A FORMER assistant chief constable whose grandson noticed narrowboats had faces has bought Oxfordshire’s waterways to life in a series of children’s books.

Dan Clacher, of Broad Field Road, Yarnton, put pen to paper after his bedtime stories proved a hit with his two grandchildren, Alexei, seven, and Oliver, four.

His Muddy Waters books tell of the adventures of different canal boats – who each have their own personality – as they explore the nation’s waterways.

Mr Clacher, 49, who worked for Hampshire Constabulary and Thames Valley Police before retiring, said it all started about four years ago when he was out walking with Alexei.

He said: “We love the waterways and we happened to be walking along the canal when my grandson said, ‘Look Grampy, that boat is sad.’ “Then I got down to his level and could see that they all had faces and, this sounds odd, but they have different expressions.

“I gave them some characteristics and told him some stories and we made all these different adventures.”

The main character is narrowboat Muddy Waters, described by the author as wise, capable and with special powers, although he rarely uses them.

Mr Clacher’s daughter Lucy Hamblin, 31, encouraged her father to self-publish the stories and – since launching them four weeks ago – he has already sold 2,000 copies.

Illustrator Stephen Preedy has also hidden a ladybird on each page for readers to find. There are 10 books in the first series.

The first two, The Jolly Boatman’s Lesson and Poppy at the Boatshow, which cost £2.99, are set in and around Oxfordshire and feature beauty spots including Godstow Lock, Thrupp Wharf, Dukes Lock and the weir by the Trout pub.

The third book, Pearly’s Welcome to London, will be out on November 9 and later adventures, out next year, take the canal boats to places including Gloucester Docks and Falkirk Wheel in Scotland.

Mr Clacher, a father-of-two, said: “My grandson loves it, he helps me with the plot and story and he gives me feedback, he’s very involved with the whole thing.

“It’s very rewarding especially when you see children really enjoy them for what they are. It’s wonderful to see their faces.

“The waterways are free and you can take your family out for nothing with the books and see the sights. It brings the whole thing to life.”

Alexei, from Kidlington, said: “I like the stories because they were written especially for me and my brother and I enjoy listening to new stories.”

Mr Clacher will be signing books at WH Smith in Oxford tomorrow between 10am and 4pm.

  • To find out more about Mr Clacher’s books, see the Muddy Waters website.