Stanwick Lakes to Islip

A winter walk from Stanwick Lakes

My plan today is to follow the cycle track from Stanwick Lakes to Islip. And then to continue my walk along the Nene Way, until I reach the village of Wadenhoe.

I start walking from the car park at the Visitors’ Centre.  It is a crisp and sunny winter morning, a lovely time to be walking beside the lakes.

Stanwick Lakes, Ruth Livingstone on a winter walk
Stanwick Lakes nature reserve

The surface of the cycle track is gravel or packed earth, with minimal mud. It makes for a good winter’s walk. Of course, you do have to share the path with joggers and cyclists, as well as the usual walkers and their dogs. And the occasional horse.

Stanwick Water path, shared with joggers and cyclists, Ruth Livingstone on a winter walk
A four mile linear cycle route runs through the heart of Stanwick Lakes

Cycle tracks that follow old railway routes can be monotonous for walkers, particularly if they run along the bottom of cuttings. But this one is raised on a bank and there are plenty of interesting things to look at: lakes, birds, boats.

 marina near Ringstead, River Nene, Ruth Livingstone on a winter walk
Marina near Ringstead, River Nene

One of the advantages of winter walking is the lack of foliage on tress gives you a much better view across the countryside.

Woodford across the fields, from Stanwick Water, Ruth Livingstone on a winter walk
View across fields to the village of Woodford

Although at times it is hard to escape from the fact you are, indeed,  following an old railway line…

Trees on either side of the old railway track, Ruth Livingstone winter walking
Hemmed in by trees on either side of the old railway track

But this part of the walk is livened up by the banging sounds coming from my right. Shooting? Yes. Beaters are chasing game birds out of a small covert, while hunters with shotguns stand waiting in the marshy land in front of the trees.

I hear a thunk. A female pheasant has crashed through the twigs above my head and landed on the path a few hundred feet in front of me. I continue walking until I reach the place where she is lying among the soft leaves. She looks peaceful, but very dead.

shot game bird, lying on the path, Ruth Livingstone's winter walks
Dead pheasant lying on the path.

The hunters have dogs with them, and one is making its way up the bank, looking for the fallen bird.

I’ve never been so close to a shoot before and I don’t like it very much. I’ve never understood why people would want to aim lead pellets at birds and animals, for fun. Strange business.

Further along I come across a man clearing brush from a weir. It looks cold work and a reminder that our countryside’s waterways need constant maintenance.

maintaining the weir, near Woodford, Nene Valley walk with Ruth Livingstone
Maintaining the weir, near Woodford, Nene Valley

I’ve nearly reached the end of the cycle route. Few people seem to make it this far along the track and I am walking in splendid isolation. Ahead I can see the road bridge crossing the River Nene and leading to Thrapston.

approaching Thrapston, Ruth walking along the Nene
A14 road bridge and Thrapston ahead

I follow the path under the bridge, and then turn up the hill along a bridleway, and walk into the village of Islip.

My plan is to walk a further 4 miles, following the Nene Way from Islip, passing through Aldwinkle and finishing at the pub in Wadenhoe, where my husband will meet me with the car. So I walk through Islip and down to the Mill, crossing over the River Nene via a footbridge.

The river is very full. Trees on either side have their roots submerged.

overflowing River Nene at Islip Mill, Ruth Livingstone winter walking
Overflowing River Nene at Islip Mill

This is the Titchmarsh Nature Reserve.  I’m no longer on a cycle route and am expecting mud. The walk starts well, on a firm track, but soon deteriorates. I abandon the Nene Way – which is more like a swamp than a path – and follow a slightly less muddy footpath on the other side of the river, hoping to cross over later.

muddy path, River Nene, Ruth Livingstone winter walking near Thrapston
Muddy path, River Nene, one of the disadvantages of winter walking

Across the water I can see the village of Aldwinkle. So near. Yet so far…

Aldwinkle, over flooded river Nene, Ruth Livingstone winter walking
Aldwinkle, seen over the flooded river Nene

My path gets muddier and muddier, until it disappears completely under water. I plunge about in the mud, looking for a way to continue. But I can’t even see where the path emerges on the other side. Reluctantly I turn back.

the end of the road, too muddy, Nene Way, Ruth Livingstone winter walking

Unable to get to Aldwinkle along the path, and reluctant to take the alternative route which involves walking in the verge of a busy road, I turn back to Islip. This turns out to be a good thing after all, because I meet my husband in the Woolpack Inn where we have an excellent lunch.


I set off with the intention of finding a route suitable for a winter’s walk, avoiding too much mud. The cycle route provided a firm surface and there was pleasant and variable scenery along the way. My planned walk (here is the planned OS route) should have been 9.5 miles in length:

  • 5 miles from Stanwick Lakes to Islip
  • 4.5 miles from Islip to the pub at Wadenhoe.

But because I was forced to retreat from the Titchmarsh Nature Reserve and return to Islip, I managed to walk a total of 10 miles.

Map used:
OS Explorer 224 (Corby, Kettering and Wellingborough)

About Stanwick Lakes

Stanwick Lakes is a nature reserve in Northamptonshire. It consists of a series of linked water ways and lakes, alongside the River Nene. This area was created by flooding an old quarry. It is now an important nature reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Within the reserve are a number of short circular walks on good surfaces. The Nene Way meanders around nearby, while the cycle track cuts through the centre of the Lakes and follows the course of the river for a distance of 5 miles, ending at the village of Islip.

Possible alternative walks

A return walk (from Stanwick Lakes to Islip and back again) would make a reasonable 10 mile walk.

It’s always a little disheartening to have to retrace your steps, and so an alternative, if the ground was drier, would be to return to Stanwick Lakes along the Nene Way.  Because the Nene Way take a less direct – and therefore longer – route, this return journey would create a walk of roughly 15 miles.

  • 5 miles from Stanwick Lakes to the village of Islip
  • 9.5 miles return along the Nene Way to Stanwick Lakes.

I have mapped out the route here on the OS site, but haven’t tried to walk it yet. Maybe in the summer!


2 thoughts on “Stanwick Lakes to Islip”

  1. This brings back memories Ruth – originating from Northamptonshire, this part of the Nene Valley Way (pronounced ‘Nen’ in Northants) was a regular summer pub crawl for me many years ago. I bet a lot of the pubs now no longer exist.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You must have had fun on your pub crawls! The first pub I tried in Islip was a ‘community pub’, but didn’t open until 2pm and not sure if it served food. Yes, a lot of rural pubs have closed. One day I want to walk the whole Nene Valley Way, but too muddy at the moment 🙂


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