Rivers which are no longer there.

I’ve been writing in a more poetic way recently… I’m not sure how successfully, sometimes it takes a little while to get enough distance to see something you have done yourself objectively. I’ve been writing a lot of watery pieces, and something which fascinates me is water which used to be visible but has become hidden – rivers and steams which are culverted, springs which have been covered and are just soggy patches, places which were special and important but are now diminished and forgotten.

I wrote about hidden rivers a couple of years ago:

I am fascinated by rivers which are no longer there... well, actually usually rivers which have disappeared only seem to be no longer there; in fact most hidden, lost or disappeared rivers are somewhere. Maybe they are somewhere else, diverted by engineers or farmers, or sent on a new course by an event – a flood or avalanche perhaps. Sometimes they are covered over, culverted, channelled, built over… and sometimes this happened such a time ago that they have become forgotten… but still they are there, underground.

I’m sure every city has its lost waterways, London’s hidden rivers include the Rivers Westbourne, Tyburn, Fleet, Walbrook  and Effra. In Bristol, our nearest big city, there are many people keen to bring the lost rivers to light, maybe only figuratively because they are buried too deep to really ever see the light of day; the River Frome, the Malago, Boiling Wells and Pigeon House are all lost Bristol waters.

I am reading ‘Foxglove Summer’ by Ben Aaronovitch; it is the latest in a series which have some of the rivers of London as characters… I think you should read them to properly understand exactly how rivers can be characters! The main character and narrator is an ordinary police constable in London’s Metropolitan Police Force until he comes into contact with a supernatural crime in the first novel of the series ‘Rivers of London’… and to help solve it he is apprenticed as a wizard… yes, I know it sounds bizarre but it is utterly gripping and the power of the writing, the pace, the characters, the intriguing plot, carry the reader along. A satisfactory ending, but somehow the story isn’t finished… and a sequel follows, and then a third part… and now, Foxglove Summer is the fifth in the series. later this year a sixth book is due to be published, possible ‘The Hanging Tree’, and apparently two further novels are expected!

My interest in lost rivers brought me to Ben Aaronovitch and his novels; here is an interesting article about real lost rivers,not just characters in a novel, and also a video:


Ben’s books in the series:

  • Rivers of London
  • Moon Over Soho
  • Whispers Under Ground
  • Broken Homes
  • Foxglove Summer
  • The Hanging Tree


My featured image is of a river which was once important but now is rather neglected, the Hobart Rivulet



    1. Lois

      Alison thank you! Yes! I must write about that… and there was another little stream I remember… was it on the far side of Jesus Green… I must trawl my memory… Thanks for mentioning Hobson and his conduit!


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