by Gary Hartley
Now it’s time for some good old-fashioned messing about on boats.
If you recoil in horror at the thought of living on a dilapidated barge on the Norfolk Broads, there is an increasingly vociferous case being made for a more modernist sort of amphibious living. Things appear to have moved rapidly on since The Telegraph described canal residents as ‘eco river gypsies’ in 2008.
That article did make some good points, which have more than held their relevance. Making a conscious decision to live a simpler life, as our frugal blogger Piper will also testify, focuses attention on your own routines and habits.
“Living this way forces you to be environmentally conscious…We don’t leave taps running, washing up is done in the minimum of water, the washing machine is always filled before running, and we never leave lights on,” so says narrowboat dweller Bruce.
Sounds great, if you want to forge a self-sufficient lifestyle away from the hustle. But what about those of us who prefer the bright lights?
Well, the urban planners are now beginning to take to the water. Solar power, heat pumps and waste collection by barges will all be on board if a project at Glasgow’s Princes Dock gets the green light.
The project plans are impressive; a u-shaped floating strip of apartments and houses, shops, three-storey office buildings and a 150-berth marina will all be in the offing. It’s a far cry from a rainy day on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal.
David Beard, of Floating Concepts, talks of “a noticeable shift in attitudes,” and boasts of “interest from as far as Mexico and Australia in the technology behind our idea.”
Much like an individual moving from a home to a canal boat and noticing what they’ve been wasting, it’s all about that, to pardon the water pun, sea-change in perception even at planning level.
“Planners are following suit. Five years ago they were terrified of the concept, yet now they want whole floating developments.”
Once that shift happens, it’s going to be hard to stop. The future’s wet, possibly.