Silt Road – the Story of a Lost River: Published Chatto and Windus 2013
The jacket blurb:
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 water gave life to. Captivated by the fate of this forgotten stream a writer 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 paradise lost or never found and the men who shaped its land and history.”The author’s passion, underpinned by his deftness of touch, makes the book an utter joy to read.”
“Silt Road is that rare thing: a book that is able to marry exacting research with imaginative fluency, told in language as pliant and revealing as water.” Earthlines
“Sometimes fascinating, often very beautiful, occasionally shocking and sombre.” Wanderlust
“A thousand-year-old detective story of rare beauty and brilliant insight, as though John McPhee had channelled Gilbert White.” James Babb
“A rich dowsing of a lost river and its stories; a passionate pursuit of landscape ghosts.” Robert Macfarlane
Somewhere Else & The Accidental Angler: Published Yellow Jersey Press 2004 and 2007
The jacket blurbs:
Somewhere Else is a thousand miles away and right next door. It’s where fly fishing takes you: a place and a state of mind. It’s the Himalayan foothills of Bhutan where trout rise to bright insects amidst stands of bamboo; it’s London’s suburbs, where rivers feed municipal fountains; it’s a wind-torn phone-box in a field on the Lesotho border; it’s the Massif Centrale, where a cross-eyed Correzian’s shotgun might just be the end of the line.
Somewhere Else was shortlisted WHSmith Sports Book of the Year 2004.
In The Accidental Angler you’ll battle titanic monsters on a tropical atoll and make believe sharks on the mushy-peas-and-gravy wash. You’ll chase inscrutable grayling through back gardens in Provence, or phantom sea trout in suburban Southampton. In exotic and far flung places or just at the end of your road, fishing will get you up close to crabby weather and crabbier locals, moon-phases, rip-tides, floods, droughts and of course fantastic, slippery beasts.
The Accidental Angler was Classic Angling’s Best Travel Book 2007 and the Angling Writer’s Association Travel Book of the Year 2007. It was developed into a critically acclaimed series for BBC2.
“This book is a joy.” Country Life.
“A cracker. Somewhere Else may well be the fishing book of the year.” The Field.
“An intense round-the-world fly-fishing adventure which sucks you in from first page to last.” Scotland on Sunday.
“The Accidental Angler seems to prove that a tiddler of a book can be a pluperfect obsessive’s masterpiece.” The Oldie.
“Rangeley-Wilson captures the essence of time and place in ways that open your eyes to what you are missing. A real treat.” The Daily Telegraph.
19 Responses to “Books”
[…] the meantime, we thoroughly recommend checking out this extract on Charles’ own website, and his inside story on the writing and publishing process over on Caught by the […]
Submitted by Evelyn Tranter on 2013/04/03 at 8:11 pm
I’m a mature lady travelling to work this morning and reading the Metro. Where you might ask but in Leeds. Why am I leaving a comment, as I saw the article on your new book and it brought back so many memories of my childhood. I was brought up in High Wycombe and my father was the secretary of the local History soc. I remember back in the 60′s when they covered the river up down the Oxford Road. My father used to take us for walks down on the Rye and to the Water cress beds further down stream near Battersbury Mill. You will be pleased to know that in the Art gallery in Leeds is a painting of the farm from Hughenden Valley where I believe Dad took us to photo the springs that fed the river. They just call it a farm in Hughenden Valley some where in the Chiltern Hills, which made me chuckle to myself. That small river used to feed so many mills and has so much history such a shame it has been lost to the town. Dad had a fantastic collection of old photos of Wycombe which my niece still has and she lives in Wycombe. I wish you well with your book and now I feel the need to go and buy it. Evelyn Tranter (nee Woods).
I moved your comment (as best I could) from the About Me page, since it was so much about my book, I thought it better here. Thank you for your lovely note and recollections of the Hughenden Stream. I walked the Hughenden a lot whilst writing Silt Road. You’ll be saddened to hear that there is not much left of it, especially in dry years. In its lower reaches it runs under a supermarket car park and but for a few slivers of daylight, small concessions to its existence framed in stupid plants like bamboo, it is lost to the world, just like the Wye. Every so often there is an attempt to re-establish trout in the Hughenden, but because it dries and there is no easy way for the fish to move in and out of the river from the Wye (both completely subterranean at the confluence) they never last long. I would love to look through that old collection of photos if ever there was a chance. Did you know there is now an online archive of old images? You’ll find it here. Was your dad a photographer? Your niece might be interested in a talk I’ll be doing at High Wycombe Library on the 18th April. Many thanks again and best wishes, Charles.
Good day Charles
I haven’t read your book The Silt Road yet obviously but I am looking forward to coming to launch and buy one.
As a person with an affection for the river which ran along the bottom of our garden when I was a boy and was then an industrial drain, I hope you have given Wycombe Town Council the strong criticisms they deserve in your book, not for culverting it in the first place they simply didn’t know any better then but for not “daylighting” it when they had the opportunity to begin to restore the natural riverside setting of the town but instead ignorantly planted that ridiculously named Eden shopping centre, a misnomer to be proud of, an imposingly clumsy edifice.
Have you read Richard Fortey’s book The Hidden Landscape? In the chapter on chalk geology he sites High Wycombe as a “town growing beyond its natural sympathy with the geology”. Exaclty.
I don’t want to spoil the book for you, but yes, the book asks why the river was buried and it asks why it hasn’t yet been ‘daylighted’. And the name Eden does become a gently ironic theme. All the little histories in the book explore ideas of paradise or Utopia or wilderness … and then there is this waterless Eden at the heart of it all.
You never know, maybe we can catalyse things at the council so the unearthing of the river evolves from a promised idea (always over the horizon and never any closer) into a reality.
I have read Fortey’s book. It is a wonderful read. I was trying to remember the other day, when writing this week’s talk funnily enough, where I had read someone else’s description of the view I always noticed as a student driving up and down the M40. And you have reminded me!
I was in HW yesterday putting up an exhibition at the library, including archive photographs of the now buried river along with a map, which I have mounted by the window so that people can look outside and consider how Temple Mill once lay under the roundabout. Maybe you should pop in if you get a minute: I think you’d find it interesting.
Thanks for the note and I look forward to seeing you on Wednesday or Thursday.
Thanks for your reply, Charles. Just a brief return, I expect that you are busy.
I wrote letters to the Bucks FP and Wycombe Society but had no response from either. I decided that dear old High Wycombe was sadly apathetic despite what I understood were earnest though ineffectual lobbying by the WS. The only person who replied was Steve Roderick of the Chiltern AONB who I know who commended my views as they were what the AONB had been telling WDC for years.
So, to the point: I am interested in your approach concerning “ideas of paradise or Utopias or wilderness” as mine was based on three related ideas;
Firstly, imagining what the valley must have seemed like to early settlers, they must have been delighted, it must have had everything they dreamed of.
Secondly, there is no other town I can think of for, as far as you’d care to look which has a better natural setting for a town, the aspect of the valley is ideal for a start. The railway embankment looks the best spot to me and tells you everything you need to know about how to develop the town.
And thirdly, summed up by Richard Fortey’s observation.
Glad to be of help.
As your river blends into the Thames, my river of the mind
begins to flow through The Realm of Grahame’s masterpiece.
May briefly see you at High Wycombe Museum.
We have prepared a small sampler from the dummy for you.
p.p. Syd Jordan
Thank you for the lovely review Mark. I much appreciate it.
I enjoyed reading your book. If other readers would like to learn about how the local community is trying to improve the Wye and its tributaries, through the Revive The Wye partnership, they might like to log into our website http://www.revivethewye.org.uk .
Revive the Wye Partnership
Hi Mike, thanks very much for your kind words. I hope the book plays its part in your excellent work to “Revive the Wye”. Your comment will provide a link for readers, but I will keep mentioning Revive the Wye in posts. There will be some news this autumn, as you know. Best, Charles.
[…] a stream somewhere in England. At the cashdesk I opened the covered to find that the subject of Charles Rangeley-Wilson’s Silt Road wasn’t just any stream anywhere but the river that ran through Wycombe (pretty much under the […]
[…] feature of new nature writing and, in my next post, use Olivia Laing’s To the River and Charles Rangeley-Wilson’s Silt Road as examples of works that explicitly use form in their aim to redefine […]
[…] of the genre. At the end of the post, I started to look at Olivia Laing’s To the River and Charles Rangeley-Wilson’s Silt Road as examples of works that have their form echo their subject matter – rivers – and that use […]
I am trying to locate a copy of your book chalkstream : fishing the perfect river but unfortunately have not been able to do so. However, I have been able to locate a copy of the first edition chalkstream in search of the ultimate river and am wondering if there is much difference between both books? I see from a previous interview with field magazine that you greatly enjoyed fishing the awbeg river here in Ireland. I really enjoyed the write up about the river awbeg and was glad you rated it so highly as it is one of my local rivers! Love your work and and am looking forward to reading much more of it! Best wishes… Neil Glavin.
Dear Neil, it is essentially the same book, yes. The publisher felt ‘fishing the …’ would sell better than ‘in praise of …’. The Awbeg is a fabulous little river. I keep meaning to go back. I went in 1995 and it was so startling to see the difference in flow and fly-life from the over-abstracted chalk-streams. I hope it’s still doing well. You’re very lucky living amongst all that limestone! Regarding younger rocks, I hope you enjoy the chalk-stream anthology! Best wishes, Charles.
Thanks for your reply.. Much appreciated. I look forward to reading the book and hope you get to fish the awbeg at some stage soon.. Best wishes.. Neil.
As of now, March 2021, the Hughenden chalk stream is in full flow; wide, still and deep at its bends and fair tumbling noisily over the rocks my children used to navigate barefoot many years ago in the early 1980s.
That’s great to hear Mary. Groundwater levels are as high as I have seen here in Norfolk too.