In the 1980's when property prices were increasingly unaffordable, there were people that took to the waterways. At the time, many canals had fallen
into almost complete disuse and British waterways authorities were not really active. I knew boating communities that paid no mooring fees as there
were no official moorings to be had in the area whereas other areas had marinas, chandleries and pumping house facilities that did charge a nominal
fee. Boat living was very affordable and anyone could create a living space on the water.
Pre solar tech, most boats had no electricity and electrical hook-up at official residential moorings were rare. Lit by candles or oil lamps and
sometimes bottled gas and heated by wood/coal burning stoves, the boats were cosy and romantic places to live. Coal was still being delivered by
barge. I remember as a child (when we referred to the canal as 'the cut') watching a woman, covered in coal dust, lift a coal sack probably weighing
more than she did, and toss it from the roof of the coal barge onto the roof of another boat, to be collected by the boat owner who then paid the man
leading the coal barges' horse. A romantic but hard life.
But all good things come to pass and the authorities saw an opportunity to make some money, did some regeneration/gentrification with the result that
some residential moorings are now not accessible for traditional boat dwellers. Boat living now seems a middle class lifestyle choice rather than a
traditional working class nomadic life.
The canal museum (and everything that goes with it) at Stoke Bruerne is one of my favourite places. www.canaljunction.com...
their site has lots of info about historic waterways life in the UK.
One of our canals, the Worcester and Birmingham
travels up hill requiring the operation of
30 locks to raise the boat 220ft.canalrivertrust.org.uk...
and some tunnels
still require strong legs to traverse them.
The Grand Union canal was designed as the 'arterial' canal and was the main trunk from London to the industrial heartlands.
The canals (as in Holland) are designed with 'basins' to allow boats to turn. At Stoke Bruerne there are basins at each end of the unlit tunnel to
allow for people that do not want to traverse the tunnel and risk getting stuck to turn around and go back from whence they came.
As to the boats themselves, I quite like a bit of boat-porn and this is my go to site narrowboats.apolloduck.co.uk...
The Stoke Bruerne site has some useful info about all the traditional boats used on British waterways www.canaljunction.com...