WHEN Julie Weir and her husband Mark settled down to watch a TV programme about people living on a houseboat, they had no idea that the programme would change their lives.

But less than a year later, the Hampshire couple had sold their suburban home of 13 years, as well as most of their possessions, and bought a houseboat of their own.

The couple gave up their careers as a family support worker and an estate agent respectively, leaving the long hours and commutes to spend their days pursuing their passions for painting and writing.

Now, rather than living in a four-bed house in Gosport, their home is a wide-beam boat on the Kennet and Avon Canal, which links London with the Bristol Channel.

"We were spending all our time working, and we felt that there must be more to life," says Julie, 46.

"We watched My Floating Home, and we thought 'we could do that'. Our children had grown up and left home. We realised that we could be mortgage free, give up working and turn our hobbies into jobs.

"I was painting and he wrote novels as sidelines but we wanted to do those things all the time."

At the time of watching the programme, Julie had been made redundant, and was already trying to make a career as a full-time artist.

"I had six months' money, so I thought I could try it for five months and then I'd have a month to look for a job if it didn't work."

Once the couple had the initial idea, they were swift to put it into action, and after doing their research were looking at houseboats just two months later.

The boat is a spacious home, with all mod cons, and two king size bedrooms. But it is obviously a lot smaller than the couple's old house, and they had a lot of clearing out to do, before they made the move last November, selling many of their possessions at car boot sales, giving some away and putting some in storage.

"Our children are 26 and 23 and have settled where they went to university," says Julie.

"I think they were a bit shocked at first as it seemed like such a drastic move to give up bricks and mortar, but they love it now.

"We did have our concerns about stepping off the property ladder too, and did consider renting our house out, but we thought that you only live once, and decided to take the plunge.

"We sold our house, which meant we could buy the boat outright and get one that we really likes, rather than making do."

Amongst the huge lifestyle changes for Julie and Mark was being with each other almost all the time."

"We did wonder what it would be like, but it has worked really well," says Julie.

"Art and writing are both quiet activities. We hardly talk in the day and just meet up for lunch. We probably spend more hours working than we did before, but we're both doing things that we love."

Julie paints pet portraits, landscapes, cityscapes and also runs art courses. As well as selling her work in galleries, at fairs and online, she also has a trader's licence, so she can sell her work from the boat anywhere on the canal.

Mark had had two novels published before the couple made the move, and has recently published his third, Annie of the Point.

As constant cruisers, the couple are allowed to stay at each mooring for two weeks before they have to move on, but that can be just a mile away. They enjoy the changing scenery and, as Julie laughs, if they have noisy neighbours, they can just move.

"We had a big garden before, but not much time to use it. Like many people, we only really used the patio. Now we have the deck to sit on and we have a herb garden and some pots and our views our spectacular. It's like the whole countryside is our garden.

"We are definitely more outdoors people now," Julie adds.

"Before, you would go indoors and not see your neighbours. On the canal, everyone is so friendly, because you're all doing the same thing. We talk to more people and have made more friends than we did of 13 years in our old house.

"You can only move at two miles an hour on the boat, so you're seeing the same people all the time.

"I definitely see this as a long-term thing," she adds.

"Lots of retired people live on houseboats, so there's no reason why we can't do it too. I think it would be really restrictive to live in a house now."

Julie says that there haven't been any negatives about the move, and there have been some unexpected positives.

"We didn't expect to be as sociable as we are," she says.

"People talk to you all the time. They want to know about the boat and what you are doing. They stop and ask lots of questions and it's really enjoyable."

Julie, who only began painting in 2011 and went on to become a BBC wildlife artist of the year finalist in 2013, adds that her work has benefited hugely from the move.

""It's dramatically helped my career," she says.

"It's been fantastic being able to totally concentrate on my artwork and living on the canal is so inspiring."

You can find out more at their YouTube channel Weir on the Move, or search for Julie Weir art or Mark Weir author on Facebook. Julie is a professional associate member of the SAA, formerly Society for All Artists, and her page can be found on their website: www.saa.co.uk.