Monday 16 February 2009

Which! Waterways Guide

Waterways Guides 16th February 2009

Life was so much simpler in Henry Ford's day. Back then, if you wanted a car, you could have it in any colour you wanted - just so long as it was black.

With a hint of spring in the air it's time to turn my attention to the first proper boat trip of 2009. I have two weeks of holiday booked before Easter and a relief crew scheduled up to bring Wand'ring Bark back from wherever we end up. That means that the inland waterways world really is our oyster.

Last year we travelled east, all the way to Boston (see my earlier blog entries for an account of our travels on an "in flood" Trent), but this year I think it's time for something completely different. I am thinking about Manchester and the Pennines, maybe taking in the Standedge Tunnel and the Rochdale as well if the weir on the Calder and Hebble has been fixed. It will be mean a lot of locks but Jeff will be with me and he seems up for the challenge.

So, I have been turning to my guide books and considering my options, but that presents a dilemma before I even start. Which guide book do I use?

My heart takes me to my trusty Pearson. I think I must have got the full set and I am very attached to the slightly whimsical format. Whilst they are now produced in glorious technicolour they have their roots in the black and white (also black and blue?) versions I remember from by youth in the late 1960's.

I love their complete focus on the waterways themselves and the interesting commentary which accompanies them. However, try using them when you stray off the waterways and they are as much use as a rubber nail.

That takes me to the Nicholson series. These guides present the waterways in a very different format, displaying the route in the context of a "proper" map, complete with contours, footpaths, railways and everything, stretching out for a couple of miles on either side. At first glance this is a big plus as it allows you to see how the waterway relates to its surroundings, and helps me reach local facilities with reasonable confidence.

However, they lack the "soul" of Pearsons and don't quite capture the "personality" of the route the same way. Whats more, all the waterways are listed in strict alphabetical order, which can be irritating. There you are cruising to the eastern end of the Leeds Liverpool canal and, hey presto, you turn the page only to find yourself in Kidsgrove - just because alphabetically the Macclesfield Canal follows Leeds Liverpool.

Pearson seems to flow more instinctively - if you know what I mean!

So there you have it - a dilemma before I even start. Which guide should I use?
The answer is obvious really - use both. I plan my journeys using Nicholson and cruise in the company of Messrs Pearson and Son, thus getting the best of both worlds. It costs a bit more, but whats a tenner in the grand scheme of things.

As with politics, there is a third way - the Waterways World Series - but they don't seem to hit the spot on any level, so are probably best forgotten!

Maybe choice is a good thing after all.


D Baynham said...

I like the Nicholson's guides they seem to be more like an A to Z map that I am used too, though the Pearson's do have more fun about them and even tell you where the pubs there is the answer which guide takes you to a Pub.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the Waterways World series would cover your Pennine journey! It may depress you to know that a new edition of Nicholsons is out next month, but probably not enough changes to merit buying another copy.

By "breach on the Aire and Calder" I presume you mean the weir collapse on the Calder and Hebble?

There is no news yet as to how long this will take, but BW has started making arrangements for access to the adjoining land so that they can fix it!

Andy Tidy said...

MC - You are right - it is the Calder and Hebble! I ought to read my Canal Boat mag more carefully! If it isn't fixed by Easter I may settle for just the Huddersfield Narrow and enjoy the tunnel twice!