The River Trent swells from a mere trickle in North Staffordshire into a mighty tidal waterway. For many people it marks the point where the 'North', region of real ale, flat caps and even flatter vowels, begins. A natural communication route, the Trent Valley provided sites for early human settlement. Archaeologists have found primitive boats up to 3,500 years old. For the settlements that grew up along its banks the river was a vital resource. Medieval hedge weirs funnelled fish into nets and the power of the current was harnessed to drive mill wheels. Wool, coal, lead, corn, stone, beer, salt, cheese, earthenware and iron goods were shipped downriver, and boats returned laden with groceries, consumer goods, furs, timber and pig iron. Shipping declined in the 20th century, and neglect and industrial exploitation left much of the upper river polluted and sterile. In recent years, however, a more sensitive approach to river management has transformed the water quality, seeing otters and salmon returning. Carefully selected illustrations that celebrate the river's journey from moorland to the Humber Estuary, add to this beautifully written book's appeal.