Trading Tales – The Jam Boat

This week’s Trading Tale features a couple who’ve been greatly missed on the cut so far this year. Sometimes life throws us a curved ball and we take time to readjust and refocus.

We’re hoping to see them at the three events they currently have scheduled in September …

Introducing Helen and Andy

Wild Side James and PreservesWhat’s the name of your boat, and what business do you run from it?

We make and sell preserves including Jam, Marmalade, Chutney, Vinegars and Cordials and wherever possible we try include a wild ingredient, foraged from the hedgerows and towpaths.

We make a lot of our produce on ‘Wand’ring Bark‘, the motor boat, and use our butty as a pop up market stall at canal festivals. There was only one name for that: ‘The Jam Butty‘!

Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourselves?

Helen is the creative force behind the business, coming up with the ideas and making most of the preserves whilst Andy does a lot of the foraging as we travel, plus labelling, packing and of course maintaining the two boats.

Foraged fruit

Foraged fruit

There is the small matter of his six months stint in the world of paid employment each winter, but let’s not think about that in the middle of the summer.

Give us a glimpse into the how and why you decided to become floating traders?

Helen had a serious accident a few years ago which ended her academic career, and in its place she saw all the wild fruit lining the towpaths and decided to make a few pots of jam as occupational therapy. One pot led to another, and before we knew it people were asking to buy it.

And so the business was born, initially selling from a table on the back of Wand’ring Bark before expanding to the construction of The Jam Butty, which offers a more sustainable means of trading afloat.

Describe the joys and drawbacks you’ve experienced to date as a floating trader …

Being a floating trader offers a great mix of sociability and solitude. At canal festivals we get to see a lot of other traders who have become our friends, some of whom we only see once or twice a year. But then there is usually a gap of several weeks when we move on to the next event when we can soak up the peace which pervades the inland waterways.

Wild side award winning marmalade

Helen’s marmalade’s have won numerous awards (Andy even snapped one up last year!)

One big drawback is October, when the festivals come to an end and we to return to our land base for the winter.

Is there any sage wisdom you could share with anyone reading who may be contemplating venturing into this watery ‘working’ world?

The Jam Butty

The Jam Butty

For us every day of trading involves a week of preserve making so it’s not a good idea to work out the hourly rate of pay …

The rewards are there but you probably won’t see it in your bank balance!  Instead, it’s about quality of life.

Anything else you would like to add?

Things haven’t gone quite according to plan this year, Helen is currently being treated for breast cancer and hasn’t been able to cook for some time.  She has temporarily taken on a supervisory role, and Andy has been expanding his repertoire of preserve making skills.

The beauty of our floating business is that we have been able to scale it down for a season knowing it’ll still be there next year.

Connect with Helen and Andy:

Visit (and like) their Facebook page

Check out their wonderful website

Tweet with them on Twitter: @wildsidejam

Where you may find them in 2016:

Our trading schedule for 2016 is focussing on Birmingham and The Black Country due to some medical issues, but you should find us at the following events:

27th to 29th August – Pelsall Common (IWA Festival)

10th and 11th Sept – Black Country Boating Festival – Netherton

17th Sept – Tipton Canal Day

24th and 25th Sept – Parkhead Historic Boat Gathering

9 thoughts on “Trading Tales – The Jam Boat

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  8. Hi Sandra
    Wanted to let you know how much we have enjoyed reading your series about the trader boats on the canals. Who would have known there was so much variety?
    Robin and Jenny, Romany Rambler, back home in New Zealand.

    • Kia ora Robin and Jenny. Lovely to hear from you. So pleased you’re enjoying the Trading Tales series. It is a colourful life, lots of variety. Hope to ring you lots more stories on the future 😀

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