Jann and her husband love narrowboats, cruising, and canal life. Many years ago, when they were on the Kennet and Avon Canal, heading towards Bath on a narrowboat hired from Foxhangers, they cruised passed Staverton Marina. Peeking in as they floated by, they noticed the attractive houses surrounding the basin. “I wonder if there are any houses for sale in there?” they asked themselves. By the end of their holiday, the seed had been firmly planted in their minds.
Before returning to their home in Congleton, Cheshire, they came back to Staverton, and took a drive around the area to explore. Staverton is on the edge of Trowbridge, the county town of Wiltshire, but with fields on three sides and its own primary school, sports field, and convenience store, it has the feel of a modern self-contained village. As they drove around the marina, Jann spotted a house with a handwritten ‘for sale’ sign and a mobile phone number on it. They decided that it was ideal for them. “This way we’d be surrounded by boats, even when we weren’t on one,” Jann explains, “and it would be a secure lock-up and leave property, with minimal maintenance and no gardening required, for when we went off cruising.”
Jann and her husband moved into their new home in 2004. The house is a small and perfectly appointed three bedroom, mid terraced red brick property, built in the 1980s. It is sandwiched between a three storey house and a block of apartments. At the front of the house there is a brick drive that can have four cars parked on it. At the back, there is a small paved patio that ends at the water’s edge.
Since moving in, they have tidied the inside a little bit, and turned the small garage into a storage cum utility area. There hasn’t been much else to do, partly because there are lots of building restrictions and covenants to ensure that the outside of the properties, both marina-facing and street-facing, are not unduly changed. One of the restrictions states that pets are not permitted, and noise could certainly be a consideration when living here. “The houses are arranged in a quadrangle around the marina, so loud noises and sounds across the water are amplified,” explains Jann, “but everyone is very considerate, and raucous parties and gatherings seldom happen.”
Initially, Jann’s husband found a job driving the City Sightseeing buses in Bath, and Jann worked from home, with occasional travel to her company’s HQ in Amsterdam, “Bristol Airport is the best!” she added. Now they are retired, and Jann can spend as long as she likes watching the comings and goings in the basin. “My husband refers to me as the Harbour Master,” she laughs, “as nothing moves in the marina without me noticing!”
Even when there are no boating activities, there is still plenty to see. “We have plenty of ducks, a resident family of swans, a few kingfishers, and of course the pesky seagulls and pigeons. We enjoy watching the ducklings and cygnets grow up. Winter is harsh, and when the marina freezes over, there are a lot of confused ducks and swans!”
Jann and her husband have a 57 foot narrowboat called Kyakatina (the Zulu word for ‘our house’). She is a Severn Valley boat which they had built to their own specifications. They kept Kyakatina at Staverton Marina for twelve years, and living alongside her on the canal gave them the freedom to use her as often as work and personal commitments would allow. Despite this convenience, Jann admits that it gradually became frustrating to be based at the western end of the K&A. Whenever they wanted a longer holiday, they had to complete a lengthy trip (not to mention the return journey), which included the Caen Hill Flight and the long cruise to Reading, before they could get out onto the Thames and connect with the rest of the canal system to explore pastures new. When they retired, they were more eager than ever to cruise further afield and for longer periods of time, so sixteen months ago they cruised Kyakatina up to Ventnor Marina in Warwickshire, which is where she is currently moored, giving them access to many more miles of the canal network.
Although the boat is now a drive away, Jann keeps in touch with all things canal, by following the various Facebook groups that cover the K&A and the Coventry and Oxford area. “Of course there are the usual suspects… the Friendly Narrowboat Forum, and the Narrowboat Users Group,” laughs Jann, “and I love the Canalside Homes page!”
The house is also perfect for entertaining their many visitors. “We enjoy sitting on the upstairs balcony or waterside patio, a drink of some kind in hand, and enjoying the surroundings.” It is clear that a relaxed lifestyle is at the top of Jann’s priority list, not decor. “Style? We just like it comfortable,” she laughs.