As much as I love city breaks, there comes a time when you want to head straight for hills and take a brief respite in the countryside. For my summer holiday in the U.K., I wanted to discover the beauty of rural England and spend some time outdoors. Throughout the week, I uncovered my love for England’s small towns, large open fields, and rolling hills. Most of all, I loved being on the water. A day trip to Northamptonshire with Canoe2 offered a relaxing day of canoeing on River Nene.
After being introduced to the concept of Champing (camping at a church), I knew that my holiday in the U.K. had to include this incredible experience. The book, The Alchemist, inspired me to go champing. In the opening scene, Santiago, a shepherd boy, sleeps in an abandoned church and has a dream of finding treasure in Egypt. I dreamed of recreating that scene and wanted to gaze up at the stars from an old church.
I was thrilled that champing at All Saints Aldwincle (and 7 other champing churches) would make my somewhat far-fetched dream come true. All Saints Aldwincle would offer a peaceful night stay at a medieval Anglican church built-in the 12th century – seriously, you can’t make these things up, this really exists!
I adore this view, welcome to the English countryside.
Looking for other fun things to do in Northamptonshire, I booked a canoeing trip with Canoe2 (thanks Champing for the recommendation). Since this would be my first time canoeing, I wanted to get my feet wet, but I also didn’t want to overwhelm myself with a full day of paddling. Canoe2 offered lots of options for novice canoeists. I chose the half-day trip from Hardwater Mill to Ditchfield Lock.
We arrived at Ditchford Lock (the main site) at 11 a.m. There, Canoe2’s friendly staff checked us in. We then boarded the shuttle and drove to the starting point. There I met my enthusiastic instructor who provided a safety briefing and paddling demonstration. He walked us through the important markers to watch out for and in no time, I was out on the water, doing my thing.
Canoeing in River Nene with Canoe2
Paddling down River Nene, there was something new to see in every corner.
River Nene was so peaceful and tranquil. The water was cool to touch and as I glided downstream, I could see my reflection in the water.
I paddled by large patches of undisturbed green moss and colorful pink and yellow water lilies. Along the riverbanks, butterflies flew by gigantic flowers. And there were hilly green pastures for as far as the eye could see.
During the 6-mile paddle, I also spotted lots of wildlife.
There were land clouds (a.k.a. sheep) over the hills. I also paddled inches away from a herd of grazing cows. Swans and ducks swam near me making this an intimate encounter with Northamptonshire’s wildlife.
We had a staring contest, I couldn’t look away.
Although canoeing downstream was easy and did not require a lot of effort, there were three locks that I had to avoid for safety. This required getting out of the water and pulling my canoe to the next launching site.
The portage trolley provided by Canoe2 helped with maneuvering the canoe but the process demanded strenuous work. No sweat though because by the third lock, I was a pro.
The locks are a great resting point. And since this was a self-paced paddle, I did my best to enjoy every minute.
Only a few feet away and totally unexpected!
While pulling the canoe I couldn’t believe my eyes when I spotted a dozen horses grazing a few feet away. This was an amazing photo opportunity and what a reward for all that hard work!
Closer to the end of the route, I paddled under small abandoned bridges and large railway bridges which were stunning from my vantage point.
Tons of beautiful bridges and overpasses to see heading back to Ditchford Lock.
In a little under four hours, I got to see rural Northamptonshire up close and personal. Canoeing offered views that I probably would not have seen if I drove or biked by.
Northamptonshire will always have a special place in my heart. You can’t replicate the unspoiled simplicity of the English countryside.
Since Canoe2 is between London and Birmingham, I have a feeling that I’ll head back to River Nene soon but next time, I’ll paddle for a full day. Or I might extend my stay and go camping. Taking an alternative approach to my summer holiday to England was one the best travel decisions I’ve made.
This is a collaborative post with Canoe2, all opinions are my own.
Danielle is a travel finance strategist, author, speaker and podcaster. She paid off $63,000 of student loan debt in 4 years, bought a house at 27 and has traveled to 26 countries. She refuses to let her financial responsibilities hold her back from living life on her own terms.