Caught on camera

A lovely lady called Pip Norton contacted us a few months ago, to ask if we’d be interested in being a part of a documentary she’s producing about Roving Canal Traders.

We didn’t hesitate to say “Yes please!” – both to increase our visibility and to promote the possibilities available to people to live and trade on a narrowboat.

Pip has been waiting until she had enough funding to film us, and got in touch again recently to say she’d be coming to film traders at Stoke Bruene and The Black Country 13th/14th September.

She has a FB page set up (you can find it here – click on and ‘like’ the page please and give them some more exposure), and is hoping to be gaining more support through a process known as  ‘crowd funding‘ in the near future. If you’ve not heard of this it’s “… the practice of raising funds from two or more people over the internet towards a common Service, Project, Product, Investment, Cause, and Experience or SPPICE.”

We hope she’s successful and look forward to seeing the finished product in the not too distant future.

Pip and her sidekick Anna arrived to film Barry around 10am on Sunday, with a list of questions to ask …


Anna, Pip and Barry get ready for filming


Almost set up …


Barry’s getting stage fright!

Pip interviewed Barry who was unashamedly nervous. I don’t recall ever seeing him so stuck for words. He’d briefly read through the questions Pip would be asking, five minutes before the interview. One of the last ones asked about canal related anecdotes – Barry was so put on the spot, he couldn’t conjure up a single one!

After Barry’s ten minutes of focus, they then thought it’d be a good idea to interview me as the social media coordinator for The Home Brew Boat. I basically talked about the history of setting up businesses while living aboard a narrowboat and travelling the system, and how I market them on Facebook, Twitter and through blogging.

It’ll be interesting to see which parts of our slots make it through the cutting room floor …


Trying to look cool, calm and collected


After they’d finished with us, it was time for Wild Side. They got some fabulous footage of Helen and Andy chatting to their customers, and then a fascinating interview with Helen about how she came to be a roving trader (if you don’t know the story, it’s an intriguing and encouraging tale of how changing your perspective on unexpected traumatic events can make a negative into a positive).


Filming the Wild Side crew trading from their Jam Butty


Lots of tasters to be sampled before buying


Chilled out for her interview – but then she was with a TV camera crew only a week previously! Such a star, she takes it all in her stride …

Barry had another great day’s trading, while I wandered around the festival site, entertained my eldest daughter and grandson, and enjoyed catching up with another couple of ‘old’ friends …


The Narrowboat Trust historic working boats – where our Epping range is now residing happily


The captain and brew boat CEO – loving his ‘job’!


The apparently infamous ‘Pork Scratchings’ woman plies her wares from the bridge – home made and rather tasty!


Another ‘teeming with people’ day


This boat proudly displays the official Black Country flag, designed by a local schoolgirl who won a competition


Lisa contemplates her jam choice


More festival meet ups – Michael and Anita


Heather and Tony on The Fudge Boat sold out by the afternoon!


Bye bye for now, see you next year!

We had an amazing weekend, and have already booked and given our cheque in to book for 2015.

Heading overseas

Yesterday evening Wand’ring Bark and Areandare formed a short convoy and sauntered along to a secure marina to moor the boats.

Barry and I are off to Ireland on Tuesday for a few days. I’m going for a conference called Wisdom 2.0 Europe, structured around the topic of ‘Wisdom and wellness in the Technological Age’, while Barry will be checking out the local landscape – and without a doubt spending as much time as possible in The Guinness Factory all for the purposes of research of course!

So there’ll be no more blogging until at least next weekend. After that we’ll be heading slowly to our last planned festival of the year The Parkhead Boating Festival, at lowers Green Pumphouse, in Dudley.


Bright and bustling in the Black Country

There’s certainly nothing dark and smoggy about The Black Country this weekend. What wonderful, down-to-earth and friendly folks we’ve had the pleasure of meeting so far.

Barry had an endless stream of visitors to The Home Brew Boat – not all were buying, but they took business cards away with a lot more knowledge of the advantages of brewing your own and we’re hopeful they’ll become loyal customers in the future.


Barry even put his best shirt on! Lots of visitors, and the local Army Cadets Kingstanding/Warwickshire, worked tirelessly all day picking up litter and providing some security just in case

Our neighbours The Fudge Boat (Heather and Tony), and Wild Side (Helen and Andy) also had a great day as you can see below …


Waiting patiently for a free fudge tasting


Andy trading from The Jam Butty

Sadly our other ‘new-found friends’ got into a little strife as an Ice Cream van was booked into the festival, and wasn’t too pleased to have some of his business taken from him by ‘All Things Spanish’ which the planners hadn’t appreciated included selling ice cream. A lesson to us all about telling organisers what we’re selling so as not to step on other peoples shoes.

I wasn’t able to face paint as they already had two booked – fair enough. I did check again on Friday, just in case, but it was a no-goer.

Sandra and Bob, from The Ice Cream Boat (All Things Spanish), left this morning. I suspect they’ll head into Birmingham to see if they can trade there while the weather’s fine. Good luck to you both, lovely to meet you and hope our paths cross again soon.


The Dudley trip boat ferries passengers up and down the cut all day for £3 each


Such a marvellous setting – and a very popular event


I went for a walkabout to find the face painter – here she is! Doing very well, wonderful

We had the pleasure of a couple of our favourite people visiting too. Richard Parry, CEO of Canal and River Trust, popped by to say hi. He’s such a transparent and supportive person to the traders, and has appeared at every event, apart from Standedge, we’ve been to this year. Hats off to you Richard, we’re very lucky to have you leading us.

Then we had a surprise vista from Andrew Denny, aka Granny Buttons. It’s been months since we last saw him. Andrew used to be a prolific blogger – in fact he was the first boater to begin blogging about the canals and life on them, on 7th August 2003. He was a bit of a hero of Barry’s while we were planning our initial adventure to the canals, during 2007 and 2008. We first met him in person in May 2010, when we fortuitously moored right next to his boat one evening, phoned him up, and although he wasn’t on his boat at the time he drove the distance from his house to come and make our acquaintance!

We were thrilled he accepted the invitation to join us for dinner last night – we just completely forgot to record the occasion for the blog! You’ll have to come back soon Andrew.

Then we joined Heather and Tony from The Fudge Boat for a couple of pints in the beer tent – it’s a very sociable way to ‘work’!


Music and refreshments in the beer tent

Barry from The Narrowboat Trust, surprised us too. We’d agreed with Ray from NB Stronghold, to a fair price for our ‘Epping’ stove in the Boatman’s Cabin. Having a spent a winter without one in the living area to keep us warm, we decided we definitely need one this winter and although it made the cabin ‘authentic’, we’d rather have the storage space and by selling it have the funds to buy a smaller heater for the lounge.


The Narrowboat Trust Boats arrive yesterday evening


Then this morning they arrived to remove our Epping


Barry, Barry and Colin – with the stove all out and ready for its new home


Bye bye!

This morning we’ve had Pip Norton and Anna Marie filming us as part of a ‘Roving Canal Traders Documentary‘ – more about that to come in the next post …

Home Brew Boat beer tasting at Bumble Hole

We stayed in Birmingham a little longer than planned – it’s such a buzzing city and we do enjoy our visits there.

Yesterday we moved the short distance to our next Boating Festival at Netherton, near Tipton in the West Midlands. We were pleasantly surprised to find the event’s location in a setting one wouldn’t imagine existed in the heart of what was once one of the most industrialised parts of England.

Surrounded by nature, the canal nestles comfortably amongst the conurbation of the outskirts of the city, sitting on an embankment overlooking well-kept residences.


Actually it’s in The Black Country, which is north and west of Birmingham. Now don’t get confused – Birmingham is NOT in The Black Country and people here don’t associate with Birmingham. Just as folks from ‘Brum’ are offended to be associated with the Black Country. It’s all very confusing!

We discovered that lesser known fact once again last night, when a local regaled us with tales of the past and present in the very famous Ma Pardoes, aka The Old Swan.

Meeting up with friends from previous festivals and making new ones is one of the highlights of our new personas as roving canal traders.

The Fudge Boat folks we’ve known since Middlewich, and we had the pleasure of their company again at Hebden Bridge. Our newly found fellow traders run ‘All Things Spanish’ – which belies the fact that they sell ice cream, cakes, flapjacks, milk shakes, stainless steel chimney pots, and all manner of things! You’ll see a photo further down ..

Back to ‘The Old Swan’. It’s been licensed since 1835, and the current pub and brewery were built in 1863. What an incredible place, we find it so encouraging to see a real old English pub that hasn’t been taken over by a restaurant chain.


Cheers! Bob, Tony, Heather, Sandra and Barry sample the local brew – they brew their own here too!


The front bar is unaltered from Victorian times (except the red paint)

Today we’ve all been setting up in anticipation of a wonderful weekend’s trading. The weather forecast is promising which bodes well for heaps of visitors. It’s the largest festival we’ve been to this year, extending across the canal into a field of stands and stalls, then around the corner is a huge funfair.




Barry, Bob and Tony bonding by the boat and talking blokey things about setting up a trade boat, and other ‘interesting’ stuff!


Fabulous funfair being erected


Our first trip through the Netherton tunnel yesterday


You can just about squeeze a boat through the middle …


The old water pumping station


The trading boats gathering


I don’t think the cat’s for sale …


All Things Spanish – and a bit lot more!


Blending smoothly with the local landscape – the Clent Hills in the background


Walking all around the festival canal-side site

There’s even a ‘Bumble Hole Conservation Group with a small museum alongside the canal. Here’s a fascinating fact for you all …


This evening has brought more dear friends to the festival – Helen and Andy with their narrowboat Wand’ring Bark and The Jam Butty, to sell their Wild Side jams and chutneys. This adorable couple have recently been filming with Prunella Scales and Timothy West for the next ‘Great Canal Journeys‘ series to be shown in 2015, and have a feature in the October Waterways World magazine .

There’s no stopping their notoriety now!


Slipping past us to turn around in the winding hole …


Boat and butty on the way back …


Andy looking happy steering his beloved boat


Barry lends a helping hand to moor up in their trading place for the weekend

We’ve been invited for an evening of curry and cards tonight with Helen and Andy, so I’d better get this posted and get ready!

Do come and visit us over the next couple of days if you’re anywhere nearby – it’s going to a spectacular event.