running water

canal runner -polaroid poem
these byways slither between cities
longitudinal and spurring on to borderland
and port towns – sluggish perhaps and disjointed
in part though once they raced like quick-silver
where joggers mill along their shores

base clay channels in replica of rivers
bastardising originals in the rush to make water
outrun coach roads – and after grinding grubwork of navvy gang
came bargees cramped in damp, smoke choked boats
legging long tunnels that lean in low and narrow
with only clog and horse power to force the way
between a prompt or late delivery and pay

more pedestrian now are the old, retired canals
and pleasure-boated with time to stop and watch
water inexorably flood or part from basin bottom
up and over geological impediment
wayfaring between bramble banks where wildfowl stalk
and kingfisher streaks ahead in aquamarine

we are joining them up again, towpath to towpath
a network untangled from undergrowth, finding ford and bridges
over water that excavating civil engineers in momentum
of time-is-money ploughed through the landscape
– and which we spent, speed travellers hotly pursue
at our leisure

© Laura Granby 2015

1. see the tremendous work of restoration at The Canal & River Trust
1. read poetry inspired by these waterways – Waterlines
2. watch Fred Dibnah’s ‘Building the Canals

Inspired by the Midweek Motif: “Energy – Vitality” – which called to mind both the original construction and current restoration of Britain’s canal network



  1. Many years ago as a boy on bike I often visited the disused Basingstoke canal in the UK and longed to see it revived and luckily I understand that this has been done in many places. What a great this post of yours is.


  2. An amazing poem! The building, use, disuse and rediscovery of these canals seems to parallel the seasons of a human life, so your bringing them together in the end is as beautiful as the imagery you use. I visited your links and discovered the fascinating network of attention to their history. Are you one of the canal poets?


  3. lines wonderfully reflect the momentous task that’s going on with so much energy…restoring, constructing, building up is so much needed in this destructive world…thanks for the post….


  4. A real integration of then and now – yes, waterways were the soon they seemed abandoned…i am glad they are alive here..and also in the real world slowly being repaired


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