The Nene is an astonishingly lovely river; and unspoilt and uncrowded too, many boaters being put off, it would appear, by the 38 locks to be tackled within its 62 miles. However, virtually all the once-feared guillotine gates have been electrified so there’s no excuse for staying away!
Northampton is a distinguished county town which certainly repays exploration, but the river’s prime attractions lie downstream, as it flows through rural England at its best: a timeless landscape of water meadows, weathered mills and quaint villages, most set well back from the river because of the threat of flooding.
Thrapston and Wadenhoe are pleasant places to linger, before you come to Oundle, a delectable stone-built town, famous for its public school. Further downstream is Fotheringhay, forever associated with Mary Queen of Scots (she was imprisoned here and executed in 1587) and boasting a wonderful riverside church. Many regard this as the most beautiful village on the inland waterway network and you can moor virtually within the shadow of the historic church.
More Fenland scenery is on the agenda as the river approaches Peterborough, a thriving city with a fine waterside promenade equipped with all necessary facilities for boaters. Passing the entrance to Stanground Lock – which gives access to the Middle Level Navigations – the river flows as straight as a die for a further 5 miles to the sluice and lock at Dog-in-a-Doublet.
Visitors to the Nene have to approach via the Northampton Arm of the Grand Union Canal, which boasts no fewer than 17 narrow locks, or from the Middle Level. But it’s well worth the effort once you get there!