This is a view from the Greenway, a section of the canal a few blocks away from Three Mills Mooring. People still think of the canal as a place to deposit their trash and unwanted belongings. This is a sight that will be hidden once the canal improvements for the 2012 Olympics are made and the canal is no longer tidal.
The narrow boats at Three Mills Mooring sit on the mud twice a day. This gives Brian and his son Darren at least four good hunting hours for the worms, that they sell for tropical fish food. Darren says cloudy days are ideal because the worms rise close to the surface so they don’t have to dig as deep. The boaters say they will miss hearing Brian and Darren swear at each other outside their windows as they rush to finish before the water rises again.
Darren says worm work is hardest on your arms and back. Today he has a hole in his waders and his legs are cold and wet. After the canal improvements they will have to try and find somewhere else to hunt but they will keep coming here until the very end. Darren, 28, likes the work and hopes to keep doing it as long as there are places to hunt.
The boaters realized after looking for new moorings to move to, that they have a pretty good deal at Three Mills, because they are tucked away from sight by other people, they are allowed to do as they please with the mooring. Many people grow plants and store extra belongings that don’t fit, in their 7ft wide by 70 ft long, boats on the mooring or on the roof. One of the reasons Luke Fraiser and his family asked to stay, because with two young children, they have a lot more stuff than most boaters and moving would be hard. They have almost out-grown their boat as it is. Luke, who is in-charge of his two boys while his wife Laura works, is often found taking a break through his port-hole.
A cold and cloudy Saturday on the Fraiser boat has Albie, 6, restless. There are no other children on the mooring or anywhere close by so he and his younger brother Josh, 4, have to be creative in order to entertain themselves. Luke and Laura have loved living on their narrow boat at Three Mills for the past 6 years but they are out-growing their home and with the inflated housing market in London, they cannot afford to live anywhere else.
Dick Vincent watches from his boat as Luke comforts his son Josh, 4, after a mid-mooring racing collision with older brother Albie, 6. For Albie and Josh’s entire lives, the mooring has been lined with other boats, leaving little opportunity for the boys to fall into the water or the mud. Soon all of the boats but three will be gone, there will be fewer eyes to help watch during future mooring races and the mud will be gone. Luckily the boys are older now and are learning how to swim.
Fred and Ester, the swans, live under the bridge at the end of the Three Mills mooring. They visit whenever they see people around, in hopes there might be some free handouts. They nest under the bridge each year and introduce their babies to the community. Brian, the worm man, helped Ester when she had her leg stuck in trash underwater and the tide was rising up around her. Their bridge is included in the plans for construction.
Another perk to living at Three Mills is the extra outdoor space they have acquired over the years. At one end of the mooring, there is a patch of land that a few community memebers turned into a garden and a picnic area for barbeques. During the summer nights, it is rare to find the outdoor communal space without people sitting, talking and eventually dancing by a fire. This is the last night they are all together before the big move.
“Coal Liz” Striker, 32, took over the business in September and has been traveling up and down London’s canals selling coal for seven days a week ever since. She looks forward to the canal improvements so her customers at Three Mills can call her when they need coal and she can deliver what they need to their boats instead of having to wait around for them to drive to a near-by location.
“When someone says ‘it weighs a ton,’ I know how much that means,” says Coal Liz. She owns the business with her boyfriend, who lives on the buttee boat that is supposed to be pulled by her boat. This year he has to work at another job until they can pay off the boats, so she is doing most of the work by herself and has the muscles to prove it. Being able to access more clients once the canal is non-tidal might mean her boyfriend can quit his job sooner, for now she is eagerly looking forward to taking a break in the summer until next fall when the weather turns cold again.