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.
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.
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.
One of the advantages of winter walking is the lack of foliage on tress gives you a much better view across the countryside.
Although at times it is hard to escape from the fact you are, indeed, following an old railway line…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Across the water I can see the village of Aldwinkle. So near. Yet so far…
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.
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.
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!