Grant Hebblewhite – happy Ever After. Alice Griffin reports
WHEN Grant Hebblewhite retired from the police in August 2021 after 30 years of service, he was looking for a relaxed life closer to nature, as well as a way of living that would allow him to move around.
“I love the proximity to nature, the people, and the freedom narrowboat life gives me – the ability to go off anywhere I like, when I like. I’m not one for staying in one place for long so this lifestyle suits me!”
Grant’s boat, Ever After, is a 50ft reverse layout with cruiser stern, built in 2016. “The main selling points for me were age, layout and the potential to make it my own inside.” Initially Grant took on a mooring for a year on the River Nene. “I wanted good accessibility to get work done, as well as the opportunity to adapt to living on board, picking up advice from other boaters.”
Despite having enjoyed his time on the River Nene, Grant is leaving it behind to move on to the canal system and cruise for a while before settling on a small marina as a base. “As Pappy to five grandchildren, I need to be local to my daughter for a while to help with childcare.”
First stop will be the Grand Union Canal, which Grant grew up alongside. “It was always there when I was a kid and I used to fish on it, walk and cycle along it.” I imagine this will be very relaxing, considering Grant’s maiden voyage bringing Ever After from Ramsey, Cambridgeshire, back to Northamptonshire. “I was on my own having never driven a narrowboat and had to do 29 river locks – it was an experience to say the least!”
Grant intends to spend much of his time, though, indulging in photography. “My interest in photography came from an early age when my grandpa used to take me out with a 35mm camera around the local park in Northampton.” This inspired in Grant a love of photographing nature and he now takes his camera everywhere.
“I’ll always take it with me when I’m walking my cocker spaniel, Meg, and this is often when I see the barn owl.” There have been many wonderful moments captured, like the privilege of getting up close to a kingfisher on the bow of his boat.
“There was word of a kingfisher in the marina and as I know how nervous they are, I came up with the plan of putting a branch on the bow of the boat hoping it would see it as a fishing perch.” It didn’t take long for Grant’s plan to work. “One day I was sitting in the saloon when I heard chirping so I looked to the bow where I saw a male kingfisher.
“I set up my camera on a tripod with a black bin bag covering the bow door so the next time he came I was able to get some lovely close-up shots. I could hardly breathe as I took the photographs as it was only about four feet away from me.”
As well as beautiful photos shared on Instagram, in the last year Grant has decided to start documenting his journey on YouTube. He shared with me why he sees this as an important thing to do. “My mother suffers with Alzheimer’s disease and so can’t tell me much about her early life now. My vlog will hopefully remain for my family to view, a reminder of where it began – my daughter sometimes watches my videos at night while feeding her baby!”
Grant also enjoys the process of filming and editing his videos and hopes to grow his skills as he continues. “I hope others interested in narrowboats, or just off-grid living, will enjoy them.” Watchers can also get a few tips in the kitchen as the cooking section of Grant’s vlog is apparently quite popular!
“Food and cooking are another passion of mine so I do enjoy filming these videos. Although I try not to make ‘how to’ videos, they’re more like a fly on the wall view of my life.”
Having enjoyed a long career in the police, working in a lot of different departments from patrol to CID, Grant intends to now sit back and enjoy retirement. “My plans are to enjoy my boat, travel as much as possible and indulge in my latest interest of painting, both in watercolour and on my iPad digitally.”
Sounds like a happy Ever After to me!
Alice Griffin is a writer and yoga teacher with a gypsy soul. Through her Slow Into the Seasons courses filled with nature, yoga, meditation and journalling practices, she inspires people to live their most authentic life. Website: www.alicegriffin.co.uk Instagram @wanderingalicegriffin