charles rangeley-wilson – writing about fishing, travel, rivers, conservation

Sullen Mole


It seems I am irredeemably drawn to taking pictures of lost rivers through the windows of pedestrian overpasses (see Gunnersbury Ghost River). So here is a shot of the River Mole in a sort of gabion prison at Gatwick Airport, aptly named here as it dips under the surface to make way for a car-park. Pesky moles. The Mole flows on into the River Thames at Molesey, after which it was probably named. Having said that, another (less likely) theory suggests that the Mole is thus named precisely because it does disappear underground, quite naturally. Spenser wrote: And Mole, that like a nousling mole doth make His way still under ground till Thamis he overtake. Milton: sullen Mole that runneth underneath. Pope: And sullen Mole that hides his diving flood. Defoe described the river’s ‘swallow holes’ in his 1725 Tour and John Speed’s map of Surrey 1611 marks “the river runneth under” where it crosses chalk in Surrey. Drawing his map today Speed might well use the same phrase to describe the river’s course under Gatwick’s runways. A small, riverine thought as you stow the Sombrero in an overhead locker and speed towards flight over the “sullen Mole”.

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