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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.

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Comments (3 posted):

Paul Boote on 13/09/2013 11:19:27
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"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" I knew the stream too in childhood, as my Dad knew "Old Man Dashwood", as Charles Rangeley-Wilson does now with the current incumbent, Edward. At a certain, lofty, dim-distant level, paths cross and everything is connected, to the Wye, to the Towy in west Wales, to north Norfolk, to the Rio Gallegos and the Chico spring-creek in far-south Argentina and other places past and present - both Charles, a man I haven't met, and I (and a few others) know this.... I have a copy of the book, bought a few months ago from the Caught By The River people and not yet read. Currently in one of several large cardboard boxes of books and papers I have here marked "Thames & Tribs, Books, Diaries, Corres., Fishing & History". Might get around to it...
chub_on_the_block on 14/09/2013 14:12:33
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Sounds like a great read about an unexpected topic. I would not have heard about this book without this review being written - thanks!. Just need to get a copy now...
Paul Boote on 14/09/2013 21:37:44
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Wye Flashback. Year: 1979, June to December. After coming back penniless from a 9-month-long fishing trip through India, I needed a job. "Something that earns me enough, but doesn't interfer too much with my domestic fishing..." was the requirement. So I got a driving job - Transits and their Bedford equivalents - with Sanderson's Paints and Fabrics of Uxbridge. Fred, the Transport Manager, the man who ran Sanderson's fleet of delivery vehicles, large and small, said "As you're last in, Paul, you're getting the round nobody wants - Thames Valley and Chilterns. Lot of driving, but once you know it, you can be back by lunchtime but, so long as you check out the paperwork and any returns properly, plus keep your van clean, I won't mind if you clock off and go...." Perfect. By week two, having learned the round - Uxbridge - High Wycombe - Thame - Oxford - over to Abingdon and Wallingford sometimes - I'd stop at home a couple of miles away, load up a bit of my fishing tackle, then away! Thames Barbel (Rose Revived); Thames at Bourne End, Marlow, Henley ... River Thame chub ... Wye.... I often had to deliver rolls of fabric to some very run-down-looking but still thriving upholstery and furniture-making workshops on the banks of the Wye on the eastern edge of that even then fast-changing town. Behind one of these workshops (glorified brick and wooden sheds), in the little urban river (with, I seem to remember, a park / playing field opposite), I saw a simply enormous brown trout. So a fly rod was included in my van gear for the next few days, ready for the next delivery to those artisan furniture people in HW. I got the fish in three casts - a 23-inch brown, a hen (5 to 6 pounds?), showed it to the guys who were watching me utterly bemused, then put it back. Lovely fish. A 'real' one, too. Perfect fins. Not a stockie. One of my most prized captures.


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