingbury Mill is a lovely area. If it’s not too overgrown, step over the fence & get closer to the water

39. Continue along Mill Road as it becomes more populated & bends right & then left to pass the Sun Inn. Kislingbury has three great pubs

The Sun Inn has a story to tell. It was saved as a pub in 2013 by five local families who didn’t want to see their local disappear

40. Follow the Nene Way signs which direct you left deeper into the village…

…turning right along Starmers Lane

41. At the end, across the road on the right’s another of the village’s pubs…The Olde Red Lion

Our route though is left & then down the lane across the road past Elliott’s Butchers

…to arrive at the Cromwell Cottage pub which is the destination for this leg of the Nene Way

So that’s the first 11 miles of our journey along the Nene Way complete. Stage two is from here through Northampton to Cogenhoe, a stretch where the Nene becomes navigable

It’s amazing to see it change as we continue down stream

Go Walk!