When I was seven I moved on to an old Thames barge called Glenway. To get to the dry land you had to walk down a wooden gangplank which would be quite level when the tide was out, but rather steep when the tide was in, because the barge floated up much higher than the quay it was tied to. So just getting off the boat or on to it could be a bit of an adventure! There were various other children who lived on nearby boats, and we all spent a lot of time mucking about in the water or mud, or (memorably) on a local heap of coal dust (my Mum wasn’t very pleased with that particular adventure!)
When I was eight we moved to another barge, Nidd (pictured) at the Medway Bridge Marina, near Rochester. My sister and I and our friends used to call ourselves The Boatyard Patrol, and we imagined we were like the Famous Five, keeping an eye out for suspicious characters in the boatyard and following them around. We also made dens in the trees nearby, and played war, or pretended there were witches or ghosts chasing us.
We moved around and lived on different boats, so life stayed adventurous. We also went travelling in some of our boats. I was nine when we took the first boat across the English Channel to France for three months. When I was ten we took the barge Nidd to Holland and Belgium and France, and when I was eleven we went up the River Thames nearly as far as Oxford.
Most holidays, we’d take the boat out and anchor in the creeks off the Medway estuary. It was very peaceful, just out in the middle of the river or creek with no connection to the land. We’d muck about in dinghies or go for walks on the estuary salt marshes.
I was very sad to finally leave the last barge we lived on, and move on to dry land. But we didn’t go to a house – my mum and dad bough a ruin in Wales, and we lived in caravans while they tried to rebuild it! By the time they moved in, I’d left for university – so I never did get to live in a proper house till I left home.