“We must begin thinking like a river if we are to
leave a legacy of beauty and life for future
― David Brower
An Artist's Journey Down the River Nene.
Northamptonshire is beautiful, green and abundant with
life. It has many villages and towns and a rich diversity of
wildlife. However the scenery we usually see as we drive along the
roads is often one that involves traffic, and the busy rush of the
rat race. The charm of places that we live in, can be completely
missed or forgotten about as we are channelled along the
This summer, I rediscovered the river which is right
at the heart of this county. It has a different, slower
and more gentle existence that passes right beneath and besides our
manic roads. The Nene river in May this year was hot
and serenely tranquil, it was like being in a completely
different place - another world.
A New Project based on the River
I choose to listen to the river for a while, thinking river
thoughts, before joining the night and the stars. —
Last year, I decided that it was time to really experience the
river which has always been a presence in my life growing up in
Northamptonshire. The river has special kind of immutability, much
like the sea because it is always there and it constantly
flows to the ocean. Its meandering course is a reminder of the
natural world; but it also reminds me of fishing with my father or
feeding the ducks as a child.
Boarding a narrow boat at Gayton, we peacefully travelled
through the Nene valley visiting Northampton, Wellingborough,
Irthlingborough, Thrapston and then Oundle. Then, I rented a
canoe and paddled as far as Warmington. Drawing and taking
photographs was a great way to record what I saw as it allows you
truly to soak up the atmosphere.
Below are some of drawings I made whilst cruising along the
The River - A different experience
Life on the water slows everything down, but in a good way.
The sights, sounds and smells all become magnified and encourage
you to look and feel. The softly lapping ripples on the banks, a
passing duck or the swaying of willows on the surface of the
water are very present. These things remind you that you are
present - you can actually be here, right now. Meanwhile, the world
above rushes on by - bliss!
The River of Life is timeless.
It is not unchanging, but it is timeless,
and it changes in its own time. - Jonathan Lockwood Huie
Canoe Through Fotheringhay
One the highlights of my trip along the river was seeing
the Church at Fotheringhay as I paddled past in a canoe. The
building sits majestically near the river bank and makes a great
subject for the first in a series of paintings based on this
In the foreground of the painting is a swan drifting
downstream, whilst the words from the poem ,'Summer Evening' by
John Clare are weave through the picture, enhancing the sense
of abundance in the environment.
The frog half fearful jumps across the path,
And little mouse that leaves its hole at eve
Nimbles with timid dread beneath the swath;
My rustling steps awhile their joys deceive,
Till past, and then the cricket sings more strong,
And grasshoppers in merry moods still wear
The short night weary with their fretting song.
Up from behind the molehill jumps the hare,
Cheat of his chosen bed, and from the bank
The yellowhammer flutters in short fears
From off its nest hid in the grasses rank,
And drops again when no more noise it hears.
Thus nature's human link and endless thrall,
Proud man, still seems the enemy of all.
This is the first in a series of paintings based
on this inspiring cruise down the River Nene.
Ten facts you may not know about the Nene River and
The River Nene was once a tributary of the River Rhine when
England was part of the European continental land mass.
Ten thousand years ago the Nene River was a torrent of
melt water. This came from the ice sheet that once covered much of
the north of the UK. The water ground down the soft limestone and
left behind a fertile valley.
Northampton was built at the confluence of the two
sources of the river. The southern source emerges beneath the
shadow of an iron age hillfort, a mile west of Badby
Village at Arbury Hill. The Northern source of the river Nene
is at Naseby to the west of the village.
The River Nene is the tenth longest river in the UK.
The Nene Way footpath starts at Badby and follows the river
for 67 miles and end at Wansford on the Cambridgeshire
Covering more than 41,000 hectares, the impressive Nene Valley
commands an area three times bigger than the Great Fens and is a
haven for many different types of wildlife.
The Nene Valley is internationally renowned for its variety of
over-wintering water birds including curlew, lapwing, widgeon and
gadwall, the Nene Valley is also home to kingfishers, red kites,
otters and grass snakes.
. The Battle of Northampton was fought on the 10th July 1460,
near the River Nene in Northampton. It was a major battle of the
War of Roses and took place not far from Delapre Abbey.
Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury used Hardwater Mill
near Wollaston, as a hiding place after escaping Northampton castle