FROM SOURCE TO SEA

Canal Boat - - News - From Source to Sea, Tom Chesshyre, Sum­mers­dale, sum­mers­dale.com, £16.99, 978-1-84953-921-0

Travel writer Tom Chesshyre hap­pened across a print of an old map of the Thames on a bric-a-brac stall, and that was his in­spi­ra­tion for walk­ing the 215 miles of the Thames Path from the river’s source in Glouces­ter­shire (he couldn’t find any wa­ter there) to the edge of the North Sea. Along the way he delves into the river­side his­tory – bloody bat­tles from the Wars of the Roses, the univer­sity at Crick­lade which prob­a­bly pre­dated Ox­ford, the grim con­crete pill-boxes to de­fend the coun­try in the event of Nazi in­va­sion – and makes pil­grim­ages to sites re­lated to ev­ery­one from de­signer Wil­liam Mor­ris to writ­ers Ge­orge Or­well and Jerome K Jerome. But un­like many Thames books, he mixes his­tory with the here-and-now: in­ter­est­ing (and oc­ca­sion­ally quite odd) dis­cus­sions with lo­cals on the Mid­dle East, mi­gra­tion and Brexit; a cam­paign against a hy­dro­elec­tric scheme; nu­clear fu­sion re­search at Cul­ham lab­o­ra­tory; and chil­dren catch­ing in­va­sive Amer­i­can cray­fish to sell to restau­rants. Along the way he vis­its Sal­ters boat­yard, bumps into a Hindu wed­ding vow cer­e­mony and a Kur­dis­tani bar­be­cue, and gives name- and­shame de­scrip­tions of ev­ery­where he stayed, ate or drank, from “the best tea­room in Bri­tain” to a pub which served up “luke­warm pie with cold gravy and watery mash”. Its dry hu­mour will en­ter­tain and in­form you on your next cruise along the Royal River.

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