In my working life I often come across the phrase, “ah, but the devil’s in the detail…” followed by a sage-like knowing nod and, to be honest, the sage has often been right. In my boating life though I’ve experienced something markedly different, that is a delight in the detail.
Charles Rangeley-Wilson’s book ‘Silt Road’ traces a journey, both physical and psychological, through the minutiae of a seemingly insignificant chalk stream that disappears down a concrete pipe beneath High Wycombe. You might think it sounds a pretty unpropitious starting point for a book of 250+ pages; but it’s proving to be a fascinating read, with surprising connections to what might be described as a boater’s mindset.
Robert Macfarlane has described Rangeley-Wilson as a passionate pursuer of landscape ghosts.
The pursuit of ghosts also seems an apt description of what many boaters do, as they seek to connect with something of the history and heritage of the water road around them. A slow boat provides the perfect opportunity for a well-paced and thoughtful journey of enlightening discovery.