Philippa’s story: Floating on cloud nine

1 December 2016

Philippa has always loved the water; it had long been her dream to live on the river. When the chance to buy – rather than rent – a mooring on a river in Yorkshire came up, Philippa knew she needed to act quickly.

“Moorings are the hardest things to buy,” she explains. “They never seem to come up and when they do, a lot of people are interested. And it’s not straight forward; you can’t get a normal mortgage with a boat or a mooring.”

This mooring was a particularly attractive specimen: excellent access down a pretty, cloistered lane; a generous garden comprising fruit trees and plenty of room for storage and sitting out; mains utilities; and good river frontage. But it was already under offer.

When Philippa spoke with the owner and explained her plan to renovate the large but dilapidated old barge that came with the mooring purchase, he was delighted. It had always been his plan to bring the boat back to life, but he’d never managed it.

Philippa needed a mortgage to buy the mooring and came straight to the Ecology Building Society for help. “Ecology is the only lender I know of that will provide a mortgage on a mooring,” she says. “They were really, really helpful – very fair and up front. I rang up and they talked me through the process, pointing out all the important bits. Without Ecology I couldn’t have done it at all.”

At 120 years old, the boat that Philippa promised to renovate already had a rich history, having been used as a floating youth hostel in the 1970s and more recently as a gymnasium. But after a huge amount of elbow grease, Philippa has transformed it into something slightly more conventional: a three-bed house boat with many mod-cons including app-controlled central heating, a roll-top bath and a fitted kitchen.

So is life on the river all Philippa thought it would be? “I have quite a stressful job and when I come home, nothing matters,” she says. “You can’t be stressed when you live on a boat. The life you get is priceless. It makes you really appreciate nature.”

As well as using recycled materials to refurbish her boat, Philippa grows fruit that she turns into preserves and wines, counts otters, swans, foxes and many other creatures as regular visitors and weaves willow trees into fences and sheds. Then there’s the tiny green tansy beetle: once widespread in the UK but now found only along the banks of the Ouse around York. A glass ceiling above Philippa’s bed also means that she gets to fall asleep gazing at the stars. “I’m not quite Barbara from The Good Life,” she says. “But we try to use everything we can.”

Buying a mooring isn’t as straightforward as purchasing a house, Philippa warns, but she’s not about to advise against it: “If people want customer service and they want to make it easier, I’d say go to Ecology. They made a complicated and stressful process a lot easier.

“My advice would be ‘do it!” she adds.