River Memories

A Westcountry River Story

Elly Greenway

Elly Greenway

Data & Evidence Officer


My love of rivers started from a young age – I think it does for everyone.

But then maybe that is the issue?

A childhood spent playing in the river is soon given over to work, responsibility, sporadic trips to coffee shops and a Netflix subscription. Life gets in the way.

But these memories are worth dragging up.

Memories of freezing water flooding over the top of wellies. 

River walks ducking under fallen trees before returning triumphant (if not a little scratched) on dry land

Discovering a whirligig beetle spinning giddily on the water surface. 

Courageous dives into icy Dartmoor pools. 

Racing across footbridges in the hope that my carefully selected stick would be the first to emerge out of the other side. 

Timing satsumas as they floated down the river on school geography trips.

The rush of water against my canoe’s hull as I make heroic attempts to travel against the current.

The rush of adrenaline as, with a run and a jump, the tyre swing extends far out over the river below.

My river story is not just one of happy childhood memories, but also of the growing realisation that our rivers are not the way they should be.

The crystal-clear rivers of my memories are too often contrasted by the murky brown waters we see throughout of the Westcountry.

It’s almost as if brown has become normal for a river. But beneath those grubby waters, fish and other aquatic life are being threatened, sediments and chemicals are being added to the concoction (requiring ever more treatment before making our drinking water) and that idyllic image of our rivers seems to have been dissolved.

Does this leave me in despair? A little. But it’s reassuring to know that it doesn’t take much to reverse the story. Even simple changes to the way we use the land and manage the river can make a huge difference to water quality and the health of river life.

So I’m looking forward to a future where clean waters fill our rivers, fish and other lifeforms can thrive and children can continue to enjoy their local rivers and streams for generations to come.

Submit Your own river story...