When you think of London, the things that come to mind are the sights, the buses and traffic and the melting pot of people that make this a busy and dynamic city. What I wasn’t aware of is the canals that are still leftover in the capital. These linear watery sanctuaries edge well know parts of the capital and are homes to wildlife and people. When Helen Babbs realises that she would never be able to afford to buy anywhere in London, the idea came to her of owning a narrowboat. Quitting the expensive rented rooms, her partner S. and her purchased a boat called Pike and moved it from the midlands to London.
Deciding forgo a permeant mooring, they spend time in different places in the city, moving on every few weeks or so to another borough. Whilst they never feel that they have settled, it does mean that they wake up to different views on a regular basis. Each area has its own rewards and charm, but they all share the a common theme of being transparent to most Londoners. She takes us on nature walks, trying to find out just how many species actually live along the canal, There is a chapter spent looking for the canals that used to be there, their presence left as ponds, dips and bridges that seem to serve no purpose.
I really enjoyed this; Babbs is an able writer and has drawn together a personal memoir of setting up a home in a narrow boat with elements of history, nature and people with a social commentary on the state of our capital. She has also revealed a hidden side to London, these canals and rivers that most are unaware of have a life and dynamic of their own that deserves to be celebrated.