“ Address: 2 Orchard Way „
In times of plenty you should fix the roof. But for Northampton, yet again we wasted money on things like the 'Northampton Canoe and Kayak Center' just after the 1990s recession.
It's a bespoke artificial white water course down by the local River Nene that sneaks through the town unloved and hardly an Olympic quality facility, like everything in this town a somewhat half-assed affair. When I walked home from work at the nearby Brackmills Industrial Estate when I worked up there I would pass it everyday and never once saw a canoe on it but the pump still roaring away to move the water back up the top of the run 24.7. It's like seeing a nice car with the engine running and the door open but no one in it. The club that run it also have a brand new club house by the river and although you do see kids out on the river doing courses sometimes they don't seem to be allowed much access to the actual course, no doubt poxy health & safety laws and timid teachers keeping them off it.
Canoes & Kayaks!
Canoe - a lightweight narrow boat pointed at both ends and open on top, propelled by one or more seated or kneeling paddlers.
Kayak - Type of canoe covered by a deck except for a cockpit in which the paddler sits. It has a pointed bow and stern and no keel; the paddler faces forward, grasping a double-bladed paddle and dipping the blades alternately on either side.
The rapids generated by the pump could be described as 'gentle' and the water speed that of the torrent that regularly races through Billing Aquadrome down the river in flood. I can't really see how this starter course could prepare young canoeist for progression in the sport, especially as its quite narrow so hard not to be able to pass through the hanging gates you get in this sport. Its not that long either and from top to bottom would take you about two minutes or less, getting slightly wet in the process, like you would in a summer rain shower. It's not that deep either and merely up to your kneecaps in some places. It really is a feeble challenge. But there are no natural rapids within 100 miles of Northampton so budding canoeist have to go there - even though they don't. I suspect the serious people cut out the middle man and practice at the Olympic course in Hertfordshire that produced three home medals in London 2012. I would, Northampton very much the Netto of courses.
To use the white water you could simply rock up with your canoe and have ago as there is no one around to stop you. Maybe Someone at the club house just across the river could spot you and be shocked enough that someone is actually using it to come over and tell you off but I doubt it. What they do is run courses on it and you use it that way.
The courses for beginner (£6 per session for non members and £4 for members) start at the local Mounts swimming baths to see how stable you are and so taste the chlorine and then moves to Sunday afternoons through April til October (2-5pm) on the River Nene itself and then eventually the white water when you are qualified and a full member.
The beginner courses in the winter to get your first canoe star are strictly indoor pool sessions on Friday nights at the Mounts pool from 8-10pm until May 18th, again £5 a session and all welcome, then all outdoors through summer. The 2 Star paddlers (they don't tip over) are on the river Tuesday night from 6-30pm to 9pm in the summer although a qualified coach is not required to attend so take note mums and dads. Friday is whitewater night for the more experienced paddlers and open to club members only.
Annual membership is £75 for the family ticket, which includes kit hire for all, or £50 for a trail 6 month summer membership. Adult alone is £60 for the year or £40 for the summer 6 months and its £25 for students and £20 down for kid's age groups. There are affiliated memberships of £120 plus for groups and temporary ones for on the day for a fiver. Obviously if you have your own canoe and kit there is no real need to join. They do have nice bar and eatery in the clubhouse though.
My canoeing experience is no more or less than anyone else that's sporty and I can just about stay up. I did the starter course when it first opened back in 1999 and had fun, then all allowed a go on the rapids. Canoes and kayaks are not the most stable things, as you all know, and when you take your fast Canoe Star (the official proficiency grading) you have to learn to right the thing, which involves deliberately flipping it with you in it, which isn't pleasant. If you don't want to do that then don't do canoeing and kayaking. You are going to eat water and you don't want to be doing that in the River Nene. You only need look at the catchers that collect all the crap on the weir by the clubhouse to see just what's in the water. British rivers are a murky brown for a reason. You will be pleased to know most of it ends up in Carlsberg Lager as the local brewery sucks up the same water.
Nene Whitewater Centre
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