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Downstream: Across England In A Punt
By Tom Fort
Century £14.99
FT bookshop price: £11.99

Tom Fort’s book belongs to a very English genre – the low-key travelogue, with elements of history and middle-aged philosophy mixed in. A lifelong river-lover, Fort navigates the River Trent in a 15ft punt from its moorland source above Stoke to the sea.

Along the way he considers the area’s decline since its industrial heyday, though he’s no dewy-eyed nostalgist. Some things in life do get better, and the state of Britain’s rivers is a case in point. To catch chub and barbel on the Trent, as Fort does, would have been unthinkable a century ago.

It must be said that some of the incidental history is highly skippable. But Fort is an amiable companion, whether investigating the river’s pubs, observing its wildlife or finding an enviable freedom camped out on its banks.

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