Lead Review

  • Book: The Pull of the River: A Journey into the Wild and Watery Heart of Britain
  • Location: United Kingdom
  • Author: Matt Gaw

Review Author: Tina Hartas



Do you need a new read that will engage you and transport you around beautiful locations across Britain? Something with a peaceful rhythm, as the oars gently slice through the water? Relax and enjoy The Pull of the River and transcend the current anxiety-inducing issues surrounding the Covid pandemic. But is it bucolic Britain all the way?

Part of the pull of the river is escape. To paddle on a river is to break into a new world, one that feels free from the usual rules and confines of human society”

He chooses to set off in a Canadian Canoe (painted a joyous nautical red, the colour of Mae West’s lips) with companion James Treadaway. The starting point is the River Waveney and as an introduction they have to negotiate getting the canoe into the water, cleaving their way between discarded plastic and dog poo bags; of course, this is not going to be the only encounter with detritus along the way. Plus a discombobulating meeting with an extremely grumpy and negative woman. But these are men with determined hearts who will not be put off by such early obstacles.

“Neglect threatens rivers across Britain, discarded items, particularly plastic, becoming a regular, if unwelcome part of the scenery and posing a serious threat to the rivers’ wildlife”

He muses on the nature of water, the different feel that each stretch of their journey has and the changes that occur. He observes the wildlife and the wider landscape, ponders the “no trespassing’ notices and thinks about conservation and history, facts and figures. Of an evening they set up camp but it is Britain, and therefore their sleeping bags are damp and it can get quite (well, very) cold; it’s Winter after all. The intrepid paddlers are not daunted.

The River Orwell gives them a wake up call that their adventures have their dangers, as waters swell and the winds buffet their comparatively tiny boat

After reading this you will hanker for your own boat and a slice of gentle (for the most part) river life! The author has a lyrical and beautiful writing style that captures the countryside and their exploits as they glide along. It is a charming travelogue. I would love to have had a map so I could chart their routes.

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