Stage 2: Kislingbury to Cogenhoe

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 10.5 miles (17km)

Time to walk: Roughly 3.5 hours depending on the weather conditions. There’s also several opportunities to stop for refreshments so it can take longer at a stroll

Difficulty: A flat stage with a combination of hard & grassy surfaces

Parking: If this was done as a separate walk, there’s on-street parking in Kislingbury

Public toilets: Cafes, bars & shops at several stages along the way

Map of the route:

The second stage of the Nene Way is probably the most diverse one. The Nene continues to grow in size as we follow it downstream, becoming navigable near Northampton. We also pass through the town itself, seeing some views of places we hadn’t experienced before

We also pass through the Wetlands & Billing Aquadrome to finally arrive at Cogenhoe (pronounced cook no)

Let’s Walk!

1. Stage 1 of the Nene Way finished at The Cromwell Cottage pub in Kislingbury which is where we pick up the path & cross the footbridge over the Nene which was built as part of the village’s flood defences

We felt reminded of the ‘Three Billy Goats Gruff’ story although the guardian of the bridge was somewhat larger…

2. Luckily we didn’t have to enter his paddock. After crossing the bridge look for the footpath sign into the field on the right

Cross the small field & exit through the gate into the next one, keeping close to the fence on the right

3. At the end of this one cross the road by the pelican crossing – take care as it’s a busy one used by the traffic from the nearby Swan Valley industrial estate

Once across, the fingerpost shows the path diagonally left across to the gate by the stone wall

4. We’ve now left the arable fields & are in a livestock paddock close to a farm, so keep close to the stone wall on the left. There were sheep & lambs there when we walked

At the end walk through the gate into the farmyard. This is actually a livery so you’re likely to come across several horses, although there’s signs on the stable doors telling you not to approach them

5. Exit the farmyard. walking across & through the gap in the hedge into a relatively new residential part of Northampton, Upton One, which is a development designed in conjunction with Prince Charles

The route through the development is pretty much straight, passing the mixture of housing that exists here. Continue down the High Street…

…walking round the left of the play area & along Clickers Way – a reference to the Northamptonshire shoe industry

6. At the end of Clickers Way come out of the estate through the gap to the Northampton ring road

Cross the pelican crossing & head left towards the Sixfields area of the town. Part of the area was originally a landfill site for domestic waste & was redeveloped into a leisure area to accommodate the Sixfields Stadium which is ahead of us now…

Since 1897 Northampton Town played their home games at the County Cricket Ground, sharing it with Northamptonshire County Cricket Club. Because of the larger size of a cricket pitch, the football ground only had stands on three sides. Northampton Town chose to construct their own stadium, more suitable for football, in the Sixfields area of Northampton

The first game to be played at Sixfields was against Barnet in Division 3 on 15 October 1994

7. Stop to have a look at the memorial to one of the town & club’s most famous sons, Walter Tull

Walter Daniel John Tull (1888–1918) was an English professional footballer who played for Tottenham Hotspur & Northampton Town. He was the third person of mixed heritage to play in the top division of the Football League

From the age of 9, Tull was brought up in care & joined Tottenham in 1909. At a match away to Bristol City, Tull was the target of vicious racist abuse. So incensed was a ‘Football Star’ reporter that his match report was headlined ‘Football & the Colour Prejudice’. This is possibly the first time racial abuse was headlined in a football report. He played most of his subsequent games for the reserves & was eventually transferred to Northampton Town in 1911, where he made 111 appearances

During the First World War, Tull served in the Footballers’ Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on 30 May 1917 & was the first black army officer to lead troops. He was killed in action on 25 March & his body was never recovered

8. Facing the memorial turn right down the narrow lane…

Despite the barrier in the lane it doesn’t prevent this area being used for the disgusting habit of fly-tipping

Further down the lane cross the bridge which reunites us with the Nene once more & now we’re going to stick pretty close to it all the way to Cogenhoe

9. This area’s known as Storton’s Pits, which is a 21.9 hectare local nature reserve that’s managed by the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire & Northamptonshire. On the bank of the River Nene, it has old gravel pits, meadow & fen ditch. Around 350 invertebrate species have been recorded, including some which are rare. Water birds include snipe, teal, tufted duck & the uncommon water rail. Otters are also present

After passing the lake turn left along the narrow lane & watch out for bikes coming from behind!

10. Along here, across to the left are regular views of another of Northampton’s most famous landmarks, the National Lift Tower

The National Lift Tower, previously called the Express Lift Tower, is a lift testing tower built by the Express Lift Company. The structure was commissioned in 1978 with construction commencing in 1980, & was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II in November 1982. The building is now privately owned & has been renamed the National Lift Tower. Following extensive renovation & repairs, the tower was re-opened for business in October 2009. It’s used by lift companies for research, development, testing & marketing. It was also christened the ‘Northampton Lighthouse’ by Terry Wogan

11. At the fingerpost the Nene Way is well signposted again to the right…

…so cross the river once again & then turn immediately left again

12. This is a pretty little stretch of the Nene & there were plenty of fish & wildfowl moving around

On reaching the junction with the blue metal bridge cross the river once again…

…& then turn right to follow the other bank under the railway line

13. There’s a timely reminder that this is a cycle path as well as a footpath & it makes a change from the usual signs

Although this, during the daytime, is a pleasant footpath, it’s not somewhere we’d particularly like to walk after dark

14. After passing through the tunnel the path rises to emerge at Nene Valley Retail Park near KFC

Before reaching the ‘Colonel’s finest’t, turn right at the above blue signpost to walk back down to the river

Follow that bike!

We’re now starting to walk straight through the middle of Northampton & this is a short section we’d never walked before

15. Carry on past the retail park, past the moored boats which have been there as long as we can remember, although we think they were temporarily washed downstream in the flood of April 1998

The sight of the boats is a reminder that the Nene has now grown to such a size that it’s now navigable – it’s now completely different to the trickle in the ditch we saw in Badby

16. Just around the corner we catch our first glimpse of one of the town’s most notorious companies

Before we reach it though, another tributary comes in that makes the river extremely wide

17. Bear left & then turn right over the bridge towards Carlsberg

The Northampton site is the UK headquarters of the Danish brewing giant & the world’s 4th largest brewer. Carlsberg’s UK factory was constructed in the 1970s & a new bottling plant has recently been added

18. At the end of the bridge turn right to continue along the riverbank…

…& from here you get an idea of exactly how large the plant is. In fact it’s so large it makes you feel ready for a beer (it’s only 8.45am though!)

19. Ahead is one of the town’s most attractive bridges

Walk up & cross the main road & then turn right by the Latimer & Crick building back down to the river

This lovely old building used to house a corn merchant that once supplied local brewers Phipps that was eventually taken over by Watney Mann. Today the Phipps brewery has risen from the ashes & is once again producing excellent beer in the town

20. We’re now heading towards Becket’s Park passing under the fairly new Wathen Wigg bridge…

The Reverend Samuel Wathen Wigg is credited with founding the Saints Rugby Club. As curate of St James Parish Church, he took the boys improvement class &, in 1880, started a rugby team called Northampton St James. The team played at nearby Franklin’s Gardens & became known as The Saints. He later went on to become vicar at Walgrave & lived long enough to see the Saints develop as one of the top clubs in England

The bridge is dedicated to Northampton Saints Rugby Club & is painted in the club colours

21. It was ‘brekkie’ time so we turned left at the bridge to enjoy a sausage sandwich in the nearby Morrisons. Fully replenished, continue along the river path past Northampton Lock

Over to the right there’s major development going on. In November 2011 a new 80 berth marina was opened & now Northampton University is also being rebuilt here

22. We’ve now entered Becket’s Park which forms a green gateway to the centre of Northampton. It was formally designed as a park for promenading & known as ‘Cow Medow’. The name was changed by the council in 1935 to Beckets Park after Thomas Becket, Henry II’s Archbishop of Canterbury who, in 1164, went on trial at Northampton Castle before fleeing abroad

Near the main road junction at the eastern edge of the park is a Well, formed by the spring at which it’s reputed Thomas Becket rested & drank on his flight from Northampton Castle after his trial in 1164 for ‘Defiance of Royal Authority’

Becket’s Park is still very much a ‘promenading’ park as the path continues beside the river…

23. It eventually bears left to exit the park into a car park, continuing straight over onto the newly laid path

There’s a much better view of the new campus from here

To give access to the new area, Northampton has gained a new & very modern bridge

24. The path now continues through an area known as Midsummer Meadows which used to have a reputation as not being particularly pleasant, but has now been much improved

Further along is something you wouldn’t particularly expect to find here – a quite large ship which is The Ark bar / restaurant – it’s had mixed reviews & we haven’t tried it

25. The track follows the wide river now as it moves from Midsummer Meadow into Barnes Meadow

Barnes Meadow is a 29.4 hectare nature reserve, 20 of which is managed by the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire & Northamptonshire. The Battle of Northampton was fought near here on 10 July 1460. It was a major battle of the Wars of the Roses & the opposing forces were an army led by nobles loyal to the King Henry VI on one side, & the army of Edward, Earl of March & Warwick the Kingmaker on the other. The battle was the first in which artillery was used in England

26. Walk under the bridge of the very busy A45…

…&, at the fork in the path, take the right side to arrive at the Nene Whitewater Centre, which today was unfortunately not flowing

The Nene Whitewater Centre was the UK’s first pumped artificial whitewater course. The 300m course was designed by slalom designers, Proper Channels Ltd & built in 1999. Water can be partially diverted around a weir via an automatically controlled sluice gate

Additionally, three individually controlled electric pumps allow the centre to pump water from below the weir into the course. The course can be configured to cater for novices, or intermediates

27. Walk over the bridge at the top of the course towards the clubhouse

We’re going to leave the Nene behind for a short while so, on reaching the clubhouse, turn right & walk back down the other side of the river

Pass the rugby pitches on the left & cross the bridge over the navigable subsidiary of the Nene

28. Immediately over the bridge turn left down the steep steps & walk through the meadow. This can be somewhat overgrown with nettles at certain times of the year

It’s also a popular place for houseboats wth families living along this stretch. We’ve also previously encountered some pretty aggressive dogs here in the past so exercise some care. Today though the “families” we met were pretty placid…

29. Having survived we pass another lock…

…& then stick close to the water through an old horse tunnel

Across the water’s one of Northampton’s best known pubs for a drink on the terrace by the water, The Britannia

30. We’re leaving the outskirts of the town behind now passing underneath the Bedford road, as the tributary winds its way through office blocks to arrive at the final lock before we join the main river once more

After the lock we arrive at the gate which leads into the Washlands, which has a reminder that it’s the farmer’s right to shoot loose dogs that are pestering livestock, so on the lead time!

31. Northampton Washlands is one of the most important refuges for wetland birds in Europe. The lake & surrounding grassland are part of a much larger nationally & internationally legally protected area of lakes & wetlands & is a Site of Special Scientific Interest

In the winter it’s home to thousands of wetland birds migrating here from northern & eastern Europe. It’s illegal to go down into the basin itself so keep to the riverbank on the left

The inhabitants weren’t too keen to move!

32. Walk along the riverbank until reaching the large sluice which needs to be crossed…

This is what controls the water levels of the Nene & prevents Northampton from flooding in times of high water. Once across turn right & walk down to the green lock…

…which also needs to be crossed

33. Down river from the lock is Northampton Boat Club which we’ll have a closer look at shortly

Once across the path disappears down a narrow alley & then bends left up a lane towards an industrial estate. The mill pond on the right’s extremely pretty

34. At the top of the lane turn right through the metal gate & then immediately right again into another field – it’s as if you’re doubling back on yourself, but on the other side of a ditch

There’s normally tethered horses in this field so keep your distance. At the end the path bears left between an avenue of magnificent trees on one side & the Boat Club on the other

Northampton Boat Club is a small, family orientated, boating enthusiasts club situated on an island in the river Nene. It was formed in 1911

35. At the end of the trees is a metal gate which leads us into Billing Aquadrome…

Billing Aquadrome is a leisure park covering 235 acres built around various gravel pits & includes a caravan site, marina & funfair. It was also home to a variety of shows throughout the year, which were often car or motorsport related, such as the world’s largest annual Land Rover show & the American Car Show. Sadly they no longer host these. It also hosts the Northampton Balloon Festival

We’re going to follow the path & roadways pretty much straight through the right edge of the park past some very impressive lodges. The Nene Way is still well signposted

36. The lodges give way to static caravans & that in turn leads to large grassy camping areas

Eventually the hard surface bends left, but our path is up the slight grassy bank on the right…

…to the bridge which needs to be crossed

37. If you fancy a break then, after crossing the bridge, a short detour to the left leads to the Billing Mill Pub. Unfortunately we were there before opening time so retraced our steps to cross the river once again over the lock

Walk through the bushes to cross the next small bridge & turn immediately left to follow the water once more. You can now see the (closed) Billing Mill across the river

38. Continue to the road bridge…

Unfortunately it’s now time to leave the Nene once more & we won’t see it again until the next leg of the walk. Turn right to exit the field onto the road

39. The last stretch of this stage is all on hard surface so turn right & pass Frank’s Hamburger House

…continuing to the road junction

40. Turn left & walk up the hill into Cogenhoe, our destination for this leg. Finds here show settlements dating back to the Neolithic & Bronze Ages. Apart from agriculture, the village has, over time, supported other industries. Until the 19th century, this was a woollen & textiles area, but from the mid 19th century until shortly after the Second World War, Cogenhoe became a boot & shoe village, with the Mann family first working from a converted cottage in Church Street & then from a purpose built factory in Whiston Road. When that burnt down in 1909, a replacement factory was built in Short Lane which was used until the late 1940s, when production ceased & it became a bus garage. That too was destroyed by fire in the early 1970s

Alongside the boot & shoe industry was the remains of the hand lace trade. It was a cottage based industry with a lace school in Church Street where children might have been taught the basic 3Rs, but also & more importantly, how to make bone lace. By the late 19th century, this ancient craft was gradually being driven into decline by the Nottinghamshire machine lace industry, but it still exists today as a hobby practised by locals

On the left’s a house with a plaque showing that local & England cricketer, George Thompson once lived here

One of the village’s other famous residents used to be Peter Purves of Blue Peter fame, but he’s no longer there

41. Cogenhoe’s quite a long village so it’s best foot forward past the Sports & Social Club & the Village Store to arrive at a small green with an attractive sign

The bottom picture relates to the pre-war coach firm of York Brothers (George & Fred York) which continued to flourish in the 1950s. They operated a stage coach route between Wollaston & Northampton, via many of the local villages & also ran a travel company with coach excursions to all parts of the country. As their bus fleet grew, they swallowed up several of the smaller concerns & became not just an important local employer, but also developed a national reputation for quality. Yorks, as part of a bigger concern, finally closed in 2012

42. Finally we each the end of this stage of the Nene Way which is the very attractive gastro pub, The Royal Oak which is fast gaining a reputation as a foodie haven

So that’s the end of Stage 2 which, as expected, turned out to be extremely diverse with both country & town walking

Stage 3 will take us from Cogenhoe to pick up the river again, past Earls Barton & Wellingborough to our next stop, Irthlingborough

Go Walk!