Macclesfield Canal Boat Home

Their son calls it a corridor, but Keith and Denise Wright wouldn't swap their floating cottage for anything, as Andrew Hobbs reports

The water feature outside Keith and Denise Wright’s home is the most striking thing about it. It’s called the Macclesfield Canal. The Wrights live aboard Hirondelle, a well-appointed 62ft-long narrowboat, moored at Higher Poynton.Keith, a self-employed builder, and Denise, a civil servant, have lived there since November last year, returning to the north west after 20 years in the Orkneys with their three children, now grown-up.With their own home in Cheshire rented out, and a renovation project back in Orkney awaiting an upturn in the property market, the couple decided to make a virtue of their long-standing love affair with boats.‘We got our first boat in 1973,’ says Keith, ‘and we had always wanted to live on a boat when we retire. Rather than rent somewhere in the meantime, we thought, why don’t we start now?‘We love it, absolutely love it, it’s better than we thought it would be - and we thought it would be good! We like the peace and tranquillity, I don’t think I’ve ever been so relaxed in my life as I am now. It’s a little micro-world of its own, it’s just great.’The Wrights make sure that every inch of the 18-year-old Hirondelle is used to the full. At the bow (that’s the front), there is room to sit and watch the world go by, in the fresh air if the weather is fine, otherwise under the cratch cover. ‘It’s like a little conservatory where we sit out and have drinks,’ says Denise, ‘or when it was snowy earlier this year we sat and watched the snow falling with a glass of red wine.’After the bow is the lounge area, furnished with two specially made armchairs, a coffee table, multi-fuel stove and TV. The boat also has gas central heating with four radiators, but the Wrights have hardly used it, preferring to burn logs in the stove instead. ‘It’s as warm as toast in winter,’ says Denise.The chairs were made by Elite Furnishings of Tamworth, with removable arms so they could fit through the two small doors at the bow.Next to the lounge is the dining area, with Pullman-style benches and table, all of which can fold down into a double bed for guests. There are cupboards here and display cabinets, although the Wrights try to keep ornaments to a minimum.‘A lot of people cram their boats with stuff, which can make them seem a bit cramped. We have quite a lot of photographs but that’s all, and you have to be very tidy on a boat, and put things away.’The large pictures of Orkney on the walls were Denise’s leaving presents when she finished work at the Scottish Executive there.Two doors can close off this living area from the rest of the boat and make it a guest bedroom if necessary.Next to the dining area is the galley, fitted with a hob and oven, sink unit, work tops, washing machine and Welsh dresser. ‘There's everything you would have in a kitchen in a house, just smaller,’ says Denise.After the galley comes the bathroom, larger than on most narrowboats, with doors at either end, a corner shower, hip bath and sink. Beyond the bathroom is the bedroom, with a 4ft double bed, wardrobe and dressing table. Next is a small cloakroom, and beyond that, outside again, is the tiller, from where the boat is steered.Hirondelle even has a garden - with a putting green, shed and greenhouse, which the Wrights rent while they are moored at Higher Poynton.Denise, who is commodore of the North Cheshire Cruising Club, admits that life on a narrowboat is not for everyone. ‘I love the layout of it although my son calls it a corridor, he says he couldn’t live on it, but our two daughters think it’s brilliant as well. You have to get on very well together.‘You also have to be quite practical, you have to think about water, sanitary stuff, getting rid of your rubbish, but it’s just a big adventure. When we were frozen in for nearly a month, we had to go and get water in the car and bring it back, but instead of making it a chore we just had a laugh.‘We left a big four-bedroom house   to live on this boat but at least once a night I say, I love this boat, it’s the best thing we ever did. It doesn’t feel like a boat because it’s our home. A lot of people come on to the boat and say it’s like a little cottage on the water.’ 

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