A MAN who has spent the past two years studying the history of Huddersfield cricket has a new challenge.
Dr Peter Davies, a Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Huddersfield, has taken up a new hobby - one that ties in with his academic interests.
He has developed a love affair with the towpaths of the canals across West Yorkshire.
Dr Davies, who received a lottery grant to study the history of cricket, believes people can gain a lot of knowledge about an area from the towpaths.
He said: "I've discovered the beauty and solitude of inland waterways - or canals by any other name.
"So, while my colleagues in academia jet off to the Midi or the Maldives for their summer break, I head for Marsden and Mirfield.
"I'm not into boats, but I have realised that walking the canals of West Yorkshire is not just a pleasant escape from ordinary life, but an amazing way to learn more about the history and heritage of the area.
"Kirklees is an ideal base for the novice canal-walker. The Huddersfield Broad and Narrow canals cut the town in half and actually runs straight through the University's Queensgate campus.
"There's the gorgeous stretch of towpath through the Colne Valley, from Linthwaite and Slaithwaite to Marsden, and, going the other way, the superb semi-industrial trek from the centre of town to Cooper Bridge via Deighton and Bradley."
He added: "For me, life on the towpath has so many features.
"You can just walk and walk without worrying about directions, busy traffic or vehicle fumes; it's quiet, there's plenty of time to think and relax; and you feel a wonderful sense of camaraderie when you pass a fellow walker and exchange either a friendly hello or knowing glance.
"I've also discovered a wonderful series of maps designed for the enthusiastic canal walker, the `Nicholson Guides', which give you information about the key roads, bridges, cultural landmarks, cafes and pubs you may encounter on any given saunter.
"You're able to marvel at the endeavour of the pioneering nineteenth-century canal-builders; you discover mills, factories and waterfront cottages that you never knew existed; and best of all, you see local landscapes from new angles and unusual perspectives."
Dr Davies praised the recent restoration and redevelopment of the local canal system, accompanied by the erection of various public information signs and display boards.
"Canal mania has affected me so much that I've now branched out.
"I've spent time by the side of the Bridgewater Canal in Cheshire, the Ship Canal and Ashton Canal in inner-city Manchester, the Leeds-Liverpool on both sides of the Pennines, and other waterways too in city-centre Birmingham, leafy Warwickshire and rural Oxfordshire.
"There is a strange paradox: I have no desire to set foot in a barge, yet the idea of walking the towpaths of our region, and discovering more about the heritage of our country, is something that I find endlessly appealing."