Nairn Across Britain: reprise

I watched Ian Nairn’s 1972 trip on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal (BBC iPlayer – https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p01rwfkm/nairn-across-britain-2-transpennine-canal) at the outset of my CS research. It was interesting to watch it again having covered the entire canal during my project. Nairn’s narrative is that of an architect and critic of town planning.

Putting aside the pleasure of time travel in watching this, I have a few observations:

  • Nairn hoped that the canal would be transformed into a leisure place with proper footpaths. It is encouraging that this has been largely achieved and a credit to the work of the Canal & River Trust and its predecessor.
  • The canal was empty of traffic on his journey apart from moored pleasure craft. I found it often empty too – what has changed is the lycra-clad cyclists and joggers; a look and activities that would have been rare in 1972.
  • Nairn expressed hopes for the redevelopment of the canal where it passed through towns – specifically Skipton and Leeds. This has been delivered in both towns’ canal basins. He also hoped that homes would be built along the canal, enjoying the water rather than ignoring it. This too has happened in some areas.
  • Importantly to my sense of the canal, he mentioned the feeling that it existed as a place apart from its surroundings (echoes of heterotopia again). In 1972 the canal was more open to its surroundings and not bordered by trees and hedgerows. I think I would have enjoyed it more how it was.