Wednesday 29 February 2012

Could You Live Aboard?

There are almost 35,000 canal boats on Britain’s inland waterways*, but it’s quite difficult to estimate how many of those are floating homes. I was recently interviewed by a journalist who seemed to want to find out what ‘type’ of people are living within the boating community. The truth is that we are just as diverse as the community living ashore. Live-aboard boaters include middle-aged divorcees, retired couples, young professionals, people on low incomes, people ‘down on their luck’ and canal heritage enthusiasts. It can include people seeking an alternative lifestyle, or people seeking a cheaper lifestyle. Some boaters are foreign tourists discovering England and some people are able to choose a nomadic lifestyle because they work from home.

If you think you may be one of these people you need to consider the challenges. Confined space and a lack of storage will mean de-cluttering your possessions before moving aboard. Have you taken into account the extra chores such as disposing of your own domestic waste and sewage, and keeping your water tank topped up? Are you ready for an unpredictable electric supply that depends on the engine being maintained in good working order? Your gas will be purchased in bottles and the changing price of red diesel will affect your home budget. If your work or personal commitments make continuously cruising impractical you will need to find a mooring.

If you have considered all of these points then you are ready to take the plunge. Imagine the emotional freedom of releasing so many material possessions to move into a cosy narrowboat. Consider the sense of independence and achievement knowing that you are responsible for supplying your own gas and electric, and the environmental awareness you’ll gain when physically managing your own waste disposal. You’ll feel more connected with nature and feed swans and ducks from your kitchen window. You will learn to be economical with water and you may like to learn new skills such as marine engine maintenance, boat refurbishment or painting roses and castles. Will you exchange the gym for cycling or running on the towpath? Will you enjoy being part of a community in a marina or will you consider a new career as a roving canal trader?

When you have thought through all of these things and worked out your budget it’s time to begin browsing the variety of canal boats for sale at Boatshed Grand Union. If you’re already a leisure boater looking to exchange your current boat for a live aboard we would be happy to take your boat on brokerage for you.

*Source: British Waterways website

I wrote this post for Boatshed Grand Union.
For business blogging, social media and other virtual assistant services visit

Monday 27 February 2012

Fancy a Happy Easter at Ellesmere Port?

Nb: Ferret. Image credit: The National Waterways Museum

The National Waterways Museum covers a seven acre site that was once a busy canal dock at Ellesmere Port, in Cheshire. The indoor displays are housed in charming Victorian buildings and while there are some boats inside, the majority of historical boats are outside in the canal docks. The docks were still in use in the 1950s, and today you can walk around the locks and warehouses and see the forge, stables and workers cottages. When I think of the heritage of the inland waterways I think of the traditional working narrowboats, but at this museum you can also see a 1,000 year old log boat, a concrete barge, a coracle and a steam powered dredger. At The Heritage Boatyard a dedicated team of volunteers and young trainees work to maintain and restore these historical boats. Several of the boats are listed on the Historic Boat Register.

The indoor exhibitions tell the story of Britain’s canals and waterways and the Inland Waterways collection is designated as being of national and international importance.

The Waterways Archive holds a fascinating collection of boat building plans, working records, accounts and letters. There are photographs by Robert Aickman, Michael Ware and Eric de Mare.

The museum also holds the archives of British Waterways and the early canal companies, a rich source of information, some of it dating back to the 17th century. I would love to engross myself in this archive and their books and periodicals about canal history: Access can be arranged by booking at least 24 hours in advance.

I’d also like to explore inside the motor narrowboat Ferret and imagine the lives of the boat families that once lived within. She was built by WJ Yarwoods of Northwich in 1926 and worked as part of a Fellows, Morton and Clayton pair on the Birmingham Canal Navigations.

If you share my enthusiasm for the history of the waterways you may enjoy the Nantwich to Chester cruise on Snipe and Taurus this Easter. The museum at Ellesmere port is just one of the places the hotel boats will visit. Imagine finishing your day being tucked up in your own charming narrowboat cabin dreaming of bygone days.

Read more: Nantwich to Chester via Ellesmere Port Boat Museum

Stop Press: Join British Waterways at the museum on Sunday 4 March for a unique behind the scenes look at the locks. British Waterways teams will lead tours around the works, answering your questions about how lock gates are hand-crafted.

Disclosure: I wrote this post for Canal Voyagers Hotel Boats.
For business blogging and other services visit

Friday 24 February 2012

Friday Rant: Never Enough Time

The Friday Rant Club Until recently I’d never joined in with Muddling Along Mummy’s Friday Rant and now I’m joining in twice in two months! (I love her blog by the way, good honest writing, from the heart.)

This morning we were up at six; the girls complained through breakfast, The Doctor rushed to commute to London and I persuaded everyone to get dressed and out in the double pushchair down a muddy towpath for the half hour walk to nursery. We’d not even got to Marsworth bottom lock before the pushchair got a puncture. While I blurted out some mildly child-friendly curses Big Sister suggested taking the pushchair back to the boat and getting a taxi. I concurred. So I bundled them back home, took them to nursery in a taxi and returned home to face a to-do list that looks like a peculiar pile of noodles in my head:

Boil the kettle to do the dishes, run the engine to get the electric to run the washing machine. Write some emails and write some blogs for clients. I have a full day’s work to do for my business, but it makes sense if I also squeeze in the dishes and the laundry and now I’m going to have to fix the pushchair puncture. Must read some more of the massive tome Social Media Marketing for Dummies before the library insist on having it back. I need to implement some of the tips in that book How to Get Things Done without Trying Too Hard . I wish I had some spare time to read more blogs and leave supportive and witty comments. Must remember to have lunch. Must remember to collect kids. I want to write a book called I Don’t Know How She Does It (On a Narrowboat). I want to write ebooks and create passive income streams. I want to cook impressive meals for my husband and keep the boat spick and span. I want to laze on my bed in our cabin reading a memoir about a Gypsy Girl . But there’s never enough time and it must be down to planning and I must plan to make more time to make a plan!

Ever felt like that?!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to Amazon, to several good books I wish I had time to finish!

Wednesday 22 February 2012

Do You Know Who I Think I Am?

Phil Bassett
Following my earlier blog about How to Sell a Boat on the Inland Waterways I thought I’d share a bit more about who we are at Boatshed Grand Union.

Phil is the owner of the brokerage. Phil and his wife Lynn love to get out and about on the Grand Union on their 48ft narrowboat Persephone. He also runs Canal Experience Training, an RYA Training Establishment for the Inland Waterways.

When he’s not working on brokerage or coordinating helmsman training then he spends time supporting the work of the South West Herts Narrowboat Project, a charity which runs a narrowboat for Youth and Community groups.

In fact it seems that Phil loves canal boats and boating as much as I do. I have lived aboard for twelve years and share a 70 foot narrowboat with my husband and two young daughters. My daughters were born on board our boat and sleep in a gorgeous boatman’s cabin all painted with traditional roses and castles. At Boatshed Grand Union I help with the administration, blogging and social media networking. I work for a number of other boating related businesses doing similar work and I’m also a freelance writer. If you’re considering living aboard you may enjoy a series of blog posts I wrote about living on a boat.

Both Phil and I write articles for the Boatshed blog. If you enjoy our blog you may like to subscribe by email or RSS (links are near the top of the side bar). Alternatively our contact page has links to our Twitter feed and Facebook page. If you follow us on Facebook and Twitter you get weekly blog updates, recently reduced boats, new listings and other boaty news.

We have recently welcomed Adrian Ezard to the team as a broker. He will be working from Gloucester and covering the Severn, Avon and Sharpness Canal. His work includes meeting boat owners on board and taking up to 80 photos and videos of each boat. Either Phil or Adrian accompany all viewings and communicate all offers to the seller. We handle the sale from start to finish, keeping you informed throughout.

Brian Duckett

We also work closely with Brian and Johannah Duckett at Boatshed London. If you are buying or selling a boat in London - in St Katherine's Dock, South Dock Marina, Limehouse Marina, Chelsea Harbour, Poplar Marina, Gallions Point or any of the other London marinas or moorings, they would be happy to help you. They run Boatshed London from their office aboard HMS President which is moored on Victoria Embankment, close to Blackfriars Bridge.

Boatshed Grand Union and Boatshed London are just two local parts of a worldwide brokerage. Boatshed has offices across 10 countries and each one is owned and operated on a licence basis by people passionate about boats.

So that’s who we are: boaters who love boats. If you have a boat for sale we’d love to take it on brokerage for you.

Peggy Melmoth

Brian's office

Peggy's office

Monday 20 February 2012

Tom Rolt on the Shropshire Union

I’ve just finished reading the classic and legendary book ‘Narrow Boat’ by LTC Rolt. It was first published in 1944 and is believed to have a played a key part in the revival of the waterways as a leisure resource. He and his wife Angela fitted out the boat and then travelled the waterways enjoying the timeless nature of the English countryside.

As Tom travels he rejoices in finding rural remnants of times gone by, and deplores the sometimes ugly face of ‘progress’. Nostalgically at Nantwich he notes that the atmosphere of an old market town, catering soley for the needs of an agricultural area is preserved.

“The countrymen of Cheshire do not live out of tins and refuse to accept inferior imported foods. To ask a Nantwich butcher for foreign meat would constitute a personal insult, and during our stay in Cheshire we had home-killed joints that in their tenderness and flavour rivalled the famous roasts of Simpsons in the Strand.”

Here Tom and Angela enjoyed chorley cakes, pikelets, local oatcakes and Cheshire cheese. At that time Audlem was a “sleepy group of old houses, inns and shops clustering about a church perched upon a mound.”

They made light work of the Audlem flight, and enjoyed the rolling wooded country at the summit. They soon arrived at ‘Dirty Fair’ in Market Drayton and this is one of my favourite parts of the book. Tom describes the cattle market and gypsies in lyrical detail and tells a charming anecdote of horse trading, featuring a “plausible rogue”; a “picturesque characterful figure.”

I wonder if The Wharf Inn at Goldstone Common is still there with a cheerful fire blazing in the bar parlour? I’d like to travel the densely wooded cuttings of the Shropshire Union which even then was “uncommonly well supplied” with canal side inns. The Wrekin dominates the landscape here; part of the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Shropshire Canal terminates at Autherley stop lock and the working boatmen used to call this ‘Cut End’. The Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal down to Stourport was commonly known as the ‘Stour Cut’.

If you haven’t yet read this book it would be the perfect companion to take on the Canal Voyagers Stourport to Nantwich cruise. From Autherley to Nantwich Taurus and Snipe will be retracing the waterways cruised by Tom and Angela in 1939 and you can see for yourself what’s changed and what hasn’t. The Staffs & Worcester is Corinne's favourite canal and The Shropshire Union is one of Neil's favourites. Take your camera, because the views are amazing!

Find out more and check availability at

Disclosure: I wrote this post for Neil and Corinne at Canal Voyagers. Follow the link to subscribe to their blog. Visit for business blogging, social media services and freelance writing commissions. This post contains an affiliate link to Amazon.

Wednesday 15 February 2012

Roving Traders and the CRT Council

Cheeseboat 2
So, voting has now opened for boat owners to elect four boaters to represent licence holders on the Canal and River Trust’s National Council. The council will consist of 35 members but only four of these will be boaters! Voting is open until noon on 9th March and ballot packs are currently being sent out to voters. However, BW does not consider Boatshed Grand Union brokerage to be a waterways business; they simply consider a waterways business to be a company that has a British Waterways trading licence; so we will not be eligible to vote.

A group of boaters who do hold trading licences have set up a website with the aim of giving a voice to the small roving canal traders on the UKs waterways. The aim is to promote and enhance their unique trading community which includes floating businesses such as; The Cheese Boat, The Graphics Boat, Fudge Boat, Cookie Boat, Tillercycles (who repair and sell bikes), Book boats, Coal Boats, Art Galleries, knitting and sewing boats, a traditional canalware and crafts boat, a boat selling LED lighting and two travelling hair salons.

It's important to have independent businesses like these represented on the CRT council. Graham Phillips owns Tia a small business afloat, based mainly in the south Midlands, supplying environmentally responsible cleaning products. Lorraine Fox is based around London and owns Together they are the two candidates representing the Roving Canal Traders. Read more at

Any changes in waterways rules and regulations affect their ability to trade, so giving these traders a voice on the CRT council is important. There are just five candidates standing for the two seats available in the Boating Business “constituency”.

If you’ve ever dreamed of becoming a roving canal trader Boatshed Grand Union is the best place to start your search for narrowboats for sale; and if you have a canal boat for sale we sell boats for boaters. Will you take your business afloat this year?

Peggy Melmoth
Floating writer and virtual assistant!

Disclosure: I wrote this post for Boatshed Grand Union.

Images from:

Monday 13 February 2012

The Frozen Canal Slide Show

Narrowboat and frozen canal
I love Erica and Antonias ebooks and courses - especially the free ones! The Ace Blogging e-Course suggested adding a slide show to your blog and I've been meaning to try it for ages. But why use a slideshow? Erica says,
"A slideshow is simply another way to present content to your audience. It varies your blog up a bit, and there are some things that I think look better as a slideshow - for example presenting a number of pictures and telling a short story."
So this is a collection of pictures of the canal frozen around Marsworth, including lots of narrowboats and snow, ducks and swans. This is basically the things that I see on the nursery run when we're walking to nursery. Our boat is in there somewhere too.

Now, I thought embedding the code meant the slideshow would appear here on the blog but it seems you need to click on the link below and go to YouTube. Let me know if you know how to fix that! It took me ages to sort out 'cause I had to download Picasa and join You Tube, so please leave me a comment :-)

Anyway, if you only see one frozen canal slide show this year, see this one!

View Narrowboat Wife's Frozen Canal Slide Show

Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link to Ace Inspire.

Wednesday 8 February 2012

Boats That Blog

I recently wrote about Boats That Tweet but you will find that a lot of canal and narrowboaters who tweet, are also boats that blog. Many narrowboat blogs are cruising logs, and while some are a written diary, others are more focussed on keeping a photographic record of their journey.

It’s pretty impossible to pick my favourite boating blogs because there are so many good ones! Instead I’ve chosen three very different boating blogs to give you a flavour of the variety that’s out there.

Granny Buttons

The UK Waterways ranking site lists the most popular boating blogs of the moment and Andrew Denney’s blog Granny Buttons is consistently at the top of that list. Granny Buttons is the name of his narrowboat and he shares his own thoughts and opinions related to the canals and waterways of England. This is a good example of a blog with a lot of reader interaction as the comments thread often sparks off discussions. He also displays a long list of boating blogs in his side bar so it’s a good starting point for discovering more blogs.

Writings From the Where Ever

Alice Griffin is a mother, wife, writer, traveller, dreamer, vegetarian, animal lover, seeker of peace, crafter and sometimes a gardener; just doing her best to live an authentic life aboard her narrowboat. She writes heart-felt posts about finding beauty in the little things, and describes how living afloat and being so close to nature can be good for the soul and good for her little girl.

Living on a Narrowboat

Paul Smith’s website is more than a blog, it is a wealth of information about the reality of living aboard. It includes case studies of liveaboards, marina reviews, and lots of useful articles. To view all of the content you need to subscribe, but membership is free. There are over 4000 subscribers and the site receives up to 6,000 visits each month, so he must be doing something right!

To follow this blog click on the little orange button towards the top right corner of the page and subscribe to the RSS feed. Alternatively, you can receive Boatshed news updates by liking our page on]Facebook [/lor following us on Twitter @BoatshedGU. Our news feeds also let you know when we have a new boat for sale. If you have a boat for sale, we would be delighted to take it on brokerage for you.

I wrote this post for Boatshed Grand Union.
For business blogging, social media and other virtual assistant services visit

Monday 6 February 2012

Now I'm a Page Three Girl!

Who'da thought it, but my latest article is on page 3 of the January issue of Towpath Talk.
I met another boater on the towpath a while back, who said,
"Did you hear a couple of loud bangs the other day? They found a couple of unexploded bombs on the Aylesbury Arm!"
A little bit of investigating later I had come up with my 'scoop'!

Unexploded Bombs on the Aylesbury Arm

Several unexploded World War II bombs were discovered near Dixon's Gap Bridge on the Aylesbury Arm of the Grand Union in early November. The British Waterways maintenance team uncovered seven mortar bombs which were about 15 inches in length and 2 inches in width. The team found the devices after draining a section of the canal in preparation to start lock gate repairs at Lock number five.  The local police were contacted, who in turn alerted the bomb squad. After the suspicious devices had been x-rayed they were carefully removed from the canal bed and blown up  in a controlled explosion on a nearby field.

Read more here: Towpath Talk January 2012 Issue

Wednesday 1 February 2012

Foraging with Children

I'm excited to have Helen as a guest blogger on here today, she is a contributor to my eBook Canal Activities for Kids. (I am still accepting submissions if you are a writer/blogger.)

Helen was a reluctant convert to boating but, having married a fanatic, finally embraced the inevitable and now delights in holidaying aboard their 42½ foot narrowboat. A serious accident in 2010 left her incapacitated for much of the following year giving her time to admire the hedgerows and develop something of an obsession in foraging and preserve making. Her watery and foraging adventures can be found at:

Foraging with Children

Children are natural foragers. They enjoy collecting, gathering, sorting and, given the opportunity, will often while away endless hours outdoors. Watch any toddler and you will see them pick up objects and explore them; usually with their mouths. Naturally this is a source of much consternation to their parents but teaching a child how to forage safely has the potential to be an enjoyable family activity that helps us to re-connect with our surroundings.

The towpath is quite possibly the best place to learn about foraging. It is teeming with possibilities, all largely accessible and freely available. But before going much further, it is important to establish a few basic rules. To forage safely:

1. Never eat from a plant you cannot identify without absolute certainty. Teach your children to always check a plant with you BEFORE eating it in ALL circumstances. If in doubt, leave it out.

2. Take a good field guide with you. My favourites are listed on my blog.

3. Do not pick from land that belongs to someone without their permission. It is illegal to dig up any roots and some plants are protected so check before picking.

4. Do not strip a plant bare. Leave some fruit for other foragers, some for other wildlife and some for propagation. Only take what you can use.

These are useful principles to always bear in mind when foraging.

My experience of foraging with children is that short trips, picking with a definite, preferably delicious, purpose in mind are the ideal. This may, of course, be because my children have short attention spans, but then again, the same can be said of my husband! For a first venture I would suggest picking something that everyone can recognise like elderflower, blackberries or apples. Elderflower are found from late May to early July and line the towpaths in numerous places. Blackberries are plentiful in the autumn but the wild variety can be very prickly so little fingers may get hurt. Hunting apples is lots of fun. Again, during the late summer and autumn months many trees can be found up and down the cut. If you are lucky enough to be on a stretch of canal with abandoned lockkeepers cottages then fruit trees may abound as cottage gardens run to seed. Children enjoy gathering windfalls, climbing trees, shaking branches and then cooking with their harvest. The following recipe is an excellent one for all types of children, be they 2 or 92!

Toffee Apple Muffins

Makes 12

100g soft margarine

225g caster sugar

2 large eggs

150mls natural yogurt

5 tbsp milk

275g plain flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

3 large apples

12 pieces of fudge (1 for each muffin)

Preheat oven to 190c/375f/Gas 5

Line 12 muffin tins with paper cases.

Place the margarine and sugar in a mixing bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, yogurt and milk until combined.

Peel, core and chop the apple into small pieces.

Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda together and fold in to the egg mixture with apple until just blended.

Spoon the mixture into the paper cases.

Chop each piece of fudge into 4 and poke into muffin mix ensuring it does not touch the sides and is completely covered.

Bake for 25 mins or until a fine skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in tin for 5 mins, then turn onto wire rack to cool completely.