Driving Through England on the Waterways

by Johnny Handle (1990)

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Wouldn't ye think in this mad world, it is with in your power,
To change your speed from eighty, down to four miles an hour?

Eighty miles an hour, down the motorway,
Rushing about like mad, that's the modern way;
But now they've found a slower pace to move around today,
Driving through England, on the Waterways.

Down the canalside, seventy feet of boat,
See the countryside again, getting yourself afloat;
Take your time and look around, travelling all through the day,
Driving through England, on the Waterways.

The motor chugs a steady beat, the meadow passes by,
You've time to hear the moorhen, watch the clouds upon the sky:
See the lazy heron as he flaps and creaks away,
Driving through England on the Waterways.

They might look like juggernauts, but they slip along se weel,
Shaped by boatwrights on the cut, from a mighty keel;
See the painter's bonny panels, castles, roses gay,
Man, it's like a floating palace, on the Waterways.

Easy through the bridges, slow down for the locks,
Cut your speed by moored craft, then ye'll get no knocks;
All the wrinkles disappear as ye slip away;
Find a new sight of England, on the Waterways.

Look for your nightly mooring, rest and have your grub,
Take the night air on the towpath, there‘ll likely be a pub;
You're quite a narrow boater, sing and drink the night away,
There's not many breathalysed, man, upon the Waterways.

Once you've felt the slow down, once you've stopped the race,
You'll come back and back again to this gentle place;
Every year, ye'll shift your gear, and come and spend your days,
Driving through England, on the Waterways.

I am indebted to Johnny Handle who has taken the time to provide me with printed copies of his canal songs. Johnny has written many songs, mainly about coal mining and his native north-east of England - an area deprived of canals. More details of Johnny Handle's work can be found on his website and Pete Wood has recently (2017) written his biography.