Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

WATER WAYS: A Thousand Miles Along Britain’s Canals

  • Written by  Olivia Edwards
  • Published in Books
WATER WAYS: A Thousand Miles Along Britain's Canals WATER WAYS: A Thousand Miles Along Britain's Canals
15 Aug
2018
by Jasper Winn • Profile Books • £16.99 (hardback)

If it hadn’t been for the ‘canal-busters’ of the late 20th century, Britain might have lost its canals. Using a loophole in transportation law, they forced the government to keep these waterways open by using whatever craft they could to fight their way through barely-passable channels and near-derelict tunnels in order to maintain ‘a right of navigation’.

Today the 2,000-mile network of canals is busier than at any other point in its history. Jasper Winn cycles, walks, boats and paddleboards his way around it; hitching lifts, gleaning stories and sleeping in a bivvy bag beside the towpath. The level of research is impressive, turning what could be just an amiable stroll around Britain’s backwaters into an in-depth understanding of their history and geography.
Canals were the physical internet of their day believes Winn. By the early 1800s more than half of England lived within five miles of one, creating an interconnected watery highway that allowed for the distribution of ideas, goods and people in a way that had never been possible before.  Without them, the industrial revolution could have been reduced to a whimper. They converted horse power into a more efficient unit – one animal could pull 40 to 50 times more on water than it could carry on land, and fragile items such as crockery were more likely to arrive in a useable condition.

Winn ponders why they have few devoted folk songs and observes their new postmodern uses – as commuter routes; cheap housing (11,000 of the 37,000 boats registered on canals are full-time liveaboards);for the new sport of magnet fishing (pulling metal debris from the water using high-strength magnets); and as a stand-in Ganges for Britain’s Hindu communities.
More than a charming travel book, this is a roving miscellanea of engrossing canal facts and lore.

Click here to buy Water Ways: A Thousand Miles Along Britain's Canals

Subscribe to Geographical!

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

Sign up for our weekly newsletter today and get a FREE eBook collection!

geo line break v3

University of Winchester

geo line break v3

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Derby

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • Natural Capital: Putting a price on nature
    Natural capital is a way to quantify the value of the world that nature provides for us – the air, soils, water, even recreational activity. Advocat...
    The Human Game – Tackling football’s ‘slave trade’
    Few would argue with football’s position as the world’s number one sport. But as Mark Rowe discovers, this global popularity is masking a sinister...
    Essential oil?
    Palm oil is omnipresent in global consumption. But in many circles it is considered the scourge of the natural world, for the deforestation and habita...
    London: a walk in the park
    In the 2016 London Mayoral election, the city’s natural environment was high on the agenda. Geographical asks: does the capital have a green future,...
    Diabetes: The World at Risk
    Diabetes is often thought of as a ‘western’ problem, one linked to the developed world’s overindulgence in fatty foods and chronic lack of physi...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in REVIEWS...

Films

Powerful expedition film, screened at the 2018 Adventure Uncovered Film…

Books

by Laura Locker and Julia Scheele • Icon Books • £12.99 (paperback)

Books

by Patrick Nunn • Bloomsbury • £16.99 (hardback) • £14.99 (eBook)

Books

by Oliver Bullough • Profile Books • £20 (hardback) • £14.99 (eBook)

Books

by Thomas Reinertsen Berg • Hodder & Stoughton • £25 (hardback)

Books

by Adam Rutherford • Weidenfeld & Nicolson • £18.99 (hardback) • £9.99 (eBook)

Films

Ever since 1984, when the first TED conference took place,…

Exhibitions

Annual photography competition at the Natural History Museum celebrates the…

Exhibitions

We all have to live with buildings, but getting the…

Books

by Bruno Latour • Polity Books • £12.99 (hardback)

Books

edited by Fearghal O’Nuallain • Summersdale • £9.99 (paperback)

Books

by Francis Fukuyama • Profile Books • £16.99 (hardback) • £14.99 (eBook)

Books

by Pascal Bruckner • Polity Books • £16.99 (hardback)

Books

by Kevin Begos • Algonquin Books • £20.99 (hardback)

Books

by Karl Schlögel (translated by Gerrit Jackson) • Reaktion Books • £18 (hardback)

Films

Space race biopic tries to uncover the real Neil Armstrong,…

Exhibitions

Four new galleries at Royal Museums Greenwich explore Britain’s maritime…

Books

by John Foot • Bloomsbury • £25 (hardback)

Books

by Deborah Baker • Chatto & Windus • £25 (hardback)