Down the River by H E Bates

Having recently spent an idyllic holiday on the River Nene, I revisited a book we have had for some time. H E Bates, the famous novelist came from Rushden and wrote an evocative book about the rivers of eastern England "Down the River". There are several editions but ours is the 1987 (50th anniversary) edition which has illustrations by Peter Partington.

The book is based around two rivers, the Nene and the Great Ouse and is full of wonderful descriptions of the wildlife, flowers and people living alongside. 

Our copy has an inscription by Maggie's father Hugh, "To a family who have the luck to live between the Two Rivers". He was referring to the Chapter titled The Twin Rivers ad the fact that we live between the Two Rivers and we agree that we are lucky living in this area. With the inscription and its memories we particularly treasure this copy.  

Black-headed Gulls - we saw a lot recently near Woodford

A Lock


There are chapters on fishing, wild flowers, water mills, and otters but unusually there is an interesting chapter on lace-making. The villages in South Northamptonshire have a long history of lace-making and we live opposite a row of cottages that was a lace making "factory".  We can relate to the stories Bates relates about the craft because our village has similar. The history of how the art arrived in our part of England is retold and this is important. .

There are a least two other editions with first edition, published in 1937, having wood engravings by Agnes Miller Parker. However, the 1987 edition is widely available through the usual second-hand book sellers for around £12.  Its a good read and the illustrations of the edition we have are charming.

Researching for this post has convinced me that we must also get a 1937 edition because it is illustrated with wood cuts - I love wood cuts.