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The charity making life better by water

Margaret, living life afloat

After generously and kindly pledging a gift in her Will to our charity, Margaret tells us more about a life lived well by water, and why she has fallen unexpectedly in love with canals in the West Midlands.

Woman stands outside Birmingham's Roundhouse looking directly into the camera

In her late seventies, Margaret is still continuously cruising our waterways, living aboard her narrowboat, Will o' the Wisp, and is currently on the Coventry Canal.

Having spent her early married life afloat in the Thames estuary, she returned to the water to live on her canal boat in 2006.

In Margaret's words

In my twenties and early thirties, when I was married, we lived on an old converted RNLI rescue lifeboat in the Thames estuary. I adored the boating life back then, but life moves on, and I lived in London and Aberdeen for a long time.

Later in life, I was aware that living on a big heavy wooden boat on tidal waters was a young person's game, but I thought ‘well I can manage a canal boat,' so with a like-minded friend, I decided to move south from Aberdeen and look for one. Ironically at the time, my friends said, ‘where are you planning to go?'. I liked the idea of the East Anglian waterways, but actually the boats we found were in the West Midlands.

I tell this story against myself, because if anyone at the time had said why don't you live in the West Midlands I would have said ‘yeah, right!' because I had visions of this industrial wasteland. But it's just so beautiful and I consider Staffordshire my home now.

I wouldn't go back on land. I think I would feel trapped. Having that sense of freedom and being close to nature is wonderful. Also, having moved onto the boat in 2006, I now really feel more at home with the flowers, trees and birds, than I do with people. I do have some very dear friends, but sometimes I'd rather have a sparrow!

Woman on a narrowboat smiles and raises a cup of coffee

I'm in my late seventies now, but if I get too old to continuously cruise, my plan is to find a really nice private mooring and use the boat as a houseboat, where friends and family can come to stay.

For several years, I've returned to Wychnor on the river section of the Trent & Mersey Canal. I've been volunteering with the RSPB. They paired me up with a local farmer who had concerns about wildlife on his land and I recorded the species I found there. I've identified 79 species so far, which is quite extraordinary. It's such a privilege on an early spring or summer morning to walk this beautiful land and I'm very happy that the Canal & River Trust granted me permission for extended stays at Wychnor on several separate occasions so that I could do this work.

Last year, the Trust hadn't mowed the land around the places where I moored and so many wildflowers, butterflies and damselflies sprung up. Consequently, there were many more birds too. It was just so beautiful, like something I remember from childhood. In future that's what I'd like to see continue by the canal, thanks to my legacy.

Last Edited: 21 September 2023

photo of a location on the canals
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