PROP­ERTY OF THE MONTH Liv­ing in a house­boat

House Beautiful (UK) - - CONTENTS -

Liv­ing on a house­boat sounds like a hippy dream, and it’s true to say that set­ting up home on the wa­ter took off in the UK in the 1960s and 70s, spear­headed by artis­tic and ide­al­is­tic in­di­vid­u­als in search of an al­ter­na­tive way of life. The late Bea­tle, George Har­ri­son, learned to play the sitar on a house­boat in Kash­mir, north­ern In­dia, and Richard Bran­son rents out a sleek one in Lit­tle Venice, west Lon­don, with all-white painted walls and pale wooden floors.

Al­though the ro­man­tic rep­u­ta­tion of house­boats – or ‘live­aboards’ as they’re known – cap­tures the imag­i­na­tion, the in­di­vid­ual his­to­ries of some of the es­ti­mated 2,800 float­ing homes in Eng­land and Wales are even more fas­ci­nat­ing and many have had a work­ing life. At Premier House­boats in Rochester, Kent, for in­stance, there’s a for­mer light­ship and a 1950s Dutch cargo barge for sale along­side pur­pose-built house­boats, which are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly lux­u­ri­ous. Com­pa­nies in­clud­ing River­pod make bespoke mod­els, with ecofriendly fea­tures such as re­cy­cled in­su­la­tion, from £66,000.

A house­boat is a per­ma­nently moored craft, con­structed on a float­ing barge or spe­cially de­signed plat­form. In cer­tain ar­eas, es­pe­cially Lon­don, per­ma­nent moor­ings can be dif­fi­cult to se­cure. ‘House­boat liv­ing has been pop­u­lar for decades in Lon­don, and now we have the in­creased mi­gra­tion of barges and float­ing homes from Europe,’ says es­tate agent Henry Day at river­homes.co.uk. ‘These boats have been brought over and placed in some of the UK’s most de­sir­able des­ti­na­tions such as Chich­ester, Wind­sor and Maiden­head. Many have been re­fur­bished to the same stan­dard as a swanky Lon­don townhouse or Cotswold coun­try cot­tage.’

The ma­jor­ity of house­boat com­mu­ni­ties are cen­tred around Lon­don and the South East (in­clud­ing on the Thames in Sur­rey, be­low), the Fens and Bris­tol, and the Liv­ing on Wa­ter move­ment is en­cour­ag­ing more peo­ple to take the plunge in Scot­land. Be­fore you drop an­chor, there are cer­tain costs to con­sider. Moor­ing fees can be up to £12,000 a year in the cap­i­tal. All house­boat own­ers must also pur­chase an an­nual boat li­cence from the

Canal & River Trust, and take out boat and contents in­sur­ance. De­pend­ing on the type of ves­sel and your res­i­dency con­di­tions, you may also be li­able for coun­cil tax.

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