Suzanne first saw her house in Mossley when she used to drive past it twice a week. The houses were built on the site of an old cotton mill, the Croft Mill, which was demolished many years before. The land lay derelict until 2003, when the row of houses were built there, backing directly onto the towpath side of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal between Stalybridge and Diggle. The houses are set on a steep bank, in between a road bridge and a lock, with the towpath and canal much lower than the bottom of the garden. The River Tame runs through the same valley. Suzanne loved the canalside location and the style of the houses. The fact that the house was built from stone ticked a box on Suzanne’s wish list.
Suzanne and her husband Ian moved in during July 2011. Being a relatively new build, the house was very modern, and presented Suzanne and Ian with a blank canvas. “Our style is light and contemporary,” says Suzanne, “so we wanted to keep the bright and airy feel. We didn’t change the neutral colour scheme or the wooden floors, but we’ve added a bit of hippy chic, with lots of artwork, jewel-coloured accessories, and rugs to lift and brighten the interior.” They also put in a completely new shower room, which is very modern with dramatic teal coloured walls. Suzanne’s favourite features in the house are the French doors in the living room and in one of the large upstairs bedrooms, which also has a Juliet balcony. Although you can’t see the canal from the living room because of the steep bank, there are great views over the canal from the bedroom.
Having a canalside home suits Suzanne very well. “I always feel like I’m on holiday. It’s very relaxing and the nature is beautiful to see. I love narrowboats and all things canal, but from the point of view of a landlubber,” Suzanne laughs. She has an indoor pet, a degu, as she’s asthmatic. “I think it’s probably a good thing he has never seen the canal, as I am not sure if he can swim,” she laughs.
Suzanne has been a self-employed jewellery maker for over five years. She works with lampwork glass, silver, copper, leather, semi-precious stones and shells, handcrafting everything with the best quality materials she can obtain. Nature influences some of the things she makes and improves her mood. “I think living here does inspire me,” she says, “and a lot of my items feature nature in their design. It seems to inspire a lot of other artists and crafters too, as there are a great many living in the local area. We have a lot of local artwork in our house and we also have a lot of glass art too.” There’s a Facebook page for Suzanne’s jewellery business, Crystaltipsie, and there’s another for Suzanne and Ian’s photography, Picture the Scene.
Ian loves living by the canal just as much as Suzanne. “I seem to have converted him to my love of canals without even trying,” she says. “We don’t have a boat, but we own a micro caravan, and we even spend our time in the vicinity of canals when we go on holiday, as lots of marinas have small caravan parks now.”
The steep canal bank precludes having a traditional back garden, so instead, Suzanne has concentrated her efforts on large pots and planters filled with plants that will attract birds and insects. “We have a natural lawn and allow dandelions, buttercups, daisies and clover to grow as the bees love all these flowers,” explains Suzanne. “I’ve planted some crocus, daffodil and tulip bulbs and it’s always a treat to see the shoots push through in spring, waiting with anticipation for the flowers to show. In summer, it gets very warm. We are west facing, but the sun is on the garden all day from the south side. Raised decking and a summer house at the bottom of the garden provide perfect vantage points from which to look over the canal. It’s a lovely place to sit and have a barbecue and watch the boats.”
Suzanne loves seeing all the narrowboats cruising past. “We still rush to the upstairs windows or to the bottom of the deck to look at the boats even now. I never get bored of seeing them. We don’t get as much boat traffic here as on other canals, because the Huddersfield Narrow Canal goes towards Diggle where the start of the Standedge Tunnel is located. Narrowboats have to book time slots to go through and it’s not really for the faint-hearted. My husband once met a lady called Anne with her husband and horsedrawn narrowboat. They were both wearing traditional clothes and they were taking their boat, Maria, up to Standedge Tunnel. Her husband and his friend legged it through the tunnel whilst Anne walked over the tops with the horse. Ian took some photos and had quite a long chat with them as they were walking along. I think they’d done this trip a few times.”
“We get a lot of Vloggers that go past, and this stretch of canal has featured in quite a few of their vlogs. People like Foxes Afloat, Country House Gent and Minimal List too. Robbie Cummings has also filmed coming past here. I have seen Shire Cruisers’ narrowboat ‘Cornwall’ a few times. It’s famous for being hired by Prunella Scales and Timothy West for their TV series.”
Suzanne and Ian especially enjoy watching the birds and wildfowl. They see herons, cormorants and oystercatchers overhead, and in the spring and autumn, they often see throngs of pink-footed geese flying over. “You definitely hear them before you see them,” laughs Suzanne. She says that kingfishers are regularly seen nearby, although she hasn’t spotted one herself. “I have seen an otter though,” she says proudly. “That was fabulous.”
“Our hobbies are walking and photography, so having canal walks right from our door is just brilliant. When we were able to, we enjoyed canal walks locally and visiting the pubs overlooking the canal such as Roaches Lock which is fabulous in summer. It is a photographer’s dream living here.”
“The changing seasons are really apparent. There are a lot of trees in the town and along the edges of the canal so, in a good autumn, we get some beautiful colour in the leaves. In the winter it can be bitterly cold and the canal often freezes for weeks at a time. You can tell when spring is around the corner though, with a lot of activity from the geese and ducks flying around everywhere and making a lot of noise. New shoots of life are everywhere and the weather start to improve and the activity on the canal increases in terms of boats coming through and with the wildlife too. We get to see lots of ducklings and goslings.”
Suzanne has been particularly grateful to have her canalside garden during the last twelve months. Despite having no boat traffic most of the time, there has still been plenty of wildlife to look at, and canal walks to enjoy. “I can’t imagine living anywhere else,” she says.