Trading on the towpath
Although you may not think it to look at them, narrowboats and barges can be used for all sorts of unusual purposes. From floating cheese shops to barges selling baguettes, the simple canal boat can come in many different guises.
There are around 230 vibrant trading boats roaming our waterways. Keep your eyes peeled for one of these vibrant boats the next time you visit a canal…
The Glass Bead & Marble Company
Ray Youngs, the owner of The Glass Bead & Marble Company make beads and jewellery from glass aboard his narrowboat. He's happy to give demonstrations and carries a good stock of both beads and jewellery. He can also create beads and jewellery to order. Ray is always on the move so it's worth checking to see where he is at theglassbeadandmarbleco.co.uk.
The Cheese Boat
The name says it all really – this boat cruises the canals and rivers all year round selling cheese, as well as pickles and chutneys. The range of cheese on offer is extraordinary and they all sport intriguing names such as ‘Little Black Bomber’ and ‘Green Thunder’. The cheeses themselves come in some very remarkable flavours, with some containing chilli and others laced with whisky. The website lists where the boat will be at certain times of the year, so visit www.thecheeseboat.co.uk to find out when it’ll be in your local area.
Borders Cheese Carrying Company
There’s more than one boat to buy cheese on the canal from! The Borders Cheese Carrying company uses an electrically propelled boat to travel around the Llangollen Canal, Trent & Mersey Canal, River Weaver and Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal. From the boat they sell Snowdonia cheeses, organic caws cenarth cheeses, pickles and chutneys. Visit their website to find out where the boat is.
The Floating Salon
Nicola Dawkins’ is the owner of Blackjack, a wide beam canal boat, which houses the Floating Salon. With 12 years of hairdressing experience behind her, Nicola decided to take her business on the road, or rather canal, and now travels up and down the country offering a complete hair dressing service on board the boat. Next time you’re in need of a quick trim, colour or style why not pop down to the towpath and take advantage of the facilities on offer.
The Baguette Barge
Located in front of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre on the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal, The Baguette Barge offers visitors a takeaway experience with a twist. All of the food served is freshly prepared and made to order on this 60ft wide beam canal barge. Stopping here for lunch, in the beautiful surroundings of Bancroft Basin, makes a great change from some of the more generic coffee shops on the high street.
The Elizabeth Ice Cream Boat
Also moored at Bancroft Basin, The Elizabeth has been part of the scenery of Stratford-upon-Avon since 1993, and is hugely popular with tourists and locals alike. Aside from the traditional soft ice cream The Elizabeth also sells locally produced traditional dairy scoop ice cream, in mouth-watering flavours such as Clotted Cream and Devon Toffee.
The Barge Gallery
With The Barge Gallery also moored in Bancroft Basin seems to be the place to visit to see an unusual narrowboat. Providing art-lovers and locals with a novel shopping experience, this floating gallery is the perfect way to display waterway art in all its glory. The gallery doesn’t just specialise in waterway paintings though, with jewellery, ceramics and glassware also available to buy.
The Tia narowboat operates in and around the South Midlands selling environmentally friendly cleaning products to the boating community (although it doesn’t discriminate against land dwellers). Whether it's shampoo or shower gel, boat wax or heavy duty hand scrub, Tia caters for every sanitary need and even provides refills on certain products to really boost its green credentials. It's not just cleaning products on offer though. Tia also provides duck and swan food, greetings cards, fridge magnets and more.
Baddie the Pirate
Baddie has been selling a range of low voltage led lighting specifically for boats and motorhomes on the canal for seven years now. You can often find Baddie at waterway festivals and she’s easily identified by the Jolly Roger at the front of the boat! If you’re looking to buy LEDs or find out more about them seek Baddie the Pirate out. Visit www.baddiethepirate.co.uk to find out where she’s currently moored.