Stage 4: Irthlingborough to Thrapston

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 9.1 miles (14.58 km)

Time to walk: We had a lovely slow amble as this is a beautiful walk, taking in the views & a stop for lunch etc

Difficulty: Mainly off road, with some hard path walking through the villages. This was a fairly flat stage &, when I walked it in April 2021 was very dry

Parking: I parked considerately on the road in Irthlingborough

Public toilets: Pubs in Irthlingborough, Little Addington, Woodford & Islip. Plus the Water Mill Tea Rooms at Woodford

Map of the route:

This was the 4th stage of my journey along the wonderful Nene Way &, I have to say, it’s certainly one of the prettiest. The path is fairly well marked, although wasn’t kept clear across a couple of fields. It does leave the river a couple of times, but the villages it visits are well worth exploring.

Shall we get going then?

Let’s Walk

1. Stage 4 of the Nene Way coincidentally starts where Stage 3 finishes, by the roundabout on the A6 near to Nene Park football stadium, home of where Rushden & Diamonds football stadium once stood. There’s a marker showing the way east by the roundabout…

The track is extremely straight & easy to follow, passing by a old signpost showing days gone by…

Nene Park was the dream of Max Griggs & could accommodate 6,441 spectators. From 1992 until the club’s demise in 2011, it was the home ground of Rushden & Diamonds, having from 1969 been the home of predecessor Irthlingborough Diamonds

It became Kettering Town’s home for 18 months, but the club left the venue in November 2012 to play at Corby, due to the costs of running the ground. Demolition of the ground began in late February 2017 & lasted approximately two & a half months

2. Continue straight ahead. If you’re wondering where the Nene is, it’s over to your right & we’ll see it shortly…

The long, dusty track finally bends right &…here’s the river!

3. DO NOT cross the river. Turn immediately left along the narrow track. We are going to keep the river on our right-hand side for the whole of this stage…

After a few yards the path dives left around an inlet before joining the river again…

The buildings in this area are part of Rock UK Frontier Centre which is a Christian organisation that is passionate about developing young people, bringing adventure into learning in the outdoors, to transform lives

4. Continue along the river, passing the climbing wall & stack of canoes…

Shortly after this, the path splits, but the signpost tells you to keep following the river bank. If you look over to the right, you should be able to make out the spire of Stanwick Church

5. A small river enters the Nene at a junction & the pace of it causes some small eddies & whirlpools, but nothing that a canal boat can’t cope with

The river now bends to the right. On the other side are the footpaths & play areas of Stanwick Lakes. Ahead now is a footbridge, enabling you to visit that area should you wish

6. It’s now time to leave the Nene for a while & head off to visit our first village on this stage. Therefore look for the track heading left at right angles left up the hill…

As you climb the hill look out for a footpath sign pointing out the Nene Way route diagonally right…

You’re actually aiming for a post & gap just to the left of the single tree. Unfortunately the farmer hadn’t kept a path through the growing crops clear…

7. On reaching the gap, don’t forget to stop for a few moments & look back towards the river for amazing views across the Nene Valley. Then continue ahead up the track once more…

As you near the top of the rise, with the farm ahead, the path goes diagonally right towards the corner of the fence & hedge (again the field hadn’t been cleared)

 

8. Once you reach the corner bear left & there’s the cleared path leading all the way to Little Addington!

9. Exit the field through the kissing gate, cross the road & walk down into Little Addington…

In old English Little Addington means “an estate belonging to a man called Eadda or Aeddi. It’s a lovely village & is well worth exploring along with its neighbour Great Addington

10. The lane descends to the beautiful village green…

Bear right & continue past the Church of St Mary which dates back to the 13th & 14th century

11. On the right’s one of my old watering holes, which is undergoing renovation & is hopeful of opening again before Xmas 2021…The Bell Inn

12. It’s time now to leave the village & rejoin the river once more. Continue along the road to the t-junction…

Turn left &, after roughly 50 yards look for a footpath sign & gate by the tree on the right

13. Head straight down the track…

On reaching the corner in the picture above, walk diagonally left ahead to reach the bridge

14. For those of you who’ve done the Addington & Kinewell Lakes Walks, this will be familiar ground. Turn right in the direction of the arrow on the bridge & follow the path to the footbridge over the river…

This really is a beautiful area, full of water & I once described a walk here as “Water, Water, Everywhere”. Cross the next bridge

15. The footpath is really well signed, straight through the gap in the trees & over the next bridge…

This is my favourite one as it covers an area like a mill pond…

16. Walk up the lane passing the entrance to the fishery…

…& exit past the barrier

17. Bear left & follow the lane past another lake to the junction…

18. At the junction turn left & follow the road all the way down to the bridge & the Water Mill Tea Room!

Cross the river. You can see the tea room decking should you fancy a refreshment stop…

19. Suitably refreshed it’s time to leave the river again for a short time & head towards Woodford. Turn right just past the Tea Room into the car park, & look out for the footpath sign in the gap in the hedge

On the other side of the hedge is a metal kissing gate to pass through…

20. The track is now easy to follow again straight ahead ignoring the old railway line going off to the left & right…

Pass through the gate

21. Continue towards the farm buildings, but before reaching them take the kissing gate on the right…

…& walk diagonally down the field to another kissing gate in the corner under the tree

Look out for the owl box

22. After going through the gate, the path follows the layered hedge…

…crossing the track & continuing ahead. The river is on your right once more & ahead you can see Woodford Church spire

23. Eventually the narrow track emerges into the open & rises up the hill towards the village…

Look across to the right for what is a quintessential English view

24. Pass through the gate to enter Woodford…

There’s some beautiful houses alone this lane

25. Woodford means “ford in, or by a wood”. Early Woodford was mainly a farming community, but also played its part in Northamptonshire’s shoe industry in the early to mid 19th century. Towards the end of the century mining began with the ironstone ore being taken to nearby Islip for smelting

Although you wouldn’t think it today. Woodford once boasted seven licensed premises, over twenty shops & two schools

Pass the Church which is dedicated to St Mary the Virgin & has the nickname “the Cathedral of the Nene”

Inside the church can be found a couple of curiosities. Within a niche cut into a pillar, there’s a mummified human heart wrapped in coarse cloth. This was discovered during restoration work in 1867. There’s also a framed newspaper cutting; this concerns a photograph of an alleged ghost taken in the church in 1964

26. It’s possible to explore the upper part of the village & pick up the route again later, but I chose to continue straight ahead…

And that turned out to be a great decision just to see the animals on the thatched cottage at the end of the lane. Look out for the spider…

27. The lane runs out. IGNORE all the paths going off to the right & continue straight ahead towards the woods…

There were lots of ponies & donkeys in the paddocks…

28. Enter the woods…

…& follow the track straight ahead to exit at another gate

29. Turn immediately right, keeping the wood on your right & follow the track until it reaches a junction…

30. At the junction in the above picture, turn right & head down the hill. The Nene is at the bottom of the hill & it’s time to rejoin it…

At the bottom of the hill the path turns left along the riverbank once more

It’s worth a quick pop down the bank as this again is a beautiful stretch of our Nene…

31. Follow the riverbank once more, passing another lock…

After the lock the path arrives at the old railway line once more. Cross straight over through the gap in the hedge, as shown in the picture below…

…& continue with the hedge on your left

32. As the hedge & track bends left, look for a footpath sign directing you to a gate on the right. Ahead through the gate you can see Ringstead

33. Follow the clear track to the bridge over the Nene…

As soon as you get through the gate our route is immediately left over the stile, but it’s worth walking up onto the bridge for a lovely view of Ringstead

34. Cross the stile…

…& then head slightly diagonally left towards the left of the two trees in the picture below…

…& cross the bridge into the next field

35. The path’s well marked across the next field but, if not then walk straight towards Islip Church spire…

…where, at the other side of the field, you’ll find another bridge to cross

36. Now turn immediately right, keeping the hedge on your right, & walk to the corner & up onto the bank

Turn right along the track out of the fields towards the busy A14

37. Turn right & walk parallel to the road…

The path bend left & passes under the A14

38. And the beauty about this final stretch of this stage is we’re now going to walk beside the Nene all the way to the end. Walk towards & pass under the arched bridge…

39. Again the Nene is pretty along here & there’s also lots of lakes to the left

40. Again the footpath passes between water on both sides…

…& ahead now can be seen Thrapston Nine Arches Bridge

The bridge has medieval origins & was probably rebuilt in 1795, extending across the Islip to Thrapston floodplain with 24 arches. The arrival of the railways in the 1840’s led to an embankment being cut into this floodplain crossing. The bridge was then reduced to its present day “nine arches”

41. At the bridge follow the track up the bank & exit the pasture to arrive at the road…welcome to Islip!

If you fancy some refreshments then The Woolpack is just over the road on the left…

Walk to the Thrapston sign on the bridge to end this section of the Nene Way

So that’s it…Stage 4 completed & what a lovely stage it was. The Nene is becoming ever more beautiful as it heads further west & the next stage between Thrapston & Oundle will bring even more delights

Go Walk!