CanalPlanAC's collection of waterways quotations

Know Your Waterways by Robert Aickman

The waterways are charged with magic, but nothing about them is more magical than the difference made by the few feet of water which separate the boat from the land. Those few feet instantly set the boatman in a world of his own, and his vision of the outer world though which he glides, becomes magically calmer and clearer. Again, this may sound whimsical and improbable: the degree to which it is true can be confirmed only by experience. (1950s) Edit


The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan

Yet my great-grandfather was but a water-man, looking one way, and rowing another: and I got most of my estate by the same occupation. (1678) Edit


A Shropshire Lad by John Betjeman

When Captain Webb the Dawley man,
Captain Webb from Dawley,
Came swimming along the old canal
That carried the bricks to Lawley,
Swimming along, swimming along,
Swimming along from Severn (1940) Edit


The List of Seven by Mark Frost

The river conveyed them uneventfully through the night, past Halstead and Rose Green, Wakes Colne and Eight Ash, wending through the knotty sprawl of ancient Colchester near dawn and then down past Wivenhoe, where the river widened out, preparing to meet the sea. Although they passed a number of barges and other small ships at anchor during the night, here they began to encounter for the first time larger vessels under steam. (1993) Edit


A Caravan Afloat by C.J. Aubertin

I don't think you would know the boat - it is so homely and comfortable - seven beer bottles on the side table at present waiting to be thrown away. (1916) Edit


A Caravan Afloat by C.J. Aubertin

The foregoing pages have dealt with canals as a playground. Needless to say, however, this is not their true vocation. They should be - and are capable of being made - great arteries of national traffic. (1916) Edit


A Caravan Afloat by C.J. Aubertin

By and by, when times change again, I suspect that the sweetness of the Thames Valley will begin to cloy; the old Wander-lust will return, and we shall fare forth again to make our nightly camp under the stars in regions to which our bows have not yet turned (1916, final lines) Edit


Narrow Boat by L.T.C. Rolt

But, if the canals are left to the mercies of economists and scientific planners, before many years are past the last of them will become a weedy stagnant ditch, and the bright boats will rot at the wharves, to live on only in old men's memories. It is because I fear that this may happen that I have made this record of them. (1944) Edit


The Worst Journey in the Midlands by Sam Llewellyn

The climb out of the Avon valley means more locks. There are compensations however; you are getting away from Leamington Spa, for one thing. (1983) Edit


Journeys of The Swan by John Liley

It is one of the phenomena of the inland waterways that you can go for hours without meeting another boat, then will encounter one on the sharpest and nastiest bend in the system. (1971) Edit


Journeys of The Swan by John Liley

We got the tyre off by restarting the engine, then tentatively letting in the clutch. Eventually a lucky pull from the boathook flipped the propeller free and we proceeded into the Stygian gloom of night-time Banbury. We passed through the next lock, negotiated the spiked gate and moored at Tooley's yard for the night. A motion that the tyre be wrapped up and sent to Banbury Town Hall was passed unanimously and promptly forgotten about. (1971) Edit


Thanksgiving for a Habitat VIII - Grub First, Then Ethics by W.H. Auden

A poet may lament - 'where is Telford
whose bridged canals are still a Shropshire glory?' (1958) Edit


Number One! by Tom Foxton

To those of us whose business was on inland waterways, it seemed inconceivable that the trade should ever cease. Small carriers might go out of business, a few outlying sections of canal might lose their trade, but to imagine that the great canalside power stations served by fleets of boats should ever close, that the paddles on 'The Junction' might one day fall silent, or the water of the Wyrley & Essington become deserted and weedy, was wholly beyond our imagination. (1991, describing the mid 1950s) Edit


Number One! by Tom Foxton

We may suceed in preserving the canals themselves as strips of water, but we seem intent on destroying everything that gave them interest and meaning, creating instead a Disneyland in which Roses and Castles feature prominently but shafts and shovels do not. (1991 ) Edit


Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

Manchester doesn't seem to have a very clear image of itself. 'Shaping Tomorrow's City Today' is the official local motto, but in fact Manchester seems decidedly of two minds about its place in the world. At Castlefield, they were busy creating yesterday's city today, cleaning up the old brick viaducts and warehouses, recobbling the quaysides, putting fresh coats of glossy paint on the old arched footbridges and scattering about a generous assortment of old-fashioned benches, bollards and lampposts. By the time they have finished, you will be able to see exactly what life was like in nineteenth century Manchester - or at least what it would be like if they had wine-bars, and cast-iron litter bins and directional signs for heritage trails and the G-Mex Centre. (1996) Edit


Horae Canonicae V - Vespers by W.H.Auden

I have only to close my eyes, cross the iron footbridge to the tow-path, take the barge through the short brick tunnel and there I stand in Eden again (1954) Edit


Painting the Boat by A.P. Herbert

There is paint in my ears and in my hair. I have a fear that one morning I shall wake and find that the family have painted the anchor. Last night I dreamed that I had painted the carburettor. I smell of turpentine. There is paint in the bathroom and paint on the drawingroom chairs; and all the family have chilblains. Never mind. We have painted the boat. (In Mild and Bitter, 1936) Edit


Housework by A.P. Herbert

Do not write to me and say that Mr. Conrad did not approve the expression 'casting anchor'. Mr. Conrad travelled in big ships, where somebody said 'Let go!' and the anchor was then dropped. If any one said 'Let go!' in my ship nothing would happen. I have to go forward myself, pick the anchor up, and throw, fling, or cast it over the side. The expression, in this queer vessel, is correct. (In Mild and Bitter, 1936) Edit


I'd Go Back Tomorrow by Mike Lucas

One of the greatest pleasures on this earth is steering a narrowboat and, assuming there aren't too many hazards ahead, eating a butty stuffed full of bacon, sausage, egg and tomato, washed down with strong tea from a pint pot. (2001) Edit


I'd Go Back Tomorrow by Mike Lucas

Gradually the pubs have either closed or been "modernised", which means making them open-plan, removing all the character of the pub and replacing it with "stylish decor", and turning the back parlour into a restaurant. Economic necessity has demanded this in some cases, but often it is a result of a survey which has been carried out by a brewery or pub company. This, apparently, tells them that we all want to eat in plastic palaces from an identical menu where even the number of chips and peas on a plate can be guaranteed, and we certainly don't want proper local pubs serving a good selection of real ale, hearty home-cooked food and an atmosphere conducive to live music, darts, dommies and conversation. (2001) Edit


Four Quartets - The Dry Salvages by T.S.Eliot

I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river
Is a strong brown god - sullen, untamed and intractable,
Patient to some degree, at first recognised as a frontier;
Useful, untrustworthy, as a conveyor of commerce;
Then only a problem confronting the builder of bridges.
The problem once solved, the brown god is almost forgotten
By the dwellers in cities - ever, however, implacable,
Keeping his seasons and rages, destroyer, reminder
Of what men choose to forget. Unhonoured, unpropitiated
By worshippers of the machine, but waiting, watching and waiting
 (1944) Edit


The Question by A.P.Herbert

You cannot suddenly, out of the blue, ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer:

"Whether he is aware that a small boy of repulsive appearance threw a stone the size of a duck's egg at the passengers in Mr. Haddock's boat proceeding under Lambeth Bridge on July 4th last, and nearly killed a lady-mariner, and what does he propose to do about it?"

For the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not responsible for small boys or Lambeth Bridge. (In Sip! Swallow!, 1937) Edit


The Flower of Gloster by E. Temple Thurston

What is more, these people are lovers of brass — a sure sign of the gypsy. Inside many a cabin of the boats which ply their long journeys and are the only homes of those who work them, you will find the old brass candlesticks, brass pots and pans, all brilliantly polished, glittering in the light. A brass lamp hangs from the bulkhead. It does not swing, for the motion of these barges is like to no other vehicle in which I have ever ridden. It is no motion, or it is motion asleep. (1911) Edit


The Ebony Box by Mrs Henry Wood

Passing down Broad Street towards the bridge, he turned to the left and sauntered along beside the Severn. The water glittered in the light of the setting sun; barges, some of them bearing men and women and children, passed smoothly up and down on it; the opposite fields, towards St. John's, were green as an emerald; all things seemed to wear an aspect of brightness. (1890) Edit


A Tour thro' the Whole Island of Great Britain, divided into Circuits or Journies by Daniel Defoe

I chose to give it the title of circuits, in the plural, because I do not pretend to have travelled it all in one journey, but in many, and some of them many times over; the better to inform myself of every thing I could find worth taking notice of. (1724) Edit


England is Rich by Harry Hopkins

The ''Parrot'' began to move away from the wharf, nosing out into the inky waters, past Mrs Shore's ''Aberlystwyth'', with the washing fluttering from the line, answering the tiller, pointing its long, narrow shape straight down the canal.

The blank sides of great factories stared down on us, walling us in. Sometimes there was faded lettering on their sides to give a clue to their contents: Compressors . . . Tubes . . . Tangye's Cornwall Works. It was an uncanny sensation. We were passing through the heart of a great city. Yet one had an oddly isolated, almost disembodied, feeling as we chugged steadily on through the black, still water, our engine echoing hollowly under the old cast-iron bridges. (1957) Edit


England is Rich by Harry Hopkins

And there was the vale of Evesham, the whole vale, lying at my feet like a Promised Land - a vast green plain, soft and warmly sunlit, dotted with villages that clustered around square stone towers, flecked with the lighter green where the willows traced the meanderings of the Avon. (1957) Edit


England is Rich by Harry Hopkins

I was running down that long, narrow, busy main street to the great Avon bridge in Evesham. And there it was, just as I had imagined it, the placid river, swinging round into the great bend that contains the town, the swans, the white boathouse, and, then, on the other side - through the high riverside curtain of limes - the Bell Tower of the old Abbey. (1957) Edit


England is Rich by Harry Hopkins

It seemed hard to believe - yet there were old people in Evesham who could still recall the days when barges of coal and corn had come into the town by the river. But since then the Avon, like so many once thriving waterways of England had fallen into decay. Debris choked its course. Its wiers were broken down. The locks had silted up or caved in from neglect.

But "Save the Avon" appeals had gone up on Evesham walls. A number of Birmingham Businessmen had got together to form the "Lower Avon Navigation Trust" with the object of reopening the river from the Severn up to Evesham. At Chadbury a party of young Royal Engineers from a neighbouring camp were rebuilding the first lock down the river from Evesham. (1957) Edit


England is Rich by Harry Hopkins

She and Tom Shackleton had been travelling up and down the canals of England almost as long as they could remember. Both of their fathers had been boatmen; for that was the way it was on the canals and that was the way it had to be; this was a world, a whole world of its own, a world you had to be born to, which was neither of the town nor of the country, of the past nor yet of the present, a timeless world, without newspapers, without the cold war, or television, or all the familiar furniture the rest of us knew; yet a world peopled by its own rich personalities, whose news drifted in shouts from the backs of passing boats, a world of busy movement too, not at jet-age speed but at a speed the human heart could compass (1957) Edit


An Inland Voyage by Robert Louis Stevenson

Of all the creatures of commercial enterprise, a canal barge is by far the most delightful to consider. It may spread its sails, and then you see it sailing high above the tree-tops and the wind-mill, sailing on the aqueduct, sailing through the green cornlands; the most picturesque of things amphibious. Or the horse plods along at a foot-pace as if there were no such things as business in the world; and the man dreaming at the tiller sees the same spire on the horizon all day long. It is a mystery how things ever get to their destination at this rate; and to see the barges waiting their turn at a lock, affords a fine lession in how easily the world may be taken. There should be many contented spirits on board, for such a life is both to travel and to stay at home. (1878) Edit


An Inland Voyage by Robert Louis Stevenson

The chimney smokes for dinner as you go along; the banks of the canal slowly unroll their scenery to contemplative eyes; the barge floats by great forests and through great cities with their public buildings and their lamps at night; and for the bargee, in his floating home, "travelling abed," it is merely as if he were listening to another man's story or turning the leaves of a picture book in which he had no concern. He may take his afternoon walk in some foreign country on the banks of the canal, and then come home to dinner at his own fireside. (1878) Edit


An Inland Voyage by Robert Louis Stevenson

I am sure that I would rather be a bargee than occupy any position under Heaven that required attendance at an office. There are few callings, I should say, where a man gives up less of his liberty in return for regular meals. The bargee is on shipboard - he is master of his own ship - he can land whenever he will - he can never be kept beating off a leeshore a whole frosty night when the sheets are as hard as iron; and so far as I can make out, time stands as nearly still with him as is compatible with the return of bed-time or dinner-hour. It is not easy to see why a bargee should ever die. (1878) Edit


The Ship That Found Herself by Rudyard Kipling

There's nothing so contagious in a boat as rivets going (1898) Edit


The Sea and the Wind that Blows by E. B. White

If a man must be obsessed by something, I suppose a boat is as good as anything, perhaps a bit better than most. () Edit


Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

Some people are under the impression that all that is required to make a good fisherman is the ability to tell lies easily and without blushing; but this is a mistake. (1889) Edit


Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

We had come out for a fortnight's enjoyment on the river, and a fortnight's enjoyment on the river we meant to have. If it killed us! well, that would be a sad thing for our friends and relations, but it could not be helped. (1889) Edit


Boatbuilding with Steel by Gilbert C Klingel

Few objects, in this mechanised modern world, instil in their owners as much concern and love as their boats. (1978) Edit


The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. (1908) Edit


Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

The sea-reach of the Thames streched before us like the beginning of an interminable waterway. In the offing the sea and the sky were welded together without a joint, and in the luminous space the tanned sails of the barges drifting up with the tide seemed to stand still in red clusters of canvas sharply peaked, with gleams of varnished spirits. (1903) Edit


Rosencrantz and Guildernstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard

Rosencrantz: Do you think death could possibly be a boat?
Guildenstern: No, no, no... Death is...not. Death isn't. You take my meaning. Death is the ultimate negative. Not-being. You can't not-be on a boat.
Rosencrantz: I've frequently not been on boats.
Guildenstern: No, no, no - what you've been is not on boats. () Edit


You've Got Mail (film script) by Nora and Delia Ephron

There're all these people who wouldn't be caught dead polishing a doorknob in their house but put them on a boat and they want to rub down everything in sight. () Edit


possible apocryphal by attributed to Mark Twain

Twenty Years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bow lines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the tradewinds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. () Edit


The Cruise of The Snark by Jack London

The acquisition of the knowledge of navigation has a strange effect on the minds of men. (1913) Edit


Anthony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare

The barge she sat in, like a burnishd throne, burnd on the water; the poop was beaten gold, purple the sails, and so perfumed, that the winds were love-sick with them, the oars were silver, which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made the water which they beat to follow faster, as amorous of their strokes. For her own person, it beggard all description. (c1607) Edit


The Wigan Observer by Editorial

Under the heading "A Wigan Fairy Tale" a writer in the Manchester Guardian Miscellany column tells us that "Wigan Pier" is to be dismantled. That is rather like announcing that four o'clock tomorrow afternoon is to be thoroughly overhauled and painted green.

What do they know of Wigan Pier who say it can be dismantled? You might as well talk about spring cleaning a rainbow or arresting the Wandering Jew for loitering without visible means of support.

Wigan Pier is a deathless resident in the realm of original ideas - it abuts on the infinite and not on any mere material canal.

Let Wigan do what it likes with the iron structure that many people regard as the pier. The true, trancendental Wigan Pier of a thousand music hall nights is imperishable. (Saturday 14 December 1929) Edit


Death in the Thames by J. R. L. Anderson

The river wound and gleamed ahead, each new reach opening a new vista of green-and-gold willows and green water meadows, the general scene pleasantly unchanging, but each new reach always subtly different from the one before it. (1974) Edit


The African Queen (film script) by James Agee and John Huston

I don't wonder you love boating Mr Allnut (1951) Edit


Fruit Flies Like a Banana by Steve Haywood

One thing I've learnt subsequently about canal people is that on the whole they are some of the friendliest and most laid-back you'll meet anywhere in the world. Perhaps it's something to do with the pace of life on a canal, for at three miles an hour, life's boy racers hardly gravitiate towards narrowboats for their kicks. Or maybe it's something to do with the ambience which surrounds these quiet byways threading through the countryside, for there's something about water — any water — which seems to act like a sedative, making people calmer and quieter, and on the whole more considerate and forgiving than totally land-centred people. (2004) Edit


Fruit Flies Like a Banana by Steve Haywood

In the early 1970s you were part of a secret, undiscovered world which was of the present, yet separate from it. The canals then were winding, overgrown ribbons of water which took you across aqueducts and embankments, and through cuttings and bat-filled tunnels to a world that seemed unchanged for centuries. Or they were black inacessible ditches tucked away behind factories and leading to the dark, oily recesses of cities unfamiliar even to the people who lived in them. (2004) Edit


The Old Canal, from More Green Fingers by Reginald Arkell

The old canal, from bank to bank,
Is filled with reeds and rushes rank;
And down this lane of living green
March memories of what has been.

The painted barges came from town,
And busy life flowed up and down;
But there is nothing left to show
Where those old barges used to go.

Progress is always marching on;
The old canal is dead and gone,
But still we seem to hear it say:
"I, too, was progress–yesterday." (1938) Edit


Four Weddings and a Funeral (film script) by Richard Curtis

No, seriously. I'm doing some research into pubs with the word 'boat' in the title. (1994) Edit


The Keys to the Street by Ruth Rendell

In the dark canal a full moon was reflected, like a round white light under the water. Trees trailed thin branches across its surface as if to catch the moon in their net. It could have been some broad sluggish river they sat beside, with dense vegetation growing down to its banks, a mass of complex leafiness that might have stretched, for all that could be seen, back across the city for miles, covering buildings in a dark wilderness. (1997) Edit


BBC radio broadcast by George Orwell

At one time on one of the little muddy canals that run round the town, there used to be a tumble-down wooden jetty; and by way of a joke someone nicknamed this Wigan Pier. ...to judge from the photographs it must have been about twenty feet long. ...I made a journey specially to see it in 1936, and I couldn't find it. ...I am afraid I must tell you that Wigan Pier doesn't exist. ...the place itself had been demolished. (2 December 1943) Edit


The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens

The boat came close to the bank again, and before she had had any more time for consideration, she and her grandfather were on board, and gliding smoothly down the canal. The sun shone pleasantly on the bright water, which was sometimes shaded by trees, and sometimes open to a wide extent of country, intersected by running streams, and rich with wooded hills, cultivated land, and sheltered farms. Now and then, a village with its modest spire, thatched roofs, and gable-ends, would peep out from among the trees; and, more than once, a distant town, with great church towers looming through its smoke, and high factories or workshops rising above the mass of houses, would come in view, and, by the length of time it lingered in the distance, show them how slowly they travelled. Their way lay, for the most part, through the low grounds, and open plains; and except these distant places, and occasionally some men working in the fields, or lounging on the bridges under which they passed, to see them creep along, nothing encroached on their monotonous and secluded track. (1841) Edit


Song "The Bargemaster" from "Chigley" by Gordon Murray and Freddie Phillips

Chugging along between banks of green willow,
Buttercup meadows, sweet nettle and dock,
Sheep in the meadow so peaceful and still-o,
And just 'round the bend we reach Camberwick Lock.
Nothing is better than being at large
In charge of a gay inland waterway barge

The sun on the water is glinting and gleaming
Soon we are leaving the Camberwick Lock
Pass by the anglers all drowsily dreaming
And far in the distance chimes Trumpton town clock
Nothing is better than being at large
In charge of a gay inland waterway barge
 (1969) Edit


Interview on CNBC by George W Bush

One of the things I've used on the Google is to pull up maps. It's very interesting to see - I've forgot the name of the program - but you get the satellite, and you can - like, I kinda like to look at the ranch. It remind me of where I wanna be sometimes. (23 October 2006) Edit


The Times by Ben Macintyre

The survival and revival of the canal is a reflection of its enduring place in British culture: a strange admixture of commerce and pleasure, history and modern development, back-breaking labour and reflective leisure. Canals always mattered more than the money they made.

In an age of dirt and speed, the canal is not only a vital artefact, but a form of therapy. Puttering along a man-made ditch seems a peculiar form of relaxation, but once one has seen Britain passing slowly and serenely at eye level, it is impossible to see it in the same way again. (1 June 2007) Edit


Twitter by Victoria Coren

"knits jumpers for battery hens"; "has created a computer programme of English canal routes" - it can only be Only Connect (05/10/2011 01:23) Edit


The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

For about seven or eight years the little tavern had been kept by a man and his wife, with two servants, -a chambermaid named Trinette, and a hostler called Pecaud. This small staff was quite equal to all the requirements, for a canal between Beaucaire and Aiguemortes had revolutionized transportation by substituting boats for the cart and the stagecoach. And, as though to add to the daily misery which this prosperous canal inflicted on the unfortunate inn-keeper, whose utter ruin it was fast accomplishing, it was situated between the Rhone from which it had its source and the post-road it had depleted, not a hundred steps from the inn, of which we have given a brief but faithful description. (1844) Edit


The Pit Prop Syndicate by Freeman Wills Crofts

“But,” he said to Hilliard, “I am afraid you are in error in coming up this River Lesque. The canal you want to get from here is the Midi, it enters the Mediterranean not far from Narbonne. But the connection from this side is from the Garonne. You should have gone up—stream to Langon, nearly forty miles above Bordeaux.”

“We had hoped to go from still farther south,” Hilliard answered. “We have penetrated a good many of the rivers, or rather I have, and we came up here to see the sand—dunes and forests of the Landes, which are new to me. (1922) Edit


The Pit Prop Syndicate by Freeman Wills Crofts

"Hilliard and I are on a motor launch tour across France," Merriman went on. "He worked from England down the coast to Bordeaux, where I joined him, and we hope eventually to cross the country to the Mediterranean and do the Riviera from the sea."

"How perfectly delightful," Miss Coburn replied. "I envy you."

"Yes, it's very jolly doing these rivers and canals," Hilliard interposed. "I have spent two or three holidays that way now, and it has always been worth while." (1922) Edit


The Shadow of The Wolf by R Austin Freeman

"He is very partial to the Eastern Counties, especially the Broads and rivers of Norfolk. You remember he was on his way to Oulton Broad when he disappeared?"

"Yes; and one must admit that the waterways of Norfolk and Suffolk, with all their endless communications, would form an admirable hiding-place. In a small yacht or covered boat a man might lose himself in that network of rivers and lakes and lie hidden for months, creeping from end to end of the county without leaving a trace." (1925) Edit


The Eye of Osiris by R Austin Freeman

I strolled down to the Embankment, and, leaning on the parapet, contemplated the view across the river; the grey stone bridge with its perspective of arches, the picturesque pile of the shot-towers, and beyond, the shadowy shapes of the Abbey and St. Stephen's.

It was a pleasant scene, restful and quiet, with a touch of life and a hint of sober romance, when a barge swept down through the middle arch of the bridge with a lugsail hoisted to a jury mast and a white-aproned woman at the tiller. Dreamily I watched the craft creep by upon the moving tide, noted the low freeboard, almost awash, the careful helmswoman, and the dog on the forecastle yapping at the distant shore (1911) Edit


The D'Arblay Mystery by R Austin Freeman

I walked slowly up the street looking for number 23—my patient's number—and the canal which I had seen on the map. I located them both at the same instant, for number 23 turned out to be the last house on the opposite side, and a few yards beyond it the street was barred by a low wall, over which, as I looked, the mast of a sailing-barge came into view and slowly crept past. I stepped up to the wall and looked over. Immediately beneath me was the towing-path, alongside which the barge was now bringing up and beginning to lower her mast, apparently to pass under a bridge that spanned the canal a couple of hundred yards farther along. (1926) Edit


The D'Arblay Mystery by R Austin Freeman

I looked out of the window, which commanded a partial view of the canal. The moon had now risen and its light fell on the white-painted hull of the Dutch sloop, which had come to rest and made fast alongside a small wharf. It was quite a pleasant picture, strangely at variance with the squalid neighbourhood around. As I looked down on the little vessel, with the ruddy light glowing from the deck-house windows and casting shimmering reflections in the quiet water, the sight seemed to carry me far away from the sordid streets around into the fellowship of the breezy ocean and the far-away shores whence the little craft had sailed, and I determined, as soon as our business was finished, to seek some access to the canal and indulge myself with a quiet stroll in the moonlight along the deserted towing-path. (1925) Edit


Private Eye by Issue 1318

never mind that towpaths have been on Ordnance Survey maps, and online service OS getamap, for years, as well as on specialist map sites like canalplan and walkit" (July 2012) Edit


The Ionian Mission by Patrick O'Brian

'But at all events, on his return he found that the projector, the thaumaturge, had plunged into wild expense, carrying out vast operations, even digging the traditional canal.' 'Yes, yes, of course, the canal,' said Sir Joseph, and Stephen, seeing the knowing look in his eye, said, 'It would be idle to pretend that I am not speaking of Jack Aubrey. I dare say you have seen the monstrous ditch in Hampshire?' 'I have, indeed,' said Sir Joseph. 'It has caused a deal of comment. (1981) Edit


The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett

On a clear day, from the right vantage point on the Ramtops, a watcher could see a very long way across the plains. The dwarfs had harnessed mountain streams and built a staircase of locks that rose a mile up from the rolling grasslands, for the use of which they charged not just a pretty penny but a very handsome dollar. Barges were always ascending or descending, making their way down to the river Smarl and the cities of the plain. They carried coal, iron, fireclay, pig treacle and fat, the dull ingredients of the pudding of civilization. In the sharp, thin air they took several days to get out of sight. On a clear day, you could see next Wednesday. The captain of one of the barges waiting for the top lock went to tip the dregs of his teapot over the side and saw a small dog sitting on the snowy bank. It sat up and begged, hopefully. (1999) Edit


The Wrong Box by Lloyd Osbourne and Robert Louis Stevenson

Providence dispatched into these waters a steam-launch asthmatically panting up the Thames. All along the banks the water swelled and fell, and the reeds rustled. The houseboat itself, that ancient stationary creature, became suddenly imbued with life, and rolled briskly at her moorings, like a sea-going ship when she begins to smell the harbour bar. The wash had nearly died away, and the quick panting of the launch sounded already faint and far off, when Gideon was startled by a cry from Julia. (1889) Edit


True Tilda by Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch

His next business was to fetch a horse from the stables at the Canal End and tow the boat back to her quarters; and having taken another glance around, he set off and up the towpath at a pretty brisk pace. It would be five o'clock before he finished his work. (1909) Edit


True Tilda by Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch

Canal End Basin lay hard upon three-quarters of a mile up stream, and about half that distance beyond the bend of the Great Brewery—a malodorous pool packed with narrow barges or monkey-boats—a few loading leisurably, the rest moored in tiers awaiting their cargoes. They belonged to many owners, but their type was well nigh uniform. Each measured seventy feet in length, or a trifle over, with a beam of about seven; each was built with rounded bilges, and would carry from twenty-five to thirty tons of cargo; each provided, aft of its hold or cargo-well, a small cabin for the accommodation of its crew by day; and for five-sixths of its length each was black as a gondola of Venice. Only, where the business part of the boat ended and its cabin began, a painted ribbon of curious pattern ornamented the gunwale, and terminated in two pictured stern-panels. Wharves and storehouses surrounded the basin, or rather enclosed three sides of it, and looked upon the water across a dead avenue (so to speak) of cranes and bollards; buildings of exceedingly various height and construction, some tiled, others roofed with galvanised iron. Almost every one proclaimed on its front, for the information of the stranger, its owner's name and what he traded in; and the stranger, while making his choice between these announcements, had ample time to contrast their diversity of size and style with the sober uniformity that prevailed afloat. (1909) Edit


True Tilda by Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch

Two hours later, as the Brewery clock struck eleven, a canal-boat, towed by a glimmering grey horse, glided southward under the shadow of the Orphanage wall. It passed this and the iron bridge, and pursued its way through the dark purlieus of Bursfield towards the open country. Its rate of progression was steady, and a trifle under three miles an hour. (1909) Edit


True Tilda by Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch

But about that swan — Mortimer must 'a-been talkin' through his hat. Why to get to the Thames that bird'd have to go up the Stratford-on-Avon to Kingswood cut, down the Warwick an' Birmingham to Budbrooke—with a trifle o' twenty-one locks at Hatton to be worked or walked round; cross by the Warwick an' Napton — another twenty-two locks; an' all the way down the Oxford Canal, which from Napton is fifty miles good. (1909) Edit


True Tilda by Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch

And as for dawdlin', why if you understood about canals you'd know there's times when dawdlin' makes the best speed. (1909) Edit


The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers

'We had a splendid sail to the East Scheldt, but then, like fools, decided to go through Holland by canal and river. It was good fun enough navigating the estuary — the tides and banks there are appalling — but farther inland it was a wretched business, nothing but paying lock-dues, bumping against schuyts, and towing down stinking canals. Never a peaceful night like this — always moored by some quay or tow-path, with people passing and boys. Heavens! shall I ever forget those boys! A perfect murrain of them infests Holland; they seem to have nothing in the world to do but throw stones and mud at foreign yachts.' (1903) Edit


The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers

The exact arrangement made on the day before the fatal voyage was that the two yachts should meet in the evening at Cuxhaven and proceed up the river together. Then, in the ordinary course, Davies would have parted company at Brunsbüttel (fifteen miles up), which is the western terminus of the ship canal to the Baltic. (1903) Edit


Through Canal-Land in a Canadian Canoe by Vincent Hughes

To anyone who is capable of appreciating the beauties of Nature in the slightest degree, there must be something soothing and elevating in constantly being brought face to face with Nature in all her varying charms.  Now gliding calmly past a water-side village, with the children running out to give you a greeting; then through a waving, poppy-starred cornfield, or past low-lying meadows, with the meditative cattle standing knee-deep in the sweet pasturage, and anon a bend in the canal carries you past wood-lands where the trees meet overhead and form a cool canopy through which the rays of the sun can only penetrate here and there in slanting beams (1899) Edit


Through Canal-Land in a Canadian Canoe by Vincent Hughes

We next reached Harecastle, in Cheshire, where we landed for lunch.  Re-starting, after doing justice to a good feed, we soon encountered a cluster of thirty-five locks (think of it) all grouped together within a distance of six miles.  Finding the negotiating of two or three a weariness of the flesh, we cast around for help, and fortunately came across a "locked-out" coal-miner, who for two shillings cheerfully trotted on ahead, and opened each of the remaining locks ready for us by the time we arrived, thus giving us a welcome rest after a spell of hard work (1899) Edit


The Mystery of Dr Fu Manchu by Sax Rohmer

With her crew of three, the party numbered seven that swung out into the Pool, and, clearing the pier, drew in again and hugged the murky shore. The night had been clear enough hitherto, but now came scudding rainbanks to curtain the crescent moon, and anon to unveil her again and show the muddy swirls about us. The view was not extensive from the launch. Sometimes a deepening of the near shadows would tell of a moored barge, or lights high above our heads mark the deck of a large vessel. In the floods of moonlight gaunt shapes towered above; in the ensuing darkness only the oily glitter of the tide occupied the foreground of the night-piece. The Surrey shore was a broken wall of blackness, patched with lights about which moved hazy suggestions of human activity. The bank we were following offered a prospect even more gloomy—a dense, dark mass, amid which, sometimes, mysterious half-tones told of a dock gate, or sudden high lights leapt flaring to the eye. Then, out of the mystery ahead, a green light grew and crept down upon us. A giant shape loomed up, and frowned crushingly upon the little craft. A blaze of light, the jangle of a bell, and it was past. We were dancing in the wash of one of the Scotch steamers, and the murk had fallen again. Discords of remote activity rose above the more intimate throbbing of our screw, and we seemed a pigmy company floating past the workshops of Brobdingnagian toilers. The chill of the near water communicated itself to me, and I felt the protection of my shabby garments inadequate against it. (1913) Edit


Turn Coat by Jim Butcher

I navigated. Sheesh, listen to me, “navigated.” The boat had a steering wheel and a lever to make it go faster. It was about as complicated to make move as a bumper car. Granted, simple isn’t the same thing as easy, but even so. The actual process of pointing the boat and making it go is not complicated enough to deserve to be called navigation. (2009) Edit


Rudder Grange by Frank Richard Stockton

When we had finished our supper and had paid for it, and were going down to take our little boat again,—for we had rowed up the river,—Euphemia stopped and looked around her. Then she clasped her hands and exclaimed in an ecstatic undertone: "We must have a canal-boat!" And she never swerved from that determination. (1879) Edit


Rudder Grange by Frank Richard Stockton

I was rapidly becoming frantic when I met a person who hailed me. "Hello!" he said, "are you after a canal-boat adrift?" "Yes," I panted. "I thought you was," he said. "You looked that way. Well, I can tell you where she is. She's stuck fast in the reeds at the lower end o' Peter's Pint." "Where's that?" said I. "Oh, it's about a mile furder up. I seed her a-driftin' up with the tide—big flood tide, to-day—and I thought I'd see somebody after her, afore long. Anything aboard?" (1879) Edit


Rudder Grange by Frank Richard Stockton

But it was of no use getting angry with Waterford, especially as I saw he intended walking all the way down to the ferry with me, so I told him I didn't live in any house at all. "Why, where DO you live?" he exclaimed, stopping short. "I live in a boat," said I. "A boat! A sort of 'Rob Roy' arrangement, I suppose. Well, I would not have thought that of you. And your wife, I suppose, has gone home to her people?" "She has done nothing of the kind," I answered. "She lives with me, and she likes it very much. We are extremely comfortable, and our boat is not a canoe, or any such nonsensical affair. It is a large, commodious canal-boat." Waterford turned around and looked at me. "Are you a deck-hand?" he asked. "Deck-grandmother!" I exclaimed. "Well, you needn't get mad about it," he said. "I didn't mean to hurt your feelings; but I couldn't see what else you could be on a canal-boat. I don't suppose, for instance, that you're captain." "But I am," said I. (1879) Edit


The Slowcoach by E. V. Lucas

Bidford is not drunken now; it is only sleepy: a long steep street, with, at the top, the church and a beautiful old house, now cottages, once the Falcon Inn, where Shakespeare used to drink, and where the chair came from that they had seen at the birthplace yesterday; and at the foot the Swan Inn and the old bridge. Bidford is built very like a wateringplace—that is to say, it is all on one side of the river. The water to-day looked very tempting, especially as a great number of boats were lying on it waiting to be hired; but Robert sternly ordered his party onwards. (1908) Edit


The Slowcoach by E. V. Lucas

And so Moses (with a beautiful new shoe) was put into the shafts again, and they went gently over the soft green meadows to the weir, and there they had their supper, and explored the mill and the shaggy wood overhanging it, and rowed a little in a very safe boat, and stood on the little bridges, and watched the rushing water, and then walked slowly beside the still stream higher up as the light began to fade, and surprised the water-rats feeding or gossiping on the banks—none of which things could they have done had Moses had the poor sense to retain his near fore-shoe. (1908) Edit


The Slowcoach by E. V. Lucas

Robert had been rightly told about the summit of Bredon Hill, for there the grass is as short as on the South Downs, and there is a deep fosse in which to shelter from the wind. The hill at this western point ends suddenly, at a kind of precipice, and you look right over the valley of the Avon and the Severn to the Malverns. Just below on the south-west is Tewkesbury, where the Severn and the Avon meet, after that becoming the Severn only all the way to Bristol and the sea. In the far south-west rises the point of the Sugar Loaf at Abergavenny, and the blue distance is Wales—the country of King Arthur and Malory. To the north-west is the smoke of Worcester, and immediately beneath the hill, winding shiningly about, is the Avon, running by Bredon village and the Combertons and Pershore, past Cropthorne (where Mr. MacAngus was perhaps even now painting) and Wood Norton (where the Duke of Orleans, who ought, Hester held, to be King of France to-day, lives) to Evesham, and the weir where they had rowed about, and so on to Stratford. Robert's maps, fortified by what he had picked up from the old man last night, told them all these things, and told them also, more or less, what the "coloured counties" were that they could see; for of course Mary wanted to know that: Warwickshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Monmouthshire. (1908) Edit


The Slowcoach by E. V. Lucas

On the other side of Cirencester is a very beautiful park, with a broad avenue through it from the gates right in the town itself. The farmer's wife had told them of its attractions, and also of a ruined house known as Alfred's Hall, and a point called the Seven Ways where seven green avenues met, and a canal that ran through a tunnel, and, all within the possibilities of good walkers, the source of the Thames itself (1908) Edit


The Devil Doctor by Sax Rohmer

I could hear the tide, lapping upon the wharf, could feel the chill from the river and hear the vague noises which, night nor day, never cease upon the great commercial waterway. (1916) Edit


The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett

Eventually they stopped at the edge of a canal, its waters lapping in the darkness. A small boat was tethered there, with a waiting guard. Dee urged them into it. There was a clink in the gloom, and then a lamp was lit. The guard was punting the boat under an arch and into a small lake. Apart from the tunnel entrance, the walls rose up sheer. ‘Are we at the bottom of a well?’ said Vimes. That is quite a good way of describing it.’ Dee fished under his seat. He produced a curved metal horn and blew one note which echoed up the rock walls. After a few seconds another note floated down from the top. There was a clanking, as of heavy ancient chains. This is quite a short lift compared to some in the mountains,’ said Dee, as an iron plate ground across the entrance, sealing it. ‘There’s one half a mile high that will take a string of barges.’ Water boiled beside the boat. Vimes saw the walls begin to sink. Now the boat was rocking in the bubbling water and the walls were blurred. ‘Water is diverted into reservoirs up near the peaks. Then it is simply a matter of opening and closing sluices, you see?’ ‘Yes,’ mumbled Vimes, experiencing vertigo and seasickness in one tight green package. The walls slowed. The boat stopped shaking. The water lifted them smoothly over the lip of the well and into a little channel, where there was a dock. (1999) Edit


The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Down the swift dark stream you go
Back to lands you once did know!
Leave the halls and caverns deep,
Leave the northern mountains steep,
Where the forest wide and dim
Stoops in shadow grey and grim!
Float beyond the world of trees
Out into the whispering breeze,
Past the rushes, past the reeds,
Past the marsh's waving weeds,
Through the mist that riseth white
Up from mere and pool at night!
Follow, follow stars that leap
Up the heavens cold and steep;
Turn when dawn comes over land,
Over rapid, over sand,
South away! and South away!
Seek the sunlight and the day,
Back to pasture, back to mead,
Where the kine and oxen feed!
Back to gardens on the hills
Where the berry swells and fills
Under sunlight, under day!
South away! and South away!
Down the swift dark stream you go
Back to lands you once did know!
 (1937) Edit


Death in Little Venice by Leo McNeir

It was the last sunshine of the year as Sally Ann cut through the icy water between the sleeping fields. Dolly curled up on the hatch, purring while Ralph stroked her with his free hand - the other was on the tiller. Marnie uncorked a bottle of Aussie red and poured two generous glasses. There were herons on the bank at almost regular intervals and voles about at the water's edge. (2001) Edit


Death in Little Venice by Leo McNeir

On one such evening in 1874 a boat carrying munitions had exploded along this stretch of canal, killing the three-man crew and a boy passing on the towpath and destroying Macclesfield Road bridge, subsequently rebuilt and ever after called the 'blow-up bridge'. Marnie could see its sturdy steel columns in the beam of the lamp. She took care to steer Sally Ann between the bank and the flotsam in the water, straining her eyes to make sure it was just another plastic bag floating on the surface and nothing more substantial that might damage the hull. She slowed down to ease past, watching carefully to make sure it did not slide under the stern and foul the propeller. Her cheeks suddenly tingled as she realised that the shape in the water was not a plastic bag. She pushed the heavy lever into reverse gear and revved the engine to bring the boat to a stop, while she lunged forward to grab the torch from its hook by the control panel. The shape in the water was a body, face down, barely visible on the dark surface. (2001) Edit


Death in Little Venice by Leo McNeir

Ralph's boat, Thyrsis, thoroughly checked over and locked up by Marnie and Anne, receded, its green paintwork turned to grey in the half light, and vanished in the gloom behind them. As they broke clear of the spinney and passed the last willow trailing fronds in the water, the fields spread out from the canal on both sides, stretching off towards the horizon, like a monochrome lithograph. As usual on a long journey, Marnie stood in silence at the outset, listening to the beat of the engine, getting the feel of the boat under her control, the balance of the tiller. Anne stood quietly beside her, taking in the sights and sounds, feeling the cold air on the tip of her nose. She saw a heron in the light of the headlamp, fifty metres away, apparently frozen solid on the bank, and even as she pointed it out to Marnie, it hunched forward and flapped off in a great circle over the fields. Now there was enough daylight to see sheep and cattle, humps in the landscape, clustered together on the slopes. A few lamps were glowing inside the cabin, making a faint shadow of light that ran along the bank beside them. Anne wondered how they looked to anyone who saw them across the countryside, and almost at once she saw in the far distance a train, tiny and silent, a phosphorescent worm cutting through the dark landscape at a tremendous pace. There was no other movement to be seen. They were suspended outside the real world, and this could be any time, any place, ever. Anne felt so thrilled she wanted to jump in the air and shout, turn cartwheels on the roof of the boat, fly with the heron over the frosty fields. Instead, she took hold of Marnie's hand on the tiller in both of her hands, squeezed and smiled broadly into her face. Marnie smiled back and nodded, knowing. She had been through these feelings herself many times on Sally Ann during her journeys, especially when setting out on the first stage. She understood. (2001) Edit


Hornblower and the Atropos by C. S. Forester

"Ee, man, you know little about boats," said the lock-keeper's wife, and Hornblower's ears burned with embarrassment. He thought of the examination he had passed in navigation and seamanship, he thought of how often he had tacked a monstrous ship of the line in heavy weather. That experience was not of much use to him here in inland Gloucestershire or perhaps it was Oxfordshire by now and in any case the lock was empty, the gates opening, the towlines tightening, and he had to leap down six feet or more in a hurry into the already moving stern, remembering to take the stern-line down with him. He managed it, clumsily as ever, and he heard the lock-keeper's wife's hearty laugh as he glided on below her; and she said something more, too, but he could pay no attention to it, as he had to grab for the tiller and steer the hurrying boat out under the bridge. And when he had first paid for their passages he had pictured to himself the leisurely life of the canal boatman! (1937) Edit


Hornblower and the Atropos by C. S. Forester

Having climbed up through the locks, the canal boat was now winding over the pleasant Cotswold country. Hornblower was bubbling with good spirits, on his way to take up a new command, seeing new sights, travelling in an entirely new way, at a moment when the entirely unpredictable English weather had decided to stage a clear sunny day in the middle of December. This was a delightful way of travelling, despite the cold. (1937) Edit


Hornblower and the Atropos by C. S. Forester

Maria, with the sleeping little Horatio in her arms, gave a sigh at her husband's restlessness and shifted her knees to allow him passage, and he rose under the restricted height of the first-class cabin and stepped out through the forward door into the open bow of the passage-boat. Here he could stand on his sea chest and look round him. It was a queer craft, fully seventy feet long and, judging by eye as he looked aft, he would think hardly five feet in beam—the same proportions as had the crazy dugout canoes he had seen in use in the West Indies. Her draught must be less than a foot; that was clear as she tore along behind the cantering horses at a speed that must certainly be all of eight knots —nine miles an hour he told himself, hurriedly, for that was the way they measured speeds here inland. (1937) Edit


Hornblower and the Atropos by C. S. Forester

The passage-boat was making her way from Gloucester to London along the Thames and Severn Canal; going far more smoothly than the stage coach, it was very nearly as fast and decidedly cheaper, at a penny a mile, even in the first class. He and Maria, with the child, were the only first-class passengers, and the boatman, when Hornblower had paid the fares, had cocked an eye at Maria's condition and had said that by rights they ought to pay two children's fares instead of one. Maria had snorted with disdain at such vulgarity, while the onlookers chuckled. Standing on his sea chest, Hornblower could look over the canal banks, at the grey stone boundary walls and the grey stone farms. The rhythmic sound of the hoofs of the cantering tow horses accentuated the smoothness of the travel; the boat itself made hardly a sound as it slid along over the surface of the water—Hornblower noticed that the boatmen had the trick of lifting the bows, by a sudden acceleration, on to the crest of the bow wave raised by her passage, and retaining them there. (1937) Edit


Hornblower and the Atropos by C. S. Forester

With the wings fitted he and the steersman on board, and the horseholder on the bank, took their places along the side of the Queen-Charlotte. A strong united shove sent the boat gliding into the cut, heading for the tunnel. "Keep 'er goin', sir," said the steersman, scrambling forward to the port side wing. It was obvious that it would be far easier to maintain gentle way on the boat than to progress in fits and starts of alternate stopping and moving. Hornblower hurried to the starboard side wing and laid himself down on it as the bows of the boat crept into the dark tunnel. Lying on his right side, with his head inboard, he felt his feet come into contact with the brick lining of the tunnel. He pressed with his feet, and then by a simple backwards walking motion he urged the boat along. "Hold hard, sir," said the steersman—his head was just beside Hornblower's—"there's two miles an' more to go." A tunnel two miles long, driven through the solid rock of the Cotswolds ! No wonder it was the marvel of the age. The Romans with all their aqueducts had achieved nothing to compare with this. Farther and farther into the tunnel they went, into darkness that increased in intensity, until it was frightfully, astonishingly dark, with the eye recording nothing at all, strain as it might. At their entrance into the tunnel the women had chattered and laughed, and had shouted to hear the echoes in the tunnel. "Silly lot o' hens," muttered the steersman. Now they fell silent, oppressed by the darkness, all except Maria. "I trust you remember you have your good clothes on, Horatio," she said. "Yes, dear," said Hornblower, happy in the knowledge that she could not possibly see him. (1937) Edit


Death in Little Venice by Leo McNeir

As on her solo journey of the previous summer, Marnie felt elated to be in command of her boat. She loved the cold air and the wintry landscape, the animals and birds, the pastoral surroundings and the freedom. She had had this feeling before, that she had escaped and was playing truant. She was travelling on a highway that led on to every waterway and ocean in the world. She could go anywhere and do anything. It surprised Marnie, not normally given to flights of fancy, that she could think like that. But travelling on the canals had this effect on her, especially when she was alone and her imagination was free to wander for hours at a time, while the engine chugged below her feet and the country slipped by. (2001) Edit


Death in Little Venice by Leo McNeir

Her mouth opened and Marnie was transfixed, unable for a few seconds to move. Coming steadily towards the lock on the exact course for entering the chamber, was Sally Ann. Marnie ran down the towpath, unclear as to how she would get on board to avert a disaster, at a loss to know how the boat had managed to free herself from her mooring rope, engage gear and steer herself away from the bank. Within a few yards though ... Marnie skidded to a halt, turned round and walked casually up to perch on the balance beam with her back to the boat. As Sally slid quietly into the lock, Marnie called over her shoulder. "You might as well put the kettle on. We're probably both ready for coffee." In reply she heard a shriek of laughter and looking round she saw Anne, in red and white ski-suit, standing at the tiller smiling broadly. (2001) Edit


Death in Little Venice by Leo McNeir

They stopped to decide on the rest of their walk by a lock beside a bridge two hundred years old, opposite a lock-keeper's cottage. In a window of the cottage stood a small Christmas tree with coloured lights flashing. The setting looked like a picture from a British Waterways calendar. Their alternatives were to retrace their steps or to go over the bridge and head off on a circuit that would take them through meadow and woodland in a loop back to Murton. They opted to stay by the canal and walk back the way they had come. (2001) Edit


Death in Little Venice by Leo McNeir

"Yes, I think so ... it's quite distinctive. Now, where were we? Oh yes, you were telling me about the difference between a barge and a narrowboat. Do go on." Marnie was drawn further into a description of boats in general and Sally Ann in particular, of trads, semi-trads, tugs and Joshers. Grant's questions were intelligent and perceptive, and she gradually came to realise that, for a man, and a politician at that, he was that rare species, a good listener. He seemed genuinely interested, and Marnie could not believe it was just the politician's technique of making someone feel that they were the most important person around. (2001) Edit


Death in Little Venice by Leo McNeir

The faint winter sun filtered through the trees of the spinney, bringing dappled light and shade all around the docking area as they sat on deck wrapped up against the cold, drinking their coffee. They gripped mugs in both hands to keep their fingers warm, and the steam rose straight up from the drinks in the still air. The water in the canal shone, reflecting a faded blue sky. A few birds were singing. There were no other sounds, no cars, no aeroplanes, nothing to intrude. (2001) Edit


Death in Little Venice by Leo McNeir

Both sides of the canal were lined with brightly painted narrowboats, attractive in the dappled street lighting that flickered between the trees on either bank. This was where Marnie had first kept Sally Ann and where she still had friends. They cruised by Mrs Jolly's house before entering the tunnel entrance below the cafe where she had eaten with Malcolm, and soon found themselves gliding under road and train bridges to enter Regent's Park, with the sky now perceptibly brightening by the minute. "This is beautiful," Anne said. "How far shall we go?" "How about down to the pagoda and back? That should make a nice run. About half an hour." "Okay. And breakfast? Could we tie up somewhere in the park?" "I think, strictly speaking, that isn't allowed, but I don't see anyone around to stop us." "Great." Anne steered a straight course down the middle of the canal through the zoo, where the kudus looked down on them from their compound and unfamiliar foreign birds preened themselves on high branches in the aviary. "This makes a change from the sheep and herons back home," Anne laughed. "It's all so exotic for a narrowboat on the canal. (2001) Edit


Hornblower and the Atropos by C. S. Forester

Hornblower had to spring for the stern sheets, line in hand, and he had to grab for the tiller. Maybe Maria was still expostulating, but if she were, Hornblower was already far too busy to hear anything she said. It was impressive how quickly the Queen Charlotte picked up speed as the horses, suddenly breaking into a trot, pulled her bows up on to her bow wave. From a trot they changed to a canter, and the speed seemed fantastic—far faster, to Hornblower's heated imagination, now that he was at the helm instead of being a mere irresponsible passenger. The banks were flying by; fortunately in this deep cut of the summit level the channel was straight at first, for the steering was not perfectly simple. The two towlines, one at the bow and one at the stern, held the boat parallel to the bank with the smallest use of the rudder—an economic employment of force that appealed to Hornblower's mathematical mind, but which made the feel of the boat a little unnatural as he tentatively tried the tiller. (1937) Edit


Hornblower and the Atropos by C. S. Forester

Crack-crack-crack-crack—that was Jenkins with his whip—was not the speed already great enough for him? Round the bend, coming towards them, there was another canal boat, creeping peacefully along towed by a single horse. Hornblower realized that Jenkins' four whip cracks were a signal, demanding a clear passage. He hoped most sincerely and fervently that one would be granted, as the canal boat hastened down upon the barge. The bargee at the tow horse's head brought the beast to a standstill, edging him over into the hedge beside the towpath; the bargee's wife put her tiller over and the barge swerved majestically, with her residual way, towards the reeds that lined the opposite bank; so between horse and barge the tow-rope sank to the ground on the towpath, and into the water in a deep bight. Over the tow-rope cantered Jenkins' horses, and Hornblower headed the passage boat for the narrow space between the barge and the towpath. He could guess that the water beside the path was shallow; it was necessary to steer the passage boat to shave the barge as closely as possible, and in any case the bargee's wife, accustomed to encountering skilled steersmen, had only left him the minimum of room. Hornblower was in a fair way towards panic as the passage boat dashed forward. (1937) Edit


Hornblower and the Atropos by C. S. Forester

There was still plenty of daylight when they came out into the Thames valley and Hornblower, looking down to starboard, could see the infant river—not such an infant at its winter level—running below. Every turn and every lock brought the canal nearer to the stream, and at last they reached Inglesham, with Lechlade church steeple in view ahead, and the junction with the river. At Inglesham lock Jenkins left his horses and came back to speak to Hornblower. "There's three staunches on the river next that we have to run, sir," he said. Hornblower had no idea what a staunch was, and he very much wanted to know before he had to "run" them, but at the same time he did not want to admit ignorance. Jenkins may have been tactful enough to sense his difficulty; at least he gave an explanation. "They're dams across the river, sir," he told Hornblower. "At this time o' year, with plenty of water, some o' the paddles are kept out for good, at the towpath end o' the staunch. There's a fall o' five or six feet" "Five or six feet?" repeated Hornblower, startled. "Yes, sir. 'Bout that much. But it isn't a real fall, if you know what I mean, sir. Steep, but no more." "And we have to run down it?" "Yes, sir. It's easy enough, sir—at the top, leastways." "And at the bottom?" "There's an eddy there, sir, like as you'd expect. But if you hold her straight, sir, the nags'll take you through." "I'll hold her straight," said Hornblower. "O' course you will, sir." (1937) Edit


Hornblower and the Atropos by C. S. Forester

Lechlade Bridge just ahead of them—the staunch was half a mile beyond, Jenkins said. Although the air was distinctly cold now Horn-blower was conscious that his palms, as they rested on the tiller, were distinctly damp. To him now it appeared a wildly reckless thing to do, to attempt to shoot the staunch inexperienced as he was. He would prefer—infinitely prefer—not to try. But he had to steer through the arch of the bridge—the horses splashed fetlock deep there—and then it was too late to do anything about his change of mind. There was the line of the staunch across the stream, the gap in it plainly visible on the port side. Beyond the staunch the surface of the river was not visible because of the drop, but above the gap the water headed down in a steep, sleek slope, higher at the sides than in the middle; the fragments which floated on the surface were all hurrying towards it, like people in a public hall all pressing towards a single exit. Hornblower steered for the centre of the gap, choking a little with excitement; he could feel the altered trim of the boat as her bows sank and her stern rose on the slope. Now they were flying down, down. Below, the smooth slope narrowed down to a point, beyond which and on each side was the turbulent water of the eddy. He still had steerage way enough to steer down the point; as he felt die boat answer the helm he was momentarily tempted to follow up the mathematical line of thought presented by that situation, but he had neither time nor really the inclination. The bows hit the turbulent water with a jar and a splash; the boat lurched in the eddy, but next moment the towlines plucked them forward again. Two seconds' careful steering and they were through the eddy and they were gliding over a smooth surface once more, foam-streaked but smooth, and Horn-blower was laughing out loud. It had been simple, but so exhilarating that it did not occur to him to condemn himself for his earlier misgivings. Jenkins looked back, turning in his saddle, and waved his whip, and Hornblower waved back. (1937) Edit


Hornblower and the Atropos by C. S. Forester

The winter evening was closing round them, the light mellowing while it faded over ploughland and meadow, over the pollard willows knee-deep in the stream, over the farmhouses and cottages. It was all very lovely; Hornblower had the feeling that he did not want this moment ever to end. This was happiness, as his earlier feelings of well-being changed to something more peaceful, just as the surface of the river had changed below the eddy. Soon he would be back in another life again, plunged once more into a world of cruelty and war—the world he had left behind in the tide-water of the Severn and would meet again in the tide-water of the Thames. It was symbolic that it should be here in the centre of England, at the midpoint of his journey, that he should reach this momentary summit of happiness. The cattle in the fields, the rooks in the trees—were they part of this happiness? Possibly, but not certainly. The happiness came from within him, and depended on even more transitory factors than those. Hornblower breathed the evening air as though it were divine poetry, and then he noticed Jenkins waving to him from his saddle and pointing with his whip, and the moment was over, lost for ever. (1937) Edit


Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

Slowly the golden memory of the dead sun fades from the hearts of the cold, sad clouds. Silent, like sorrowing children, the birds have ceased their song, and only the moorhen’s plaintive cry and the harsh croak of the corncrake stirs the awed hush around the couch of waters, where the dying day breathes out her last.

From the dim woods on either bank, Night’s ghostly army, the grey shadows, creep out with noiseless tread to chase away the lingering rear-guard of the light, and pass, with noiseless, unseen feet, above the waving river-grass, and through the sighing rushes; and Night, upon her sombre throne, folds her black wings above the darkening world, and, from her phantom palace, lit by the pale stars, reigns in stillness. (1889) Edit


Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

Then we run our little boat into some quiet nook, and the tent is pitched, and the frugal supper cooked and eaten. Then the big pipes are filled and lighted, and the pleasant chat goes round in musical undertone; while, in the pauses of our talk, the river, playing round the boat, prattles strange old tales and secrets, sings low the old child’s song that it has sung so many thousand years—will sing so many thousand years to come, before its voice grows harsh and old—a song that we, who have learnt to love its changing face, who have so often nestled on its yielding bosom, think, somehow, we understand, though we could not tell you in mere words the story that we listen to. (1889) Edit


Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

And we sit there, by its margin, while the moon, who loves it too, stoops down to kiss it with a sister’s kiss, and throws her silver arms around it clingingly; and we watch it as it flows, ever singing, ever whispering, out to meet its king, the sea—till our voices die away in silence, and the pipes go out—till we, common-place, everyday young men enough, feel strangely full of thoughts, half sad, half sweet, and do not care or want to speak—till we laugh, and, rising, knock the ashes from our burnt-out pipes, and say “Good-night,” and, lulled by the lapping water and the rustling trees, we fall asleep beneath the great, still stars, and dream that the world is young again—young and sweet as she used to be ere the centuries of fret and care had furrowed her fair face, ere her children’s sins and follies had made old her loving heart—sweet as she was in those bygone days when, a new-made mother, she nursed us, her children, upon her own deep breast—ere the wiles of painted civilization had lured us away from her fond arms, and the poisoned sneers of artificiality had made us ashamed of the simple life we led with her, and the simple, stately home where mankind was born so many thousands years ago. (1889) Edit


Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

Maidenhead itself is too snobby to be pleasant. It is the haunt of the river swell and his overdressed female companion. It is the town of showy hotels, patronised chiefly by dudes and ballet girls. It is the witch’s kitchen from which go forth those demons of the river—steam-launches. The 'London Journal' duke always has his “little place” at Maidenhead; and the heroine of the three-volume novel always dines there when she goes out on the spree with somebody else’s husband. (1889) Edit


Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

We pulled up in the backwater, just below Cookham, and had tea; and, when we were through the lock, it was evening. A stiffish breeze had sprung up—in our favour, for a wonder; for, as a rule on the river, the wind is always dead against you whatever way you go. It is against you in the morning, when you start for a day’s trip, and you pull a long distance, thinking how easy it will be to come back with the sail. Then, after tea, the wind veers round, and you have to pull hard in its teeth all the way home.

When you forget to take the sail at all, then the wind is consistently in your favour both ways. But there! this world is only a probation, and man was born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.

This evening, however, they had evidently made a mistake, and had put the wind round at our back instead of in our face. We kept very quiet about it, and got the sail up quickly before they found it out, and then we spread ourselves about the boat in thoughtful attitudes, and the sail bellied out, and strained, and grumbled at the mast, and the boat flew. (1889) Edit


Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

Harris let the sail down, and then we saw what had happened. We had knocked those three old gentlemen off their chairs into a general heap at the bottom of the boat, and they were now slowly and painfully sorting themselves out from each other, and picking fish off themselves; and as they worked, they cursed us—not with a common cursory curse, but with long, carefully-thought-out, comprehensive curses, that embraced the whole of our career, and went away into the distant future, and included all our relations, and covered everything connected with us—good, substantial curses.

Harris told them they ought to be grateful for a little excitement, sitting there fishing all day, and he also said that he was shocked and grieved to hear men their age give way to temper so.

But it did not do any good. (1889) Edit


Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

Marlow is one of the pleasantest river centres I know of. It is a bustling, lively little town; not very picturesque on the whole, it is true, but there are many quaint nooks and corners to be found in it, nevertheless—standing arches in the shattered bridge of Time, over which our fancy travels back to the days when Marlow Manor owned Saxon Algar for its lord, ere conquering William seized it to give to Queen Matilda, ere it passed to the Earls of Warwick or to worldly-wise Lord Paget, the councillor of four successive sovereigns.

There is lovely country round about it, too, if, after boating, you are fond of a walk, while the river itself is at its best here. Down to Cookham, past the Quarry Woods and the meadows, is a lovely reach. Dear old Quarry Woods! with your narrow, climbing paths, and little winding glades, how scented to this hour you seem with memories of sunny summer days! How haunted are your shadowy vistas with the ghosts of laughing faces! how from your whispering leaves there softly fall the voices of long ago! (1889) Edit


Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

We had a good deal of trouble with steam launches that morning. It was just before the Henley week, and they were going up in large numbers; some by themselves, some towing houseboats. I do hate steam launches: I suppose every rowing man does. I never see a steam launch but I feel I should like to lure it to a lonely part of the river, and there, in the silence and the solitude, strangle it. (1889) Edit


The Thames to the Solent - by Canal and Sea by J. B. Dashwood

Into these beautiful oak plantations we now entered by a perfectly straight and deep cutting, about a mile and a half in length, with numbers of low stone bridges crossing the Canal at intervals, which presented a very striking effect. It is from these highlands that many of the tributaries of the Rivers Wey and Arun spring— Hindhead, not many miles distant, being the watershed of this district. Our route now lay through a most refreshing and picturesque country of a broken and undulating character, densely clothed with a forest of oak-trees, opening out and giving peeps into deep hollows verdant with luxuriant ferns and purple heather. Here and there were breaks in the woodland, and the small round hills, rich in pasturage, appeared—the ancient folds of the Weald. (1868) Edit


The Thames to the Solent - by Canal and Sea by J. B. Dashwood

He suggested that we should try the plan generally found to answer by the bargemen, viz. to blindfold the animal, but this was of no avail, and rather made matters worse. Sussex was always famous for its ingenious gates, but this three-barred arrangement beats anything one ever saw; they seemed to find favour with no one, for all whom we met abused them, and they gave us endless trouble. At last we discovered the quickest plan was to lead the pony to the gate, the bars being fastened down, then to lift one leg over and place it firmly on the ground on the opposite side, and so coax her over. By means of these and other dodges we progressed on our way. The tide was strong against us, but the pony was still stronger, so we quickly went ahead. (1868) Edit


The Thames to the Solent - by Canal and Sea by J. B. Dashwood

No more locks to open; no more aggravating gates to pass; nothing to prevent me lying down in my plaids, and smoking my pipe in peace, whilst the winds and the waves did all the work for us. Our trip by canal had been quite charming, but rather hard work, and after our four days' labour, we were glad of the change. We soon passed the towns of Middleton and Bognor, with their esplanades and white-fronted houses lighted up by the sun, and giving Pagham harbour a wide berth, we steered a little out to weather the point of Selsea Bill. (1868) Edit


Lock Keeper's Daughter by Pat Warner

When a couple decided to be wed, the parents decorated the new floating love nest with crepe paper, bunting, flowers and ribbons. They would be married in the church nearest to where the boat was tied. The bridegroom would carry his bride from the church to the boat, unless, of course, she was a fairly hefty wench. And then, away they would float in their gondola... (1986) Edit


Lock Keeper's Daughter by Pat Warner

If a boatman died and he was away from his home town or village, he would be brought back in his coffin, slung from the beams of his boat which would be drawn back to the home depot or port by his relations or workmates. All other boats would give way to a vessel that was carrying its skipper on his last journey. Although all manner of dangerous fuels and acids were carried on the canal, accidents were few and far between and seldom did you hear of the loss of life through negligence. (1986) Edit


Lock Keeper's Daughter by Pat Warner

The donkeys knew every part of the canalside and just where to stop at the locks. Although they didn't know when to start, they invariably knew when to stop. They also knew the whereabouts of every stable and that as soon as they left Tardebigge there would be a little girl waiting at Lock 53 to give them some carrots. I love them still. (1986) Edit


Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

At Reading lock we came up with a steam launch, belonging to some friends of mine, and they towed us up to within about a mile of Streatley. It is very delightful being towed up by a launch. I prefer it myself to rowing. The run would have been more delightful still, if it had not been for a lot of wretched small boats that were continually getting in the way of our launch, and, to avoid running down which, we had to be continually easing and stopping. It is really most annoying, the manner in which these rowing boats get in the way of one’s launch up the river; something ought to done to stop it.

And they are so confoundedly impertinent, too, over it. You can whistle till you nearly burst your boiler before they will trouble themselves to hurry. I would have one or two of them run down now and then, if I had my way, just to teach them all a lesson. (1889) Edit


The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

He thought his happiness was complete when, as he meandered aimlessly along, suddenly he stood by the edge of a full-fed river. Never in his life had he seen a river before–this sleek, sinuous, full-bodied animal, chasing and chuckling, gripping things with a gurgle and leaving them with a laugh, to fling itself on fresh playmates that shook themselves free, and were caught and held again. All was a-shake and a-shiver–glints and gleams and sparkles, rustle and swirl, chatter and bubble. The Mole was bewitched, entranced, fascinated. By the side of the river he trotted as one trots, when very small, by the side of a man who holds one spell-bound by exciting stories; and when tired at last, he sat on the bank, while the river still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea. (1908) Edit


The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

The Rat said nothing, but stooped and unfastened a rope and hauled on it; then lightly stepped into a little boat which the Mole had not observed. It was painted blue outside and white within, and was just the size for two animals; and the Mole's whole heart went out to it at once, even though he did not yet fully understand its uses.

The Rat sculled smartly across and made fast. Then he held up his forepaw as the Mole stepped gingerly down. 'Lean on that!' he said. 'Now then, step lively!' and the Mole to his surprise and rapture found himself actually seated in the stern of a real boat.

'This has been a wonderful day!' said he, as the Rat shoved off and took to the sculls again. 'Do you know, I've never been in a boat before in all my life.' (1908) Edit


The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

The Mole never heard a word he was saying. Absorbed in the new life he was entering upon, intoxicated with the sparkle, the ripple, the scents and the sounds and the sunlight, he trailed a paw in the water and dreamed long waking dreams. The Water Rat, like the good little fellow he was, sculled steadily on and forebore to disturb him. (1908) Edit


The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

'And you really live by the river? What a jolly life!'

'By it and with it and on it and in it,' said the Rat. 'It's brother and sister to me, and aunts, and company, and food and drink, and (naturally) washing. It's my world, and I don't want any other. What it hasn't got is not worth having, and what it doesn't know is not worth knowing. Lord! the times we've had together! Whether in winter or summer, spring or autumn, it's always got its fun and its excitements. When the floods are on in February, and my cellars and basement are brimming with drink that's no good to me, and the brown water runs by my best bedroom window; or again when it all drops away and, shows patches of mud that smells like plum-cake, and the rushes and weed clog the channels, and I can potter about dry shod over most of the bed of it and find fresh food to eat, and things careless people have dropped out of boats!' (1908) Edit


The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Leaving the main stream, they now passed into what seemed at first sight like a little land-locked lake. Green turf sloped down to either edge, brown snaky tree-roots gleamed below the surface of the quiet water, while ahead of them the silvery shoulder and foamy tumble of a weir, arm-in-arm with a restless dripping mill-wheel, that held up in its turn a grey-gabled mill-house, filled the air with a soothing murmur of sound, dull and smothery, yet with little clear voices speaking up cheerfully out of it at intervals. It was so very beautiful that the Mole could only hold up both forepaws and gasp, 'O my! O my! O my!' (1908) Edit


The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

'Toad's out, for one,' replied the Otter. 'In his brand-new wager-boat; new togs, new everything!'

The two animals looked at each other and laughed.

'Once, it was nothing but sailing,' said the Rat, 'Then he tired of that and took to punting. Nothing would please him but to punt all day and every day, and a nice mess he made of it. Last year it was house-boating, and we all had to go and stay with him in his house-boat, and pretend we liked it. He was going to spend the rest of his life in a house-boat. It's all the same, whatever he takes up; he gets tired of it, and starts on something fresh.' (1908) Edit


The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

The Rat was sitting on the river bank, singing a little song. He had just composed it himself, so he was very taken up with it, and would not pay proper attention to Mole or anything else. Since early morning he had been swimming in the river, in company with his friends the ducks. And when the ducks stood on their heads suddenly, as ducks will, he would dive down and tickle their necks, just under where their chins would be if ducks had chins, till they were forced to come to the surface again in a hurry, spluttering and angry and shaking their feathers at him, for it is impossible to say quite ALL you feel when your head is under water. At last they implored him to go away and attend to his own affairs and leave them to mind theirs. (1908) Edit


The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

'O, pooh! boating!' interrupted the Toad, in great disgust. Silly boyish amusement. I've given that up LONG ago. Sheer waste of time, that's what it is. It makes me downright sorry to see you fellows, who ought to know better, spending all your energies in that aimless manner. No, I've discovered the real thing, the only genuine occupation for a life time. (1908) Edit


The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Such a rich chapter it had been, when one came to look back on it all! With illustrations so numerous and so very highly coloured! The pageant of the river bank had marched steadily along, unfolding itself in scene-pictures that succeeded each other in stately procession. Purple loosestrife arrived early, shaking luxuriant tangled locks along the edge of the mirror whence its own face laughed back at it. Willow-herb, tender and wistful, like a pink sunset cloud, was not slow to follow. Comfrey, the purple hand-in-hand with the white, crept forth to take its place in the line; and at last one morning the diffident and delaying dog-rose stepped delicately on the stage, and one knew, as if string-music had announced it in stately chords that strayed into a gavotte, that June at last was here. One member of the company was still awaited; the shepherd-boy for the nymphs to woo, the knight for whom the ladies waited at the window, the prince that was to kiss the sleeping summer back to life and love. But when meadow-sweet, debonair and odorous in amber jerkin, moved graciously to his place in the group, then the play was ready to begin. (1908) Edit


The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

And what a play it had been! Drowsy animals, snug in their holes while wind and rain were battering at their doors, recalled still keen mornings, an hour before sunrise, when the white mist, as yet undispersed, clung closely along the surface of the water; then the shock of the early plunge, the scamper along the bank, and the radiant transformation of earth, air, and water, when suddenly the sun was with them again, and grey was gold and colour was born and sprang out of the earth once more. They recalled the languorous siesta of hot mid-day, deep in green undergrowth, the sun striking through in tiny golden shafts and spots; the boating and bathing of the afternoon, the rambles along dusty lanes and through yellow cornfields; and the long, cool evening at last, when so many threads were gathered up, so many friendships rounded, and so many adventures planned for the morrow. (1908) Edit


The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

The line of the horizon was clear and hard against the sky, and in one particular quarter it showed black against a silvery climbing phosphorescence that grew and grew. At last, over the rim of the waiting earth the moon lifted with slow majesty till it swung clear of the horizon and rode off, free of moorings; and once more they began to see surfaces–meadows wide-spread, and quiet gardens, and the river itself from bank to bank, all softly disclosed, all washed clean of mystery and terror, all radiant again as by day, but with a difference that was tremendous. Their old haunts greeted them again in other raiment, as if they had slipped away and put on this pure new apparel and come quietly back, smiling as they shyly waited to see if they would be recognised again under it. (1908) Edit


The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

'Now it passes on and I begin to lose it,' he said presently. 'O Mole! the beauty of it! The merry bubble and joy, the thin, clear, happy call of the distant piping! Such music I never dreamed of, and the call in it is stronger even than the music is sweet! Row on, Mole, row! For the music and the call must be for us.' (1908) Edit


The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

On either side of them, as they glided onwards, the rich meadow-grass seemed that morning of a freshness and a greenness unsurpassable. Never had they noticed the roses so vivid, the willow-herb so riotous, the meadow-sweet so odorous and pervading. Then the murmur of the approaching weir began to hold the air, and they felt a consciousness that they were nearing the end, whatever it might be, that surely awaited their expedition. (1908) Edit


The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Restlessly the Rat wandered off once more, climbed the slope that rose gently from the north bank of the river, and lay looking out towards the great ring of Downs that barred his vision further southwards–his simple horizon hitherto, his Mountains of the Moon, his limit behind which lay nothing he had cared to see or to know. To-day, to him gazing South with a new-born need stirring in his heart, the clear sky over their long low outline seemed to pulsate with promise; to-day, the unseen was everything, the unknown the only real fact of life. On this side of the hills was now the real blank, on the other lay the crowded and coloured panorama that his inner eye was seeing so clearly. What seas lay beyond, green, leaping, and crested! What sun-bathed coasts, along which the white villas glittered against the olive woods! What quiet harbours, thronged with gallant shipping bound for purple islands of wine and spice, islands set low in languorous waters! (1908) Edit


The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

'Toad Hall? Why, I'm going that way myself,' replied the barge-woman. 'This canal joins the river some miles further on, a little above Toad Hall; and then it's an easy walk. You come along in the barge with me, and I'll give you a lift.'

She steered the barge close to the bank, and Toad, with many humble and grateful acknowledgments, stepped lightly on board and sat down with great satisfaction. 'Toad's luck again!' thought he. 'I always come out on top!' (1908) Edit


Sarum by Edward Rutherford

They encountered marshes, and large woods. Trees appeared that they had never seen before: elm, alder, ash and oak, birch and even pine. They investigated each one in turn. The pine in particular they smelt with interest, and felt the sticky gum that oozed from its soft bark. There were huge luxuriant rushes by the water, and lush green grass in enormous tufts. Signs of game appeared; one morning when he was trapping a fish in a stream, the children came to his side and silently led him a hundred paces upstream. There, ahead of him, were two long brown animals with silky fur playing on the riverbank in the sunlight. They had not seen otters before and for the first time in months, the travellers smiled with pleasure. That same night, however, they heard another new sound — the eerie, chilling cry of wolves in the woods— and they huddled close together in fear. (1987) Edit


Sarum by Edward Rutherford

A few nights later, a remarkable sight could be seen at the place where the five rivers met. On the riverbank, where the river made its lazy sweep to the south west, two large fires were burning. Over one of these, a wild horse was roasting and over the other, a deer. Between the fires, in a large circle, sat no less than fifteen families of hunters who had come from miles around to hear the old man. The blue smoke rose into the late summer night. The hunters ate well; there was a constant murmur and occasional bursts of laughter from the festivities beside the crackling fires. It was many years since there had been such a large gathering, not since long before the settlers had come to their valley, and as they feasted on the meat, the fish and berries that the land had always given them, the hunters could almost forget that anything had changed. (1987) Edit


Sarum by Edward Rutherford

They came up the river in a large curragh—twice the size of the boat in which he had left—which was painted white. Wise Omnic, remembering the message of the auguries, which all the people knew, had covered the girl's head not only with a coronet of gold, but an intricate golden net that reached down her back, and he had made her stand in the front of the boat so that the people in the settlements along the river would see her clearly as the boat passed. His choice was excellent: the girl was tall, high-breasted and slim. She was not beautiful; she had a long nose, solemn grey eyes and her skin was pitted; but she was the daughter of an Irish chief who had parted with her for a handsome payment, and her mother and grandmother had each borne twelve healthy children. (1987) Edit


Farmer Giles of Ham by J. R. R. Tolkien

Just at that moment the dragon got up from under the bridge. He had lain there concealed under the far bank, deep in the river. Now he let off a terrible steam, for he had drunk many gallons of water. At once there was a thick fog, and only the red eyes of the dragon to be seen in it.

"Go home, you fools!" he bellowed. "Or I will tear you to pieces. There are knights lying cold in the mountain-pass, and soon there will be more in the river. All the King's horses and all the King's men !" he roared. (1949) Edit


Farmer Giles of Ham by J. R. R. Tolkien

Garm heard a thump-thump coming along the river-bank, and he ran to the west side of the low hill on which the farmhouse stood, just to see what was happening. Suddenly he saw the giant stride right across the river and tread upon Galathea, the farmer's favourite cow, squashing the poor beast as flat as the farmer could have squashed a blackbeetle. (1949) Edit


Narrow Boat by L. T. C. Rolt

Cropredy is not a canal village. The fine church, with its beacon tower, and the street of thatched stone cottages that slopes down to the canal bridge were old in 1644, when they watched the plumed cavaliers sweep by in brave array to do battle for King Charles in the meadows by the Cherwell. Yet the gulf of years narrows with age, so that Cropredy has come to accept the canal, dreaming beneath its old brick bridge, as a part of itself, for it is a hundred and sixty years since the first boat passed by. (1944) Edit


Narrow Boat by L. T. C. Rolt

On an afternoon of the last week in July the great moment arrived when we slipped "Cressy's" mooring-lines and drew slowly away from the boatyard, heading northwards. Only Herbert Tooley on the bank and the blacksmith at the smithy door watched our unostentatious departure. Beside us on the aft deck stood Mr. Tooley senior in his Sunday suit and best bowler. He had suggested "giving us a hand" as far as Cropredy, such a childlike eagerness lurking beneath his deliberately casual offer that we had not the heart to refuse the old man. As we rounded the bend in the canal that had been the tempting limit of my view for so long, I looked back over the churning wake of our screw for a last glimpse of the familiar yard before the tall hedgerow beside the tow-path hid it from sight. (1944) Edit


Narrow Boat by L. T. C. Rolt

Inland navigation must be the safest form of transport ever devised, and compared to the death-dealing turmoil of the modern motor road, the canal or river is a veritable sanctuary. (1944) Edit


Narrow Boat by L. T. C. Rolt

By this time we had become so accustomed to travelling on broad rivers that it seemed strange to find ourselves once more confined to such a narrow channel of dead water. The banks, overgrown with tall reeds, appeared to crowd in upon us, an effect that was heightened by the great clumps of reed which had broken away from the banks and floated into deep water, often forming what appeared to be an impassable barrier until they were swung aside by "Cressy's" bows. By the time we had worked our way through the first two canal locks and had come to Shardlow, darkness was falling fast, so we moored for the night in the meadows just beyond the village. (1944) Edit


Narrow Boat by L. T. C. Rolt

A pair of narrow boats were coming out of the lock opposite, numerous holiday-makers in minute pedal-driven craft were darting hither and thither like so many water-fleas, with a joyous abandon that cared nothing for the rules of navigation, while, to complete the congestion, a race was in progress for small sailing-boats and, since there was a head wind, these last were tacking from bank to bank across the stream. Turning left-handed, we forged steadily up-river, keeping a wary eye on the pedal boats, which were reminiscent both in appearance and behaviour of the "Dodgem Cars" at a fair, and at the same time taking care to pass the amateur sailors on the right tack. (1944) Edit


Narrow Boat by L. T. C. Rolt

As this was the height of the holiday season, we had been surprised at the absence of pleasure craft on the quiet reaches of the Soar, but the next few hundred yards of the river above Sawley amply accounted for the deficiency. A dozen or more cabin cruisers were moored head to stern along the banks, whose grass, bruised and flattened, was bestrewn with an untidy litter of paper bags, empty tins, orange peel and the embers of picnic fires. Nearly all the boats had crews aboard, of whom some were bathing, while others lolled on the decks to the accompaniment of the inevitable gramophone or radio. Evidently the townsman afloat is as gregarious as his confrere of the roads, whose habits I have frequently pondered with amazement. Often on a bank holiday I have walked or driven through fields and lanes for hours on end without meeting a soul, but, on coming upon a main road, found its verges crowded with cars and picnic parties within a bun's throw of each other. It would seem that the close confinement of great cities has re-awakened the herd instinct of the primitive. The countryman knows no unease in the elemental silence of lonely places; but when the people of the towns return to the land they have forsaken, impelled by a craving they do not understand, it is to find its solitude intolerable, so complete is their estrangement. This is one of the tragic results of the drift to the towns. (1944) Edit


Narrow Boat by L. T. C. Rolt

Being "off the land" Mrs. Hone was the only member of the family capable of reading or writing, and was regarded with a certain awe in consequence. On Sunday mornings it became customary for her to stand at the cabin hatch of the "Cylgate" as before a lectern, reading extracts from the Sunday newspaper in a slow, expressionless monotone to a rapt audience, consisting of the rest of the family and any other canal folk who happened to be within earshot. They habitually stood in a silent group on the tow-path, never interrupting, but pondering each word as though it was a pearl of wisdom from some remote and god-like intelligence. (1944) Edit


The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells

We remained at Weybridge until midday, and at that hour we found ourselves at the place near Shepperton Lock where the Wey and Thames join. Part of the time we spent helping two old women to pack a little cart. The Wey has a treble mouth, and at this point boats are to be hired, and there was a ferry across the river. On the Shepperton side was an inn with a lawn, and beyond that the tower of Shepperton Church–it has been replaced by a spire–rose above the trees.

Here we found an excited and noisy crowd of fugitives. As yet the flight had not grown to a panic, but there were already far more people than all the boats going to and fro could enable to cross. People came panting along under heavy burdens; one husband and wife were even carrying a small outhouse door between them, with some of their household goods piled thereon. One man told us he meant to try to get away from Shepperton station. (1898) Edit


The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells

Across the Thames, except just where the boats landed, everything was quiet, in vivid contrast with the Surrey side. The people who landed there from the boats went tramping off down the lane. The big ferryboat had just made a journey. Three or four soldiers stood on the lawn of the inn, staring and jesting at the fugitives, without offering to help. The inn was closed, as it was now within prohibited hours.

"What's that?" cried a boatman, and "Shut up, you fool!" said a man near me to a yelping dog. Then the sound came again, this time from the direction of Chertsey, a muffled thud–the sound of a gun.

The fighting was beginning. Almost immediately unseen batteries across the river to our right, unseen because of the trees, took up the chorus, firing heavily one after the other. A woman screamed. Everyone stood arrested by the sudden stir of battle, near us and yet invisible to us. Nothing was to be seen save flat meadows, cows feeding unconcernedly for the most part, and silvery pollard willows motionless in the warm sunlight.

"The sojers'll stop 'em," said a woman beside me, doubtfully. A haziness rose over the treetops. (1898) Edit


The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells

"Get under water!" I shouted, unheeded.

I faced about again, and rushed towards the approaching Martian, rushed right down the gravelly beach and headlong into the water. Others did the same. A boatload of people putting back came leaping out as I rushed past. The stones under my feet were muddy and slippery, and the river was so low that I ran perhaps twenty feet scarcely waist-deep. Then, as the Martian towered overhead scarcely a couple of hundred yards away, I flung myself forward under the surface. The splashes of the people in the boats leaping into the river sounded like thunderclaps in my ears. People were landing hastily on both sides of the river. But the Martian machine took no more notice for the moment of the people running this way and that than a man would of the confusion of ants in a nest against which his foot has kicked. When, half suffocated, I raised my head above water, the Martian's hood pointed at the batteries that were still firing across the river, and as it advanced it swung loose what must have been the generator of the Heat-Ray.

In another moment it was on the bank, and in a stride wading halfway across. The knees of its foremost legs bent at the farther bank, and in another moment it had raised itself to its full height again, close to the village of Shepperton. Forthwith the six guns which, unknown to anyone on the right bank, had been hidden behind the outskirts of that village, fired simultaneously. The sudden near concussion, the last close upon the first, made my heart jump. The monster was already raising the case generating the Heat-Ray as the first shell burst six yards above the hood. (1898) Edit


The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

The calm of evening was upon the world as I emerged from the great hall, and the scene was lit by the warm glow of the setting sun. At first things were very confusing. Everything was so entirely different from the world I had known–even the flowers. The big building I had left was situated on the slope of a broad river valley, but the Thames had shifted perhaps a mile from its present position. I resolved to mount to the summit of a crest, perhaps a mile and a half away, from which I could get a wider view of this our planet in the year Eight Hundred and Two Thousand Seven Hundred and One A.D. For that, I should explain, was the date the little dials of my machine recorded. (1898) Edit


The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

There I found a seat of some yellow metal that I did not recognize, corroded in places with a kind of pinkish rust and half smothered in soft moss, the arm-rests cast and filed into the resemblance of griffins' heads. I sat down on it, and I surveyed the broad view of our old world under the sunset of that long day. It was as sweet and fair a view as I have ever seen. The sun had already gone below the horizon and the west was flaming gold, touched with some horizontal bars of purple and crimson. Below was the valley of the Thames, in which the river lay like a band of burnished steel. I have already spoken of the great palaces dotted about among the variegated greenery, some in ruins and some still occupied. Here and there rose a white or silvery figure in the waste garden of the earth, here and there came the sharp vertical line of some cupola or obelisk. There were no hedges, no signs of proprietary rights, no evidences of agriculture; the whole earth had become a garden. (1898) Edit


The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

I must confess that my satisfaction with my first theories of an automatic civilization and a decadent humanity did not long endure. Yet I could think of no other. Let me put my difficulties. The several big palaces I had explored were mere living places, great dining-halls and sleeping apartments. I could find no machinery, no appliances of any kind. Yet these people were clothed in pleasant fabrics that must at times need renewal, and their sandals, though undecorated, were fairly complex specimens of metalwork. Somehow such things must be made. And the little people displayed no vestige of a creative tendency. There were no shops, no workshops, no sign of importations among them. They spent all their time in playing gently, in bathing in the river, in making love in a half-playful fashion, in eating fruit and sleeping. I could not see how things were kept going. (1898) Edit


The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

About eight or nine in the morning I came to the same seat of yellow metal from which I had viewed the world upon the evening of my arrival. I thought of my hasty conclusions upon that evening and could not refrain from laughing bitterly at my confidence. Here was the same beautiful scene, the same abundant foliage, the same splendid palaces and magnificent ruins, the same silver river running between its fertile banks. The gay robes of the beautiful people moved hither and thither among the trees. Some were bathing in exactly the place where I had saved Weena, and that suddenly gave me a keen stab of pain. And like blots upon the landscape rose the cupolas above the ways to the Under-world. I understood now what all the beauty of the Over-world people covered. Very pleasant was their day, as pleasant as the day of the cattle in the field. Like the cattle, they knew of no enemies and provided against no needs. And their end was the same. (1898) Edit


David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

'Yon's our house, Mas'r Davy!'

I looked in all directions, as far as I could stare over the wilderness, and away at the sea, and away at the river, but no house could I make out. There was a black barge, or some other kind of superannuated boat, not far off, high and dry on the ground, with an iron funnel sticking out of it for a chimney and smoking very cosily; but nothing else in the way of a habitation that was visible to me.

'That's not it?' said I. 'That ship-looking thing?'

'That's it, Mas'r Davy,' returned Ham. (1850) Edit


Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne

The railway, on leaving Benares, passed for a while along the valley of the Ganges. Through the windows of their carriage the travellers had glimpses of the diversified landscape of Behar, with its mountains clothed in verdure, its fields of barley, wheat, and corn, its jungles peopled with green alligators, its neat villages, and its still thickly-leaved forests. Elephants were bathing in the waters of the sacred river, and groups of Indians, despite the advanced season and chilly air, were performing solemnly their pious ablutions. These were fervent Brahmins, the bitterest foes of Buddhism, their deities being Vishnu, the solar god, Shiva, the divine impersonation of natural forces, and Brahma, the supreme ruler of priests and legislators. What would these divinities think of India, anglicised as it is to-day, with steamers whistling and scudding along the Ganges, frightening the gulls which float upon its surface, the turtles swarming along its banks, and the faithful dwelling upon its borders? (1873) Edit


Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne

About noon Mudge perceived by certain landmarks that he was crossing the Platte River. He said nothing, but he felt certain that he was now within twenty miles of Omaha. In less than an hour he left the rudder and furled his sails, whilst the sledge, carried forward by the great impetus the wind had given it, went on half a mile further with its sails unspread.

It stopped at last, and Mudge, pointing to a mass of roofs white with snow, said: "We have got there!" (1873) Edit


Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

A thousand lives seemed to be concentrated in that one moment to Eliza. Her room opened by a side door to the river. She caught her child, and sprang down the steps towards it. The trader caught a full glimpse of her just as she was disappearing down the bank; and throwing himself from his horse, and calling loudly on Sam and Andy, he was after her like a hound after a deer. In that dizzy moment her feet to her scarce seemed to touch the ground, and a moment brought her to the water's edge. Right on behind they came; and, nerved with strength such as God gives only to the desperate, with one wild cry and flying leap, she vaulted sheer over the turbid current by the shore, on to the raft of ice beyond. It was a desperate leap–impossible to anything but madness and despair; and Haley, Sam, and Andy, instinctively cried out, and lifted up their hands, as she did it.

The huge green fragment of ice on which she alighted pitched and creaked as her weight came on it, but she staid there not a moment. With wild cries and desperate energy she leaped to another and still another cake; stumbling–leaping–slipping–springing upwards again! Her shoes are gone–her stockings cut from her feet–while blood marked every step; but she saw nothing, felt nothing, till dimly, as in a dream, she saw the Ohio side, and a man helping her up the bank.

"Yer a brave gal, now, whoever ye ar!" said the man, with an oath. (1852) Edit


Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

"Wal, Missis, de Lord he persarves his own. Lizy's done gone over the river into 'Hio, as 'markably as if de Lord took her over in a charrit of fire and two hosses." (1852) Edit


Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

It was now early spring, and the river was swollen and turbulent; great cakes of floating ice were swinging heavily to and fro in the turbid waters. Owing to the peculiar form of the shore on the Kentucky side, the land bending far out into the water, the ice had been lodged and detained in great quantities, and the narrow channel which swept round the bend was full of ice, piled one cake over another, thus forming a temporary barrier to the descending ice, which lodged, and formed a great, undulating raft, filling up the whole river, and extending almost to the Kentucky shore.

Eliza stood, for a moment, contemplating this unfavorable aspect of things, which she saw at once must prevent the usual ferry-boat from running, and then turned into a small public house on the bank, to make a few inquiries. (1852) Edit


Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Eliza made her desperate retreat across the river just in the dusk of twilight. The gray mist of evening, rising slowly from the river, enveloped her as she disappeared up the bank, and the swollen current and floundering masses of ice presented a hopeless barrier between her and her pursuer. Haley therefore slowly and discontentedly returned to the little tavern, to ponder further what was to be done. (1852) Edit


Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

"We must cross the river tonight, no mistake," said Tom.

"But there's no boat about," said Marks. "The ice is running awfully, Tom; an't it dangerous?"

"Don'no nothing 'bout that,–only it's got to be done," said Tom, decidedly. (1852) Edit


Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

The La Belle Riviere, as brave and beautiful a boat as ever walked the waters of her namesake river, was floating gayly down the stream, under a brilliant sky, the stripes and stars of free America waving and fluttering over head; the guards crowded with well-dressed ladies and gentlemen walking and enjoying the delightful day. All was full of life, buoyant and rejoicing;–all but Haley's gang, who were stored, with other freight, on the lower deck, and who, somehow, did not seem to appreciate their various privileges, as they sat in a knot, talking to each other in low tones.

"Boys," said Haley, coming up, briskly, "I hope you keep up good heart, and are cheerful. Now, no sulks, ye see; keep stiff upper lip, boys; do well by me, and I'll do well by you." (1852) Edit


Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

At midnight, Tom waked, with a sudden start. Something black passed quickly by him to the side of the boat, and he heard a splash in the water. No one else saw or heard anything. He raised his head,–the woman's place was vacant! He got up, and sought about him in vain. The poor bleeding heart was still, at last, and the river rippled and dimpled just as brightly as if it had not closed above it. (1852) Edit


Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

The Mississippi! How, as by an enchanted wand, have its scenes been changed, since Chateaubriand wrote his prose-poetic description of it, as a river of mighty, unbroken solitudes, rolling amid undreamed wonders of vegetable and animal existence. (1852) Edit


Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

But as in an hour, this river of dreams and wild romance has emerged to a reality scarcely less visionary and splendid. What other river of the world bears on its bosom to the ocean the wealth and enterprise of such another country?–a country whose products embrace all between the tropics and the poles! Those turbid waters, hurrying, foaming, tearing along, an apt resemblance of that headlong tide of business which is poured along its wave by a race more vehement and energetic than any the old world ever saw. Ah! would that they did not also bear along a more fearful freight,–the tears of the oppressed, the sighs of the helpless, the bitter prayers of poor, ignorant hearts to an unknown God–unknown, unseen and silent, but who will yet "come out of his place to save all the poor of the earth!" (1852) Edit


Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

The slanting light of the setting sun quivers on the sea-like expanse of the river; the shivery canes, and the tall, dark cypress, hung with wreaths of dark, funereal moss, glow in the golden ray, as the heavily-laden steamboat marches onward. (1852) Edit


Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

The boat moved on,–freighted with its weight of sorrow,–up the red, muddy, turbid current, through the abrupt tortuous windings of the Red river; and sad eyes gazed wearily on the steep red-clay banks, as they glided by in dreary sameness. At last the boat stopped at a small town, and Legree, with his party, disembarked. (1852) Edit


Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

When they arrived at the Mississippi river, George, having learned that the course of the strange lady was upward, like his own, proposed to take a state-room for her on the same boat with himself,–good-naturedly compassionating her feeble health, and desirous to do what he could to assist her.

Behold, therefore, the whole party safely transferred to the good steamer Cincinnati, and sweeping up the river under a powerful head of steam. (1852) Edit


Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Laurie had vanished round the bend, Jo was just at the turn, and Amy, far behind, striking out toward the smoother ice in the middle of the river. For a minute Jo stood still with a strange feeling in her heart, then she resolved to go on, but something held and turned her round, just in time to see Amy throw up her hands and go down, with a sudden crash of rotten ice, the splash of water, and a cry that made Jo's heart stand still with fear. She tried to call Laurie, but her voice was gone. She tried to rush forward, but her feet seemed to have no strength in them, and for a second, she could only stand motionless, staring with a terror-stricken face at the little blue hood above the black water. Something rushed swiftly by her, and Laurie's voice cried out...

"Bring a rail. Quick, quick!"

How she did it, she never knew, but for the next few minutes she worked as if possessed, blindly obeying Laurie, who was quite self-possessed, and lying flat, held Amy up by his arm and hockey stick till Jo dragged a rail from the fence, and together they got the child out, more frightened than hurt. (1869) Edit


Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

After this Amy subsided, till a mania for sketching from nature set her to haunting river, field, and wood, for picturesque studies, and sighing for ruins to copy. She caught endless colds sitting on damp grass to book 'a delicious bit', composed of a stone, a stump, one mushroom, and a broken mullein stalk, or 'a heavenly mass of clouds', that looked like a choice display of featherbeds when done. She sacrificed her complexion floating on the river in the midsummer sun to study light and shade, and got a wrinkle over her nose trying after 'points of sight', or whatever the squint-and-string performance is called. (1869) Edit


Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

An impromptu circus, fox and geese, and an amicable game of croquet finished the afternoon. At sunset the tent was struck, hampers packed, wickets pulled up, boats loaded, and the whole party floated down the river, singing at the tops of their voices. Ned, getting sentimental, warbled a serenade with the pensive refrain... (1869) Edit


Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Jo pointed, and Laurie sat up to examine, for through an opening in the wood one could look cross the wide, blue river, the meadows on the other side, far over the outskirts of the great city, to the green hills that rose to meet the sky. The sun was low, and the heavens glowed with the splendor of an autumn sunset. Gold and purple clouds lay on the hilltops, and rising high into the ruddy light were silvery white peaks that shone like the airy spires of some Celestial City.

"How beautiful that is!" said Laurie softly, for he was quick to see and feel beauty of any kind. (1869) Edit


Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

The sail up the Rhine was perfect, and I just sat and enjoyed it with all my might. Get Father's old guidebooks and read about it. I haven't words beautiful enough to describe it. At Coblentz we had a lovely time, for some students from Bonn, with whom Fred got acquainted on the boat, gave us a serenade. It was a moonlight night, and about one o'clock Flo and I were waked by the most delicious music under our windows. We flew up, and hid behind the curtains, but sly peeps showed us Fred and the students singing away down below. It was the most romantic thing I ever saw–the river, the bridge of boats, the great fortress opposite, moonlight everywhere, and music fit to melt a heart of stone. (1869) Edit


Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

MY BETH

Sitting patient in the shadow
Till the blessed light shall come,
A serene and saintly presence
Sanctifies our troubled home.
Earthly joys and hopes and sorrows
Break like ripples on the strand
Of the deep and solemn river
Where her willing feet now stand. (1869) Edit


Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

"And then, what do you say to the good Cirongilio of Thrace, that was so stout and bold; as may be seen in the book, where it is related that as he was sailing along a river there came up out of the midst of the water against him a fiery serpent, and he, as soon as he saw it, flung himself upon it and got astride of its scaly shoulders, and squeezed its throat with both hands with such force that the serpent, finding he was throttling it, had nothing for it but to let itself sink to the bottom of the river, carrying with it the knight who would not let go his hold; and when they got down there he found himself among palaces and gardens so pretty that it was a wonder to see; and then the serpent changed itself into an old ancient man, who told him such things as were never heard. Hold your peace, senor; for if you were to hear this you would go mad with delight. A couple of figs for your Great Captain and your Diego Garcia!"

Hearing this Dorothea said in a whisper to Cardenio, "Our landlord is almost fit to play a second part to Don Quixote." (1615) Edit


Just So Stories - THE ELEPHANT'S CHILD by Rudyard Kipling

Then Kolokolo Bird said, with a mournful cry, 'Go to the banks of the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees, and find out.'

That very next morning, when there was nothing left of the Equinoxes, because the Precession had preceded according to precedent, this 'satiable Elephant's Child took a hundred pounds of bananas (the little short red kind), and a hundred pounds of sugar-cane (the long purple kind), and seventeen melons (the greeny-crackly kind), and said to all his dear families, 'Goodbye. I am going to the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees, to find out what the Crocodile has for dinner.' And they all spanked him once more for luck, though he asked them most politely to stop.

Then he went away, a little warm, but not at all astonished, eating melons, and throwing the rind about, because he could not pick it up. (1902) Edit


The Canterbury Tales and Other Poems by Geoffrey Chaucer

A garden saw I, full of blossom'd boughes,
Upon a river, in a greene mead,
Where as sweetness evermore enow is,
With flowers white, blue, yellow, and red,
And colde welle streames, nothing dead,
That swamme full of smalle fishes light,
With finnes red, and scales silver bright.

On ev'ry bough the birdes heard I sing,
With voice of angels in their harmony,
That busied them their birdes forth to bring;
The pretty conies to their play gan hie;
And further all about I gan espy
The dreadful roe, the buck, the hart, and hind,
Squirrels, and beastes small, of gentle kind.

Of instruments of stringes in accord
Heard I so play a ravishing sweetness,
That God, that Maker is of all and Lord,
Ne hearde never better, as I guess:
Therewith a wind, unneth it might be less,
Made in the leaves green a noise soft,
Accordant the fowles' song on loft.
 (139?) Edit


Tess of the d'Urbervilles: A Pure Woman by Thomas Hardy

The bird's-eye perspective before her was not so luxuriantly beautiful, perhaps, as that other one which she knew so well; yet it was more cheering. It lacked the intensely blue atmosphere of the rival vale, and its heavy soils and scents; the new air was clear, bracing, ethereal. The river itself, which nourished the grass and cows of these renowned dairies, flowed not like the streams in Blackmoor. Those were slow, silent, often turbid; flowing over beds of mud into which the incautious wader might sink and vanish unawares. The Froom waters were clear as the pure River of Life shown to the Evangelist, rapid as the shadow of a cloud, with pebbly shallows that prattled to the sky all day long. There the water-flower was the lily; the crow-foot here. (1891) Edit


Tess of the d'Urbervilles: A Pure Woman by Thomas Hardy

The dull sky soon began to tell its meaning by sending down herald-drops of rain, and the stagnant air of the day changed into a fitful breeze which played about their faces. The quick-silvery glaze on the rivers and pools vanished; from broad mirrors of light they changed to lustreless sheets of lead, with a surface like a rasp. But that spectacle did not affect her preoccupation. Her countenance, a natural carnation slightly embrowned by the season, had deepened its tinge with the beating of the rain-drops; and her hair, which the pressure of the cows' flanks had, as usual, caused to tumble down from its fastenings and stray beyond the curtain of her calico bonnet, was made clammy by the moisture, till it hardly was better than seaweed.

"I ought not to have come, I suppose," she murmured, looking at the sky.

"I am sorry for the rain," said he. "But how glad I am to have you here!" (1891) Edit


Tess of the d'Urbervilles: A Pure Woman by Thomas Hardy

Men were at work here and there–for it was the season for "taking up" the meadows, or digging the little waterways clear for the winter irrigation, and mending their banks where trodden down by the cows. The shovelfuls of loam, black as jet, brought there by the river when it was as wide as the whole valley, were an essence of soils, pounded champaigns of the past, steeped, refined, and subtilized to extraordinary richness, out of which came all the fertility of the mead, and of the cattle grazing there.

Clare hardily kept his arm round her waist in sight of these watermen, with the air of a man who was accustomed to public dalliance, though actually as shy as she who, with lips parted and eyes askance on the labourers, wore the look of a wary animal the while.

"You are not ashamed of owning me as yours before them!" she said gladly.

"O no!"

"But if it should reach the ears of your friends at Emminster that you are walking about like this with me, a milkmaid–" (1891) Edit


Tess of the d'Urbervilles: A Pure Woman by Thomas Hardy

She could answer no more than a bare affirmative, so great was the emotion aroused in her at the thought of going through the world with him as his own familiar friend. Her feelings almost filled her ears like a babble of waves, and surged up to her eyes. She put her hand in his, and thus they went on, to a place where the reflected sun glared up from the river, under a bridge, with a molten-metallic glow that dazzled their eyes, though the sun itself was hidden by the bridge. They stood still, whereupon little furred and feathered heads popped up from the smooth surface of the water; but, finding that the disturbing presences had paused, and not passed by, they disappeared again. Upon this river-brink they lingered till the fog began to close round them–which was very early in the evening at this time of the year–settling on the lashes of her eyes, where it rested like crystals, and on his brows and hair. (1891) Edit


Tess of the d'Urbervilles: A Pure Woman by Thomas Hardy

Its waters, in creeping down these miles of meadowland, frequently divided, serpentining in purposeless curves, looping themselves around little islands that had no name, returning and re-embodying themselves as a broad main stream further on. Opposite the spot to which he had brought her was such a general confluence, and the river was proportionately voluminous and deep. Across it was a narrow foot-bridge; but now the autumn flood had washed the handrail away, leaving the bare plank only, which, lying a few inches above the speeding current, formed a giddy pathway for even steady heads; and Tess had noticed from the window of the house in the day-time young men walking across upon it as a feat in balancing. Her husband had possibly observed the same performance; anyhow, he now mounted the plank, and, sliding one foot forward, advanced along it.

Was he going to drown her? Probably he was. The spot was lonely, the river deep and wide enough to make such a purpose easy of accomplishment. He might drown her if he would; it would be better than parting to-morrow to lead severed lives. (1891) Edit


A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

TITANIA. These are the forgeries of jealousy; And never, since the middle summer's spring, Met we on hill, in dale, forest, or mead, By paved fountain, or by rushy brook, Or in the beached margent of the sea, To dance our ringlets to the whistling wind, But with thy brawls thou hast disturb'd our sport. Therefore the winds, piping to us in vain, As in revenge, have suck'd up from the sea Contagious fogs; which, falling in the land, Hath every pelting river made so proud That they have overborne their continents. The ox hath therefore stretch'd his yoke in vain, The ploughman lost his sweat, and the green corn Hath rotted ere his youth attain'd a beard; The fold stands empty in the drowned field, And crows are fatted with the murrion flock; The nine men's morris is fill'd up with mud, And the quaint mazes in the wanton green, For lack of tread, are undistinguishable. The human mortals want their winter here; No night is now with hymn or carol blest; Therefore the moon, the governess of floods, Pale in her anger, washes all the air, That rheumatic diseases do abound. And thorough this distemperature we see The seasons alter: hoary-headed frosts Fall in the fresh lap of the crimson rose; And on old Hiems' thin and icy crown An odorous chaplet of sweet summer buds Is, as in mockery, set. The spring, the summer, The childing autumn, angry winter, change Their wonted liveries; and the mazed world, By their increase, now knows not which is which. And this same progeny of evils comes From our debate, from our dissension; We are their parents and original. (1596) Edit


King Henry The Fourth Part 1 by William Shakespeare

Hotspur (Henry Percy):
Methinks my moiety, north from Burton here,
In quantity equals not one of yours.
See how this river comes me cranking in
And cuts me from the best of all my land
A huge half-moon, a monstrous cantle out.
I'll have the current in this place damm'd up,
And here the smug and silver Trent shall run
In a new channel fair and evenly.
It shall not wind with such a deep indent
To rob me of so rich a bottom here.
 (1598) Edit


The Thames of Henry Taunt by Henry Taunt

LAYS OF A LAZY MINSTREL
A Streatley Sonata

Ah! Here I am! I've drifted down -
The sun is hot, my face is brown -
Before the wind from Moulsford town,
So pleasantly and fleetly!
I am not certain what's o'clock,
And so I won't go through the lock;
But wisely steer the Shuttlecock
Beside the 'Swan' at Streatley!

But from the Hill, I understand
You gaze across rich pasture-land;
And fancy you see Oxford and
P'raps Wallingford and Wheatley:
Upon the winding Thames you gaze,
And, though the view's beyond all praise,
I'd rather much sit here and laze
Than scale the Hill at Streatley!

And when you're here, I'm told that you
Should mount the Hill and see the view;
And gaze and wonder, if you'd do
Its merits most completely:
The air is clear, the day is fine,
The prospect is, I know, divine -
But most distinctly I decline
To climb the Hill at Streatley!

I sit and lounge here on the grass,
And watch the river traffic pass;
I note a dimpled, fair young lass,
Who feathers low and neatly:
Her hands are brown, her eyes are grey,
And trim her nautical array -
Alas! she swiftly sculls away,
And leaves the 'Swan' at Streatley!
 (1872 (extract from 1989 edition)) Edit


The Thames of Henry Taunt by Henry Taunt

Oxford is, more often than any other place, the starting-point for a long Thames trip, and is one of the best places for that purpose, as every convenience is there to be met with.

Dean Stanley speaks of Oxford as a mass of towers, pinnacles, and spires, rising from the bosom of a valley, from groves which hide all buildings but such as are consecrated to some wise and holy purpose; and it is perhaps - if a day can be spared - a wise plan to run down by rail and spend it here, among the beautiful specimens of collegiate architecture which give a semi-ecclesiastical air to the city; a trip which will be more than repaid by the pleasure which will be derived from the visit; and as Oxford is one of the most noted spots on the river, not to have seen it is to have missed a huge treat.

Information of every description required, guide books, guides, photographs, or letterpress views, can be readily obtained from Henry W. Taunt & Co.'s well-known establishment, 9 and 10, Broad Street, Oxford; the proprietors of which lay themselves out to furnish strangers to the city with any needed help.

Oxford is connected with London by two railway lines: the Great Western from Paddington (63 miles; fares 11s., 8s. \d., and Par. 5s. 3d.), on which run the best fast trains; and the London and North-Western from Euston Station (78 miles; fares as from Paddington). The stations for both lines are close together at the bottom of Park End Street, cabs and 'buses meet each train, and a new line of tramways from just outside each railway station leads up the main streets of the City.

The Post Office is a fine new building in St Aldate's Street (leading to Folly Bridge and the river), where letters can be posted for London till 12 midnight, the office being open for inquiries, etc., on week days from 6.30 a.m. till 10 p.m., and on Sundays from 7 a.m. till 10 a.m.
 (1872 (extract from 1989 edition)) Edit


The Thames of Henry Taunt by Henry Taunt

There has been much discussion as to which should be considered the head waters of the Thames, whether this or the Churn, rising at Seven Springs, near Cheltenham; also on the question whether the river should be called Thames or Isis on its upper part, before joining the Thame near Dorchester.

Without entering deeply into this matter, we would call attention to the fact that these Cotswold springs rising near Coates have been called Thames Head, and the stream formed by them the Thames, from time immemorial, whereas the other head is called the Seven Springs, and the stream issuing from it the Churn. Moreover, the stream from Thames Head is considerably larger than the Churn where their waters unite at Cricklade; and this is even more apparent in times of flood, when the engine at Thames Head is still. As to the name, old records at Oxford and far above call it Thames, and surely a river rising at 'Thames Head' ought not to change its name into the classic Isis, and afterwards re-assume its patronymic of Thames. The Thame at the junction is a rivulet compared with the Thames: indeed, it is so small that the mouth is often overlooked by oarsmen passing up the parent stream, even though on the look out for it.
 (1872 (extract from 1989 edition)) Edit


The Thames of Henry Taunt by Henry Taunt

One of the best modes of reaching Cricklade is by rail to Lechlade (GWR), sending the boat to that station by carriage truck; the agent to the company will deliver the boat at Lechlade Wharf at a cost of 2s.; then rowing up to Inglesham Round House, and paying the toll (10s.), pass on to the canal through the Inglesham Lock (fall varies from 6 ft to 4 ft according to height of river). Six furlongs on is Dudgrove Double Lock, with its fall of 11 ft 6 in altogether, and then passing Kempsford it is 5½ miles to Eisey Lock (fall between 6 and 7 ft). The old lock-keeper will help through the first two locks, but a winch will be required at Eisey, there being no lock-keeper. In another mile and a half Cricklade Wharf is reached, and here, with the help of the wharfman, the boat can be carried across the road and lowered into the Churn, which runs by its side; then passing under the road bridge, a short distance brings us into the Thames a few yards above Rose Cottage, the owner of which is kind enough to allow boats to be left there.

Leaving Rose Cottage, we pass under a curious plank bridge, just above which baptisms in the river used to be solemnized, a ceremony which has not taken place here for a number of years.

The river has been by the Thames Commissioners thoroughly dredged and cleaned out from some distance above Cricklade right down to Inglesham; the flams* and shallows removed, so that now, in fair water time, it forms a continuous stream of something like 30 ft wide and 3 ft in depth. But this must not be taken to mean that the depth of water will always be found. On the contrary, the removal of the weeds and flams in all probability will, during short water time, allow the stream to waste so fast as to leave little to float even the shallowest draught of boat, and as far as oarsmen are concerned, effectually cut them off the river above Inglesham whenever the water is low, as the flams and rushes did in past summers.

 (1872 (extract from 1989 edition)) Edit


Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

There is something very strange and unaccountable about a tow-line. You roll it up with as much patience and care as you would take to fold up a new pair of trousers, and five minutes afterwards, when you pick it up, it is one ghastly, soul-revolting tangle.

I do not wish to be insulting, but I firmly believe that if you took an average tow-line, and stretched it out straight across the middle of a field, and then turned your back on it for thirty seconds, that, when you looked round again, you would find that it had got itself altogether in a heap in the middle of the field, and had twisted itself up, and tied itself into knots, and lost its two ends, and become all loops; and it would take you a good half-hour, sitting down there on the grass and swearing all the while, to disentangle it again.

That is my opinion of tow-lines in general. Of course, there may be honourable exceptions; I do not say that there are not. There may be tow-lines that are a credit to their profession—conscientious, respectable tow-lines—tow-lines that do not imagine they are crochet-work, and try to knit themselves up into antimacassars the instant they are left to themselves. I say there _may_ be such tow-lines; I sincerely hope there are. But I have not met with them. (1889) Edit


Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

He and three other men, so he said, were sculling a very heavily laden boat up from Maidenhead one evening, and a little above Cookham lock they noticed a fellow and a girl, walking along the towpath, both deep in an apparently interesting and absorbing conversation. They were carrying a boat-hook between them, and, attached to the boat-hook was a tow-line, which trailed behind them, its end in the water. No boat was near, no boat was in sight. There must have been a boat attached to that tow-line at some time or other, that was certain; but what had become of it, what ghastly fate had overtaken it, and those who had been left in it, was buried in mystery. Whatever the accident may have been, however, it had in no way disturbed the young lady and gentleman, who were towing. They had the boat-hook and they had the line, and that seemed to be all that they thought necessary to their work.

George was about to call out and wake them up, but, at that moment, a bright idea flashed across him, and he didn’t. He got the hitcher instead, and reached over, and drew in the end of the tow-line; and they made a loop in it, and put it over their mast, and then they tidied up the sculls, and went and sat down in the stern, and lit their pipes.

And that young man and young woman towed those four hulking chaps and heavy boat up to Marlow.

George said he never saw so much thoughtful sadness concentrated into one glance before, as when, at the lock, that young couple grasped the idea that, for the last two miles, they had been towing the wrong boat. George fancied that, if it had not been for the restraining influence of the sweet woman at his side, the young man might have given way to violent language.

The maiden was the first to recover from her surprise, and, when she did, she clasped her hands, and said, wildly: “Oh, Henry, then _where_ is auntie?” (1889) Edit


Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

Of all experiences in connection with towing, the most exciting is being towed by girls. It is a sensation that nobody ought to miss. It takes three girls to tow always; two hold the rope, and the other one runs round and round, and giggles. They generally begin by getting themselves tied up. They get the line round their legs, and have to sit down on the path and undo each other, and then they twist it round their necks, and are nearly strangled. They fix it straight, however, at last, and start off at a run, pulling the boat along at quite a dangerous pace. At the end of a hundred yards they are naturally breathless, and suddenly stop, and all sit down on the grass and laugh, and your boat drifts out to mid-stream and turns round, before you know what has happened, or can get hold of a scull. Then they stand up, and are surprised.

“Oh, look!” they say; “he’s gone right out into the middle.” (1889) Edit


Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

“Well, who’s going to be first in?” said Harris at last.

There was no rush for precedence. George settled the matter so far as he was concerned by retiring into the boat and pulling on his socks. Montmorency gave vent to an involuntary howl, as if merely thinking of the thing had given him the horrors; and Harris said it would be so difficult to get into the boat again, and went back and sorted out his trousers.

I did not altogether like to give in, though I did not relish the lunge. There might be snags about, or weeds, I thought. I meant to compromise matters by going down to the edge and just throwing the water over myself; so I took a towel and crept out on the bank and wormed my way along on to the branch of a tree that dipped down into the water.

It was bitterly cold. The wind cut like a knife. I thought I would not throw the water over myself after all. I would go back into the boat and dress; and I turned to do so; and, as I turned, the silly branch gave way, and I and the towel went in together with a tremendous splash, and I was out mid-stream with a gallon of Thames water inside me before I knew what had happened.

“By Jove! old J.’s gone in,” I heard Harris say, as I came blowing to the surface. “I didn’t think he’d have the pluck to do it. Did you?”

“Is it all right?” sung out George.

“Lovely,” I spluttered back. “You are duffers not to come in. I wouldn’t have missed this for worlds. Why won’t you try it? It only wants a little determination.”

But I could not persuade them. (1889) Edit


Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

Rather an amusing thing happened while dressing that morning. I was very cold when I got back into the boat, and, in my hurry to get my shirt on, I accidentally jerked it into the water. It made me awfully wild, especially as George burst out laughing. I could not see anything to laugh at, and I told George so, and he only laughed the more. I never saw a man laugh so much. I quite lost my temper with him at last, and I pointed out to him what a drivelling maniac of an imbecile idiot he was; but he only roared the louder. And then, just as I was landing the shirt, I noticed that it was not my shirt at all, but George’s, which I had mistaken for mine; whereupon the humour of the thing struck me for the first time, and I began to laugh. And the more I looked from George’s wet shirt to George, roaring with laughter, the more I was amused, and I laughed so much that I had to let the shirt fall back into the water again.

“Aren’t you—you—going to get it out?” said George, between his shrieks.

I could not answer him at all for a while, I was laughing so, but, at last, between my peals I managed to jerk out:

“It isn’t my shirt—it’s _yours_!”

I never saw a man’s face change from lively to severe so suddenly in all my life before.

“What!” he yelled, springing up. “You silly cuckoo! Why can’t you be more careful what you’re doing? Why the deuce don’t you go and dress on the bank? You’re not fit to be in a boat, you’re not. Gimme the hitcher.”

I tried to make him see the fun of the thing, but he could not. George is very dense at seeing a joke sometimes. (1889) Edit


A Boater's Guide to Boating by Chris N. Deuchar

Firstly, it is generally agreed (although some disagree) that they are called winding holes (i.e. as in the blowing thing, rather than the twisting thing) because boatmen, in horse drawn days, used the wind to help blow their boats round. This is an eminently sensible thing for us, even with engine assistance, to continue to do - regardless of the origin or pronunciation of the word. (1997) Edit


The Flower of Gloster by E. Temple Thurston

These things are easily said. It is the devil and all to accomplish them. Everyone I knew, I asked. "Where can I get a barge?"

It was a foolish question to make, and one to which, as often as not, I received the foolish reply, "What for?"

What in the name of Heaven could one want a barge for, unless it were in which to travel on those waters where all barges may be found? Out of its element, doubtless, it is the ugliest thing the hand of man ever created; but sinking low in the still waters of those silent canals, its blunt, good-natured nose thrusting the long ripples to either side, travelling from one old town to another with its happy-go-lucky two and three miles an hour, it is the most wonderful vehicle in the world. (1911) Edit


The Flower of Gloster by E. Temple Thurston

"There's a barge at Oxford" he informed me. "She used to be on the Thames and Severn Canal — carried stone — wood sometimes. She's just been done up at Braunston and brought along there. If you went down there at once and saw the owner, he might hire her to you for a couple of months, and make a bit out of it himself."

"What's her name ?" said I.

"The Flower of Gloster"

Now when he said that, then I knew she was mine. The Flower of Gloster! The name alone would have disinfected her of all the disagreeable odours in the world.
 (1911) Edit


by

I am the captain of my soul () Edit


The Day of Creation by J. G. Ballard

Capped by the crowns of mist, the green walls of the valley slid past us. During the following days the landscape had changed, and the rain-forest of the equatorial hills gave way to the flatter ground of the savanna. Some twenty miles from Port-la-Nouvelle the last of the great softwoods fell away behind us, and the banks were crowded with smaller trees, flowering shrubs, desert lavender and magnolia. The river was wider here, almost two hundred yards from one bank to the other. Sometimes it divided to embrace a narrow island, and then seemed to wander in long curves, as if aware that my own imagination had flagged. Frequently we were halted by floating barriers of sudd, a water plant like small polyanthus with long trailing roots that fouled the propeller. (1987) Edit


A Caravan Afloat by C. J. Aubertin

Here, where the embankment carrying the canal leaves the side of the glen, we moor beneath an ash, with the wooded hillside above us and the open vale below, and when the summer twilight has deepened into darkness and the stars shine out with a brilliance unknown to the city sky we sit beneath our awning and drink in the multitudinous silence of the night—the sudden squawk of the startled bird, the patient gnawing of the watervole at his reed, the hooting of the silent-winged owl, and below us in the glade the tinkle of the tumbling rill. Then round the curve there comes into our ken the pad, pad, pad of a straining horse. The boat sinks almost imperceptibly, and anon rises again. The rushes rustle in unison and bow their heads towards the approaching sound as if before a ghostly wind. It is the suction of the oncoming barge; and never a real distinguishable sound except the horse's footfall until the cheery good-night of the bargees breaks the spell and warns us that it is time to exchange the chill of the summer dew for the comforts of the fireside awaiting us within. (1916) Edit


A Caravan Afloat by C. J. Aubertin

The silence of the moving barge is one of the most noticeable features of life on the waterside. Often when lying awake at night I have heard the horse's footfall and felt our mooring ropes tighten and relax under the movement of the displaced water. But the passing of the seventy feet or so of barge—a few inches, perhaps, from our open windows— has been quite inaudible. Once we left at home an important part of our equipment, and lo ! a miracle— two mornings later it was lying on our roof. It had come by post to our point of departure, and thence by the friendly conveyance of a ship that passed in the night. Of its arrival we heard nothing, nor do we know to this day whom we have to thank for the courtesy. (1916) Edit


A Caravan Afloat by C. J. Aubertin

As for myself I bathed in the river and dressed on the bank; the lady stayed within her bower. I constantly expatiated on the beauties of the early morn and on one occasion even went so far as to hang a looking glass invitingly upon a tree, thinking thereby to ease the trials of the more lengthy part of the feminine toilet. I pointed out that the only creatures in sight were of her own sex - cows, to wit - but all my efforts were in vain. (1916) Edit


A Caravan Afloat by C. J. Aubertin

Let us take a stroll together—not down Fleet Street, but into the countryside. A bridlepath across an undulating field leads us to a steep and narrow bridge which spans nine feet of chocolate coloured water and a cinder-spread towing path. It is the canal, once one of the main highways of the nation's traffic, now an abode of rural peace. Let us rest awhile on the parapet this warm October day and look about us. To right and left winds the waterway in graceful curves—-on one side a wooded bank, on the other a narrow path bounded by a well-trimmed hedge, beyond which the land drops away to a brook meandering among green water meadows. In the canal itself the summer's growth of rushes has not yet been cut and has usurped some feet of the already narrow channel. Beneath us cows have made a drinking place and have pushed forward beyond the line of rushes a rounded cape of sloshy mud, from which, their thirst assuaged, they extricate themselves with many a heave and snort. Fifty yards away on the water's edge stands a heron—one-legged, motionless—with head poised at such an angle that we know he is on the lookout for any suspicious movement on our part. (1916) Edit


A Caravan Afloat by C. J. Aubertin

It may be that we have snatched an hour from a day of toil in order to take our little stroll; it may be that we are night workers enjoying a brief spell of daylight to fortify us for a night's toil under the glare of electric lamps. Whatever we are we envy that boatman and his family their 'dolce far niente'* life. But with him it is not so. To his mind he is the downtrodden worker, you the capitalist; he one of the props of the nation, you a specimen of the lazy rich. You, in short—and at last we have it—are a gongoozler—an idle and inquisitive person, with nothing to do, and probably with no need to do anything, except to stand and gaze for a prolonged period at anything—even a canal barge—the least bit out of the common.

 (1916) Edit


Bradshaw's Canals and Navigable Rivers of England & Wales by Henry Rodolph de Salis

In a paper on the past and present condition of the River Thames read before the Institution of Civil Engineers, January, 1856, by Mr. Henry Robinson (Minutes of Proceedings, Inst. C. E., vol. 15, p. 198), we read :— "The traffic on the Upper Thames was in the last century principally conducted by large barges carrying as much as 200 tons each, and hauled against the stream by 12 or 14 horses, or 50 or 80 men; these men were usually of the worst possible character, and a terror to the whole neighbourhood of the river." (1904 (2012 Old House reprint)) Edit


Bradshaw's Canals and Navigable Rivers of England & Wales by Henry Rodolph de Salis

Constable's picture of "Flatford Mill" in the National Gallery gives an excellent representation of the lighters in use on the River Stour. (1904 (2012 Old House reprint)) Edit


Bradshaw's Canals and Navigable Rivers of England & Wales by Henry Rodolph de Salis

Horses are sometimes ferried over on the boat or barge itself, as on the River Trent and River Stour (Suffolk). The latter river is the only navigation remaining in the country where the old system of transferring the horses from one side of the river to the other on the vessels themselves, without stopping them, is still in use. The system may be worth describing as a relic of times gone by, and as being one which requires special training of the horses.
The traffic on this river is conducted by lighters of a type closely resembling the Fen lighters of the Bedford Level, being about 47ft. long and 10ft. 9in. beam. They always travel in pairs, chained together one behind the other; the fore end of the fore lighter has a deck sufficiently large to afford standing room for the horse; wood strips are fastened to the deck both fore and aft and across it, and a covering of litter is placed on the top to afford foothold. At the point of the towing-path crossing the river two piers or jetties are built out, one from each bank, constructed so as to give deep water alongside their extremities, but they are not placed opposite each other, one always being some few yards further up or down stream than the other. When a crossing has to be made, the towing-line is cast off on approaching the first pier and the horse is walked to the pier head, the lighters are steered alongside the pier head, and as they pass the horse jumps on to the fore end of the fore lighter, the lighters are then steered sharp over to the pier on the opposite side of the river, on passing which the horse jumps out ready to resume work. (1904 (2012 Old House reprint)) Edit


Bradshaw's Canals and Navigable Rivers of England & Wales by Henry Rodolph de Salis

The following are about the average speeds attained by a narrow or monkey boat hauled by a horse in a narrow boat canal in fair order :—

1 narrow boat loaded, hauled by one horse, about 2 miles per hour.
1 narrow boat empty, hauled by one horse, about 3 miles per hour.
2 narrow boats loaded, hauled by one horse, about 1½ miles per hour.
2 narrow boats empty, hauled by one horse, about 2½ miles per hour.
 (1904 (2012 Old House reprint)) Edit


Bradshaw's Canals and Navigable Rivers of England & Wales by Henry Rodolph de Salis

A remarkable instance of road, canal, and railway, on three different levels, is to be seen near Hanwell in Middlesex. Here the short aqueduct carrying the main line of the Grand Junction Canal over the Great Western Branch Railway from Southall to Brentford is also surmounted by the bridge carrying the high road from Greenford to Osterley Park. The three ways of communication make approximately angles of 60 degrees with each other at their point of crossing, and an imaginary plumb line could be drawn to intersect all of them. (1904 (2012 Old House reprint)) Edit


A Caravan Afloat by C. J. Aubertin

Your daydream is of Oxford at her best and bonniest—her grey towers embosomed in fresh verdure of early summer, the leafy Cher alive with punts and canoes, the sparkle of Isis water churned by the passage of many craft. You see yourself young, supple, lithe, trained as hard as nails, escorting to the Barges your sisters, your cousins, and your aunts in all the finery of their Eights' week toilettes. Perhaps—who knows?— your mind fixes on one particular frock—and the wearer of it—and, if the course of true love has run smooth, you wonder idly how many similar dresses she has cost you since. With her by your side you pass under the overhanging trees of the Broad Walk and ensconce her and hers, who shine with a reflected glory, on the deck of your college barge. (1916) Edit


A Caravan Afloat by C. J. Aubertin

The essential difference between a canal and a river is that a river is always part of the scenery in England, while a canal as often as not looks down on it from a hillside. The difference was first discovered by the Admiral and the Admiral told it to me. .....
When the Admiral told me, of course I saw at once what the great difference was, because I had some notion of how and why canals were built, but when he showed me once at sun-rise from a canal which ran along the edge of a fir wood two great counties stretched below us beyond the towing path and the hanging meadow where the cows were grazing on the dew-steeped grass, then I began to understand this strange craze of his that he should build a barge and tour for ever on the canals of England. (1916) Edit


John Knill's Navy - Five Years on the Cut by Sir John Knill

Halfway up Hatton flight there used to be a lunatic asylum and there is a story of some of the inmates sitting on top of the wall roaring with laughter at the antics of the boatmen working their way up through the locks and telling them they ought to be inside with them! (1998) Edit


John Knill's Navy - Five Years on the Cut by Sir John Knill

I have always been heartened and a little astonished by the willingness of the majority of the boat people to help out when you were down on your luck, as I most certainly was now. Canal boating in the old style always seemed to be governed by the example of the Good Samaritan. It did not seem to matter if the problem was a little one or a big one; sheeting-up a perishable cargo like sugar or grain on the sudden coming of a downpour of rain; starting up a recalcitrant engine, even dismantling and rebuilding it; help through a lock if you were short-handed; the lifting of a paddle; the closing of a lock gate; all done with good humour and friendliness.

Then there was the friendly chat when another captain jumped on your counter as you gave him a lift to the next lock. There was always a friendly wave from the captain of a passing pair and an exchange of useful information: that the locks were all ready to the top of the next flight; to warn you that you only had one ready because a two-handed pair had passed them just above the next lock; occasionally, who had just had an addition, or married, or died. (1998) Edit


John Knill's Navy - Five Years on the Cut by Sir John Knill

This (the Shropshire Union) is a really wonderful canal and on this second trip I was more able to appreciate the impressiveness of the engineering, the deep cuttings, the height of the embankments and above all, the directness of the line. There was the delightful corniced and balustraded bridge near Wheaton Aston. There were the high bridges in Woodseaves cutting; impressive singly, but two in line seem to accentuate even more Telford's genius. There was the charm of the little tunnel at Cowley, just 80 yards long, but with a towpath. We passed on, joining the Chester Canal Navigation at Nantwich Basin, then past Hurleston Junction, turning right at Barbridge Junction and tying up at Cholmondeston on the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal. We set off again the next morning along the Wardle Lock Branch of the Trent and Mersey Canal, to join the canal at Middlewich. We were now on the canal that Brindley had called the Grand Trunk, but these days it is normally referred to as the Trent and Mersey. It is unusual, some people think, for Brindley in that it is quite level for 17 miles from Middlewich. Even this pales into insignificance however, on reaching its end you turn into the Duke's Cut or Bridgewater at Waters Meeting and find that it has a pound 40 miles in length - unsurpassed on any British canal. (1998) Edit


John Knill's Navy - Five Years on the Cut by Sir John Knill

Fast passenger boats used to operate along Telford's improved canal. They were light-weight, built of wrought iron, and of narrow beam with covered accommodation, similar to a modern bus in layout. They were probably about 60 feet long and pulled by four or possibly six horses. They worked on the principle of using the primary wave. Telford's Birmingham canals were virtually straight, shallow (able to accommodate craft with a draft of about three feet six inches) and not over-wide, although wide enough to allow two craft of seven foot beam to pass each other easily. A boat passing along such a canal acts as a piston, pushing a wave perhaps 9 to 18 inches high in front of it. Starting off at a pace that would be increased to a slow trot, the wave would be pushed ahead of the boat; the horses would then be whipped to a gallop, which would jerk the boat forward and lift it on to the primary wave, thereby increasing the draught of the canal from three foot six to perhaps four foot six inches or more at the wave as it moved along the canal. The extra speed now achieved by the boat automatically increased the speed of the wave, friction was thus reduced and the horses could maintain a speed of perhaps 12 miles per hour to their first change, which would probably be at the Junction already mentioned at Tipton. The journey from Birmingham to Wolverhampton of 13½ miles could be undertaken in between one and two hours, according to the conditions and the number of changes.

A similar scheme was in operation between Bath (Darlington Wharf) and Bradford-on-Avon on the Kennet and Avon Canal. The Bath boats also had a string band on board, and light refreshments were served. The fare was 1s 6d and the journey time one hour for the nine miles. (1998) Edit


Narrow Boat by L. T. C. Rolt

On our left the river wound through sunlit levels of pasture which glowed most richly green against the steep slopes of the Chase beyond, which were in deep shadow. These included Oakedge Park, Haywood Warren and the Satnall Hills, heights of bracken and ancient trees that have seen little change since Plantagenet and Tudor hunted the boar along their flanks. Below Colwich Lock an ancient labourer with long white side-whiskers, clad in a sky-blue overall jacket and trousers of buff corduroy buckled below the knee, was sitting at his cottage door enjoying the last of the evening sun, and waved cheerily as we passed by. (1944) Edit


Narrow Boat by L. T. C. Rolt

It was in this quiet, dim place that we moored for the night, awaking to see moted beams of sunlight glancing on the water through gaps in the network of branches, as through the clerestory windows of some cathedral nave. Between the boles of the trees we could see the river spanned by Essex Bridge, surely one of the most beautiful and least celebrated in England. It is a pack-horse bridge reminiscent of Hugh Clopton's bridge at Stratford, but executed in stone. To my mind it surpasses Clopton, even if due allowance be made for its more favoured and secluded setting. The impression of permanence and power conveyed by the massive cut-waters of the buttresses is perfectly counterbalanced by the graceful pitch of the arches, a curve which is subtly emphasized by the concentric string courses above them. Essex Bridge is an enduring memorial to the ability of the early masons to combine simplicity and utility of construction with beauty, a gift that was once as instinctive and unselfconscious as the poetry of country speech (see Wikpedia for photo etc). (1944) Edit


Narrow Boat by L. T. C. Rolt

There is a second bridge worthy of note at Great Haywood. It carries the towing path of the Trent and Mersey over the mouth of the canal to the Severn, the breadth of its single span being remarkable in a bridge of this type. The reason for this is not readily apparent, for it exceeds the combined width of the waterway and tow-path beneath by several feet. The line of the low balustrade is also unusual, for instead of following the curve of the arch in the customary manner, it consists of two slight reverse curves culminating in a pointed apex over the keystone. Whatever may have prompted the canal engineers so to depart from the orthodox will never be known, but the result is an arch so light in its flight from bank to bank, so airy and insubstantial that it might have been inspired by a Dulac fantasy. Beside this bridge, an ivy-covered warehouse crumbling to ruin, a dock filled with tall reeds, and a shuttered toll office no bigger than a garden tool-shed are all that make up this meeting-place of coast-to-coast waterways. It seemed typical of the remote and unassuming manner in which the canals make their way through the countryside that the village of Haywood, although only a quarter of a mile distant, had remained aloof from this important junction, as though unaware of its existence. It would have presented a very different aspect had it been chosen as the meeting-place of railways or of trunk roads. Green fields and tall trees whose beauty the canal enhances would have given place to blackened railway yards or petrol pumps and road-houses. But because the canal is a forgotten relic of a more leisured past, its banks are not considered " desirable building plots," and so remain the haunt of the coot and heron. (1944) Edit


The Cotswold Canals Walk by Gerry Stewart

Roundhouses are unique to the Thames and Severn, and five were built, at Chalford, Coates, Cerney Wick, Marston Meysey and Inglesham, providing accommodation for lengthsmen. They consisted of three stories connected by a curving stairway built into the walls, the ground floor being stables and the first and second were living accommodation. Two had convex roofs, as here (at Chalford), while three, at locations where fresh water was not easily available, had inverted roofs to collect rainwater. (2000) Edit


The Flower of Gloster by E. Temple Thurston

When you join the Thames and Severn Canal at Stroud, it is but twenty-eight miles and a few odd furlongs before you come to Inglesham, where the water of the canal joins the Isis and all signs of the tow-path are lost to you for ever. But those twenty-eight miles are worth a thousand for the wealth of their colour alone. (1911) Edit


Wikipedia by Anon

The Foss Dyke, or Fossdyke, connects the River Trent at Torksey to Lincoln, the county town of Lincolnshire, and may be the oldest canal in England that is still in use. It is usually thought to have been built around 120 AD by the Romans, but there is no consensus among authors. It was refurbished in 1121, during the reign of King Henry I, and responsibility for its maintenance was transferred to the city of Lincoln by King James I. Improvements made in 1671 included a navigable sluice or lock at Torksey, and warehousing and wharves were built at Brayford Pool in the centre of Lincoln. () Edit


Maidens' Trip - A Wartime Adventure on the Grand Union Canal by Emma Smith

We awoke to the racketing of a gale, and by gale our day was distinguished. There were no hills to break its fury. The wind tore straight across flat fields and caught us broadside on. The boats, poor empty shells, staggered against the bank and there were pinned as helpless as butterflies on a board. Again and again we shafted them out and whipped the engine up to its full speed. Again and yet again they disobeyed us and obeyed the cruder strength that bore down on them across the thorny hedges. By inches, by feet we struggled on, keeping the bows of the Venus turned sideways across the cut into the wind.
It was in emerging from a lock that the chief danger lay, for the Venus then had had no time to get up a speed, and with speed a resistance: with a weigh on, the propeller blades dug themselves deeper down, rooting the boat more firmly in the water. In addition, at the mouth of each lock the mud and stones were more plentiful than anywhere else, and conspired with the evil wind to catch us prisoner. (1948) Edit


Maidens' Trip - A Wartime Adventure on the Grand Union Canal by Emma Smith

Quite suddenly the rain, still teeming down, was something from which escape would be a pleasure.
'Well, I don't know about that,' said Herbert. 'They've got some stuff on F. Wharf - they might want to do you there. Better hang around a bit and see.'
So we hung around and watched while Sam Stevens' boats were loaded down with snaky-thin steel billets, bending in mid-air like rods of willow. Presently, tiring of this, we drifted apart. Charity went off to buy provisions and Nanette trundled away to find the Thames. She found it at full tide, seething with the race of hidden currents, blown by the rainy wind into stormy yellow crests, so impelling and energetic, so romantically resourceful in the various craft that fought their way downstream or bucketed up, so wild in the smoky tangles that passing tugs cast upon the air, that she was moved by real excitement and threw her arms above her head and hollered as though she was mad.
Like Charity, she longed to go to sea. She saw herself battling her way across the rough Atlantic, drenched and tossed, and afterwards being congratulated by everyone she knew. Still dreaming of her modest answers, she returned to D. Wharf, and there found Charity, her feet surrounded by string bags and cabbages, gazing down with dismay at the Ariadne. The Venus was missing.
'Over at F. Wharf,' said Herbert. (1948) Edit


A Boater's Guide to Boating by Chris N. Deuchar

For a couple of centuries there was another general rule that power should give way to sail. This was logical until the advent of the supertanker which simply couldn't readily give way to sail and so the rule was modified to read that power should give way to sail except when sail is overtaking or where the powered boat, by virtue of its size or lack of manoeuvrability (including draught), is unable to do so. To me a full length narrow boat has negligible manoeuvrability compared with a sailing dinghy and so should maintain a steady (and therefore predictable course) through the melée. In my sailing days it was much preferred when powered boats took this strategy rather than trying to weave through us. At the other extreme there were those who were so filled with contempt that they would happily speed through and see if they could knock us out of the way. Like most things it's all a question of balance and consideration for one's fellow man. (1997) Edit


A Caravan Afloat by C.J. Aubertin

THE water gurgled pleasantly against the bows as the old horse did his steady three miles an hour. A pine wood cast a grateful shade across the canal, and the valley beneath us was one sweep of purple heather interspersed with stacks of brown peat. I lolled in the stern giving the rudder the occasional twist necessary to keep us out of the bank. Beside me was a map which made it plain that the nearest road was some two miles off—and that only a dotted line (not recommended to cyclists) which terminated at World's-end. The canal was eerie. There had evidently been difficulties of construction in crossing the peatlands. The waterway ran above the level of the surrounding country, and one side of it was composed of old barges, now mere rotting timbers, among which purple loosestrife struggled for life with ranker water-side growths. Two miles beyond World's end, and as near to nature, I suppose, as any spot in England ! (1916) Edit


A Caravan Afloat by C.J. Aubertin

The approach to Oxford along Port Meadow is uninteresting, nor is the way through the city, uniting the dolce-far-niente* windings of the Upper River with the battleground of the Eights, to be commended. Even Oxford must have gasworks and railways, and perhaps the people are wise to collect them into one rather unpleasant district. At the start the omens are unfavourable. You must first of all find where you can obtain the key to open a lock which joins the canal and a stagnant pool communicating with the Thames. Scarcely a boat goes this way, and the lock is kept locked. The canal people tell you that the key is at the ferryman's, who lives half-a-mile in the opposite direction. The ferryman is out, and his wife cannot give you the key without a sight of your "permit." The "permit" is in your boat half-a-mile away. This puts you in a bad temper, and you are not surprised to hear that the lock is known as Louse Lock.

 (1916) Edit


Narrow Boat by L. T. C. Rolt

When all the work had been accomplished, and the "Florence" was floated out, her captain stood beside old Mr. Tooley on the dock side. After an unhurried, critical scrutiny, " Well, George," he said, "I reckon she looks well." This remark, coming from a boatman, was high praise, and to my mind it was certainly well merited. A modern economist would have pointed out quite truthfully that she would have been just as serviceable had she been painted battleship grey throughout at a great saving of labour. But because the men of the canals are not economists, and have a standard of values which is not based upon paper money, the "Florence" bore a coat of many colours, and lay resplendent in the morning sun. (1944) Edit


The Flower of Gloster by E. Temple Thurston

At a quarter past four that afternoon in May, I sat in the stern of the Flower of Gloster and watched the tow-line tauten, saw the water-drops shake from off the sodden rope that glistened like a twisted thread of silver in the sunlight, and felt that first faint movement of the barge as she swung round into her gentle, gliding pace. I pushed the tiller over hard a-starboard, and out went her nose into the canal's centre.

One by one the ripples gathered and lengthened on the water, and soon we were leaving the towers and roofs of the old grey town behind us. Some twenty yards ahead upon the path walked Eynsham Harry with his horse, the tow-line sagging and tautening, sagging and tautening, as she strained or lingered on her way. (1911) Edit


MISCELLANEOUS PIECES, IN PROSE by John Aikin and Anna Lætitia Barbauld

The Genius of the Canal eyed him with a contemptuous look, and in a hoarse voice thus began:

“Hence, ignoble rill! with thy scanty tribute to thy lord, the Mersey; nor thus waste thy almost exhausted urn in lingering windings along the vale. Feeble as thine aid is, it will not be unacceptable to that master stream himself; for, as I lately crossed his channel, I perceived his sands loaded with stranded vessels. I saw, and pitied him, for undertaking a task to which he is unequal. But thou, whose languid current is obscured by weeds, and interrupted by mishapen pebbles; who losest thyself in endless mazes, remote from any sound, but thy own idle gurgling; how canst thou support an existence so contemptible and useless? For me, the noblest child of art, who hold my unremitting course from hill to hill, over vales and rivers; who pierce the solid rock for my passage, and connect unknown lands with distant seas; wherever I appear I am viewed with astonishment, and exulting commerce hails my waves. Behold my channel thronged with capacious vessels for the conveyance of merchandise, and splendid barges for the use and pleasure of travellers; my banks crowned with airy bridges and huge warehouses, and echoing with the busy sounds of industry. Pay then the homage due from sloth and obscurity to grandeur and utility.” (1792) Edit