I’m not ashamed to say that yesterday was my first eight-hour day of work since early March 2013. It was also, if I calculate it, the worst hourly rate I think I’ve ever ‘worked’ for (and I do use that term loosely in comparison to my normal definition of the word). But it doesn’t feel like ‘work’ in the usual sense, and that’s the point.

I’ve not been un-employed, seeking benefit, or looking for any form of ‘paid-employment’. It’s what’s called being ‘joyfully jobless’ – and I love it! I’m reading a fascinating book at the moment called ‘Making a living without a job‘, by Barbara Winter. I wish I’d read it years ago. It supports our vision of having multiple income streams, doing things we love, whilst making the money we need to not only ‘survive’ but to thrive and experience life without being stuck in the confines of a 40-hour work-week.

It’s early days yet, but it really feels as though our plans are beginning to come together …


A serene sight at around 0730hrs – the calm before the traders emerge and visitors arrive

The day began at 1000, and lots of people came to check out the floating market. Michael Wooding, who runs the Roving Canal Traders Association, organised the event. We’ve chatted on Facebook a few times, so it was good to put a name to a face – not that I remembered to take a photo, maybe today …


Early in the day and already lots of lovely visitors to this colourful event

Our ‘pitch’ was originally by the car park, but there’s two historic boats moored there that couldn’t be moved. So we got the end slot of the walkway. The only challenge with that was that there’s water either side, so face painting didn’t feel like a safe option there.

I negotiated a move with Michael and ended up on the grass next to The Samuel Barlow pub, which is run by Alvecote Marina – and Sandra on her Golden Boyz Doggie Crafts boat. I had to wait a wee while for the grass to be cut, so had a little wander to take a few shots of the other boats trading.


Sandra sets up her side in readiness – and boy did she get tons of interest from the incredible amount of dog owners who visited


Alison and her partner own Da Vinci Crafts and sell all manner of gorgeous wooden craft shapes and handmade gifts


Narrowboats and curious people everywhere – a festive atmosphere for a mostly sunny Good Friday


Lesley and her husband selling a range of hand-made hats, scarves and jewellery – she sold out of crocheted head-bands within the first couple of hours!


Paul and partner (have you guessed yet how dreadful I am with names?) selling fenders and ropes – very successfully


Here’s a name I remember! Barry’s The Home Brew Boat the customers haven’t quite reached him yet, but he was busy all day chatting amiably and sparking interest in ‘doing it yourself’


Michael and Krystina sell a wide range of crafts and books from two enchanting old working boats called Draco and Success


My perfect pitch as the little ones wander by – they can choose to be painted on the way up or have a think and do it on their return

I had a steady stream of delightful children visit my Funtastic Facepainting area who all left with happy smiles on their faces after they’d been transformed into a slightly different version of them selves. We had butterflies, tigers, a few spidermen, flowers, an easter bunny and a dragonfly.

Today I’ll be painting colourful flowers on the face of a lady who looks a similar age to me. She’s off to a party tonight – I can’t recall whether it’s a 60s party, or just flower-power, but she was most excited to find me and discover we’re here for the next few days.

A selfie after a full day of facepainitng - today I was a butterfly

A selfie after a full day of facepainitng – today I was a butterfly

There’s another six floating markets around the country in 2014 for some of the myriad of floating traders on ‘the cut’. Sadly we’re unlikely to be able to get to any of the others – but you never know.

If you’re in the West Midlands are looking for something to do over the Bank Holiday Weekend – come and see us and all the other terrific traders here at Alvecote Marina.


In case you weren’t aware, the second city of England is blessed with more miles of canals than Venice. Incredibly it used to have around 160 miles that were navigable, but currently has ‘only’ 100. I’m betting the majority of folks, when asked what Birmingham is famous for, wouldn’t initially say ‘canals’.

Check out Jim Shead’s amazing website on his BCN page for a whole heap of history and publications on the BCN if you want to know more.

I’ve lived in and around the Birmingham area for a large proportion of my 54 years. From 1964 to 1972 we lived in Walmley, when it was a small but growing village. The Junior school was in an amazing old building in the heart of the community, that’s now sadly been demolished to make room for a large doctor’s surgery.

We subsequently moved right into the heart of Sutton Coldfield, where I remained until 1978 when I left to do my general nurse training in Kidderminster. I should actually say The Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield (as an aside I did my history ‘O’Level project on that very subject), as we were granted a Royal Charter by King Henry VIII. His Royal Highness is reputed to have drank and slept overnight at The Three Tuns, a historic establishment reputedly dating back to the 16th century. During that period, he granted the status of ‘Royal Town‘, which was cruelly stripped from the title when we were ‘forced’ to join Birmingham some years ago, having previously enjoyed being a part of Warwickshire.

The good King Henry was extremely generous, and in 1528 bequeathed permission for any Suttonian to graze their cattle in Sutton Park, a vast expanse of natural and mostly unspoilt or built upon parkland, now a designated National Nature Reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest, in the centre of the town.

It won’t surprise you to hear I never did have any cows to roam freely in the park. I did enjoy many happy hours there walking, going to the annual Sutton Carnival, eating in the cafés and restaurants, and generally adored finding a haven of peace amongst the claustrophobia I frequently felt living in a city. It’s no wonder I chose to move to New Zealand, where I could experience that feeling daily whilst at home or anywhere I roamed.

It’s said that Oliver Cromwell and Shakespeare frequented the The Three Tuns establishment too, and it’s now managed and run by two brothers (Paul and David Raworth) who I used to go to Grammar School with. Oh goodness, I’d forgotten how much history there is in my old home town …

Anyway, I digress.

Back to Barry’s photography.


The bottom of the Wolverhampton 21 locks


And the top of the Wolverhampton locks – a surprisingly pleasant lock-side location and cottage sitting serenely in the city centre

Birmingham was one of the centres of the Industrial Revolution and the industry remains today - some of it functioning, much of it run-down

Birmingham was one of the centres of the Industrial Revolution, many structures remain – some functioning, much of it run-down

A short journey from Wolverhampton to Coseley, on the Wolverhamtpon Level of the Main Line, BCN, where we stopped briefly to collect Kim and Sean from the station

A short journey from Wolverhampton to Coseley, on the Wolverhamtpon Level of the Main Line, BCN, where we stopped briefly to collect Kim and Sean from the station


Kim teaches Sean the intricacies of locking – he’s looking rather chilled about it all …


The junction of the two main lines, left up three locks. To the old line and right to continue along the Birmingham level


Passing under the M5 into Birmingham – they’d never know what lies beneath them in their hurry to get from A to B


The hidden idyll beneath the madness, where an aqueduct, footbridge and road pass over the canal, and the railway runs parallel


An outstandingly ornate bridge in the heart of the city



Galton Bridge, a split level railway station in Smethwick, where two railway lines cross at two levels


One of the toll islands/points on the BCN, where boats would have been stopped and weighed, and appropriate charges made, from each direction


The Smethwick Junction – amazing colours in the canal-side factories


One of the numerous closed off branches leading to a disused factory,  picturesque though despite the urbanisation and barbed wire fences


The entrance to the Soho Loop around Winson Green


The remains of a railway bridge arch

We moored for the evening in Gas Street Basin, where we’ve stayed overnight on four previous occasions. There’s only two 24 hour spots there, and they were both available despite the canal being fairly busy. We suspect many people don’t even know there’s moorings there.

The next picture post will be the 13 fabulous Farmers Bridge Locks, which pass underneath a number of buildings and provide amazing opportunities for Barry’s camera lens …

One of the reasons we changed to WordPress from Blogspot, was to source an improved showcase for Barry’s images.

However, regular readers will know we often wait a wee while to see these.  It takes a modicum of patience, and anticipation, of him finding the right time to download his camera’s SD card onto his computer, then check and edit the chosen images. He’s a busy boy you know, keeping on top of running The Home Brew Boat, and day-to-day maintenance of our floating home.

Then there’s the moving from place-to-place which nowadays takes up a fair proportion of most days.

During our 2009 and 2010 journeys, we’d spend hours each day writing and editing images in order to post on the blog daily. That’s not a luxury we have available any more, but we do have a treasure trove of priceless history on the Northern Pride Blog, so the time, on reflection, was well-spent.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s some of Barry’s ‘work’ (I’m not sure that’s the appropriate word anymore to be honest?) from our travels along the lower section of the Shropshire Union Canal a few weeks ago …


Wheaton Aston and The Hartley Arms a very friendly and hospitable to boaters canal-side pub


Passing by Captain Ahab and Helen’s ‘Jam Butty’ for their Wild Side business – work in progress to get it ready to launch, at Stretton Wharf


Stretton Aqueduct, straddling Watling Street Roman Road (aka the A5)


A very quaint mini-narrowboat


Must be a Rastafari on board this colourful boat?


Giffards Cross Bridge, not far from Brewood (pronounced Brood). One of the local structures named after the Giffard family of Chillington Hall owned by the same family since the 12th century


The delightful Avenue Bridge, a private balustraded bridge carrying the driveway to Chillington Hall. It would have been a condition of the landowner to have such a magnificent structure built in order to give permission to use their land


The other side of Avenue Bridge


Autherley Junction, where in 1830, Thomas Telford joined his ‘Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal’ to join the much older Staffordshire and Worcester Canal (opened in 1772)

Tomorrow’s featured images will be of our recent meanderings around the Birmingham Canal Navigations.


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