Tuesday, 2 March 2010


Rivers play a more dramatic part in defining the landscape of the North than they do in most other English regions, thanks to the long spine of the Pennines (hills whose distinctive inhabitants will get a post of their own shortly). Rain comes down in torrents on the watershed and so we have big, big rivers snaking away on either side, leading respectively to the Irish and North Seas. Sentimentally, I hanker after the latter's old name, widely used until the First World War, of the German Ocean. There's a very good recent collection of essays on one of the grandest waterways in Mersey - the River that Changed the World (Bluecoat Press 2007), including one by my long-standing Guardian colleague David Ward, whose retirement triggered True North when, incredibly, not a single colleague in London applied to fill his shoes. On the Yorkshire side, I have made much use over the years of the reprinted series on Yorkshire Rivers (Old Hall Press 1998), originally written for the Yorkshire Weekly Post at the turn of the 20th century. I have a lot of other books on the subject, which I'll add here as I rediscover them, but for now I'll mention Yorkshire's River Aire(Terence Dalton 1976) by John Ogden (not the pianist), with a chirpy introduction by Jimmy Saville who reveals a plan to kidnap the whole world and bring them North. Also A Ball - A Square by John Springer (Richard Netherwood 1996) which introduces the waterways of the North, inlcuding canals, to younger readers, plus those young at heart, through the adventures of a fictional group of children on a narrowboat in real-life settings.
Finally, for now, I have used a trove of leaflets such as Public Art Walks in Tyne and Wear (TyneWear Partnership 2006 {I think}) which concisely introduce their users to possibly unexpected waterside beauty in the North East. Click on the pic to see details.

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