When we moved into our house in Winchester, the previous owners had left us a hand-drawn map. It showed how to get to their favourite countryside spot: a “secret river”. One weekend, we put on our wellies and set off. The children were immensely excited, but my wife and I were a little apprehensive. Would we get lost? Would the distances be too far for the children to walk? Would the whole thing turn out to be a hoax?
It wasn’t the easiest of rambles, especially for the children. At several points, we almost turned back. But it was well worth the effort; in the middle of dense woods we found an idyllic, natural paddling area on the banks of a sparkling tributary of the River Itchen. We spent a blissful afternoon there, and have returned many times.
Tessa Wardley, author of The River Book – a compendium of advice for making the most of Britain’s rivers – loves this story.
“Those places are secret gems,” she says. “The best way to find them is to chat to people with local knowledge, like farmers and fishermen.”
In her book, Tessa catalogues the many delights that can be found along our river network, from waterfalls to “minibeasts”, fauna to wild foods. And now that the rains have abated, there could be no better time for exploring – so long as you’re careful. Continue reading on the Telegraph website