Afloat on birdsong, hawthorn petals and young leaves
Jan. 10, 2021

Keeping Warm

Apple Podcasts podcast player badge
Spotify podcast player badge
Google Podcasts podcast player badge
Castbox podcast player badge
Stitcher podcast player badge
Podchaser podcast player badge
iHeartRadio podcast player badge
PlayerFM podcast player badge
Podcast Addict podcast player badge
Castro podcast player badge
RSS Feed podcast player badge
Goodpods podcast player badge

What is it like to be on a narrowboat in the grip of a winter’s cold spell? How do you keep warm on a boat?  

Living and working on the canal systems in winter has been notoriously difficult and hard. In this episode we reflect on what it entails to live on the canals in winter today. We also hear a piece of Victorian reportage by a journalist travelling on the Grand Union Junction flyboat, Stourport, in the late 1850s. We also find out why liveaboard boaters could be viewed as ‘floating hobbits.’

Journal entry:

“3rd January Sunday.

I went out into the soundless sphere of night as the New Year was dawning and said “This is me and I am here. You seem so big and dark and unknown.” 

But I have known your brothers and sisters and have learnt to revel in the days of their sunshine and find their special beauties under skies of steel and water.

Today is filled with clinging fog that chills the marrow and makes the bones ache, but your suns will soon come, and larks will sweep the skies again.


Episode Information

In the welcome section I mention the work of Andrew Plummer and his magnificent photographs. His Instagram page is:

I also refer to the work of Dru Marland and read out a section from one of her posts from her Facebook page. You can view her exquisite artwork, featuring wildlife and canals, on her Etsy page:

In this episode I read an extract from journalist and impresario John Hollingshead’s (1858) illuminating account of his journey from London to Birmingham in a Grand Union Junction flyboat, Stourport. You can read a digital copy of this in his Odd Journeys In and Out of London.  The article is titled ‘On the Canal’.


General Details

In the intro and the outro, Saint-Saen's The Swan is performed by Karr and Bernstein (1961) and available on CC at

Two-stroke narrowboat engine recorded by 'James2nd' on the River Weaver, Cheshire. Uploaded on 23rd June 2018. Creative Commons Licence. 

Piano interludes composed and performed by Helen Ingram.

All other audio recorded on site. 

For pictures of Ericaand images related to the podcasts or to contact me, follow me on:

I would love to hear from you. You can email me at