the flow

England has many rivers, all home to amazing creatures like otters and kingfishers. But The Thames is not the longest. The River Severn is the longest  river in England. At 220 miles, it begins in a peat bog in Wales and ends in the Bristol Channel, running through several counties, and has the second highest tidal wave worldwide.

The Flow is a short-listed writer’s journey along the rivers, waters and wildness of Britain. Called ‘simply beautiful’ by nature writer Stephen Ross, Amy visits a rapid where she lost a cherished friend, and unexpected reignites a love of rivers, and a journey of natural, cultural and emotional history. In 2023, her beloved friend Kate set out with others to kayak the River Rawthey (Cumbria). But she never returned, and her death left her family and friends unmoored.

Visiting years later, her journey turns into a book about water that meanders and cascades through lives, landscapes and stories. From West Country torrents to Levels and Fens, from rocky Welsh canyons to the salmon highways of Scotland – through to the chalk rivers of the Yorkshire Wolds, Amy-Jane follows springs, streams and rivers to explore tributary themes of wildness and wonder, loss and healing, mythology and history. Threading together places and voices, this is a profound exploration of our place in nature.

Dr Amy-Jane beer is a biologist turned naturalist and writer. She has worked for over 20 years as a science writer, contributing to over 40 books on natural history and is a columnist for British Wildlife and BBC Wildlife magazine. She campaigns for nature and conservation and works with enviornmental art charity New Networks for Nature and Right to Roam, and is honorary president of the Friends of the Dales.

a beautiful ode to a Yorkshire river

walking the Wharfe

Walking the Wharfe is a lovely book by local boy Johno Ellison, who returns home from living abroad to walk the entire length of the waterway where he grew up. Retracing the steps of Victorian writer Edmund Bogg, he looks at how riverscapes and communities have have evolved over the last 120 years,  while wild-camping (meeting the fearless ‘Dales Dippers’), as well as learning how not to deal with a herd of over-inquisitive cows.

Beginning in the Vale of York, he walks upstream to find Victorian spa towns and rare wildlife (like red kites and otters) who have returned, thanks to conservation initiatives. He is also seduced into wild swimming a chilly river (not the section notorious for reportedly drowning everyone has ever tumbled into it). And seeks refuge in a candlelit pub, during a storm that causes a power blackout). A must-read for anyone who loves nature. And a book to confirm that lesser-known parts of our small island, can hold their own against renowned tourist sites the world over.

Johno Ellison grew up in a village on the River Wharfe in Yorkshire and developed a fascination with waterways, spending his childhood exploring the riverbanks of Wharfedale, plus the hills and valleys upstream. After training as a helicopter pilot, he travelled the world in a vintage London black cab and currently lives in Malaysia with his wife, who he met in a small village beside the River Wharfe.

watching the kingfishers (on River Nene)

call of the kingfisher

Call of the Kingfisher is an enchanting book by a composer and wildlife recordist, who celebrates all the wild things that live on a short stretch of Northamptonshire’s River Nene, especially beautiful blue and orange kingfishers (with bonus birdsong recordings). Don’t play birdsong near birds, makes them vulnerable to predators. 

For 40 years, the author has walked beside the River Nene at Oundle (a lovely but little-known part of England where bandleader Glenn Miller performed his final concert, before going missing). For a whole year, Nick gave the waterway all his time, so the more he saw the resident kingfishers and heard their high whistling calls.

Also exploring the history and landscape (from Roman and Bronze Age sites to watermills and centuries-old stone churches), he also watches forest dawns and dusks, listening the precious songs of nightingales. Alongside the background tapestry of greens and browns, sights and sounds – all shot through with blue and orange threads of a kingfisher’s glowing feathers.

Nick Penny took an arts degree at Oxford University, then set up a workshop making musical instrument, and writes and plays the Paraguayan harp. After moving to rural Northamptonshire 40 years ago, he became fascinated by birdsong in his local woods, and began to use the sounds in his own music. He is an inspiring speaker on wildlife and birdsong.

books about life on the River Thames

life on the river Thames

In London, The Thames used to be so heavily polluted that Parliament would have to regularly close down due to the stench. Today it’s much cleaner with many mudlarking for history of its past (using tide times for safety, just like for the sea).

England has many rivers, all home to amazing creatures like otters and kingfishers. But The Thames is not the longest. The River Severn is the longest  river in England. At 220 miles, it begins in a peat bog in Wales and ends in the Bristol Channel, running through several counties, and has the second highest tidal wave worldwide.

Life on the Thames is an illustrated journey along a river that sustains a staggering number of birds, mammals and other creatures. Learn about them, as you progress from the source to estuary.

From Source to Sea recounts the author’s 215-walk along the entire length of the River Thames from the Cotswolds to the North Sea. Join Tom for an illuminating stroll past meadows, churches and palaces, country and council estates, factories and dockyards, meeting a host of interesting characters along the way.

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