‘Boats, Smoke, Steam And Folk’

Davies, R. (2001) Boats, Smoke, Steam And Folk The History Press ISBN 978 0 7524 1763 3

I suppose I was beguiled by the evocative title and didn’t look further than the first paragraph of blurb on the back of the book, which begins, “Narrow boats, coal, steam engines, tunnels, locks, bridges, aquaducts and the lives of thousands of men, women and children came to be wrapped up in the late eighteenth century with that was a whole new transport system…”.

As a result of reading the blurb I thought I’d be able to look forward to a book on social history or perhaps historical research, certainly I was hoping to find out more about the companies that operated the BCN day boats. Instead,  you get what might be described as a scrapbook of a book intermingling present-day walks and maps with brief interviews with people who’d experienced the last days of commercial operations on the BCN. It struggles to find a uniting theme and therefore tends to meander from unrelated story to story visiting none in sufficient depth. There are, occasionally, fascinating historical photographs, however overall, I found this book a little disappointing and ultimately unsatisfying; though I can see that it might be useful to have it on the bookshelf if you were planning a trip around the BCN.

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