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Silt Road: The Story of a Lost River

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Silt Road: The Story of a Lost River

Charles Rangeley-Wilson's book is a remarkable story and a remarkable read, says Mark Williams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The publishers say:

At the foot of a chalk hill a stream rises in a silent copse, and is soon lost under the car parks and streets of the town its waters once gave life to. Captivated by the fate of this forgotten stream Charles Rangeley-Wilson sets out one winter's day to uncover its story.

Distilled into the timeless passage of the river's flow, buried under the pavements that cover meadow, marsh and hill he finds dreamers and visionaries, a chronicle of paradises lost or never found, men who shaped the land and its history: the Jacobean maverick with an Arcadian irrigation dream, the sanitary inspector planning social emancipation, the libertine aristocrat who drew naked women in ornate lakes and flower beds. In Silt Road miller's riot, chairmakers die of fever, men dream of fish.

In this moving elegy to a disappearing natural world Charles Rangeley-Wilson brings the history of the English landscape vividly to life.

 

Mark Williams writes:

FM members will see Charles Rangeley-Wilson as a familiar face through The Accidental Angler on TV but it is as an author that he really shines.


Silt Road is emphatically not a book about fishing, but it is a book about fish, and in particular the River Wye. Not the Wye which runs the Welsh border country, but the Wye which gave High Wycombe its name. And if you’ve not heard of it, that’s because almost the entire river runs beneath the town, buried by town planners.


It may be small but the Wye is remarkable in one, particular, way; it is a chalkstream, and an extreme example of the appallingly crass way in which we still treat this extraordinarily rare, almost uniquely English habitat. Silt Road is, in many senses, a premature epitaph for chalkstreams everywhere.


Deftly, Rangeley-Wilson has elevated the story of the Wye above the extreme depression it should provoke in every angler. Through a slightly eclectic mix of historic record and rueful reflection, he has crafted a book which instantly joins the elite of angling books; it holds its own among great books, not just angling books.


Don’t buy this book if you want to know about fishing. Buy it because you like to read good books, and to remind yourself that, if we do nothing, one day all that will remain of chalkstreams will be our memories of them.

 

I spent much of my childhood living a short walk from the Wye and it was from there I caught my first ever trout, my first 'big' chub on floating crust and where I learned how to trot and how to catch minnows and bullheads in bottle traps, and indeed white-clawed crayfish by hand (no alien signals around in those days...).

It was a delightful little river back then - at least those bits you could access were - and it helped to shape my young angling world and taught me much about nature and the environment.

I couldn't wait... I've just this minute downloaded the book to my Kindle and can't wait to read it, it sounds like a real gem.

Editor







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Comments (1 posted):

Theo on 18/09/2013 11:47:35
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Good review: Silt Road is a deep and thoughtful read, sometimes quite disturbing and long-term haunting if you're interested in rivers, landscapes and all the interactive stuff that happens between them (full disclosure: it's not really a fishing book!) I've also reviewed Silt Road here and here for anyone who may wish to read around it further... Theo
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