River Nene

Image courtesy of Richard Dear, wikimedia commons

The River Nene is an important drainage river situated in eastern England. The river is the country's tenth longest river at ninety one miles long with a catchment area of six hundred and thirty one square miles. The river is also unique for having three sources.

The river starts life at three locations in the county of Northamptonshire, at Arbury Hill to the west where this stream is known as the Daventry Nene and at Naseby and Yelvertoft to the north where these two streams are known as the Brampton Nene and the Yelvertoft Nene.

These three streams converge at Northampton Lock on the junction of the Grand Union Canal.

From Northampton the river meanders in an easterly direction through the flat, wide Nene Valley, passing the towns of Great Gidding, Earl's Barton, Wellingborough, Thrapston, Oundle, the City of Peterborough, March, Guyhirn, Wisbech, Sutton Bridge, Tydd Gote and Gedney Drove End, before eventually draining into England's largest bay, The Wash, situated on the coasts of Lincolnshire and Norfolk, which the Nene also shares with it's tributaries the Rivers Welland and Witham and the Rivet Great Ouse.

The river flows through miles of open, flat countryside where it passes under the Grand Union Canal, the West Coast Railway Line and part of the M1 Motorway as it makes it’s way past the nineteenth century, Kislingbury Watermill just outside Northampton, the one hundred and ten mile long, Nene Way, long distance footpath, the seven point five mile long, Nene Valley Railway at Peterborough, the one hundred and eighty acre, Titchmarsh Nature Reserve at Thrapston, the thirty seven acre, Barnwell Country Park at Oundle, Oundle Marina, the Bronze Age Archeological Park at Flag Fen near Whittlesey and the River Nene Washes, a three thousand, seven hundred acre Ramsar Wetland and Special Protected Area (SPA) situated east of the City of Peterborough.

The river has several tributaries the largest of which are the sixty five mile long, River Welland and the eighty two mile long River Witham.

The river also links the Grand Union Canal with the River Great Ouse at Salter’s Lode at Middle Level, a two hundred and seventy square mile, low lying fenland drainage system which is located at or slightly below sea level and is criss-crossed with a multitude of drains and dykes.

The river is navigable for eighty eight miles, from Northampton through to the Wash, where it is served by seven sluices and thirty seven locks. The river is also served by four railway viaducts located at Irthlingborough, Thrapston, Wansford and Wellingborough and several road and pedestrian bridges. There is an interesting old stone bridge located in the Northamptonshire town of Oundle, a brick built bridge in the Northamptonshire town of Yarwell, a nine arch, stone bridge located in the village of Islip in Northamptonshire, pictured above, a Grade II Listed, single span, iron bridge located in Wisbech in Norfolk which was opened in 1857 and the City of Peterborough’s London Road Bridge, a three arch, concrete road bridge which was opened in 1934, located in the county of Cambridgeshire.

There are two lighthouses on the river situated at Guy's Head, Long Sutton which were never built as functioning lighthouses. They are known as the East Lighthouse, located on the east bank of the River Nene and the West Lighthouse situated on the west bank of the River Nene, which were built solely to mark the entrance to the small channel which is situated there.

The river, which was for many years an important transportation route from the North Sea through to the cathedral City of Peterborough, the medieval market town of Wellingborough and the historic county town of Northampton, is better known today for providing leisure pursuits such as boating and angling, where the river is renowned for it’s many varieties of coarse fish.

You can read about the River Nene's estuary on our page - The Wash.


Nene Park - www.neneparktrust.org.uk

Nene Valley - www.nenevalley.net

Nene Valley Railway - www.nvr.org.uk

Nene Wild Life - www.wildlifetrusts.org/nene-valley