The Guides

An introduction

A good guide book should fulfil three functions:

  1. Make you want to visit the places it describes
  2. Interpret the lie of the land when you get there
  3. Provide a lasting souvenir of your journeys

Immediately recognisable by their colourful 'canal art' inspired covers, Pearson’s Canal Companions have been providing satisfaction on all three counts - and more besides - for over thirty years.

Designed to appeal to boaters, walkers, cyclists – and other, less readily pigeon-holed members of society - this independently produced series of guide books prides itself on being as accurate and up to date as possible, with a sprinkling of entertainment thrown in for good measure.

Each of the ten titles in the series covers approximately two hundred miles of inland waterways - overlapping occasionally for the benefit of users - and between them they describe the bulk of the network from the Kennet & Avon in the south to the Leeds & Liverpool in the north.

Inside the Guides

Over 200 miles of canals and river navigations expertly interpreted to inspire you, on foot or afloat

Hand drawn in high detail, each Canal Companion contains around fifty maps which place the canal or river at the centre of attention, so that users are never at a loss as to where they are and what's around them.

A lively commentary accompanies the maps together with gazetteers of place descriptions and listings of Eating & Drinking, Shopping, Places to Visit and Public Transport facilities. At the end of each guide there are pages of practical advice for boaters, walkers and cyclists, and alphabetical lists of boating services.

UK map

Canal Route Map

Click a route on the map to find the guide that suits

  • Four Counties Ring
  • Cheshire Ring
  • Welsh Waters
  • South Midlands
  • Severn & Avon
  • Stourport Ring
  • Oxford & Grand Union
  • East Midlands
  • Kennet & Avon
  • Leeds & Liverpool

< < <   Please click a route on the map

Four Counties Ring

This Companion focusses on the perennially popular Four Counties Ring cruising circuit, but additionally features the whole of the Trent & Mersey Canal. The beautiful Caldon Canal, and the curiously overlooked Weaver Navigation.

9th Edition 2011, Updated 2015
ISBN 978 0 9562777 4 9

£9.95

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Cheshire Ring

This Companion focusses on two circular routes: the justifiably popular Cheshire Ring, and the as yet not quite so well known South Pennine Ring. Over 200 miles of characterful canals in the north of England expertly interpreted to inspire discovery, on foot or afloat.

10th Edition, 2013
ISBN 978 0 9562777 8 7

£9.95

Read more

Welsh Waters

This Companion focusses on the Llangollen, Montgomery and Monmouth & Brecon canals in Wales, the Shropshire Union Canal, and connecting canals in Cheshire. Over 200 miles of canals expertly interpreted to inspire you, on foot or afloat.

10th Edition 2016
ISBN 978 0 9928492 2 1

£9.95

Read more

South Midlands

This Companion focusses on the immensely popular Warwickshire Ring cruising circuit, but additionally features the charming (and lockless!) Ashby Canal together with connecting routes from Fazeley to Sawley and Braunston to Stoke Bruerne.

9th Edition 2011, Updated 2015
ISBN 978 0 9562777 3 2

£9.95

Read more

Severn & Avon

This Companion is the 7th edition, updated in 2014, of the popular Avon Ring cruising circuit and the newly opened Droitwich Canals, forming the Mid-Worcestershire Ring. It additionally features the River Severn, Gloucester & Sharpness Canal and emerging Cotswold Canals between Saul & Sapperton.

7th Edition 2011, Updated 2014
ISBN 978 0 9562777 5 6

£9.95

Read more

Stourport Ring

This Companion focusses on the popular Stourport Ring and Black Country Ring cruising circuits, but additionally features the Dudley & Stourbridge canals and the uniquely atmospheric Birmingham Canal Navigations.

8th Edition, Updated 2014
ISBN 978 0 9562777 2 5

£9.95

Read more

Oxford & Grand Union

This Companion focusses on the rural Oxford Canal; the mighty Grand Union between Braunston and Brentford & London (Paddington); the Leicester Line between Norton Junction and Market Harborough; and the Upper Thames between Lechlade and Oxford.

8th Edition, 2015
ISBN 978 0 9562777 9 4

£9.95

Read more

East Midlands

This Companion breaks fresh ground for Pearson's, exploring the Leicester Section of the Grand Union, the non-tidal Trent, and the fascinatingly diverse Erewash, Grantham and Chesterfield canals.

1st Edition, 2014
ISBN 978 0 9928492 0 7

£9.95

Read more

Kennet & Avon,
River Thames

This Companion focusses on the Kennet & Avon linking Bristol with Reading, and the River Thames between Oxford and Brentford.

3rd Edition 2012, Updated 2015
ISBN 978 0 9562777 6 3

£9.95

Read more

Leeds & Liverpool

This Companion recaptures the north for Pearson's exploring the Calder & Hebble, Aire & Calder, and Leeds & Liverpool canals, and featuring for the first time the deservedly popular 'Liverpool Link'.

1st Edition 2015
ISBN 978 0 9928492 1 4

£9.95

Read more

Canal Route Maps

Click one of the canal routes below for the corresponding guide and route map

Four Counties Ring

This Companion focusses on the perennially popular Four Counties Ring cruising circuit, but additionally features the whole of the Trent & Mersey Canal. The beautiful Caldon Canal, and the curiously overlooked Weaver Navigation.

Route Map

The Four Counties Ring canal route [route colour: ] including the Trent & Mersey Canal, Caldon Canal, and Weaver Navigation.

Cheshire Ring

This Companion focusses on two circular routes: the justifiably popular Cheshire Ring, and the as yet not quite so well known South Pennine Ring. Over 200 miles of characterful canals in the north of England expertly interpreted to inspire discovery, on foot or afloat.

Route Map

The Cheshire Ring canal route [route colour: ] including the Cheshire Ring and South Pennine Ring routes.

Welsh Waters

This Companion focusses on the Llangollen, Montgomery and Monmouthshire & Brecon canals in Wales, the Shropshire Union Canal, and connecting canals in Cheshire. Over 200 miles of canals expertly interpreted to inspire you, on foot or afloat.

Route Map

The Welsh Waters canal route [route colour: ] including the Shropshire Union Canal, Llangollen Canal, and Monmouth & Brecon Canal.

South Midlands

This Companion focusses on the immensely popular Warwickshire Ring cruising circuit, but additionally features the charming (and lockless!) Ashby Canal together with connecting routes from Fazeley to Sawley and Braunston to Stoke Bruerne.

Route Map

The South Midlands canal route [route colour: ] including the Warwickshire Ring, and Ashby and connecting canals.

Severn & Avon Canals

This Companion is the 7th edition, updated in 2014, of the popular Avon Ring cruising circuit and the newly opened Droitwich Canals, forming the Mid-Worcestershire Ring. It additionally features the River Severn, Gloucester & Sharpness Canal and emerging Cotswold Canals between Saul & Sapperton.

Route Map

The Severn & Avon canal route [route colour: ] including the Mid-Worcestershire Ring and Cotswold Canals.

Stourport Ring

This Companion focusses on the popular Stourport Ring and Black Country Ring cruising circuits, but additionally features the Dudley & Stourbridge canals and the uniquely atmosheric Birmingham Canal Navigations.

Route Map

The Stourport Ring canal route [route colour: ] including the Black Country canals and Birmingham Navigations.

Oxford & Grand Union, and Upper Thames

This Companion focusses on the rural Oxford Canal; the mighty Grand Union between Braunston and Brentford & London (Paddington); the Leicester Line between Norton Junction and Market Harborough; and the Upper Thames between Lechlade and Oxford.

Route Map

The Oxford & Grand Union, and Upper Thames canal routes [route colour: ].

East Midlands canals

This Companion breaks fresh ground for Pearsons, exploring the Leicester Section of the Grand Union, the non-tidal Trent, and the fascinatingly diverse Erewash, Grantham and Chesterfield canals.

Route Map

The East Midlands canal routes [route colour: ] including the Grand Union Leicester section, Non-tidal Trent, and Erewash, Grantham, and Chesterfield canals.

Kennet & Avon, and River Thames

This Companion focusses on the Kennet & Avon linking Bristol with Reading, and the River Thames between Oxford and Brentford.

Route Map

The Kennet & Avon, and River Thames canal routes [route colour: ] linking Bristol, Oxford, and Brentford, at the bottom of the map.

Leeds & Liverpool canals

This Companion recaptures the north for Pearsons exploring the Calder & Hebble, Aire & Calder, and Leeds & Liverpool canals, and featuring for the first time the deservedly popular 'Liverpool Link'.

Route Map

The Leeds & Liverpool canal routes [route colour: ] including the West Yorkshire waterways.

Four Counties Ring

Trent & Mersey Canal Caldon Canal Weaver Navigation Shropshire Union Staffs & Worcs

Cover page of the Four Counties Canal Companion guidebook by J.M. Pearson & Son Ltd

The Four Counties Ring Canal Companion was the first guide Pearson's published and has gone through nine editions since first appearing in print in 1982. Its core route is a 109 mile / 94 lock circuit through the counties of Staffordshire, West Midlands, Shropshire and Cheshire; especially popular with hire boaters. The guide includes full coverage of the famous Trent & Mersey Canal, stretching 92 miles from Preston Brook, near Runcorn, to Shardlow, near Derby.

Two other waterways of contrasting character are also included: the Caldon Canal, which runs from the Potteries up into the Staffordshire Moorlands; and the Weaver Navigation, a former inland shipping route which pivots on the legendary Anderton Lift; one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways.

9th Edition 2011, Updated 2015
ISBN 978 0 9562777 4 9 • £9.95

Cheshire Ring

Cheshire Ring South Pennine Ring

Cover page of the Cheshire Ring Canal Companion guidebook by J.M. Pearson & Son Ltd

The fact that this was the first Canal Companion to reach double figures in terms of editions emphasises the durable nature of this popular circuit with boaters and walkers alike. Featured canals on the Cheshire Ring include the Trent & Mersey north of Kidsgrove, the Bridgewater Canal, the Ashton & Peak Forest Canals, and the Macclesfield Canal. Furthermore, this guide now additionally covers the adjoining South Pennine Ring, a challenging yet hugely rewarding route combining two great success stories of canal restoration, the Rochdale and Huddersfield canals.

With its huge lock count - 197 in 71 miles - the South Pennine Ring is hard work for boaters, though walkers and cyclists will derive great pleasure from exploring these mountainous routes couched in a dramatic post-industrial setting.

10th Edition, 2013
ISBN 978 0 9562777 8 7 • £9.95

Cover page of the Cheshire Ring Canal Companion guidebook by J.M. Pearson & Son Ltd

Welsh Waters

Shropshire Union Canal Llangollen Canal Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal Montgomery Canal

Cover page of the Welsh Waters Canal Companion guidebook by J.M. Pearson & Son Ltd

It’s a popular misconception that the Canal Companions are 'ring' orientated when half of them don’t feature circular routes at all. This one’s a case in point. Moreover, however hard we try, and whatever effort we put into the other Companions, this is perennially the most popular, out-selling some of the more arcane Companions by 5 to 1. Mystifying? Well, not really, the Llangollen Canal has always been the honeypot of the canal network in the leisure era, and the Shropshire Union, also fully covered in this guide, doesn’t lag far behind. Throw in the beautiful (but isolated) Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal, and the slowly emerging Montgomery Canal (a real treat for walkers and cyclists) and it isn’t difficult to explain this guide’s popularity.

We’d just urge you to try some of the others; you’ll find them quieter if nothing else!

10th Edition 2016
ISBN 978 0 9928492 2 1 • £9.95

South Midlands

Warwickshire Ring Ashby & Connecting Canals

Cover page of the South Midlands Canal Companion guidebook by J.M. Pearson & Son Ltd

With the Warwickshire Ring at its heart, this Canal Companion covers the canals of the South Midlands, featuring a number of connecting routes: such as Fazeley (near Tamworth) to Sawley (near Nottingham), Braunston to Stoke Bruerne, and the alternative route of the Warwickshire Ring through Hockley Heath and King’s Norton right into the centre of Birmingham which has revitalized its city centre canals to stunning effect in recent years.

Also included is the lovely (and significantly lock-less) Ashby Canal, a route valued by boaters who want to get away from it all with the minimum of effort. It is also worth bearing in mind that this guide, taken in conjunction with the East Midlands Canal Companion, covers the whole of the so-called ‘Leicester Ring’, a lovely two or three week amble through the Shires and some of middle England's best scenery.

9th Edition 2011, Updated 2015
ISBN 978 0 9562777 3 2 • £9.95

Cover page of the South Midlands Canal Companion guidebook by J.M. Pearson & Son Ltd

Severn & Avon

Avon Ring Mid-Worcestershire Ring Cotswolds Canals

Cover page of the Severn & Avon Canal Companion guidebook by J.M. Pearson & Son Ltd

Were there prizes for prettiness, this Canal Companion would be a regular contender. But the rivers Severn and Avon have experienced a sequence of flood-affected seasons in recent years that has deterred the boating classes from enjoying them to the full. On a more positive note, this guide maintains its viability by featuring the lovely Stratford-on-Avon Canal, the Worcester & Birmingham (with its well-known flight of locks at Tardebigge) and the recently restored - to great acclaim - Droitwich Canals.

The River Severn (accompanied by the charming Severn Way long distance path) is covered all the way from Stourport to Gloucester where the other-worldly Gloucester & Sharpness Canal takes over to the shores of the Bristol Channel. And then last - but far from least - this guide includes the freshly restored Cotswold Canals between Saul Junction and Kemble.

7th Edition 2011, Updated 2014
ISBN 978 0 9562777 5 6 • £9.95

Stourport Ring

Black Country Canals Birmingham Canal Navigations

Cover page of the Stourport Ring Canal Companion guidebook by J.M. Pearson & Son Ltd

The Stourport Ring features the charming Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal’s southern half, the main lines of the Birmingham Canal Navigations, the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, and the upper navigable reaches of the River Severn, a thoroughly entertaining 'ring' of considerable variety.

The adjoining Black Country (aka Staffordshire) Ring includes the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal, parts of the Coventry and Trent & Mersey canals, the northern half of the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal and the main lines of the BCN again. With detailed coverage of the Stourbridge and Dudley canals and the northern expanses of the BCN, you get a lot of canal for your money in this much valued Canal Companion.

8th Edition 2011, Updated 2014
ISBN 978 0 9562777 2 5 • £9.95

Cover page of the Stourport Ring Canal Companion guidebook by J.M. Pearson & Son Ltd

Oxford & Grand Union, and Upper Thames

Coventry Oxford Market Harborough London

Cover page of the Oxford & Grand Union and Upper Thames Canal Companion guidebook by J.M. Pearson & Son Ltd

Two routes between the midlands and the south-east are at the heart of this Canal Companion, with the delightful upper reaches of the River Thames thrown in for good measure. The Oxford Canal features in its entirety, all the way from the outskirts of Coventry to the City of Dreaming Spires, one of the most beautiful canals in the country, whilst its towpath is a designated long distance foot path too.

Coverage of the mighty Grand Union commences at the canal centre of Braunston in Northamptonshire and runs all the way down to Brentford (where it links with Pearson’s Canal Companion to the Kennet & Avon and River Thames) and Paddington in central London. Also included are the branches to Northampton, Aylesbury, Wendover and Slough. Additionally, the Leicester Section of the Grand Union, up as far as the famous flight of locks at Foxton and Market Harborough, is also featured.

8th Edition, 2015
ISBN 978 0 9562777 9 4 • £9.95

East Midlands

GU Leicester Section Non-tidal Trent Erewash Grantham & Chesterfield Canals

Cover page of the East Midlands Canal Companion guidebook by J.M. Pearson & Son Ltd

Not to be confused with an earlier Canal Companion of the same title, this guide features the important Leicester Section of the Grand Union Canal. Coverage begins at Gayton in Northamptonshire and goes all the way through to Langley Mill on the Erewash Canal deep in D. H. Lawrence country. From Sawley, the River Trent is described as it passes down through Nottingham and Newark to the commencement of the tidal section downstream of Cromwell Lock.

Proof that Pearson’s are not averse to covering presently unnavigable routes in their guides comes with inclusion of the rural Grantham Canal, a 33 mile odyssey through rural England exemplified, whose fine towpath can be explored by walkers and cyclists. Finally, this guide also features the fascinating Chesterfield Canal, both in its navigable and currently unnavigable lengths.

1st Edition, 2014
ISBN 978 0 9928492 0 7 • £9.95

Cover page of the East Midlands Canal Companion guidebook by J.M. Pearson & Son Ltd

Kennet & Avon and River Thames

Bristol Bath Oxford Reading Brentford

Cover page of the Kennet & Avon and River Thames Canal Companion guidebook by J.M. Pearson & Son Ltd

Between them, the Kennet & Avon Navigation and the River Thames pass through some of southern England’s most beautiful scenery. The Thames has long been a source of recreation for all manner of boaters and of course it is accompanied throughout by the Thames Path. In contrast, the Kennet & Avon had been allowed to fall into dereliction, and it was not until 1990 that it was reopened throughout.

At 93 miles in length with 104 widebeam locks, it is now recognised as one of the premier inland waterways in the country and this Canal Companion has established itself as one of the most reliable interpretations of the route, all the way from Bristol’s Floating Harbour in the west, to the canal’s meeting with the Thames at Reading.

3rd Edition 2012, Updated 2015
ISBN 978 0 9562777 6 3 • £9.95

Leeds & Liverpool

Leeds and Liverpool Canal West Yorkshire Waterways

Cover page of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal Companion guidebook by J.M. Pearson & Son Ltd

Successor to the now defunct Pennine Waters Canal Companion, this brand new guide presents all 127 miles of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in Pearson’s for the first time including the increasingly popular ‘Liverpool Link’ which ushers canal travellers into the heart of the city’s regenerated dockland in the most exciting manner.

Also included are the Ribble Link for boaters heading to the Lancaster Canal, and the Leigh Branch of the Leeds & Liverpool which connects with the Cheshire Ring Canal Companion at Leigh itself. On the other side of the Pennines, in West Yorkshire, this guide features the Aire & Calder Navigation (where commercial barging is now, sadly, virtually extinct) the Calder & Hebble Navigation and the Selby Canal.

1st Edition 2015
ISBN 978 0 9928492 1 4 • £9.95

Cover page of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal Companion guidebook by J.M. Pearson & Son Ltd
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The Canal Companions are widely available throughout the inland waterways from boatyards, hire bases, chandlers, craft & gift shops and from many outlets by post such as the Inland Waterways Association; the Canal Bookshop, Audlem; and the Canal Shop, Lapworth. Other outlets include Amazon, Stanfords and Waterstones.

To contact Pearson’s direct please email: enquiries@jmpearson.co.uk

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