The Way to the Sea

The Forgotten Histories of the Thames Estuary

Caroline Crampton

Published: 6 June 2019
Hardback, Demy HB
138x216mm, 336 pages
ISBN: 9781783784134


Caroline Crampton was born on the Thames Estuary to parents who had sailed there from South Africa in the early 1980s. Having grown up with seafaring legs and a desire to explore, Caroline is both a knowledgeable guide to the most hidden-away parts of this overlooked and unfashionable part of the country, and a persuasive advocate for its significance, both historically and culturally.

As one of the key entrances and exits to England, the estuary has been pivotal to London's economic fortunes and in defining its place in the world. It has also been the entry point for immigrants for generations, yet it has an ambivalent relationship with newcomers, and UKIP's popularity in the area is on the rise. As Caroline navigates the waters of the estuary, she also seeks out its stories: empty warehouses and arsenals; the Thames barrier, which guards the safety of Londoners more precariously than we might; ship wrecks still inhabited by the ghosts of the drowned; vast Victorian pumping stations which continue to carry away the capital's sewage; the river banks, layered with archaeological Anglo-Saxon treasures; literature inspired by its landscape; beacons used for centuries to guide boats through the dark and murky waterways of the estuary; the eerie Maunsell army forts - 24 metre high towers of concrete and steel which were built on concealed sandbanks at the far reaches of the estuary during the Second World War and designed to spot (and shoot) at incoming enemy planes; and the estuary's wildlife and shifting tidal moods.

About the author

Image of Caroline Crampton

Caroline Crampton is a writer and editor who contributes regularly to the Guardian, the Mail on Sunday and the New Humanist. She has appeared as a broadcaster on Newsnight, Sky News and BBC Radio 4. This is her first book. More about the author


A beautiful book




‘A fascinating, brilliant book that carries you downstream on its quick-flowing current'’ Cal Flynn

‘Caroline Crampton's The Way to the Sea is a re-enchantment of the overlooked, everyday world of the Thames Estuary. A love letter to a place too changeable to define, this seductive journey is both beautifully written and highly recommendedJohn Higgs

‘In The Way to the Sea, the Thames - from its indistinct origins in a muddy Gloucestershire field, all the way east to the Nore sandbank in the estuary - runs through a lush landscape of personal memories of family sailing trips and Oxonian dunkings, of histories of cities and suburbs that rose and fell on its banks, populated by poets and painters singing the Thames' 'sweet song'. A memorial to Joseph Bazalgette, architect of the Thames' central London embankments, claimed he had 'put the river in chains', but in this tender, often startling, blend of memoir, nature-writing and social and cultural history, Caroline Crampton reveals instead how the river shapes us’ Rachel Hewitt

‘Like the Thames itself, this book carries you along on a journey full of rich detail and fascinating insight’ Madeleine Bunting

‘Lyrically written... this book was a treat

‘This is a remarkable, superbly researched book, and I was swept along by it from source to mouth. The Thames Estuary has found its chronicler, a young writer who opens a reader's eyes to its mystery, moodiness and downbeat beauty’ Christopher Somerville

Mind Unit - websites, content management and email marketing for the arts