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One man and his boat take a trip up the river Trent

Downstream is a celebration of rivers: an exploration of what they mean to us and an account of what we owe to them. Tom Fort followed the course of our third largest, and one of our least known rivers from source to the sea -- the River Trent. Travelling partly on foot and bicycle, but chiefly in a plywood fifteen foot punt, Fort journeyed through the unsung heart of Middle England, showing him the unseen face of his own country. His journey taught him about the land and moving water, its mysteries and magic.

Rivers are special to us and the landscape we inhabit. They shape and define our world. They give us power and nourishment. They were the first highways, routes for conquest and flight. They acted as barriers and connections. they stir the imagination and reach into our souls.

This is an exploration into the historical, geographical, social, cultural and industrial aspects of a river filled with the curiosities, forgotten characters and departed ways.


In Downstream, Fort sets out by punt to explore what he describes, in a characteristically lovely phrase. as 'the concealed dimension' of water. Fort is a quintessentially English guide. A pleasingly unstructured ramble through the history of the Midlands.


For the river-lover, who likes to pause and look over bridges to see what is going on beneath (and alongside), and who likes to think of the past and the present continually flowing into the future, this book will be a delight.

The Spectator

The story of the river that bubbles up throughout the narrative is told with the quiet authority of one who knows about the hidden flow beneath the riverbed. Well-referenced scholarship lies behind Fort's lively accounts of the history of this part of Middle England. Erudition with a light touch, cleverly interwoven with stories of pints downed, clean sheets and greasy breakfasts appreciated and characters met; what fun it all is and how impressive is the learning that lies behind it.


Sitting contentedly in a backwater with a glass of Rioja or a fishing line, Fort bestows an almost lyrical beauty on rivers both actual and archetypal, whether explaining the carved intricacies of the watercourse of simply peering deep into its "flickering being".

Daily Telegraph

It is difficult not to like Fort, if not simply for his encyclopaedic knowledge of all things fluvial then for his wit and irony too. Once engaged it is difficult to escape. He has stirred a latent fondness for oxbow lakes and wandering streams.

Literary Review

A well-observed travelogue. [Fort] has cleverly constructed the book to reflect the river's characteristics. Tom has written a charming book that cannot fail to give pleasure.

The Oldie

Fort is an amiable companion, whether investigating the river's pubs, observing its wildlife or finding an enviable freedom camped out on its banks

FT Magazine

A jolly, colourful, well-written travelogue, it is a good read

The Lady

Downstream is a double delight; a celebration of the River Trent itself and a humourous exploration of its historical, geographical, industrial and cultural curiosities.

Nottingham Evening Post

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback


    March 15, 2009


    336 pages

    RRP $19.99

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