GUIDE TO THE RIVER NENE
('Daventry Nene' - Flore to Confluence with Naseby Nene)
NAME OF RIVER: River Nene ('Daventry Nene').
WHERE IS IT?: Northamptonshire.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: See below.
APPROX LENGTH: Daventry Nene. Flore to confluence about 13 miles. If it's high enough to paddle, around 3 hours. Nether Heyford to confluence about 10 miles. About 3 hours.
TIME NEEDED: See above.
ACCESS HASSLES: Access: Above Northampton there doesn't seem to be a problem. The local lawyer-friendly fishing club claim to own bits of it, but have never produced evidence. Below Northampton it's a navigation so with an EA license or BCU membership you should be OK. However the fisherman dispute whether the back channels are part of the navigation (the EA say they are). See notes below.
The Environment Agency do not approve of shooting their structures. They do not wish to be held responsible for any accidents. Be careful out there!
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: See below.
GRADING: Flat with weirs.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Weirs. Barbed wire.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: There are two branches above Northampton - the Naseby Nene and the Daventry Nene.
The Daventry Nene is navigable in normal winter levels from Kislingbury, and with a bit more water from Nether Heyford. In flood it can be run from Flore.
At Flore, ask at the mill before putting on. I cannot remember the details as I've only done this section a couple of times, and in flood you will need to inspect anyway. The first weir looks OK in high water, but has a nasty hidden sill.
At Nether Heyford you can get on where the river leaves the village, on the road to the A45. The first drop is Bugbrooke mill, with a choice of unpleasant side weirs with shallow landing pools. Don't even think about the mill itself, as it is a turbine mill. Best to portage one of the weirs, unless the river is well up.
At Harpole mill there is a choice of a side weir, which should be shot if possible. Only if it is too low for the side weir will it be possible to get under the old mill bridge. (The rest of the building has been demolished). There is often barbed wire in the mill pool.
The next weir is an enclosed two-step. It can form a stopper halfway down, so check first. I've seen it form the stopper as we were getting in, so placing a rescuer might be prudent. The alternative drop on river right has shallow water below, but can be shot with care.
If launching or landing in Kislingbury village, ask at the fireplace works river right. The alternative launch point is at the bridges downstream of the village, just off the A45.
Upton Mill can be shot in most water levels. If the side weir on the right can be shot the mill might be dangerous. If the footbridge on the side weir it too low to paddle under, portage the weir. The mill will be dangerous.
In low conditions it can be worth transferring to the Grand Union canal under the A45 flyover. It's only a 50 yard portage. In flood the side weir downstream is dangerous, but can be sneaked on the extreme right. There will be a nice rapid below it. In other levels, the sluice at Duston mill can be shot, but it is shallow.
St James Mill is a long slimy slope which is usually shot sideways, followed by a narrow winding channel to South bridge where the Naseby branch joins.
From this point there are locks at all the drops. The weirs are usually more fun.
Downstream is Becketts park. There is a lock channel left, an old weir just after it which is usually too shallow to shoot, further along an enclosed sluice gate which is fun in low water and dangerous with more than two inches going over. Even further along are three sluices. The river left one is shallow, and all are dangerous with a lot of water. Don't linger here or Avon Cosmetics security people will be making a nuisance of themselves. The easiest portage is just before the first weir, getting back in at the boathouse.
A mile further on is the Nene Whitewater Centre. Portage the weir river right.
The next sluice is Weston Sluice. This, like most of the sluices, is only safe in low water. There are metal 'V's welded to the top of the gate. There should be at least four inches of metal showing before it is even worth an inspection. The lock gates may be shootable if there is too much water on the weir. There is a shallow sill on the upper gates, so speed is important.
The next lock, Clifford Hill, is usually shootable, as is the one after, Billing Mill. A little further on the navigation turns right and we usually turn left, down almost a mile of narrow pleasant back channel ending in a sloping weir. This is probably the safest structure on the Nene - I have never seen a stopper, although in high water it has the strangest eddies. A little further on is the outfall from the Billing sewage works. The river will turn black, and warm too. Don't fall in.
The next weir is dangerous, with serious anti-scour and a vicious stopper. However to its right is an old weir, followed by a small rapid under a large "Irish Bridge".
At Earls Barton from left to right are the lock, a sloping weir shootable in fairly low water ONLY, a vertical gate into shallow water and a sloping weir which needs high water. The second of these forms a vicious enclosed stopper in medium to high levels, and the bridge arch below it is completely full of water in high levels. Beware!
The pool below the weirs is a good training ground, but beware the towback into the bridges in high water. The stopper is in the middle of the bridge arch under a low ceiling!
The next choice is the lock channel to the right, or a right-hand side weir which is usually shootable. You may need to portage the Irish bridge a little further on. Another shootable side weir brings you to Hardwater mill. Paddle through without lingering as the landowner is not very canoeist-friendly. Landing downstream of the bridge is OK.
Next mill down is Doddington. Here there is a set of three side weirs, followed by a back channel where canoeing has been challenged on the grounds of spawning beds. Best to avoid the closed, hence breeding, season. The weirs vary from fun to dangerous depending on water level, and may need protection.
Sarah Smart (Feb 2004)...'Just to let you know my mother and her partner have recently bought Hardwater Mill, and they are not anti-canoeist. However my husband is a fisherman!! Seriously though, they would hate to think that your guys daren't shout a friendly hello when they pass. There'll be no problems any more.'
OTHER NOTES=CONTRIBUTED BY:
A long flat section brings you to Wellingborough. Upstream there is a left-hand branch under an old iron bridge which leads to a ford. There is an eighteen inch drop to the roadway, best taken sideways, then another drop into a great beginners' stopper. However we've had to portage it in high water, so check first, as ever. In the same high water we had to portage the footbridge further on.
At Wellingborough embankment there is a field river left where you can usually park cars. There is a canoe launch point here.
A mile further on is a low, vee-shaped weir. In low water it's harmless, but treat it with great respect if the river is up.
Next is a really nasty set of sluices. However, just before it is a high vertical weir with a deep plunge pool. It's usually shootable.
After about 2 miles of flat, there is Irthlingborough bridge. The old bridge is a good access point. The right channel leads to a side weir which is shootable in medium to high conditions. Otherwise, portage the lock.
About three miles of flat bring you to Ringstead upper lock, with a weir to the right under a footbridge. Usually shootable. You can as an alternative shoot the left side weir further upstream if you can get past the barrier. There will be lots of fishermen here, but we haven't had any arguments yet.
Ringstead lower can be dangerous in high water. The lock channel leaves to the right. Ahead, there is a sloping weir on the right, and two sluices centre and left, both dangerous. The weir has a strong towback in anything above medium river levels. The lock has a stopper below its upper gates. Most other Nene locks don't have anything to worry about. Worry about this one.
Two to three miles on is Denford upper lock. There is a side weir above it, with an almost impenetrable barrier. The exit and entry at the lock are particularly difficult, high brick wall at the get-out, and a high floating pontoon below. Into Denford, keep right, and get out at where the road meets the river, by the war memorial.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Alan Adams http://www.nckc.freeserve.co.uk/, also Sarah Smart.