From Chelsea to the canals, Londoners are taking to the water in search of a more peaceful way of life on a houseboat. Jo Rodgers clambers aboard.
Not far from World’s End, the Chelsea neighbourhood of 1970s council blocks and top-tier antique dealers, there’s a turn-off toward the Thames that you could pass 100 times without noticing. Next to the Embankment, a pair of planked wooden doors open to a quiet boatyard with a few handfuls of moorings, including the sunny houseboat of Alexandra Pringle, a publisher, and her husband, Rick Stroud, a writer and film-maker. A sturdy green gangway (‘the Waitrose delivery drivers are sometimes very nervous,’ says Alexandra) takes you over the riverbank to a red front door, flanked by hale plants, in terracotta pots and dolly bins, and a brass ship bell.