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The Water Road: A Narrowboat Odyssey Through England. [Paperback]

Paul Gogarty
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 May 2011
The Water Road is the story of a four month circumnavigation by narrowboat of 'The Grand Cross', the name given to the inland waterway linking the Thames to the Humber, Severn and Mersey. Starting in London, Paul Gogarty follows a figure of eight through Britain's major cities and across the Pennines. Entering the world's most concentrated canal network Gogarty sails into England's past and future. 'The Cut' (the name most commonly used for the canals) is a blueprint of when England was a big island and the inland waterways its motorway. But, after more than a century of neglect, 'The Cut' is now enjoying a second golden age with waterfront cities being regenerated and more inland waterways currently opening in Britain than were being built at the height of Canal Mania 200 years ago. 'The Cut' is a hidden garden flashed with kingfishers and traditional narrowboats; a parallel universe ringing with the laughter of water gypsies, the thin cries of bats and drunken congregations in waterfront pubs. This is a journey across the face of England with all its exultations and darkness; rave boats, glorious sunshine and sheeting rain: canals that have been resurrected and enjoying their new summer and those still abandoned like shameful secrets. The Water Road is a voyage that is poignant, illuminating and entertaining at every turn.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Portico; New edition edition (4 May 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1861056559
  • ISBN-13: 978-1861056559
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 198,225 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Paul Gogarty is a contributor to the Daily Telegraph, Sunday Times, Guardian and Daily Express. He is travel editor at Cosmopolitan magazine, and from 1992 to 2001 was chief travel writer at the Daily and Sunday Telegraph and for three years a regular presenter on BBC 1's Holiday programme.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A highly evocative account 26 Oct 2009
This is an account of a four month journey that Paul Gogarty undertook during the summer of 2001 (during the foot and mouth outbreak) around the English canal system: a figure-of-eight loop from London to Birmingham, Wigan, across to Leeds, back down the Trent to Oxford, then via the Thames back to London.

It's a highly evocative account. Gogarty not only captures the atmosphere of 'the Cut' in descriptive terms, but manages to meet a fascinating cross-section of people living on or around the waterways, surprisingly many still involved in or remembering more commercial times. This is no elegy - the canal system has been going through a more leisure orientated renaissance for some years now - but what Gogarty does manage to do is relate what and those who he finds to a much broader perspective, that of England as a whole.

It's not all sweetness and light, as he comes across many of the vices of modern day England: he's stoned at one point in Wigan by a gang of youths, whilst a constant thread that runs through his book is the issue of racism and xenophobia that permeates parts of English culture, but that is what raises the book above the ordinary. The book journeys beyond a simple account of a journey to one where the concepts of England and Englishness themselves come under closer examination. Gogarty himself is not immune to prejudice, with a jarring note struck late on in the book when taking a look around Eton school, but that is another reason why the book scores so well - it comes over as one man's honest and thoughtful view on what he encounters.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The best canal book in a long time 13 Oct 2012
I'm a long time enthusiast for the canals but have to get my fix in a rather voyeuristic fashion through reading about other people's adventures in books or blogs.
What makes this one so good is that Paul Gogarty is a travel writer and therefore possesses two important qualities, observation and a brilliant command of the English language.
A simple narration of a four month journey would be the equivalent of reading Bradshaw's guide and so I have no problem in Paul introducing us to a wealth of places and people on the canal. Indeed the prose is so good you do start to get that sense of community that exists on our waterways and the very real 'characters' that inhabit them. Some other books I've read have used this technique to fill out the book but here you do feel engaged in the whole environs and hinterland of the canals. The prose is really very good and it makes this a hard book to put down
I really wish, having said all that that, I could have given it four and a half stars because the book does have one serious failing. For those of us who are not intimately conversant with the geography of the canal system it would have been nice to have had much better and informative maps. As such they consist of single lines with a few places picked out and often no reference to places described in the book. There are no junctions marked with other canals and no other places so that the reader can get a feel for where in the UK they are. Finally are all only half a page in size which leaves little room for the detail required.
So, in summing up, this is a brilliant tale of an epic journey that is a delight to read but is let down by very poor cartography.
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Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have read this book many times in paperback and have updated to the kindle version.
I have spent many happy holidays on the canals and reading this book brings back such great memories. Even if you haven't ventured on the canals this book is a very enjoyable account of one man traveling round England on the inland waterways.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good book 20 Jan 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I got this for my husband and he thinks it's great and really funny/witty in parts. Would recommend to others..
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