As much as I love reading about adventures, like many, I don’t always find myself in a particular position or location to give them a go myself. My solution to this? I like to find any ‘little’ adventures local to home to quench my love of trying new experiences and spending time outdoors.
In the small, old town of Northampton, not known for anything in particular apart from the odd conversational factoid that “no it is not located directly north of Southampton,” is a small water sports center. Although a tad pocket-sized, the Nene White Water Centre is by no means insufficient in the range of activities it offers.
Unless you actively search for adventures or are a water sports buff, this little place may be overlooked by many. However, getting there is surprisingly easy.
How to Get To The Nene White Water Centre
The center is just 5 minutes from the M1, junction 15, and does have adequate parking facilities. However if you don’t plan on getting there by car, my advice to you is to plan your journey beforehand as there are countless options and the activity is a non-refundable booked time-slot.
Naturally with good planning, we got there early so we took the opportunity to explore the whitewater course. I remember being surprised at the size of the course and slightly underwhelmed by how flat it was. I don’t know what I was expecting but looking back I definitely let my eyes deceive me. Watching a group white water rafting soon after got me excited and super pumped for our turn on the rapids! (READ: What Kind of Traveler Are You?)
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The White Water Tubing Experience
Like all amicable group activities the tubing began with a short, necessary health and safety induction, along with each of us signing ourselves off as fit to complete the activity. Next, we got kitted up. Each of us were provided with a wetsuit, a helmet, a buoyancy aid and a rubber ring/tube. Just a little tip, if you’re an incessantly cold person like I am (seriously, I think I’m a reptile), then try to stand near the front or scout out the guy who is kitting you up because they only have a limited number of winter wetsuits! It is still the UK remember. We did this activity in June and the water was numbing!
What to bring for a day of White Water Tubing
- Wet suit socks / Old trainers
- Swimsuit / Swim shorts
- Rucksack to keep your clothes in while you’re doing the activity
- A padlock (We all left our bags in lockers and it felt perfectly safe but it depends on how cautious you are about leaving your bag as there are a lot of people around)
- Warm clothes / socks to change back into ( Weather dependent)
I have to say, our supervisors were five young guys in their 20’s to 30’s and they were amazing. They were very professional with our safety, catering for all the different ages in the group, while also making the activity fun and trying to get people to challenge themselves. (READ: How to Survive Europe on a Budget)
First off, before the activity even started, they got us to get used to the temperature of the water by teaching us the technique of ‘falling out.’ Sitting on the edge of the flattest part of the course with just our feet in the water, he got us to get in one by one, lie on our backs with our arms across our chest and float down a part of the course. We did this two or three times. This was brilliant as it relieved people of the worry of falling out when we were actually doing the tubing! Plus, once you got over the mild heart attack caused by the subzero temperature of the water, everyone was loving it.
Another method of reducing any anxiety was getting us to ‘fall into’ our tubes and float down the same piece of course that we were already familiar with. Again this was a bit of fun where in groups of two we had to stand facing away from the water with tubes in position around our backsides and on cue we’d fall onto our tube and float down the rapids. We were then deemed ready to tube the second half of the course and I have to say, no matter how many times you did it, it was just as fun as the first time.
It may seem like common sense but worth a mention: there are parts of the course especially near the rapids that are shallow so keeping your bums up and using your legs to propel yourself away from the sides will prevent any unnecessary injuries.
To show us the deepest and roughest part of the course they got us to line up on the edge and jump into the water fall. Again a bit of fun, we were instructed to do one of three jump poses: superman, starfish or (an oldy but a goody) the classic bomb. This wasn’t compulsory, some people preferred not to do it, it was just encouraged to get us used to the course and to get people who may be worried to loosen up a bit. If you are a bit worried try not to be, give it a go it’s a laugh! (READ: 5 Things I Learned from Traveling)
We then spent the remaining time tubing the first half of the course. This was my favourite part of the activity, not just because the course was roughest here, but because everyone in the group helped each other get into their tubes and onto the first rapid and the supervisors got into the water helping those who needed it or messing around with the people who didn’t. I pretty much spent most of the time backwards or spinning which definitely made the course more interesting!
To finish off, the supervisors got us all to line up on the edge of the course and fall into our tubes one after the other (creating a cannon effect of tubers) floating down the rest of the course for a final time all together. I think it was more for their amusement than anything but it was good fun.
So the activity had finished and what better way to remember the day than pictures right? I don’t know if you can actually bring your own waterproof camera but no one in our group had one. One of the supervisors was taking pictures throughout though and was burning CDs for £20. Considering we hadn’t paid for our activity (a gift voucher courtesy of my brother Tom) we were more inclined to go halves on one. We were so glad that we did because he had taken 55 pictures of us during the activity! When you think that people pay €20 for a professional picture on holiday, you are paying just under £3 per picture-a bargain! Looking through the pictures now is a lovely, and more importantly natural, recap of the day.
Although the activity was only an hour and a half, it really did feel like a lot longer. The activity itself was good fun and I’d definitely return to try any of the others that are on offer.
Nene White Water Centre Activities (Prices as of 2015)
- White Water Tubing – £30pp / £55 Couples tubing (online price only)- 1.5 hours
- White Water Rafting – £45pp / £80 Couples rafting (online price only)- 2 hours
- Canoeing Coaching – £50 for 1:1 session on flat or white water depending on experience
- Team Building – £125pp 6-7 hours of improvised raft building out of raw materials, testing the raft on the course, flat water kayaking, white water tubing, lunch and white water rafting
- Raft Building – £17pp – 1.5 hours
- Dry Land Activities – £16pp – 1.5 hours
- Park and Play – more experienced water sports persons can use the course unsupervised
For more info head on over to their website at Nenewhitewatercenetr.co.uk
Even if you’re not even a remotely adventurous person, the 300 meter man made course provides an interesting backdrop against the beauty of it’s natural surroundings. It is definitely worth taking a walk down the river Nene itself and into the historical town of Northampton to make a day of it. For the more adventurous type, it is worth a mention that three pumps control the flow of water through the course thereby giving the center the ability to alter the course’s difficulty. Why not come and challenge yourself? Do you have the skills or sheer determination required to paddle it?