Fenland Waterways by Alan & Michael Roulstone

We are fans of the Fenland waterways since our exploration in 2006. So when I noticed copies of this on eBay I decided to purchase one. Luckily I went for a very cheap (just over £3.00) "reading" copy. This ex-library copy is hardbacked and slightly dog-eared although it is a first edition dating from 1974.

It is a curious and not very good book. There is some discussion in early chapters about the definition of Fenlands; presumably in order to broaden the book's appeal it includes the rivers Fossdyke, Witham and Welland. However, that is the least of its problems. The book is probably more akin to Rolt's Thames from Source to Mouth than a Nicholson guide. However, the plates from Alan Roulstone do not have the quality of the Rolt book and the text by Michael Roulstone is very clunky and stilted. Quite frankly, the whole style of the book might have just been acceptable forty years earlier but when it was published it must have appeared very old-fashioned and difficult to read. Below is a quotation that illustrates the writing style.

"Before passing to a consideration of the cathedral itself — which is really the only reason for visiting Peterborough today, unless one is travelling by train and is required to bide awhile at the station in order to achieve a connection— it cannot be left unsaid that what must at one time have been a lovely old city has been irreversibly disfigured in recent years by the decision taken by what used to be known as the London County Council to use it as a 'London overspill' town. Large complexes were accordingly planned, negotiated, constructed; new housing estates were established."

I don't suppose they had good sales in Peterborough!!

Jesus Green Lock, River Cam, Cambridge

The Old Haycock, River Nene, Wansford

The Cutter, River Cam, Ely

The colour illustrations could perhaps be described as charming and naive. They were intended to be the book's selling point since it is described as a pictorial anthology. Some of them, such as those above, I like. However, most I just found uninspiring.