Saturday, February 22, 2014


My brother-in-law, Rod, has had a passion for books for as long as I have known him, and has had his own small business for many years now - Bunyan Books - buying and selling rare books. Additionally, he's worked in a charity bookshop, and is Consultant Book Valuer to W & H Peacock Auctioneers & Valuers.

Rod knows a good book when he sees one, and, over the past few years, Grace and I have had a number of book gifts from him. A generous eleven of these are canal-related, and well worth reading.

In no particular order, these are those books.

This is my current read, and it's superb. Once you've forgiven the aged husband and wife crew for the sheer madness of their trip (" Carcassonne", which included a trip across the English Channel, came first), then you can laugh with them and be thoroughly absorbed in their experiences.

Probably the most famous of all such books, this is the story of Tom Rolt's four-month honeymoon trip upon "Cressie", fitted out for the purpose at Tooley's Boatyard in Banbury, a trip which ultimately led to the formation of the Inland Waterways Association.

Another autobiographical gem, this book tells a delightful tale of a family's move from the rat-race of life in Birmingham to a life of self-sufficiency and hard work in a shop at Buckby Top Lock.

The house/shop as it is now

Says the note on the back cover of this book, "Here is an inland waterway book that is different. One not just for the cruising man or the historian or the canal restorer, but for ordinary people who wonder whether they could find new interests on the waterways." An interesting collection of advice and essential information.

"The Waterways of Britain is an authoritative, attractive and practical guide to the inland waterways of Britain. With over 40 colour and 100 black and white photographs, and 16 specially commissioned maps, this book provides the reader with all the information needed to plan and enjoy over 80 waterways of Britain." Excellent for new boaters and holiday-makers especially.

Dividing the network into North, Midlands and South, this book devotes 182 pages to a fabulous selection of 90 walks, with detailed history and other notes of interest. Naturally, it gives directions for the walks, maps and photographs, too. It has to be said that it's a very bulky tome for walkers to carry with them, but it does have a very valid place in the canal boat, since the text other than the directions for the walks will be of interest to all who want to get to know the canals on which they're cruising.

This is another outstanding canal guide, lavishly illustrated with photos and maps - many of them going back a century and more - and fascinating, detailed description and history. This one is of particular interest to us, since Northamptonshire is our "home ground".

"Comprehensive" is no exaggeration. This book details 90 canals and canal arms, with hundreds of photos and maps, and a plethora of detailed information about each. If you were going to have just one canal guide, then this should be it!

This is a must for those who love the history of the canals, for this delves deeply into the whole subject, from the building of them, the engineers and architects, the boats, the workers on the canals and so on, right through to the modern phenomenon of canals for pleasure. With hundreds of photos and other pictures, too, this is a real treasure-trove.

I have no ambition to fit out a boat myself, but I am grateful to Rod for giving this book to us, too, because it helps us to understand our boat better, its systems and component parts. Clear descriptions and explanations, with clear pictures, all make this a very useful and interesting read.

Of all of these books, this one has to be the most unusual. It's a very large volume, and paper-backed, but how do I describe it otherwise? Well, the compiler says this of it.
"The purpose of this... publication on transport history is to present the story of inland navigation in Britain in a way which will capture the interest of the casual reader, and provide the historian with accurate facsimiles of historic source material which, for the most part, is beyond the physical and financial reach of many waterways enthusiasts."

There follow 80 pages of fascinating hand-drawn illustrations of canal life and all things associated with it, with numerous old texts to add histories and footnotes to the pictures. There are maps, diagrams, posters, copied pages of schedules and registers and all sorts of other old documents. It's fascinating, and it's truly beautiful.

Thank you, Rod, very much, for this superb collection.

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