My name is David Ingleby and I live with my wife Elaine on Hawthorn Avenue. Both of us were born and raised in Peterborough and, after we married, moved through various homes in the East Midlands as my job in agricultural finance took me to different locations.
Before Elaine and I started courting I had found another love – the wonderful world of canals and rivers. In 1975, I, with a group of friends, had my first canal narrowboat holiday, the first of five annual (and sometimes alcoholic!) trips taken with friends that took us to Lancashire, Cheshire and Manchester and a very wet week on the canals of Birmingham and the Black Country – where, it is claimed, there are more canals than Venice!
After we married, Elaine’s first trip came in 1983 and, she, like me, quickly fell under the beguiling spell of the British canal system. Exploring the rural heart of the country and entering major cities by the ‘back door’ provided a complete and relaxing contrast to our increasingly hectic home and work lives.
Each year would see us take at least one canal holiday – a long weekend, a week, or sometimes a cherished fortnight that enabled us to travel further. We grew to envy the people for whom the canals were home – living on their own narrowboats, travelling where they wanted to when they wanted to. Gradually a dream materialised, crystallizing into a fierce ambition for us to live on our own boat when retirement came. We started planning.
The opportunity came sooner than we expected. Our three girls had either moved from the family home or were about to, and Elaine’s Mum, the last of our parents, had just died. Then came the third re-organisation of my work department in four years. I didn’t waste any time in putting my hand up for early retirement.
Within a week of getting the green light for an early retirement, we had visited our chosen boat builder, shown them the detailed plans of what we wanted, adjusted them to fit the size of boat we wanted and how much we could afford, placed the order and paid the deposit.
Within three months of my last workday, we had sold our home in Peterborough and, three days before Christmas, had moved onto a second-hand boat we had bought to live on whilst our own boat was being built. No hanging around!
Thus started a wonderful ten years of living afloat. We kept a permanent mooring at a small boatyard in Northamptonshire where we could keep our car and where we could retreat to for the winter months. Every March we would start to get everything ready – boat engine service, accessories all checked, food stocks built up, and plans made for where we wanted to cruise to, and then, usually by the end of March, we would start our cruising that would not see us return to the mooring until the autumn was well advanced.
In those ten years, we travelled over 5,700 miles, worked through nearly 4,500 locks and a couple of hundred swing and lift bridges. We travelled to Llangollen, Bath and Bristol, London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, and gloried in the scenery of the three canal crossings of the Pennines, the Staffordshire Moorlands and the Berkshire & Wiltshire Downs.
Supermarkets were usually too far distant from the canal to be convenient so we re-discovered the delights of shopping in the local family butchers, greengrocers and bakers. We ate in small-town restaurants, visited local museums and theatres and found an England (and part of Wales) that is a world away from the big city lights.
Talking of city lights, we found moorings at Little Venice (close to Paddington Station) in London that enabled us to moor there for a fortnight and so on several occasions, our boat became a floating hotel for our daughters and grandchildren to come and stay for a short city break.
We loved Birmingham, Chester, Leeds, and particularly Liverpool where the newly built canal entrance to the central docks takes you right in front of the iconic buildings known as the Three Graces and through Albert Dock. But we also have a great affection for the unassuming market towns – Wigan, Stone, Rugeley and many others, together with the lovely villages that we passed through.
However, all good things come to an end. Early into our 2013 cruise, Elaine had a bad fall at a lock at Middlewich in Cheshire and broke her leg just below her left knee. A week in hospital and six weeks of keeping it immobile made us realise that the physical side of boating – the locks, the walking and just the effort required to climb into and out of the boat would soon become difficult, and we made the sad decision to move back on to dry land and sell our boat.
Living on a boat had given us a different outlook on life. We didn’t want to go back to bricks and mortar and living in a built up urban area. We wanted peace, quiet and security. We had seen several park home sites on our travels and decided to look at these as an option.
We did a fair amount of online research and, knowing we wanted to live on the Lincolnshire/Nottinghamshire border (for family history reasons!), The Elms was a prime candidate. We made visits on two Open Days and asked a lot of questions. We liked what we saw, and made a separate visit where we had a long talk with Ann. Fortunately our home to be was up for sale at a reduced price, and we took the plunge.
We have never regretted it. The community on The Elms is very similar to that on the canals – everyone says hello and is happy to stop and pass the time of day. We know our neighbours better in four years than our neighbours in Peterborough and we lived in the same house for 15 years! We love it here!