Friday, 15 February 2013

Black Country Canals - book review

Black Country Canals
by Paul Collins
February 2013

As those of you who read my blog regularly will know, I have a particular passion (obsession maybe?) with the BCN. But if you want me to be a bit more specific, it's the Black Country elements which really float my boat. And of the Black Country canals, the ones which I get most excited about are the "ghost" canals, meaning these which don't exist anymore. 

A strange interest I accept, but one which offers me lots of scope to continue by favourite adolescent pass time of just "poking about". I blame it on Paul Bell's dad you know. The Bell's lived next door (please, no Quasimodo jokes), Brian, Hazel and their son Paul. Brian used to dispair when Paul and I mooched around saying "were bored" and his stock answer was to go off somewhere and poke about - what was to say that if we took ourselves off to somewhere new and had a look around we would almost certainly find something which interested us.

This somewhere new very often led to the banks of the River Bure and so my lifelong passion for all things watery.

Fast forward 40 years and you still find me curiously poking around in my spare time. The backdrop couldn't be more different - for cornfields read chimneys, but the urge to get some boggy ground under my feet is as strong as ever.

So all this is a long winded way of introducing Paul Collins Black Country Canals, published in 2001. Its a picture book drawing together a collection of black and white images from a variety of sources and over a 100 year period, supplemented by a light historical commentary. This is no "then and now" collection, but an idea of how "now" looks around the contemporary BCN does help appreciate some of the photos.

I think I found this book in Pershore, along with a big pile of others which has represented the bulk of my waterways reading over the last few months. The thing which really attracted me, apart from the excellent quality of the period photos, was the liberal scattering of images from the lost canals - routes like the Causeway Green Branch, the Two Locks Line, Pensnett Canal, the Bentley and the Toll End Communication. 

Finding this rich seam of quality material has impressed on me the need to reference my period photos. All too often I find myself scratching around to find where photos come from so a belated resolution - reference all outside sourced photos.

If you share my passion for old BCN photo's - this is a must have for your collection.

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