Comment: Can’t afford a house? Buy a boat

Living the water way: Jane having a go on her cousin's £12,000 boat, Peg

Living the water way: Jane having a go on her cousin's £12,000 boat, Peg - Credit: Archant

We all know how ridiculous house prices are in this part of the world, but for anyone looking for an alternative to the traditional buying or renting of an actual house or flat, there are options – some more appealing than others.

Living on a boat sounds lovely, but the towpath can be a dangerous place

Living on a boat sounds lovely, but the towpath can be a dangerous place - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

My daughter has this thing about wanting to live in a campervan. It’s obviously a terrible idea, not least because there are five of us and we drive each other up the wall as it is (we currently have several walls – the walls of just one van would be too much – actually, too little – for all of us.)

My cousin Sally had a better idea when London living proved too exorbitant, and bought herself a boat.

The transient nature of it wouldn’t be for everyone, not to mention the cramped living conditions. But for those happy to travel light it can be a great way of life as part of a supportive community of fellow boaters. Plus, it makes home ownership affordable (her boat was a snip at just £12,000 – less than the deposit on a house in most parts of London and the South East).

One thing that worried me when I went to visit her was the vulnerability of it all, sleeping so close to passing potential muggers or rapists without the benefit of the security systems those of us living behind bricks take for granted.

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She assured me that there are very few cases of people being attacked on board, and it’s usually walkers or cyclists that bear the brunt of towpath crime.

Sadly the summer saw a spate of crime along London’s towpaths, including violent muggings. One gang is believed to have been behind eight robberies in just four days.

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In a subsequent survey of towpath users, more than half (53 per cent) admitted to having avoided the canal and riverside because they were concerned about crime.

Boaters are fighting back, with a ‘Reclaim the Towpath’ event on Sunday at 2pm, meeting at Springfield Park, E5; anyone who’s ever used a towpath, from cyclists and dog-walkers to fully paid-up boat-dwellers, is invited to form a human chain in solidarity.

While this way of life isn’t for everyone, you can’t argue with the figures – and the opportunity to own your own home outright, something that continues to elude most of us (campervan enthusiasts aside).

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