Wednesday 30 May 2012

Introducing: Community Boats in the Jubilee Pageant!

Lyneal Trust pageant rehearsal.
There’ll be more than one thousand boats parading down the River Thames this Sunday 3rd June: Fireboats, sail boats, motor boats, historic boats, manpowered boats, kayaks, working boats, passenger boats, barges and narrowboats are all preparing for Her Majesty The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant. With three boats applying for every place it’s good to see a selection of community canal boats are going to be part of the event. 

The National Community Boats Association (NCBA) supports and represents community boating organisations on the inland waterways. If you live near a canal there may even be a project near you  using the waterways for socially inclusive activities. They work both with individuals and community based groups providing access to the waterways for disabled, disadvantaged or excluded people in our society. Projects may focus on education, rehabilitation (health or offending) and building, connecting or strengthening communities. 

Shropshire Lad

The Lyneal Trust are sending two boats on a 220 mile journey to London to join the flotilla: The Shropshire Lass and The Shropshire Lad. The boats’ crews will include army servicemen and women wounded in action. This charity provides holidays for people with disabilities and is located near Ellesmere on the Llangollen canal. 

Wheldale, from The Yorkshire Waterways Museum has also been invited to join Her Majesty’s Pageant in the National Historic Ships section. Although Wheldale has been a Goole based tug all of her working life, she was built in 1959 by EC Jones Boat Builders at Brentford , which is only a few miles from the Pageant mustering point. The crew are excited to be taking Wheldale on a return journey ‘home’ for the first time in 53 years. 
Wheldale: Pageant Crew: Museum volunteers Ernie Sherburn and Steve Gardham,
Museum Engineer Chris Sherburn & Museum Manager Rachel Walker

Although Tarporley at 75 years old, is also on the register of National Historic Ships she will be included in the narrowboat and barge section of the river pageant. She is owned by the charity Camden Canals and Narrowboat Association (CCNA) and crewed by volunteers.


John Sheridan, Chair of CCNA, said: “it is a great honour and a privilege for our boat Tarporley to have been accepted as a participant in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant. On this very special occasion, we will be carrying CCNA Trustees and Directors and other volunteers – Tarporley will be decked out with red white and blue bunting and flags, before travelling to the mustering point on the Thames, on the day preceding the Pageant.”

Tarporley takes a wide variety of groups on local trips on the Regent’s Canal, and can provide residential accommodation for longer trips. CCNA particularly welcomes bookings from officially established community groups and organisations to allow people to enjoy cruising on a historic narrowboat who might otherwise not have such an opportunity.  

The Pirate Prince

The Pirate Prince is also based on the Regents Canal at The Pirate Castle in Camden.
The centre was founded 40 years ago to provide water based activities, but staff and volunteers now provide a range of training and community activities on water and ashore. They welcome people of all ages and walks of life.

Red Watch, The Canal  Boat  Project  provides accessible hire boats for disabled groups and community groups, for either day trips or longer holiday excursions. 

Swingbridge 2

Swingbridge 2 is the smallest of the narrowboats, at 32 feet long. She is a purpose built work-boat allowing access to the banks for volunteers to undertake clearance and conservation work. She is owned and managed by  a skills and educational charity, The  Surrey  Care  Trust 

Having so many representatives in the pageant is a wonderful opportunity to showcase the work that community boating projects do nationwide. Many people in our local communities are unable to access the waterways because of a lack of finances. The need to physically regenerate the inland waterways is a popular and ongoing current focus. However, our society is currently losing the opportunity for social regeneration; while communities are living so close to canals and navigations that they cannot use.

I am proud to welcome the NCBA as my newest client and look forward to setting up their blog soon.
If you’d like to find out more about the NCBA you can visit  I've also set up a shiny new Twitter account @CommunityBoats so you can keep in touch with what the NCBA are up to.

Disclosure: I was paid to write this post as my first assignment in my work to raise awareness of the NCBA. But I have really enjoyed finding out all of this information and I hope you did too! :-) 
If you're going to her Majesty's Pageant give the community boats a wave!

Friday 25 May 2012

Olympic Flame to Navigate the Waterways!

So, you must have noticed that the Olympic flame has now arrived in the UK and is travelling around England and Wales slightly faster than a hotel narrowboat! There are a number of places where the torch bearers will be coming into contact with the British canals and rivers.

The torch was lit from the sun's rays at the Temple of Hera in Olympia, Greece. The flame stands for peace, unity and friendship and there are going to be 8000 torch bearers carrying it around the UK.

On day four of the Olympic Torch relay Judith Gaden took the torch onto a canal boat to travel along the River Tone through Taunton. The Olympic torch will also be cruising across The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct  and visiting Foxton Locks and the Norfolk Broads to name but a few watery locations. It will arrive at the Black Country Living Museum on the museum’s narrowboat Stour.

The torch is usually followed by a convoy of vehicles and the long journey to the Games will take 70 days covering around 8,000 miles. The torch is going to pass through 1019 communities before arriving at the Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremony on 27th July. Here, the last Torchbearer will light the Cauldron to mark the official opening of the Olympic Games. It will continue to burn thought the Games until the day of the Closing Ceremony.

By that time, hotel boats Snipe and Taurus will have completed their own lengthy journey around the UK and arrived at their summer mooring in Little Venice. This is only thirty minutes from the Olympic Park.  I’ve moored there many times; and it’s hard to believe you’re only a five minute walk from Paddington when you’re watching the quiet swans, ducks and geese drift across Browning’s Pool. There’s a lot going on in London this summer, and yet if you’re on a canal boat you’ll have a peacefully safe haven to retreat to at the end of the day.
Bed and Breakfast in Little Venice, London

London's waterways are subject to cruising restrictions during this summer so the boats will not be cruising between Thursday 26th July and Monday 13th August 2012. Canal Voyagers are therefore offering a unique B&B experience while moored in Little Venice. Booking early will give you the chance to secure the dates and cabin of your choice.
So, B&B on a four star narrowboat hotel in London during the summer of 2012: Kind of a once in a lifetime opportunity don’t you think?

Disclosure: I wrote this article for Neil and  Corrine on their Canal Voyagers blog. It was my choice to republish it here. I write something every week for their hotel boats website, usually revealing some quirky or unusual place to visit on England's canals. I'd love it if you'd join me over there by subscribing to their blog: there's a sign up box at the top of the page. You'll also get real life stories from their cruises so that you can follow their adventures as they travel around.

To follow the further adventures of narrowboats Snipe and Taurus: subscribe to their blog!

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Have you heard of Boat-MumsNet?

Ok, so there's no such thing and if I created it I don't suppose it would have many members. But thanks to my blog I have met a few other boating mums like Joanne: So Joanne and I created a Facebook group called Boat Families. 

It's a place to share advice and knowledge relevant to parenting on board: From "Can I have a homebirth?" to "Where's my nearest canal-side pub with play area?" Ask questions, share photos, post events.

This group is mostly for families already living afloat. If you are considering moving onto a boat, the Residential Boat Owners' Association publication "Living Afloat" is an excellent guide to the practicalities. You can buy it at You might also like The Boatshed Guide to Living Aboard (free) and my own ebook "NarrowboatFamilies" which is also free. 

As we are appealing to a very small audience, I don’t suppose many of my readers are parents on boats. However, if you are, and you’re out there and you’re reading this, then know this much: you are not alone!

Apology to Mumsnet: I have edited your logo for comedy and entertainment purposes. I will not be using this ‘logo’ commercially at any point. I hope this is ok. For parents everywhere, I recommend Mumsnet for parenting advice, product reviews and more.

UPDATE: When I first had babies on board I was so lonely; continuously cruising without a community around me. So I started this blog to describe our adventures. Now the Boat Families Facebook Group has nearly 700 members! It has become a wonderfully supportive place full of valuable information... and I don't feel so alone! - Peggy (July 2018)

Monday 21 May 2012

What have I been up to?

That's a good question. I keep forgetting to write about my Real Life on the blog.

We are on the move again and have just moored up near a station yesterday which is leafy and lovely. Also good for The Doctor to commute to London. We've got a bike trailer last week which I've started to use to take the girls to nursery: "Faster mummy, faster!" It's great on the roads but hard going in the squelchy mud on the towpath.

I'm still learning to drive once a week, and am about to begin the dull activity of learning for my theory test. A while ago I made a Pinterest board I will pass my driving test. In the last week I have managed to do my years accounts, and start my tax return. I have finally come off the antidepressants which was really tough as I went through some depressing withdrawal symptoms, (depression, paranoia, despair, anger, teethgrinding, anxiety dreams, and disassociation) yaay! It's been 20 days since my last pill and I'm starting to feel happier.

I keep making notes to create my first e-course which is about making a wish, putting it out there in the universe and seeing what happens. At the weekend we went to a four year old's birthday party on a farm; took a trip to the boatyard, emptied the toilet tank and filled up the water tank. Our friends came for the boat journey and I drank lots of wine and our four kids ran up and down the boat having a great time!

So, I'm doing ok with focussing on my goals as all of the above helps me aim towards This Years Dreams.  I have worked towards; increasing brand awareness and sales for my clients using social media, passing my driving test, blogging, having fun with the kids, cleaned out the kitchen cupboards and spent time with friends.

What about you? Can you condense everything you've done this week into a few words?!

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Recommended Narrowboat Books

When I’m not writing, business blogging, parenting or narrowboating I like to get my nose stuck into a narrowboat book.

Terry Darlington, author of Narrow Dog To Carcassonne will be signing copies of his book Narrow Dog to Wigan Pier at this year’s Crick Boat Show. The new book sees him travelling the north of England with his wife Monica and their two dogs. Narrow Dog to Carcassonne was the bestselling travel book of 2006, and this latest will be his third book.

Terry’s first book is the only modern boating travelogue that I’ve read, so Steve Haywood’s books are quite high on my reading list. He’s written One Man and a Narrowboat: Slowing Down Time on England's Waterways and Narrowboat Dreams about his own travels and the history of the canals. I have however read the original boating travelogue: Tom Rolt’s Narrow Boat . This is a lovely lyrical log about Tom and Angela’s travels in 1939 through an idyllic rural England.

I tried to find books about narrowboat women and so discovered The Amateur Boatwomen (Working Waterways) by Eily Gayford. This is a fascinating account of the author’s experience training women to work narrowboats during the Second World War. I like the bit where they sit in a cabin laughing at the seemingly impossible thought that boats might one day have “a bathroom with hot and cold taps, fitted carpets, a Hoover, (and) a telephone!”

I then read Ramlin Rose, by Sheila Stewart: This is probably one of my favourite books ever! I met some travelling boat girls up the River Stort a couple of years ago and asked them if they’d read anything about narrowboat families: They recommended Ramlin Rose. Sheila Stewart had wanted to interview a Banbury boatwoman and write her biography, but ended up compiling a number of true stories into a fictional life story.

This month I have read my first historical boat novel; Water Gypsies by Annie Murray. This is a sequel to The Narrowboat Girl, but I was told the cut does not actually feature that much in the first book, so I went straight for the sequel. Water Gypsies begins in 1942 and describes a series of tragedies that befall the heroine, who is tormented by a miserable past!

Marie Browne’s Narrow Margins is a modern tale of a family aboard, trying to make a new start after losing their IT company and large house when Rover went bust. They move their children and dog onto a dilapidated narrowboat called Happy Go Lucky and teach themselves about narrowboat life and boat refurbishment as they go along.The sequel, Narrow Minds describes their return to the water on another run down boat. There's an interview with Marie Browne on the Sunday Mercury website.

Next on my list of books to read about families on boats is For Better For Worse, For Richer For Poorer by Damian and Siobhan Horner. This husband and wife team have written a memoir about leaving their careers and lives ashore, to travel the French canals with their two young children.

Of course, if I didn’t spend so much time reading narrowboat books I might finish writing my own: The Real Life of a Narrowboat Wife. Then it could be me signing copies at next year’s Crick Boat Show…

Come and say hello to me at the Boatshed Grand Union standat Crick this year.

For more information about this year’s Crick Boat Show visit or call 01283 742972.

Disclosure: I wrote this post for Boatshed Grand Union, and it contains affiliate links to Amazon.

Tuesday 15 May 2012

Competition Winners Announced!

Thanks to everyone who entered the competition to win tickets to the Crick Boat Show 2012. The winners were picked at random today by a fancy computer widget at

Congratulations to Neil, Jeremy and Kathleen, who have been notified by email.

The competition question was, What is the best thing about the canals? Some of my favourite answers were:

It always keeps me one step ahead.
The lovely people :-)
The water is a great help?
The stories from a Narrowboat Wife!

I hope it doesn't rain at Crick like it is today! There is thunder outside my boat....

Monday 14 May 2012

Narrowboat For Sale

If you are dreaming of a life less ordinary, living afloat, my friend has decided to sell her current boat; a 61 foot narrowboat. It has one fixed double and a single berth. If you like the look of her living room (pictured) then contact her by email alice (at) for more information. 

Don't dream it, be it! ;-)

Update: This boat has now sold. Find narrowboats for sale at Boatshed Grand Union.

Friday 11 May 2012

Win a Pair of Tickets to The Crick Boat Show 2012!

The 2012 Crick Boat Show will be a four-day show on 2nd-5th June 2012 and this year it includes some special celebrations for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. The event is made possible by British Waterways and Crick Marina and is organised by the publishers of Waterways World magazine.

For families there will be children’s activities, learning experiences, entertainers and traditional rides and games. Children under 5 have free entry. There will be live bands and a diversity of food and drink options. There will also be gourmet food and arts and crafts in the new Water Vole Craft and Food Marquee. The heritage area will showcase the history of the waterways and the huge Kingfisher Boating Marquee will be packed with waterways related products, services, associations and businesses. Not forgetting of course the essential parts of any canal festival; there will be a real ale bar and dozens of colourful boats.

Tickets and camping/mooring passes are now on sale on the Crick Boat Show website.
You can also book your tickets by calling 01283 742972.

However, thanks to the lovely people at Waterways World I will be there with my family and they’ve offered me six more weekend passes to give away as three pairs, to readers of my blog. These give entry to any day of the show or indeed all four days.

Hope to see you there!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday 10 May 2012

A Mother’s Work

A meme is "an idea, behaviour or style that spreads from person to person within a culture." Merriam-Webster Dictionary

This meme was started by I have been tagged by the lovely Louise at My GorgeousBoys who I am pleased to say I have met in Real Life – twice!

It’s an opportunity for women to give their personal perspective and experience on modern motherhood.

The rules are as follows:

Post the Rules
Answer the questions in as much or as little detail as suits you
Leave a comment on MotherWifeMe so we can keep track of the meme
Tag three people and link them on your blog
Let them know you tagged them
Tweet loudly about taking part using #amothersworkmeme
Here are the questions and the all important answers

Did you work before becoming a mum?

Yes, I was proud to be the administration manager for the neurosurgical operating theatres in the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery. In the evenings I had my own business practicing as a clinical hypnotherapist.

What is your current situation?

After maternity leave I returned to the hospital part time and accepted a lower grade role as a medical secretary, because the admin manager role would not have worked as a job-share. When the government made financial cuts to the NHS last summer I volunteered for a mutually agreed resignation scheme and started my own business as a writer, blogger and virtual assistant. That was a struggle to get off the ground but it’s going a bit better now. I did an online course in becoming a mumpreneur with Ace Inspire.

Freestyle your chance to put your own view across on the subject?

I definitely think our society does not value motherhood as much as some other cultures. I think changes in the economy and expected lifestyle mean that more mothers feel they need to work to make ends meet. Perhaps I grew up in a rose-tinted, nostalgic 1970’s world where mothers did not work; but historically I think working class mothers usually did work. Childcare for the working class was not paid for but shared among local family members. Now we often live so far from our family members that we have to pay for childcare. To be honest it seems like a constant struggle to earn enough to justify the cost of childcare, and I sometimes feel guilty that children as young as mine have such a long day in nursery. (I work at home three days a week.)

I’m pleased that women got the vote, the contraceptive pill and the freedom to choose a fulfilling career but who was it who famously said that women aren’t just having it all, they’re now doing it all?* My husband helps a lot with shopping, cooking and childcare, but I wish he didn’t have to, as he works full time and commutes a long distance every day.

It’s really hard juggling work, laundry, childcare etc, but I think it always has been for women.  I’m currently experimenting with self-employed flexible working. I have the freedom to take the day off if my child is ill, but then I don’t have any holiday pay or sick pay, and have to make up the lost hours some other way. My husband would like to be at home with the kids more than he is, but we cannot afford for him to give up his well-paid job.

At the moment I’m working on building up my business to a point when it pays enough to contribute generously to our family income, and yet will allow me to work just in school hours so I can be there when my daughters get home: At least, that’s the dream!

I would like to tag Gemma, Penny and Kizzy.

“It’s all so different today, I hear every mother say.”
The Rolling Stones. Mother’s Little Helper.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to Ace Inspire and Amazon. (Hey, I’m just trying to contribute to our family income!)

I recommend The Secret World of the Working Mother, Fiona Millar but my favourite book ever is Ramlin Rose: The Boatwoman's Story by Sheila Stewart, which describes how working boatwomen used to juggle childcare, shopping, cooking and ‘cabin chores’ with steering the butty for twelve hours a day.

*Linda Kelsey, editor of ‘She’ magazine in the early nineties.

Monday 7 May 2012

Alice Griffin - Guest Posts on The Call of the Water

Alice (on the left!)
Today I have a special guest on my blog: Alice Griffin, a narrowboat wife. She is a mother, writer, traveller, dreamer, vegetarian, animal lover, seeker of peace, crafter and sometime gardener. On her blog Writings From the Wherever she talks about projects she is working on and connects with others… from wherever she may be... 

Over to Alice... 

The Call of the Water

When my family and I started looking into the option of living on a narrowboat, a friend said: “the winters can be hard, but the Spring and Summer more than make up for it.”

Right now I am writing this in my notebook sat on the roof of my boat. The sun is beating down, fellow boaters are cruising by and my daughter is peddling up and down the towpath on her bike talking to the ducks and geese… at this moment I simply cannot imagine a better way to live in England because for me, it is everything at its best: nature, friendliness and freedom.

We are in the first throws of Spring and winter is just a distant memory. Sure this winter was nowhere near as severe as last winter, but still I cursed to myself at having to lug big bags of dirty washing to the laundrette, thinking about what it would be like to just put the washing on in my kitchen and go about something else while it whirred away*. Or I would catch myself daydreaming about life in a house with rooms where you can shut yourself off in silence when rain is falling and family life gets too claustrophobic. But no, it’s not winter any more and as we untie the ropes of our mooring for the first time this year, I am reminded of all the things I love about boat living.

My hand-washed clothes are blowing in the breeze and there is abundant space on the doorstep where we can roam and find adventures along secret paths, in wide open fields and amongst the trees. I think that’s it for me, the attraction to this way of life: living right in the heart of nature. Each morning the air tastes more delicious and I feel more at peace as I lay still listening to the chaffinch who visits the window feeder or watch the Moorhens as they scurry in and out of their nest. The world is coming alive right on my doorstep and somehow, I am more aware of it than I ever was because it feels as though I am in some way cocooned within nature’s embrace here. And when I do have to do a laundrette run, it is no longer plagued by a cold walk lugging heavy laundry, to sit staring sorrowfully through steamed-up windows onto a dreary street. Now we ‘washers’ chat to each other with bright smiles as we watch our clothes go round, the Manageress plays guessing games with my daughter and we take breaks in the church grounds opposite amongst the Spring flowers. Somehow, now, I feel I would be losing a valuable people connection if I were to have a washing machine on my boat.

But as I write this I feel a sense of sadness for having emerged from another winter, but without the prize of seeing the first ducklings and moorhen babies outside my back door. You see, next week I will be heading off on a new adventure to the mountains of Italy where my family and I will be volunteering on a farm and although I will still be very much within the embrace of nature, I know I will long for my life on water, wondering when it will call me back…

* please note, it is entirely possible to have a washing machine on a narrowboat if you so wish!

Alice's book is an inspiring travelogue with practical tips: True stories of travelling with a baby. 

Friday 4 May 2012

The Best Thing About the Canals is...

I’ve been thinking about the alternative wonders of the English waterways. What is the best thing about the British canals and rivers? Why do I live on a narrowboat? Why have Corrine and Neil chosen to live, work and travel on canal hotel boats? What are people looking for in a canal narrowboat holiday?

Canal hotel boats People sometimes ask me, "do you think you might ever move into a house?" When the engine breaks down, or the diesel stove is dodgy*, when the washing machine won’t work or the local tap is frozen in winter, then yes, I do think that a house would be easier. But I’ve been living on the canals for twelve years now, so what makes me stay? Many live-aboard boaters say that it’s all about the freedom: Freedom to explore England in a peaceful, unhurried way. Cruising through a variety of diverse landscapes; from historic streets to unspoilt countryside, discovering canal side villages and quaint tumbled-down buildings appeals to my sense of adventure. I like working the locks on a silent summer’s day, taking in a deep breath of fresh air that comes across the open space and green fields all around me. I like to spy a lonely farmhouse in the distance and discover an ancient waterside pub up close. I love the illusion of being away from modern life, yet travelling along knowing that I have all of my home comforts with me indoors. I am exploring new places, stood at the tiller with my own mug of coffee in my hand.

Swans and signetsI never get tired of coming out onto the front deck in the haste of a Monday morning, and suddenly finding the time to pause as I notice the swans drifting towards my bow looking for some bread. The moorhens and coots are across the cut, perhaps repairing their nests and a heron stands silent and watchful on the opposite bank; waiting for a fish to catch. I hear ducks and geese in the morning, ropes creaking when I’m in bed at night, and rain on the roof when it’s stormy. It’s no wonder that small and intimate hotel boats like Snipe and Taurus are so inspiring for photographers, artists and writers. So what have I found, by choosing to live on the canals? It’s the freedom, the tranquillity and the closeness to nature that have brought me here.

 This is England: So alive and yet undisturbed. What do you like best about the waterways?

Disclosure: I wrote this post for Canal Voyagers Hotel Boats.