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Life on the canal banks

Canal View residents
Thousands of people pass by the homes of residents of Canal View every year

By Alys Lewis
Alys chats with residents of Canal View who've made their home on the banks of Llangollen Canal

Popping to the local takes hours rather than minutes when the residents of aptly-named Canal View make the journey in their favourite mode of travel - one of canal boats moored on the bank opposite their terraced homes.

But that's the charm of canal side living and it's what has brought the neighbours together.

The Barnetts, St Johns and Holfords, moved to the neat row at Chirk Bank, just over the Wrexham border with Shropshire, to enable them to get out on the canal whenever possible.

And they have a permanent reminder - a steady stream of private and holiday hire boats going by their windows.

"Narrow-boaters" Sue and Phil Barnett formerly from Berkshire have one of crafts moored outside.

"One of my favourite things about living by the canal is that this is a leisure area so it feels like being on holiday all the time," says Sue.

"We see the same hire boats going by with different crews on each week and we recognise the names of some of the private boats going by year after year. Sometimes they'll stop and say hello.

"There are boating societies and the people who belong to them get to know who lives where along the canals and they make contact."

But living by the canal isn't for everyone, say Mick and Judy Holford.

"You have to be an information service - people are always asking 'where's the pub?', 'where can we get a meal?', 'where can we buy a loaf of bread?'.

"We don't mind, but if you were a very private person this wouldn't be the place to live.

"In the evening if you haven't drawn the curtains people do look into your house."

Llangollen Canal
Canal View looks out on to a stretch of the Llangollen Canal

It's certainly busy, says Phil Barnett, but it's a steady stream of boats - not cars, say Mick and Judy and so the neighbours don't mind.

"This is the busiest canal in the whole of the 2,000 mile canal system - last week was half term week and it was probably busier on this canal than it was on a lot of other canals in August.

"It never goes completely dead here because Llangollen is one of the most attractive places to go to on the canal system.

"It's busy with hikers too. You get groups of 20 or 30 hikers meeting by our house before going off along the towpath. There's always something going on."

Ellie and Phil St John moved from Scotland to realise their ambition.

"We dreamed about living by a canal," they say. "We actually stayed in this house when it was a holiday cottage then a few years later ended up buying it.

"We see people passing by every day from all over the world."

Ellie thinks gaining World Heritage Status is good news for Llangollen Canal.

"It's bringing in lots of people from all over the world and a lot of people are bringing their kids and explaining about the aqueduct and the tunnel - it's a chance to learn about history."

Residents of Canal View all contribute money to buy food for their other neighbours - the ducks and geese who live on the canal banks.

They also mow the grass and keep the area between their homes and the canal tidy as they're always on show to passing holidaymakers.

The Barnetts and St Johns both have their own boats and travel extensively throughout the canal network but also use their boats for local trips.

Says Sue: "Sometimes if we fancy a drink at the local pub a few miles away we go on the boat - it takes three hours - then we moor up outside the pub, have a meal and a drink, stay on board overnight and come back the next day!"


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