A couple has renovated a run-down narrowboat into their dream home in just five months – and are now saving themselves £4,800 on rent every year.
Tash Littleford, 31, and fiancé Lee Stone, 38, from Solihull, Birmingham, began their renovation project in October 2018 – despite Tash having been on a narrowboat just twice before.
The couple spent five months completely refurbishing their 54ft long, 6ft wide boat on their own – with Lee taking charge of the lead work and Tash taking over interior design.
“In 2018, we were saving for and looking into buying a house,” Tash told Jam Press.
“Lee and I are both very ‘outdoorsy’ and wanted to live in the rural outskirts of Solihull – but property in Solihull is expensive.
“One day we were walking the dogs down the Stratford canal and Lee jokingly suggested we live on a boat.
“This spurred me on to actually look into how people go about buying boats.
“I had no idea how much they cost, how moorings worked, rules and regulations of the canal.
“We were completely clueless; in fact, I had only been on a narrowboat on two occasions in my life for day hires.”
After doing her research, Tash found out that buying a boat was an affordable option for the couple as they had been saving and there were nearby marinas available for permanent moorings.
She said: “I discovered Whilton Marina in Daventry, where we visited on about four occasions to view various boats within our budget.
“Renting a two-bed apartment in Solihull can cost around £800 per month, not including bills – and marina costs, insurance and boat license total to around £400 per month.
“On one visit, we found the perfect boat, went away to think about it as this was a huge decision for us and unfortunately it was sold within the next couple of days.
“We got our boat for £22,000, soon after visiting Whilton Marina on four occasions and viewing various boats within our budget.
“Aesthetically the boat was in very poor condition – a bad paint job all over, rust and very old, tatty interior.
“However the structure was actually good, the hull (metal) was really thick, which shows there had been no corrosion.
“This particular boat stood out to us because it’s a cruiser style, meaning it has more outdoor space and it was within budget and as the interior was quite basic, it looked easy enough to rip out.”
The couple spent four days steering their boat down the rivers Severn and Avon to the Lapworth Marina, where they are now based, and began renovating it straight away.
“We did everything ourselves and spent approximately £3,000,” she said.
“We worked on the boat for five months through autumn and winter – which definitely slowed us down – we only had weekends to work on the renovation due to work.
“We always worked on the boat together, however most of the initial work was lead by Lee – I had no idea how to build a studded wall or a door.
“So I basically did as I was told for the first stages of the renovation.
“The interior design however was down to me, thankfully Lee was happy to just let me run with it.”
Completed in March 2018, their home contains a Scandi-inspired kitchen – complete with a stove and breakfast bar.
The lounge features a fireplace, two-seater sofa, and TV, whereas the bathroom has a cassette toilet and the bedroom has a plush double bed.
There is also a relaxation space on the deck for the couple to take in the surrounding views when moored.
Tash said: “We didn’t want our boat to feel claustrophobic. Even though the space is small, I wanted it to feel quite open.
“My biggest concern when buying a boat was space,[I thought] ‘where would my clothes go?’ but you soon come to realise how little you actually need.
“I have had people say to me ‘Oh it’s bigger than I thought it would be’ which I take as a compliment as it’s only 54ft long.”
The couple now live on the boat full-time with their Sprocker Spaniel, Arlo.
Tash said: “The most common question is ‘I bet it’s freezing?’
“When the log burner is lit, it’s so hot you have all the windows open in the middle of winter!
“We have a couple of small oil heaters on here too, being such a small space, it heats up quickly.”
During lockdown, the couple have continued to work as normal as the boat is connected to WiFi.
Though the boat life suits the couple, it’s not always plain-sailing.
Tash said: “The path that we use when we get off the boat is muddy most of the year so I’m regularly changing my shoes when I get in my car.
“We also carry head torches everywhere we go, especially in the winter when you have to leave for work and come back in the dark but I’d say we are both more relaxed about life now, neither of us let work pressure get to us as much as we used to.
“I think once you realise there are other options in life than the norm and you don’t have to be earning a certain wage or living in a certain area [or] sized house to be genuinely happy, then you feel kind of free.
“I’ve found that the people who can’t understand it or regularly say ‘oh I couldn’t do it’ are the first that want to come and see the boat and go out cruising.”
The couple started an Instagram page in August 2018 to showcase their renovation and people are stunned by the transformation.