We’re lucky enough to live near a river. It’s the same river that cuts through greensand at the bottom of these chalk and flint valleys to lend its name to the hamlet where we live, and Little Toller Books. Recorded in the Domesday as Tolre, apparently it is derived from a Celtic word describing a stream in the hollow of a chalk valley. The river rises at Toller Whelme and rushes six miles, passing Toller Porcorum (Big Toller / Toller of the Pigs) and Toller Fratrum (Little Toller / Toller of the Brothers, named so after the monastic farmstead here, once owned by the Knights Hospitaller). It then joins the River Frome at Maiden Newton, where it begins its journey out towards Poole Harbour and the sea.
The river is not called the Toller anymore. It’s now the River Hooke, and was changed some time ago but nobody really knows why. Perhaps it was changed because the owners of Hooke Court, a manor house damaged during the Civil War, thought it only right that the river be named after their patch at the village of Hooke. Or maybe it’s because the distinctive feature is its many sharp hocs (bends) in the river’s course.
But some of the local families in these valleys, those who have lived here the longest, don’t really care for names. They care for insects, particularly the delicious variety that rise and gather at Toller waters as the spring air begins to warm. This valley is their valley, this river is their river. And as one eight-year-old boy and his dad discovered, when people go walking and listening and looking for bats, when they tune into their twilight, the river reveals other secrets.
PS: The image of the bat that appears here was not encountered during the walk, but was found lifeless on the road outside our house. The eight-year-old could not resist picking it up to examine its mouth, to know where the clicks came from.