There’s been rather a resurgence of interest around all aspects of the Inland Waterways of UK in recent few years. Including an abundance of TV programs featuring well-known celebrities – Great Canal Journeys, Slow TV, Barging Around Britain, and Celebrity Five Go Barging to name a few.
Maybe such exposure will help preserve this historical way of transport – and lifestyle for many – for the foreseeable future and beyond.
For Barry and I, the only way we’d live in UK is on a narrowboat. We have absolutely zero interest in living on land, imprisoned within bricks and mortar.
Here’s ten reasons why (in no particular order) …
1/ Less ‘Stuff’ – We downsized significantly by selling, giving away, or disposing of the majority of our ‘stuff‘ in March 2013. Living in a small space just 60 foot long and 6ft 10 inches wide, means we’re unable to re-accumulate much. We’ve missed little. Apart from books (me mostly!). But that’s ok. We’ve a small bookcase to hold those we brought with us and yes, those we’ve since acquired. We also each have a Kindle. So there’s no shortage of words to enrich our souls. Is it cheaper? Maybe. Maybe not. Check out our page on ‘The costs of living on a narrowboat‘ and make your mind up.
2/ Less ‘House’-work – This one’s quite obvious having seen number 1! There’s not a lot of room – or rooms. A daily sweep of the floors/carpets, an occasional quick vacuum, clean the windows every now and again (they soon get splashed in the locks!), and frequent toilet/shower cleaning doesn’t take long.
3/ If you don’t like your neighbours you untie your home and move somewhere else – Living in a house, you can never be sure who’ll live next door. You could buy somewhere and have fantastically friendly and supportive neighbours. At the drop of a hat that could change. Especially if you don’t have the luxury of a detached residence. You could be subject to raging arguments, crying babies, shouting kids, barking dogs. The list goes on. From early morning till dusk, if we want to we can move a little further along the canal if we choose.
4/ Infinite variety – you can be in the centre of a bustling city one day, and the middle of the countryside the next – We can moor up in Stratford-on-Avon, Warwick, Worcester, Birmingham, York, Leeds, Manchester – most of the major cities in England have a canal running through them. Or we’ll tie-up alongside a pub and not worry (too much!) about drinking and driving. Maybe settle in a secluded spot and relish the peace and quiet, gaze at stars and satellite spot whilst sat out on the towpath on a clear night.
5/ Camaraderie – As continuous cruisers, we generally don’t have the advantage (often the reverse!) of getting to know our neighbours. However, through various means we’ve met dozens of fascinating folk who also live aboard all year or part thereof. During our full-on trading years, we were blessed to share spaces with a multitude of talented people. We rarely know who we’ll bump into or where, so every time we do is special. The opportunity to embrace friends and family on board and share the delights of the waterways is also a regular joy.
6/ The ability to (mostly) avoid politics and media madness – We consciously choose not to have a TV on board, or read newspapers. The majority of the people we socialise with on the cut generally do the same. The brainwashing therefore doesn’t affect us much. Admittedly we each skim read headlines – Sandra The online Guardian, Barry the BBC News.
7/ Working remotely, location independently – Since 2013 we’ve both worked in some capacity remotely. Always self-employed. We have a mobile wifi device, currently with unlimited data. Barry sells from his Home Brew Boat website, and Sandra works for Ad-Extra.com. Consequently we can ‘work’ from whatever location we happen to be, so long as we have an internet signal.
8/ Being close to nature – You never know what each day will bring. A flash of a Kingfisher; a stalking heron; swans, mallards, moorhens, coots; sheep and cows. We watch the seasons changing at close quarters, experiencing the sights, sounds and smells intimately.
9/ History – Especially for Barry who soaks up information like a sponge! New Zealand, his home country, is a very young one. The UK canal system was built at the end of the 17th century, at the time Captain Cook was ‘discovering’ Aotearoa (of course it had been discovered far earlier by the Mori Ora and Maori but that’s a whole other story). Travelling by water you’re able to visit a multitude of places and discover fascinating facts. We joined the National Trust in July 2019, and more than get our money’s worth visiting nearby homes and gardens.
10/ Exercise and fresh air – The opportunities are abundant. From walking the towpath alongside the boat, taking it in turns to drive, to working the locks and removing any trace of ‘bingowings’. The canals have been likened to an ‘outdoor gym’. And rightly so. No sweaty bodies posing in the latest lycra on board narrowboats! Though a fair few pass by speedily on their bicycle (often far too fast unfortunately) dressed in such attire.
I’m sure there’s many more positives about this way of life. If you’re a live-aboard, for all or part of the year, I’d love to hear about your top reasons for doing so in the comments below.
Maybe I’ll also write about the things I DON’T like about living on a narrowboat. It’s definitely not perfect. But for us, for now, it’s far better than the alternative …