The best books that show the fascinating beauty of English waterways

Why am I passionate about this?

I love rivers. The flow of water gives a sense of timelessness, the reflection of light from the surface brightens the colours on the banks and the wider stretches make a feeling of space. I have messed about in boats all my life and I am happiest on inland waterways. What I enjoyed as recreation alongside a medical career has grown into a vocation in my retirement. The more people who know about our beautiful rivers, the better the chances that we can protect them from exploitation and carelessness. 


I wrote...

Discovering London's Canals: On foot, by bike or by boat

By Richard Mayon-White, Derek Pratt,

Book cover of Discovering London's Canals: On foot, by bike or by boat

What is my book about?

The prettiest place in London’s canals is called Little Venice, at the junction of the Regent’s and the Paddington Canals. This part of the Regent’s Canal through Maida Vale and Regent’s Park was built to be beautiful and it has remained so. Elsewhere in London, the canals suffered from neglect when they lost their commerce, but they have recovered as their recreational value was appreciated. Old warehouses have become attractive homes. New buildings have exploited the waterside locations. Towpaths provide traffic-free walking and cycling. Wildlife benefits from the wetland corridors. The slower you travel, the more you will see, from the curving lines of the canal banks to the detailed craftsmanship of 200 years ago.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Great Days of the Canals

Richard Mayon-White Why did I love this book?

Anthony Burton is a great authority on the British canals and this book shows the delight of his travels along these waterways.  

I use this book to research the history of the English canals and often find new facts that broaden my understanding of the engineering skills required in their construction. The text is enlivened by all manner of illustrations, including many from the author’s own camera and old photographs of life on canals in their heyday.

The bright colours of canal boats and the details of equipment are clearly displayed. Like the other books of my choice, it evokes the sense of steady slow progress that was travel along the “navigations” and provides relief from the hastiness of modern life.

Book cover of British River Navigations: Inland Cuts, Fens, Dikes, Channels and Non-tidal Rivers

Richard Mayon-White Why did I love this book?

Stuart Fisher has written a trilogy of books about British rivers and canals. This, the third, is about rivers that were used for carrying goods before 1760 when the canals (artificial waterways) were started in Britain.

It has handsome photographs that show why these rivers are popular today for boating holidays. One reason for my delight is that the old towpaths along these rivers make wonderful walks beside water. The book has good maps and curiosities such as pictures of postage stamps that have commemorated people and places connected to these rivers.

By Stuart Fisher,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked British River Navigations as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Britain's rivers deserve to be better known. Teeming with wildlife, steeped in history, sporting bridges, docks and stunning architecture, not to mention supporting riverside pubs, waterways museums and a variety of places of interest, they are the country's essential arteries, connecting inland Britain with the sea. From such world-renowned rivers as the Trent and Severn to little known tributaries like the Wharf, Wissey and Lark, British River Navigations celebrates England's inland rivers which have been improved for navigation, initially for commercial use, but now mostly carrying leisure craft. A fantastic celebration in its own right, alongside the author's previous Canals…


Book cover of Queen of Waters: A Journey in Time Along the Kennet and Avon Canal

Richard Mayon-White Why did I love this book?

The Kennet & Avon (K&A) Canal is a remarkable example of conservation. It is a very attractive way of travelling across southern England from London to Bristol, via the Thames, the K&A, and the River Avon. 

In the 1950’s it was almost closed but a petition to the Queen and heroic work by volunteers brought it back to life in 1990. Kirsten Elliott tells the story of this waterway as a journey from Reading to Bristol with gorgeous modern pictures and fascinating old photographs.

By Kirsten Elliott,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Kennet & Avon Canal was the wonder of its age, a broad waterway built across southern England as a trade route between the country's two greatest ports - London and Bristol. It changed the countryside through which it passed forever. Yet only 30 years after it was completed, Brunel's Great Western Railway opened, robbing it of much of its traffic. After decades of neglect came ultimate dereliction. It lay like a sleeping princess, weed-choked and silent, its locks and bridges crumbling - but some people refused to let it die. Thanks to their efforts, it was eventually restored, to…


Book cover of The National Trust Rivers of Britain

Richard Mayon-White Why did I love this book?

This book was sponsored by the National Trust and has the high quality that one expects of that organisation. 

It is a very readable account of the geology and geography of rivers. It has helped me to understand what I see when I look at rivers and it encourages me to go to new places to learn more. Although it was written nearly 40 years ago, it is very relevant to the present times when rivers in many countries suffer from mismanagement of the environment. 

The lovely photographs show how much there is that is worth better care.  

By Richard Muir, Nina Muir,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The National Trust Rivers of Britain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Book by Muir, Richard, Muir, Nina


Book cover of Sweet Thames Run Softly

Richard Mayon-White Why did I love this book?

Sweet Thames Run Softly is a classic of natural history literature. 

It is reputed to have been read by British servicemen during World War II to remind them of home and peace. It is just as evocative today.  It describes a journey down the River Thames in a punt, and it meanders in the same way as the river does. 

The beauty lies in the text and the charm is in the author’s etchings. This is a book that I read time and again, whenever I want inspiration or solace.

By Robert Gibbings,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sweet Thames Run Softly as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1939, on the eve of the Second World War, Robert Gibbings launched his home-made punt on the River Thames and began a slow journey downstream, armed with a sketchpad and a microscope. From the river's source at the edge of the Cotswold Hills to the bustle of London's docks, Sweet Thames Run Softly is a charming, often eccentric, account of an artist-naturalist adrift in English waters. First published as the Battle of Britain raged overhead, this gentle boating tale was an antidote to the anxieties of wartime and became an immediate best-seller. Our new edition includes the original engravings…


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Book cover of Act Like an Author, Think Like a Business: Ways to Achieve Financial Literary Success

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