The best books about our canals, rivers, and coast

Why am I passionate about this?

I was fortunate enough to take up white water kayaks as a student in Scotland, eventually becoming a member of the British wild water racing team. The portable nature of these craft makes it easy to move from one stretch of water to another. I subsequently became the editor of Canoeist (by accident) and have travelled all the major British canals, the larger lochs, the entire mainland coast, and many other waters, producing guides that have been found useful for those on the water, on foot, on bikes or in armchairs.


I wrote...

Canals of Britain: A Comprehensive Guide

By Stuart Fisher,

Book cover of Canals of Britain: A Comprehensive Guide

What is my book about?

A comprehensive guide to Britain's canals, including some not connected to the main network or deep enough for large boats. Not a pilot, it explores construction, history, scenery, architecture, engineering, folklore, wildlife, art, and more, ranging from open countryside, wild moorland, and coastal harbours to modern and heritage city centres, useful for those using towpaths or banks as well as on the water.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Pub Paddles: The Best Short Paddling Trips in the South of England

Stuart Fisher Why did I love this book?

Pub walks books are common enough.

You drive there and tie in a walk with a visit to the pub. This is different. You paddle to the pub.

Over two dozen routes in the southeast of England are suggested, between Cambridge and Southampton, some to popular river or canal destinations, some more off the beaten track. Much attention is paid to the interests of kids.

The trips are graded by scenery, length, time, difficulty level, National Trust properties, castles, and canoe hire availability, with attention paid to people with physical difficulties or needing to rely on trains.

I have to declare an interest in this one, being involved in the layout of the content.

By Peter Knowles,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Pub Paddles as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For all kinds of paddle boards, canoes, kayaks and inflatables. This is an inspiring, beautifully designed guidebook with full details of 26 easy but interesting paddling trips, mostly 1-3 hours long, and within an hour or two of London. They are family-friendly, provide good access and parking, include pubs and tea shops; castles, camping and canoe hire. This title was produced in association with Canoe England and all trips have been thoroughly researched, selected, and tested by Peter Knowles - a famous expedition paddler. Reviewers consistently call this "a brilliant guide book".


Book cover of River, Coast and Creek: An Exploration of Maritime Essex

Stuart Fisher Why did I love this book?

This is the third and final part of the author's trilogy on the East Anglian coastline, covering Essex, the previous two featuring Norfolk and Suffolk.

With her background in sailing, it is not so much a gazetteer as a wonderful medley of all things nautical as she goes off at a tangent time after time to fill in colour on the Essex coast, accompanied by her sketches and sketch maps.

Here are geology with the inundation of what has become the North Sea, human evolution, the Cinque Ports, the Hudson Bay Company, pocket submarines, sailing boat types, salt production, smuggling, Samuel Pepys, the Battle of Maldon, Anglo Saxons, oysters and other seafood, classic yacht racing, the Beagle, monsters, mermaids, the Great Lakes and much more.

Book cover of The Canoe Boys: The First Epic Scottish Sea Journey by Kayak

Stuart Fisher Why did I love this book?

Faced with publishing debts after their boys' adventure magazine failed, two young men, the author, and James Adams, undertook a kayak expedition in the mid-1930s up the Scottish west coast from the Clyde to Mull, raising funds by selling reports to the press.

They learned much of the remote and deprived Highland economy, which stood the author in good stead later, editing the Daily Record and The Scotsman.

A long trip, including helping to take in the harvest in the autumn, it involved canvas kayaks, kilts, and buying provisions from farms, much more onerous than kit for present-day expeditions.

Originally published as Quest by Canoe, this version includes significant extra material, including press cuttings.

By Alastair Dunnett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Canoe Boys as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

After being left with no work, Alastair Dunnett and James Adam decided to repay their debts by canoeing from the Clyde to the Hebrides. This text is a collection of the dispatches from their journey they sold to a newspaper in order to make money.


Book cover of Joss Naylor's Lakes, Meres and Waters of the Lake District: Loweswater to Over Water: 105 miles in the footsteps of a legend

Stuart Fisher Why did I love this book?

In 1983 the 47-year-old fell runner Joss Naylor set a record of 19 hours 14 minutes for touching all 27 relevant lakes in the Lake District.

His astonishing time for this 169km run still stands. This was not on the flat, of course, but often over rough country, involving over 6km of vertical height gain.

He had to prepare his support team, find his own route and have witnesses at each lake in the days before mobile phones or satnav. The author walked the route in 2020 with a photographer and Joss in 10 days, still not hanging about for a man in his 80s.

Joss chose to donate his royalties for this inspirational book to the Brathay Trust, which helps the disadvantaged, match funded by publishers Cicerone.

By Vivienne Crow,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Joss Naylor's Lakes, Meres and Waters of the Lake District as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

King of the Fells. Iron man. Lake District fell running legend. Joss Naylor is all of these things and more. His achievements are astounding, his records stand the test of time. In 1983 he completed the 105-mile Lakes, Meres and Waters (LMW) route in a staggering 19hr 14min and to this day, describes it as one of the best routes he ever ran. High praise indeed and yet, so few know of it.

Part guidebook, part inspirational regaling, this book interweaves tales of past and present as Naylor reflects on his 1983 epic on a re-walk 37 years later. In…


Book cover of Behind the Paddle

Stuart Fisher Why did I love this book?

This autobiography opens looking from the start line at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

A long book with a lot of detail, the pace hardly seems to drop. The author used some unconventional methods in his training, including on the sea, not usual for a sprint kayak racer.

This was on the Ayrshire coast when the M6 was still under construction and regular national squad training weekends were never north of Birmingham. Back home with his family, he also ran a local training group.

The title has a double meaning as he began manufacturing the world-renowned Lendal paddles, with further travel issues. The innovations had to be perfect, again with original thinking.

He produced the world's first GRP shafts and split paddles and handled issues of composite blades, cranks, aerofoils, and curved shafts.

This is a book that says 'can do' and does all the way through.

By Alistair Wilson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Behind the Paddle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From a very young age I developed a fascination for the sea and a passion for paddling particularly in the roughest of conditions off the rocky coast of Lendalfoot in the south west of Scotland. That passion would define my life as a sportsman, an entrepreneur and businessman but most importantly it would also shape family life.
I would describe my early success in my chosen sport of sprint kayaking as accidental. If truth be told when I started out, I really did not have a clue. I was however super fit having trained hard, kayaking in wild stormy seas…


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Rip Current

By Sharon Ward,

Book cover of Rip Current

Sharon Ward Author Of In Deep

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Even as a kid, I was intrigued by the underwater world, so as an adult, I learned to scuba dive. I took to it like a fish to water, and my husband and I spent the next several years traveling to tropical islands to experience the local dive conditions whenever possible. I loved learning how every island had a different culture and a different undersea environment. Since I love tropical islands, scuba diving, mysteries, and adventure stories, these books really hit my sweet spot.

Sharon's book list on mysteries set on a tropical island

What is my book about?

Unsettled weather has caused life-threatening rip currents to sprout up seemingly at random in the usually tranquil sea around Grand Cayman. Despite posted warnings to stay out of the surf, several women lose their life when caught in the turbulent waters. Fin attempts some dangerous rescues, and nearly loses her own life in the process.

Meanwhile, Fin and the team at RIO are struggling to find more sources of funding for the Institute’s important research, and danger arises from an unexpected source while Fin and hot movie star Rafe Cummings are filming an upcoming documentary. When a young internet influencer…

Rip Current

By Sharon Ward,

What is this book about?

Unsettled weather has caused life-threatening rip currents to sprout up seemingly at random in the usually tranquil sea around Grand Cayman. Despite posted warnings to stay out of the surf, several women lose their life when caught in the turbulent waters. Fin attempts some dangerous rescues, and nearly loses her own life in the process.
Meanwhile, Fin and the team at RIO are struggling to find more sources of funding for the Institute’s important research, and danger arises from an unexpected source while Fin and hot movie star Rafe Cummings are filming an upcoming documentary.
Soon after a young internet…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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