We round up the most magical and stress alleviating rivers that beautiful Britain has to offer.
River Lyn, Devon (above)
Depending on the weather, the Lyn thunders or chuckles off Exmoor, plunging through a precipitous gorge down to a picturesque harbour town by the sea. This is a river of waterfalls and mossy boulders and towering woods. A footpath runs from the harbour, past Watersmeet, all the way to Rockford. There are hideaway pubs and tearooms along the way.
River Itchen, Hampshire
The geological and poetic opposite of the Lyn, the Itchen is blowsy and serene, a pellucid water garden of a river. It flows through plashy, wet woodland and ancient water-meadows rich in wildlife. The Itchen Way runs all the way from the source to Southampton Water.
Water of Leith, Edinburgh
I walked this river years ago on a visit to Edinburgh and again on a sunny morning last summer. A footpath threads past old mills, weirs and waterfalls and under bridges. The city takes place elsewhere. The Water of Leith: not far in name or meaning from the Lethe that helped the ancients to forget.
River Wandle, London
Londoners have a big river to soothe the mind, of course, but for something more intimate, the chalkstream that John Ruskin fell in love with, which rises in Croydon and, after years of neglect, is once again blessed by wild trout and salmon, takes some beating. Footpaths follow most of it.
River Usk, Wales
I could go to heaven with a fly-fishing rod and find a chalkstream. Failing that, I wouldn’t mind finding the River Usk. Of trout angling, ‘what it hasn’t got is not worth having, and what it doesn’t know is not worth knowing’. A passport scheme has made this river open to all.