From the spring of 2014 until last autumn, we’ve spent a great deal of our time as Roving Traders on the canal system. During those five years we met some amazing, inspirational, fun, alternative, loving-living-lives-less-ordinary people with similar mindsets to us.
A few weeks ago Sandra Willis, who used to own ‘The Doggie Boat‘, set up a Facebook Messenger Group to invite eight of her trading pals on a mystery two-nights break away somewhere near Shrewsbury.
I previously talked about how Anna-Marie and Kath were inspirational women we’d met on the waterways, when we shared their YouTube video interview of us. Sandra is another.
She astounds me with her bravery. Frequently. She writes a brilliant blog about her adventures, through the eyes of her two golden retrievers – have a read https://watergypsy3.wordpress.com.
Sandra sold her Doggie Boat business last year, in preparation for an adventure on the waterways of Ireland. She’s spent a couple of years planning her next move – and now wanted to say ‘farewell for now’ to some of her trading buddies.
Sandra was one of our fellow traders at the second floating market we ever did at Alvecote, April 2014, and was an invaluable support to me. We’ve remained firm friends ever since, and now of course work together for Ad-Extra too, so we’ll continue to be in touch frequently.
Mystery Location Revealed …
We’d booked a hire car from Enterprise Chester again for the trip. Sadly our experience of this was extremely poor – but I’ll share more of that disappointment in a future post.
Once we finally set off and scooped up Jan, from The Art Boat (yet another amazing woman on the cut), at Shrewsbury Railway Station, we headed to the pre-arranged meet-up pub.
We were last to arrive after our delayed start, so after a swift pint everyone set off for the booked destination that Sandra had excitedly revealed to us. She’d wanted to visit the place for a long time and decided this was the perfect time.
Pigeon Door is a very unusual venue consisting of three converted double-decker buses situated in a large field in the Shropshire countryside. Each bus is self-contained but inextricably linked to the others. There’s a hot tub outside each bus, and a private garden. One of the main attractions, and probably it’s main selling point, is that it’s dog friendly.
You can even bring your horse!
Our bus was ‘Betsy Blue‘:
There were nine people in our party – and seven dogs! I suspect those without pooches wouldn’t necessarily be so enamoured by it. It’s pretty basic, but quirky and fun. You can definitely relax, unlike staying in posh or not so posh hotels. The main rule is don’t let the dogs into the bedrooms.
Chilling In The Steam
We LOVED the hot tubs! Barry used to have a fantastic round wooden hot tub in his house in Gisborne. It was always heated, and I vividly recall the bliss of sitting in it watching the stars after a long day at work. I also remember it cost a fortune to keep heated!
Our bus had an outside loo and shower which was a luxury! The other bus had their loo and shower inside the bus – and a wood-fired hot tub. We were able to get the owners to start the fire in that hot tub for our first night before we arrived – as it can take a few hours to get up to temperature. After cooking and enjoying a tea of meat-lovers and vegan chilli, six of us partook of the delights of the steaming water. It was cosy to say the least!!
All but one of the group had played Six-Handed-Rummy at one time or another on board Areandare. On the first night we had a game – but I fear we left it a little late as the food, hot tub and alcohol may have interfered with a few brain-cells! One person retired before the end. The stalwarts managed to finish a game eventually – and we got to bed after 2am! Ah well, there was nowhere to go and nothing to do but relax the next day …
Relax we all did. Heidi and Jakki made breakfast on the other boat and we ‘grazed’ for a few hours. No-one did very much. ‘Toastie’ loved the hot tubs so much he was the first in ours that afternoon, and back in in the evening along with Barry, Sandra and I.
Here’s ‘Beetie Bus‘:
We ordered a recommended local Indian Takeaway, which was delivered fresh within half an hour! Incredible service. I guess they do well out of Pigeon Door which is fully booked most of the time, and it’s a bit of a drive to the nearest shop.
There were a few similarities between bus and boat living. The bus rocked a little upstairs when someone was walking along the corridoor (which admittedly was a little unnerving). Space was limited, but cosy – ideal to share with friends or family, but it wouldn’t be quite so comfortable with strangers. We all had a blast:
We played another game on the second night that I’d brought, picked up in a charity shop, called Cadoo. It’s basically a children’s version of ‘Cranium’.
Farewell For Now
The morning we left the Welsh hills revealed themselves on the horizon. They’d been shrouded in mist on the one full day we were there. It must be a spectacular place on a sunny day, relaxing in the hot tub, gazing at the stars. As I said, lying in the hot tubs took me back to sublime evenings in the wooden hot tub in Gisborne. Situated adjacent to a solar heated swimming pool, and a short stroll from the bedroom, it was blissful in the extreme. Nowadays a warm shower on the boat is the most luxurious we get the majority of the time!
Ah well. It can’t be all roses living this crazy canal-life …
We’re not sure when we’ll meet any of these gorgeous people again. We’ve shared many floating markets over the years, and we’ll always remember them with fondness.
Thank goodness for Facebook and Instagram I say!
Keep in touch guys. We love you all …