Living in a marina was really good fun, and for someone new to living on a boat, it’s probably the easiest way to start. You have plenty of people around to give advice or help, there should be shore facilities should you experience any issues with your boat, and there is usually a community of relatively like-minded people around, which is great. The added bonus is that if you are fitting out your boat, then there’s always someone there who has done that, and they’re usually keen to give advice! The downside is that there is always someone there who has fitted out his boat and WILL give you advice, or suck his teeth and say “you don’t want to do it like that!” I usually listened to the advice and then did it my way! Every now and then you get a nugget of advice that really makes a difference, for me it was when painting the boat, I was told to thin the paint by 10% and what with (I can’t remember now!) but suddenly the paint went on easier, was shinier, dried more quickly and even went further! After a couple of years, I decided that life in the marina was too safe, it wasn’t what boating was really about, and also it was too expensive. I was working in Clapham, South London, and commuting from the marina in west London every day, I decided to take the boat into London for a week and cycle to work from Little Venice. This worked extremely well for me, I returned to the marina on the friday night, and did the same the following week. For the third week I moored at Ladbroke Grove in Notting Hill, this was a bit further to cycle to Clapham, but was still easy enough. In those days (2002-3) the towpath from Ladbroke Grove towards Old Oak Lane was not a nice place after dark, I was one of a couple of boats who moored there, and I’d get on board every night and barricade myself in! but as I stayed there more often during the week, more and more boats would stop there, and soon a small community built up. This was especially so once the small basin next to Sainsbury’s was closed, there were always boats moored along that stretch next to the gas towers and opposite the graveyard. Over the space of a couple of months the towpath became a different place, there were no more gangs of teenagers on scooters racing up and down, no gangs or groups of drunks lurking around, and on the odd weekend when I stayed there families came out, walked along the towpath and even stopped and had BBQ’s or picnics on the wide grass verge. I’m convinced that this is all because there were boats there and so there were always people around. Then British Waterways did their usual thing and moved everybody on. The no mooring for longer than 14 nights rule was enforced, and everyone had to move on, and over the next month or so the towpath returned to what it was before, i.e. a no go zone after 6pm. It was about this time that I moved out onto the canal for good, leaving the marina and seeing if I could do as I had always intended and be a free agent on the canal. I was still working in Clapham, and so was finding moorings on a weekly basis, which meant that Wendy Elizabeth had to be self-sustaining, I had fitted a couple of 85 watt solar panels, so electrics were not a problem, I only needed to find toilet emptying points and a water fill up point, which was no problem. I decided to head a little way out of London and live somewhere prettier and quieter, so made my way up the Grand Union Canal to Rickmansworth. As the winter was coming I moored at Rickmansworth Aquadrome for a few months, I could ride my scooter in to Clapham from there, it was only 18 miles, or I could catch the train to central London if I needed too. The Grand Union Canal at Rickmansworth, by Stockers Lock is beautiful, and the hard frosts that winter were a stunning sight to see. I spent about a year on and off at Rickmansworth, with the odd week or two in London, and then got a mooring at Horsenden Farm in Perivale. This suited me well as I knew all the other moorers there, it was convenient for work and for trips back to family in Marlow. Horsenden Hill Moorings are lovely, it feels like a proper bit of countryside in West London. I could spend my Saturdays taking Wendy Elizabeth to Sainsbury’s at Alperton, mooring right outside, doing my weekly shop, then sitting down to a beer before slowly heading back to the mooring, all in all a round trip of a couple of hours, but frequently taking 3 or more!
The other benefit to living in Perivale was that Little Venice is 3 hours away by boat, I could take the boat into the heart of London, moor for free, take the tube for 10 minutes and be in Oxford Street, or Leicester Square, then stay overnight in my own bed, before slowly heading back on the sunday. This was fabulous for my brother-in-law and my trips around the London whisky shops! we would take the boat in to Little Venice or Paddington Basin on the friday night, then early on the saturday get down to Berry Brothers and Rudd in St James Street, taste a few whiskies, buy a couple, then walk up to soho to Old Compton Street for Gerry’s and Vintage House, then round the corner into Greek Street to Milroy’s and finishing off with a walk up to Bloomsbury Street for Royal Mile Whiskies, and possibly a fruitless search for the elusive Cadenheads (we’ve actually found this a couple of times, but must admit that we stop at a pub on the way and usually give up the search!) Then its back to the boat to cook some tea and sample the six or so whiskies that we’ve bought! Then it’s up at the crack of 10 am, lots of strong coffee, and a slow motor back to Perivale, all in all probably the perfect weekend!
As a small addendum, the Ladbroke Grove to Old Oak Lane stretch of canal is back to being safe and lovely again because British Waterways have put in some official visitor moorings, so there’s always lots of boats there. It’s a lovely stretch of canal, all trees on one side and a wide stretch of grass and towpath the other. There’s plenty of space for a BBQ, and it’s right next to Sainsbury’s. I wish Londoners would notice more of their canals, they are now much cleaner and prettier that even just a few years ago, I used to love sitting on the front of my boat in the evening, whisky in hand, listening to the owls hooting and watching the bats flying around, and all in the centre of London! and as for seeing a kingfisher, well….Fabulous!
- The Fastest Way to Slow Down (walking-on-eggshells.com)
- East London: Regent’s Canal and a Store Opening (shethoughtoutsidethebox.com)
- Lapworth Flight (diaryofapennypincher.typepad.com)
- Um… Why Isn’t Everyone Taking A Barge Vacation? (missexpatria.wordpress.com)