I moor my boat on Calcutt Boats’ Meadows marina. I also work full time for Calcutt Boats as a groundsman.
When I first created this site I mistakenly assumed that most liveaboard narrowboat owners moored on marinas. I was wrong but by the time I realised that there was much more to living on a narrowboat than mooring full time in a basin surrounded by other boats, I had added nearly all of the inland waterways marinas to the site. In doing so I became familiar with their location on the canal and river network, their proximity to major roads and railways, the facilities they offered and the extent of their grounds. I thought then, and still think, that Calcutt Boats offered a location and facilities that were hard to beat. Where they really excelled though was the extent of their grounds.
The two Calcutt Boats marinas are set in 110 acres of stunning Warwickshire countryside. Their are three S.S.S.I. (Site of Special Scientific Interest) meadows offering a stunning display of wild flowers in the spring and early summer and over 3km of footpaths through meadows and woodland.
There were thousands of trees already growing on the site but between 1994 and 2001 two new woodland areas were created with the addition of 5,500 more trees and shrubs. There are now about forty species on the site including horse chestnut, beech, elm, alder, elder, poplar, hawthorn, blackthorn and cockspur thorn, a profusion of wild cherry including two bearing edible and absolutely delicious fruit every July, crack, white, goat and weeping willow and the most numerous of all, oak and ash.
Three thousand five hundred oak and ash were planted. Many of those trees are now nearly twenty years old. The trunks of some are over twelve inches in diameter. They stand over thirty feet tall. They provide an unbroken canopy over acres of woodland with carefully cultivated footpaths and open open glades. Over the last four years I’ve spent more and more time caring for the woodland.
I find working among the trees has a calming influence on me. I’ve spent much of my life in conflict with people. I don’t suffer fools gladly. Sometimes I’m right, sometimes I’m wrong, but always I’m vocal. I feel more at peace in woods than I do anywhere else. I love woodland areas generally but, because of the work I’ve done in them, I love the woodland areas at Calcutt more than most.
You can imagine how upset I am at the moment having to cut many of the trees down.
Earlier this year we heard about a disease sweeping through one of England’s most numerous trees; ash dieback. With over 10,000,000 ash in the UK and with a projected mortality rate in excess of 70%, ash dieback was subject to much media coverage a few months ago. The advice to landowners was to identify any trees suspected of infection, report the trees to the authorities… and wait. Some of the infected trees may survive but no one is really sure so the advice was not to remove the infected trees but to wait and see what happens to them.
We identified half a dozen at the time which may be infected and reported them. Since then we haven’t seen any more. We thought we were out of the woods so to speak.
Then, about a month ago, one of our long term residents, ex teacher and naturalist Blaine Harris identified half a dozen oak showing signs of acute distress. He was standing on the bridge between our two marinas looking at our largest woodland area when he noticed four or five trees with brown rather than green crowns. It was too early for the autumnal colour change. After examining the affected trees more closely he discovered that the bark about two thirds of the way up the trunk had fallen off the trees.
After extensive research he discovered that they were suffering from chronic oak dieback. It’s another disease sweeping through UK woodlands. The Midlands has been especially hard hit. The advice is clear. Once an oak is displaying the symptoms evident in our oak, the top third will die leaving exposed “stag horn” upper branches but living lower branches.
The advice is to remove the affected trees if they are in close proximity to other oak. All of our oak are very close together and we have 2,500 of them.
I’ve removed about thirty oak so far. It’s a slow and painful process. The woodland area desperately needs thinning out. Our oak and ash are planted 6-8 feet apart which means that I can’t get a vehicle into the woods to carry the cut timber away so each branch and section of trunk has to be dragged or carried along the footpath to the nearest access point, loaded onto a truck, driven to our tip area where it’s unloaded and stacked ready for burning.
The added insult to injury is that all of the felled oak have to be burned. I could keep my stove going for years with the felled timber but it can’t be stored and seasoned because of the risk of spreading the disease through wind blown spores.
The silver lining to this dark and unpleasant cloud is that the trees needed thinning anyway. Oak can reach a staggering 130 feet tall with a spread of over 80 feet. Ash can grow nearly as tall. Given the eventual size of these two species and the fact that all of the rapidly growing trees are competing for sunlight and the same water supply, periodic thinning is needed.
I’ve removed about thirty oak so far. If I work flat out I can remove ten in a day. There are another ninety oak marked for removal at the moment but I don’t know whether we’ve found them all yet, or how many more are going to be infected. And then there are the ash. If and when the advice changes from “wait and see” to “get rid of them as quickly as you can” I’ll have to thin the woods out even more.
While all of this is going on, there are dozens of willows in the woods which need coppicing. The reeds are next to the reed beds which purify the water running off our waste tanks. The willow soak up any seepage from the tanks and help purify the water. Coppicing (cutting the trees down to about knee level) encourages each tree to send up dozens and dozens of new shoots and draw more water out of the boggy ground surrounding the reed beds.
I’ve been looking for a project over the coming winter. The ash, oak and willow will keep me fully occupied over the coming months.
A few weeks ago I published the case study of narrowboat Stardust. Owner Richard Varnes kindly sent me a few of the articles he’s written on his travels. I’ve added eight of his stories so far, a further three since last week’s newsletter. Richard doesn’t just write about the canals he cruises on. He also writes about the people he meets on his travels. I think his articles are fascinating. I hope you do too. You’ll find links to his stories at the bottom of his case study here.
I tweaked the forum software slightly last week. I’ve added private messaging. You can now send emails directly to other forum members from within the site. At the top of each forum post you will now see a grey PM button. If you click on the PM button of a post of a forum member you want to communicate privately with, a new window will open similar to the window you see when you write a new post. The difference is that your post will be sent only to the forum member(s) you’ve addressed it to and will not be displayed publicly.
There’s an option in your profile settings to receive email notifications when someone has sent you a private message. To turn it on, log in to the forum, click on the Profile button and then select the Options tab. There are two PM options here. You can decide whether to receive email notifications of private messages sent to you or to opt out of the private messaging system completely. If you opt out, other forum members won’t be able to either address or send messages to you.
Please only use this new facility for communication with other members which is not in the interest of other forum members. For example, if you want to find out more about solar power, ask the question publicly rather than send a PM to another member who you know is an expert on the subject. The answer to your question will be of interest to other forum members and site visitors. However, if you want to arrange to meet the solar expert to view or discuss a particular system, us the PM facility.
I know it’s all common sense but I don’t want the addition of the PM facility to be instrumental in reducing the growing number of very useful threads on the forum.
I’ve been writing regular newsletters for a couple of years now. During the first year they were every two weeks or so. To be honest, the frequency was a bit hit and miss. My New Year’s resolution, and one that I’m delighted to say that I’ve kept, was to send out a newsletter every Sunday, rain or shine. The hardest part of the process isn’t the writing itself, it’s constantly thinking of new content. The trouble is, I don’t know what you want to read. I think I keep the newsletters reasonably interesting but I don’t know for sure. That’s where I need your help.
Can you let me know what you would like to read in the future? Are there any areas of narrowboat life you don’t think I’ve covered enough or areas which I’ve missed completely? Please let me know what you want to read about. Thanks for your help.
What a wonderful and unusual name for a boat. Owner David thinks so too. David’s answers to the standard liveaboard questionnaire are both comprehensive and fascinating. If you want to know what pushes “normal” people over the edge and into the world of floating homes, this case study’s well well worth a read.
In the last few newsletters I’ve mentioned my new guide Living On A Narrowboat: 101 Essential Narrowboat Articles. It’s a free download as a PDF here. It’s also no available on Amazon as a Kindle download. I’ve tried to make it available free of charge but I can’t work out how to do it so it’s been published at the lowest price setting of £1.99. The Kindle edition is here.
I created the site just over three years ago to provide a source of information for anyone interested in narrowboats and the possibility of living on one full time. The site has grown to encompass a comprehensive listing of inland marinas in England and Wales, dozens of articles, a forum and regular newsletters. I’ve already created (below) indexes of the site articles and the more popular forum posts. I thought it was about time I created an easy to use index of the newsletter content. Here’s the index so far. I’ve managed to reach the end of 2012. I’ll add the rest next week.
Dealing with the coldest winter on record
Digital reading – A detailed review of the Kindle, the perfect solution for book loving boat owners
Article – Living on a narrowboat in winter
The first four narrowboat case studies published
I’ll start with myself; Paul Smith, living on my own, moored in a marina and working full time. Narrowboat James case study
Meet Peggy. She has a husband and two small children, works full time and cruises the network during the summer months. Narrowboat Violet Mae case study
Fancy spending your retirement cruising the waterways of England and Wales? Meet Barry and Sue Horne. They’re living the dream! Narrowboat Adagio Case Study
Here are another working couple. Lina and Warren cruise the cut with their two cats.Narrowboat Olive Rose case study.
Two more case studies. One of them waxed lyrical about life on the waterways and enjoyed every minute of her life afloat. Now she’s selling up to follow another dream in Spain.
Reviewed: The Liveaboard Guide by Tony Jones. A great guide to living afloat
eBay Narrowboat scam (and a little bit of flack for me from another forum)
Case Study: Author Toby Jones on his own liveaboard narrowboat
A review of Debdale Wharf marina
The downside of living on a narrowboat – This was a very controversial post. Liveaboard Pauline Roberts wrote about the less pleasant aspects of life afloat… and attracted a storm of comments
Case study: The Woodsman – Pauline Roberts again giving an insight into the life that you may think she doesn’t like.
As a result of the article about the downside of living on a narrowboat published in the 18th March newsletter, I asked liveaboard narrowboat owners to complete a survey to give a balanced view of the issues raised by Pauline. Here are the survey results and a much more positive article by liveaboard narrowboat owner and frequent forum contributer Peter Early.
Life on the river Cam – A guest article on the pleasures of river life by wide beam liveaboard Luther Phillips
Case Study – Freelance writer Anne and her South African farmer partner John reveal all
Case Study – Toni cruises constantly with ex husband Allan. They cruise together but they live apart… on separate boats
DIY narrowboat painting – I spent three weeks in April painting my boat. Here’s the first of my progress reports
DIY narrowboat painting – I’ve broken down the complete cost of painting your own boat and
Dealing with wind on the river – A guest article from liveaboard narrowboat owner Alan Cazaly
How to clean your stove glass – One of the real pleasures of a living fire is watching the flames on a cold winter’s eve. Here’s what you need to do to ensure you can actually see the fire.
Smoking on board – An alternative to smelly smoke
Survey – Do you want a forum on the site? (You already know the answer to that!)
Repeat prescriptions, diesel heating systems and solar panels
Dealing with pests on a narrowboat – spiders and swans
Posh boats – My personal favourite: S.M. Hudson
I published my guide Living on a Narrowboat: The REAL Cost of a Life Afloat. When this newsletter was published it was only available as a Kindle edition. Now it’s available in both Kindle and PDF format and is bundled with Narrowbudget, the site’s bespoke narrowboat budgeting application.
VAT on narrowboat sales
The best tip for a wannabe narrowboat owner – Advice from existing boat owners
Practical flooring for narrowboat dogs
Case study – Mike and Mags use a double redundancy payment to pay for their new floating home
I started to develop the narrowboat budgeting software. This newsletter detailed the concept and the progress to date
An unscheduled dip in the marina prompted me to write about safety on the waterways
Living on a narrowboat – Through the eyes of a young lady who would clearly prefer to be somewhere else
The first release of the new spreadsheet based narrowboat budgeting application
First tests and reviews of the budgeting application
The best aerial for a narrowboat television
Low cost narrowboat ownership – A low cost solution to the problem of funding your first narrowboat
Solar power – All you need to know about installing solar panels on your boat. Written by the inland waterways most popular solar system installer
Case Study – Mr. Solar Panel Tim Davis writes about life on board his own narrowboat
Understanding narrowboat electrics – Another excellent article from Tim Davis
Satellite television for narrowboats – Information from a system installer
Narrowboat electrics part 2 – The concluding article from Tim Davis
I asked newsletter subscribers to send me detailed breakdowns of their bricks and mortar expenses so I could compare them with the cost of running a narrowboat. Quite a few subscribers obliged. I added the breakdowns to my narrowboat costs guide and the budgeting application.
Case Studies – I put together 21 of the best case studies and analysed and summarised the data in this low cost guide. If you want ton save yourself hundreds of hours of research and costly mistakes, you need to read this guide.
Case Study – Mike’s circumstances are similar to my own. He moved onto his boat after a failed marriage. He’s upgraded from a 27′ GRP cruiser to a 50′ narrowboat
The real cost of going cheap. An in depth look at the cost of my 36 year old boat, and how much I spent (and still need to spend) before it will be a comfortable full time cruising boat.
Stove fuel test – What works best; coal, wood, briquettes or something else entirely – Here’s my own take on a Waterways World test
Essential stove maintenance – Here’s what you need to do to make sure that your stove always performs well.
Internet connectivity – I use the internet four or more hours every day. This is the setup I have on my boat to make sure that I’m always connected.
Detailed running costs for my own boat for January 2013
James’ upgrade – Adding solar panels and replacing carpets with oak effect laminate flooring
Where can you find residential moorings? Here’s a great place to start
Getting rid of unwelcome visitors – Geese used to regularly disturb a peaceful night’s sleep where I moor. Not any more. Here’s my solution
Know your narrowboat costs – Detailed costs for my own boat for February 2013
Half a dozen boaters now have access to their own blog section on the site. You can too. Here’s how.
Here’s an example of what happens when you really don’t understand how your narrowboat works.
Essential boating equipment – Here’s a low cost item which has paid for itself over and over again.
Whilton marina boat sales – Sometimes things aren’t what they appear to be. This alleged fact about the boat sales at Whilton has come to me from several different sources.
Case study – Sarah lives on wide beam Antioch on the Leeds Liverpool canal. She can do man things with her hands. Here’s her story.
Be inspired – There are always reasons why you don’t make the move from bricks and mortar to steel and water. Here’s an anecdote which demonstrates once and for all that there really aren’t any worthwhile excuses.
Narrowboat security – A spate of burglaries from boats and a break in at my former family home encouraged me to write this article
Case study – You need to committed to sell your home to fund the purchase of your narrowboat. That’s what Mick and Marlene have done.
The perils of exceeding your monthly broadband data allowance. Learn from my mistakes.
The Trust target illegal moorers but just what does the Trust consider to an illegal mooring?
Identity theft – The ongoing saga of my hacked laptop
RCR engine servicing – River Canal Rescue (RCR) are well known as the waterways equivelent of the AA but did you know that they will also come to your mooring to service your boat?
Narrowboat blogs – My own first cruise, Our Nige takes his new home on its maiden voyage and a chance for you to have your very own blog section on this site.
Narrowboat fuel tanks – How much do they hold
Meet one of your legless canal side companions
The canal network’s largest floating hotel
An encounter with a wide beam boat and why they aren’t suitable for much of the canal network
An interview with the Trust’s head of boating. Sally Ash talks about the Trust’s approach to the thorny issue of residential moorings
My comments about an encounter on the Oxford/GU section between Napton and Braunston sparked a debate about the pros and cons of wide beams on the cut.
Keeping dry – You don’t really need to limit your cruising to sunny summer days. There’s something very special about standing on the back deck in the pouring ran protected by a set of bomb proof waterproofs.
Do you really need a car? Living on a narrowboat is all about enjoying a simple and stress free life. Sally and I had a car each. Mine cost £2,000 to run in the previous 12 months so I decided to get rid of mine to see if I could manage without one.
Laptop hacking – An update on the problems I encountered after buying a brand new laptop which I suspect was tampered with before I bought it.
Diary of a new narrowboat owner – Frequent forum poster “Our Nige” finally moved on to his new floating home. Here’s his story
An encounter with two poorly prepared holiday boaters and my own impending two week cruise encouraged me to put together a pre cruise check list
I was on holiday for the first two weeks of June. Sally and I cruised from Calcutt to Braunston, north along the north Oxford where we joined the Coventry canal briefly before taking a very sharp right turn onto the Ashby canal. Here’s a daily report of the first week of our holiday.
The Ashby canal cruise part two – We spent a bit more time on the Ashby before heading south again, joining the Coventry canal, this time following it into Coventry’s rather depressing and disappointing city centre, then retracing our steps back to Calcutt
Most popular narrowboat names – Here’s the definitive list of the top 200 most popular narrowboat names and a resource you can use to find out if any other boat has the same name as yours
Considerate boating – An article prompted after a near head on collision with another boat trying to avoid a fallen oak.
23rd June 2013 – The cost of a two week cruise. If you live on your own boat, what’s the real cost of taking it away for a two week break?
Case Study – Mary Anne swapped dry land home rental for floating home ownership. Now she loves life afloat and works from home.
Life as a continuous cruiser – The Holy Grail of narrowboat ownership. The ability to travel where and when you like. Peter Early tells all.
Keeping your stove glass clean – Maybe you think it’s an odd subject for the summer but you can’t trust the English weather. Late June and the stove was still on now and again. At least now I have a crystal clear view of the fire I shouldn’t need to light.
Traffic chaos caused by Braunston’s historic boat rally – On a day with high winds and a canal full of working boats returning home after the rally, I had the pleasure of taking some very nervous hirers out on the cut.
Anticipating winter weather – You may well be enjoying unusually warm winter weather but the winter will be with us all too soon. Now is the time that you need to plan for the cold weather ahead.
Fenland river cruising – Another boater’s maiden voyage to whet your appetite.
Hire boat expectations – Fully understanding what facilities will be available to you is essential if you’re going to enjoy a narrowboat holiday. Here’s what not to do.
The cost of living on a narrowboat – An article in the Daily Mail… and why most boaters disagree with what they said.
The perfect narrowboat washing machine? – It’s low cost and doesn’t need plumbing in, but does it actually clean clothes?
The cost of a continuous cruising lifestyle – How much does living the life of a water gypsy really cost?
A free download – Living On A Narrowboat: 101 Essential Narrowboat Articles
Narrowboat tips – Handy hints from experienced narrowboat owners
The cost of a continuous cruising lifestyle – How one liveaboard boater manages on a shoestring
CART Guide Approval – The waterways’ governing body is now promoting the information packages available from this site. Yippee!
Narrowboat Insurance – A summary of insurance quotes from the major narrowboat insurers
Liveaboard Case Study – Keith and Nicky downsized their property in Jersey, used the released capital to buy their 57? “go anywhere” narrowboat and now live on their boat full time while they continuously cruise the canal network. They’re ridiculously young to retire, and I’m very, very jealous
Downsizing from a 3 bed semi to a narrowboat – What do you do with a lifetime’s accumulated possessions?
Effective fly killers for boats
The downside to living on a narrowboat
Liveaboard Case Study – American Richard Varnes has taken a year out from work to cruise the canal network and write about his adventure. Here’s his case study and a few stories from his journey so far.
Solving engine room leaks – A simple solution to a dripping stern tube
All about the weed hatch – Removing debris from your propeller
There are dozens of helpful and interesting articles on the site, but have you found them all? I thought you might appreciate a list of the more popular articles that you can glance through and click on the ones that take your fancy. Here it is.
There’s a wealth of information on the site in general, but if you’re struggling to find the answer to a particular issue, the forum is the place to find it. I’ve listed some of the more popular posts below but if you can’t find what you’re looking for, ask your question on the forum. If you don’t know how to create a post, or if you can’t log in, please let me know. I’ll be more than happy to get you up and running.
Living on a Narrowboat: The REAL Cost of a Life Afloat – Narrowboat costs explained in detail. My own maintenance and living cost on narrowboat James for a full year. Use this information to work out your own costs.
Find out what parts of the canal are closed and for how long. Essential cruising information for you.
Do you need to find a home for your boat? Here’s a comprehensive list of the narrowboat friendly marinas in the UK
Do you want to see where these marinas are on a map? Here it is.
Here’s a map of all the canals on the system to help you plan your route.
Newsletter Archive – Browse through a wealth of useful content in the newsletters over the last year.
Click here to get a FREE copy of “Living On A Narrowboat:101 Essential Narrowboat Articles”
I really like your comedy of errors parts. You zapper story had us in fits, sorry.
What happened to the lady with all the suitcases? I think it was back in May they had no experience, no coats but did have a hairdryer and you did not think she knew what her new partner meant by boat, if that helps you remember. You thought she might not last the week and end up in the hotel somewhere.
I spoke very briefly to her boyfriend when they returned. I saw her in the distance as I spoke to him. She neither looked quite so glamorous not quite so happy as she did when they arrived to take the boat out. Her boyfriend didn’t really say much to me about the trip, but he didn’t really need to. He kept looking rather nervously over his shoulder at her as we talked. I gathered that he was in quite a bit of trouble for having brought her on such a wretched holiday. I also gathered from what little he said that the next narrowboat holiday he took wouldn’t be with her. Actually, I had the impression that the next holiday of any kind he took wouldn’t be with her. Poor man!
Click here to get a FREE copy of “Living On A Narrowboat:101 Essential Narrowboat Articles”
I enjoy your newsletters Paul. Can’t think of any suggestions offhand but will let you know if I do.
Retired; Somerset/Dorset border when not out and about on Lucy Lowther
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