Saturday, 6 September 2014

Retirement havens?

We have always known that we would have to ‘down size’ at some point during retirement.  The big question though is “Where to?”.  During our travels we have been crossing off counties and areas that we would not want to live but there are still huge swathes of the country that have not been crossed off.

One thing we have always been fixed upon is being remote and possibly by a canal.  We are in two minds about being by a canal because if we had moorings would we ever go out on the boat?  All too often we see boats moored at the bottom of gardens and they are clearly neglected and, sadly, not used.

We have seen some idyllic lock cottages and even request details of those that we see for sale.  One that wasn’t for sale but sticks in our minds is one we dubbed ‘Paradise Cottage’.  It is on a lock on the Aylesbury arm of the Grand Union canal.  We first saw it last spring when approaching the lock and saw that it was lovingly looked after.  The current owners were tending the garden which was really colourful and extended to about two acres.  Goodness knows how two octogenarians were agile enough to be gardening all day (on our second trip past she was using a chainsaw) when we feel that our acre will become too much for us to look after!  When operating the lock Karen got talking to the couple and I joined in as we went through.  They were so friendly and sweet and told us they had lived there since retiring 31 years previously.

Like so many lock cottages it had no vehicular access when they first bought it.  Everything was delivered by boat and off loaded whilst in the lock. They did eventually purchase a strip of land from a farmer and put in vehicular access. Last winter was particularly wet and we saw many floods in that area.  This prompted us to ask them if they were ever flooded.  The lady’s response was one that will always remain dear to us, “Downstairs gets flooded every year or so but we don’t mind as we live in paradise”.

Karen striking up conversation whilst I waited for the lock to fill.

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"Paradise Cottage" from below the lock.

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When we were on the Kennet & Avon canal we ticked Wiltshire as a county we could move/retire to.  There was one particular cottage in Brimslade, South of Marlborough.  It had just one other property, a farm, on its lane - it was ideally remote, on a bridge, by a lock. with a stream (see below).  Anyway, this year it came up for sale and we were so tempted but our heads told us it was the wrong time to try and move when we were hoping to move aboard for at least a year. The pictures show that we had a good nose around.

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The Brimslade cottage was fairly near Wootton Rivers, a village we fell in love with, and another lock cottage shown in the rain below.  For those of you who are old enough you may remember an absolutely dire television comedy starring David Essex called The River.  This was filmed in this lock cottage and the local pub, the Royal Oak, which we had to visit (purely for research purposes of course).

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A still from that dire comedy of 1988. 

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This lock cottage also came up for sale in Oxford where the Oxford canal starts to becomes really rural as it leaves the north of Oxford.  It is on the junction with Dukes Cut, a short canal from the Thames which enters on the left of the picture.

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Further on up the Oxford canal we came across this one for sale (ignoring the red paint of course). The nearest vehicular access was 1/2 mile away so all deliveries were via the lock seen in the foreground.  I think the asking price is too high as it is still for sale over a year later.

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This property wasn’t for sale but the other boat in the lock with us was delivering coal to them as they had no access.  This was new year’s day 2014 which you may remember was wild and windy but not really depicted here.  I think I will do a piece on trading boats so will include details of the boat delivering here.


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Karen and I have slightly different view on owning a property. I would gladly sell up and live on the boat until we were incapable or had had enough of living on the water; whereas Karen currently feels she would like a land base, especially for the children to come home to.  For the time being we will retain our house in Kent…

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