Posted 26th Sep 2016
In the latest of our Humans of the Waterway features, courtesy of the Canal & River Trust, we meet Ade & Sue
When we started selling cheese from a narrowboat I had no idea of the amazing story hidden in my family history.
We'd already been running the business, The Borders Cheese Carrying Company, selling Welsh cheeses from our boat for years when I found out I had an uncanny connection with my great grandfather. The discovery came when a project looking after the historic boat Saturn started unfolding stories about some of the men who crewed the famous Shroppie fly-boats in the heyday of working boats. When I spotted one name, I said "Richard Jones, that's my great grandad!" That's how I found out he was a Shroppie fly-boat man! Shroppie fly-boat men were the elite of boatmen, crewing horse-pulled boats with super-fast performance. So my great grandad worked as one in the team running non-stop day and night to carry perishable goods across the waterways. He always did the standard run - Ellesmere Port to Wolverhampton and back, and he carried Cheshire Cheese in his boat. Today I carry Snowdonia and Caws Cenarth Cheese, which I think is cheese that's a little bit special.
I remember my great grandad from when I was little, sitting outside the Barbridge Inn, or the Kings Arms as it was in the 1970s. I used to sit fishing listening to his stories but I didn't really take them in... I was just looking for the next fish. He lived to be 100 and something, but sadly he's no longer with us – he died in 1987 I think. I've got a photograph of him and people say we look very alike.
Sue and I have been living on our boat travelling with cheeses for around six years now. We don't have an engine to propel us because we have one of the few completely electric boats on the canals today. We've got solar panels, a massive electric factory below and a brain of a victron! There's underfloor heating to keep us warm and batteries to safely keep the cheese cool. There's a freezer on board, two fridges and cool boxes everywhere.
Nooshka, our Welsh tabby cat, lives aboard with us. She keeps pests away... so she's security! It's a good life for the three of us, travelling on the water. Before we started this business we ran a boatyard fixing boats and we didn't get to go out in the boat much. Now we do some big journeys, 40 hours this week, and that's better than being stuck in any office job. It's a great feeling not working for someone else."
Image & text courtesy of The Canal & River Trust