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Rivers of Norfolk


Tor Falcon


As a child growing up in Norfolk, I was obsessed with fishing. I fished the Bure, the Wensum, the Yare, the Waveney, the Chet, the Ant and Hellington Beck. But, most of all I fished the Tas - a small, secretive river that rises at Carleton Rode and flows north for about twenty miles towards  Norwich. The Tas was my favourite place. I knew every accessible part of the river from Tasburgh down to Trowse and I was familiar with its changing faces through the seasons. I knew its turbid winter flow; I knew its limpid riffles in summer; I knew the mills where it cascaded through; I knew the deep pools where the jack pike lurked and I knew the best locations for long trotting for the elusive Tas dace. In short, I loved it.

So when I stumbled across Tor Falcon's book the Rivers of Norfolk I was instantly hooked - knowing that I had come across a fellow river lover. Her interest in Norfolk rivers began when a friend of hers asked her to draw the Rivers Nar and Stiffkey. This inspired her to Google the term 'Norfolk Rivers' and she came across an alphabetical list on Wikipedia of 38 rivers which read, she says, like an Old English poem. She subsequently spent four years drawing and recording all the rivers on that list.Taking with here her chalk pastels and drawing board she drove and walked her way round the various rivers and becks. However, the resulting book is far more that just a collection of pictures (albeit very good pictures) - it is also a written record of her journey downstream. Her prose is descriptive, evocative and informative and includes relevant historical and geographical information. For instance, on the River Bure section she recalls the tragic incident at Great Yarmouth  in  1845 when a crowd - watching a clown named William Cooke being pulled upstream in a barrel by two swans - caused it to collapse killing 79 people. She also documents the people who she meets on her travels: like the man who stopped to tell her about the landlord of the Ferry Boat Inn on the River Wensum in Norwich. She is also good on the environmental challenges that face our rivers in this age of climate change and water extraction.

The book contains sections on the following rivers:

Ainse, Ant, Babingley, Beeston Beck, Blackwater, Bure, Burn, Chet, Cong, Gadder, Gaywood, Glaven, Great Ouse, Gur Beck, Hagon Beck, Heacham, Hor, Hun, Ingol, Little Ouse, Mermaid, Mun, Nar, Panford Beck, Penny Spot Beck, Scarrow Beck, Spring Beck, Stiffkey, Tas, Tat, Thet, Thurne, Tiffey, Tud, Waveney, Wensum, Wissey and Yare.

Tor is very modest about her writing and expressed concern when I offered to do a review of her book - saying that she didn't think it was 'literary'. Her modesty is misplaced - as this delightfully poetic extract from Penny Spot Beck reveals:

'Mostly you have to pay attention if you want to hear the song of a Norfolk river. It won't interrrrupt your thoughts. It's the imperceptible something that accompanies the call of dabchick, the slow tempo before a pike strike. A breaststoking toad swims to its unhurried rhythm and the refrain resonates with reed and mud.'
Hopefully this book will inspire us to look after the county's beautiful rivers. If it doesn't then, at least, it's still a faithful and delightful record of them.

An exhibition of Tor's river drawings can be seen at the Castle Museum in Norwich until January 2020.





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