There’s more to London waterways than the omnipresent Thames. As a matter of fact there’s a hidden network of rivers that snakes beneath the capital. London’s Lost Rivers: A Walker’s Guide takes the reader along their routes through a series of ten walks. This unique book combines hand drawn maps with fascinating histories to rediscover the rivers, chart their origins and explore their eventual decline and disappearance.

It is clear that the author Tom Bolton is a keen walker when you read his engaging book about London’s lost rivers. This book is a must for anyone who loves our beautiful capital. Despite the relentless mall-ification of London, which at times makes you despair, there are still millions of quirky and charming details – you just have to look carefully. This book is a great eye opener.

Take the waterways around which London was built. They may be buried, but they continue to flow underground, and in some places can still be heard and seen. Frustrated at not being able to follow the rivers through 21st century London, Bolton decided to write his own guide, and in the process began to unravel London’s many layers of history. Predating the city and its inhabitants, these rivers mark the last traces of London’s lost landscape before it was transformed into the urban sprawl we take for granted today.

Ranging from the River Fleet in verdant Hampstead to the urban suburbs of South London where the River Peck is found, Bolton’s richly detailed walks guide us through some of London’s most famous and infamous locations, as well as its many hidden byways, and introduce us to some of the city’s more engaging characters.

To accompany the written accounts, photographer SF Said uses expired Polaroid film to document sites along the routes. The chemical decomposition of the film creates fiery, hallucinogenic, half-seen imagery that suggests we have been transported to a place far removed from the present.

Tom Bolton is a writer, researcher and walker who lives and works in London. He writes regularly about the city and reviews theatre and music.

London’s Lost Rivers: A Walker’s Guide is published by Strange Attractor Press, priced at £14.99.

All images © SF Said

Words by Anna Bang

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