In a handsome, homemade canoe, painted a joyous nautical red the colour of Mae West’s lips, Matt and his friend James delve into a watery landscape that invites us to see the world through new eyes.
Over chalk, gravel, clay and mud; through fields, woodland, villages, towns and cities, they reveal many places that otherwise go unnoticed and perhaps unloved, finding delight in the Waveney, Stour, Alde/Ore, upper and lower Thames, Lark, Great Ouse, Granta and Cam, Wye, Otter, Colne, Severn and the Great Glen Trail.
I’ve always loved being on, in or near water. Swimming in the sea, paddling in rivers, there’s something magical about bodies of water. So I had little hesitation in saying yes when asked if I’d like to read Matt Gaw’s The Pull of the River.
It’s a glorious meander through our waterways in a borrowed Canadian canoe, in the company of Matt and James. I do love a good bit of travel writing, and this is just that. Full of anecdotes and nuggets of information about the landscape they find themselves paddling gently through, it’s warm, witty and entirely splendid. Life on the water moves at a different pace, and it’s wonderful to spend some time away from the breakneck pace of modern life.
It’s not all paddling though. They come up against a variety of obstacles along their way – some man-made, some more natural (midges and rapids), punctuated with a bit of wild camping along the banks.
Gaw writes with a wit and enthusiasm which is infectious, and an eye for detail that will make you determined to take notice of the little things by the rivers and waterways.
Hugely enjoyable. The only problem I have is that now I want a canoe. You will too. Be warned…
The Pull of the River by Matt Gaw is published by Elliot & Thompson and is out now. Many thanks to Elliot & Thompson for the review copy.