Saturday, 27 August 2016

Ellesmere Port and the National Waterways Museum.

Saturday 27th August, 2016 to Ellesmere Port.
Not such a bright morning but still pleasant.

A chance conversation yesterday with a family out walking the Roman walls resulted in them joining us on board MM this morning. When we met them yesterday, they were peering over the city walls admiring MM. It turned out that they had never been on a narrowboat but were very keen to try. So, we invited them to join us today to go down the staircase of three locks.
Having reconnoitred the locks earlier, we knew that it would be a baptism of fire (or water) for them and half expected that they would not show up. But they did, promptly at 10:00am as arranged. Paul, his mother Irma and his sons Joe and Oliver. Paul lives locally (unfortunately his wife was working today and couldn't join us) and Irma is visiting for the weekend from Chelmsford.
Joe and Oliver soon palled up with Guy.
 After R had set the three staircase locks ready for us, Paul quickly got the  hang of the top lock gates.
These deep staircase locks always attract a lot of interest from passers by.
The boys with their "Nana", enjoyed the excitement but stayed on board MM.
You can just see MM's bow through the lock gates high above. The three locks drop the canal 32ft.
After negotiating the locks, they opted to stay on board for a short trip down the canal. On the way, we passed a group of C&RT volunteers working on weeding flower beds beside an access path.
Finally, Paul decided that they should start to walk back, so R pulled into the bank. It was too shallow at the edge to get MM right up against the bank, so R got out the gang plank for our visitors. Oliver insisted on walking the plank unaided - he was fearless!
Time for a group photo.
Then they all set off to walk back to Chester. It was a real pleasure to have them on board and to introduce them to the wonderful world of narrowboating. Paul says that he's really keen to try a narrowboat holiday and eventually to get his own boat, possibly one that "needs work" and to do it up himself.
We then continued on to Ellesmere Port and the National Waterways Museum. The Museum is at the junction of the Shropshire Union Canal and the Manchester Ship Canal. We had intended to arrive via the MSC but ran out of time this year - so, we will save it for next year, an adventure to be greatly anticipated. The museum site covers a wide area including many original buildings, wharves and the locks down to the MSC.
The museum turned out to be brilliant, not least for an exhibition celebrating the 300th anniversary of the birth of James Brindley. On display were four of his original notebooks, full of calculations, notes and his expenses such as on Saturday 5th November 1763, "Dined at the Bull 0=0-8p" (clearly a gourmet meal at that price!).
Our time was a little restricted, so we decided to "report in full" when we return next year and hope to spend a day or more exploring the museum. There is just too much to see in one day.
Reluctantly, we turned in the museum basin and headed back towards Chester.
Sadly, there was a lot of detritus in the canal (R was down the weed hatch twice), mostly plastic bottles, bags and tin cans. M, while admiring the flora, was pleased to see Purple Loosestrife and King Cups, but was definitely less pleased to see a not so rare species of floating refrigerator.
We were amused to see a long line of old telegraph poles, some of which had become ivy poles.
Some were only half covered.
There were lots of herons on this section of canal and many of them stood their ground as we passed, particularly this one which was standing a few yards from the M53 bridge and probably didn't consider us a threat given the mind numbing din from above.
We found a quiet mooring for the night about two-thirds of the way back to Chester as we intend to make an early start in the morning to get back for a service in the Cathedral that includes work by Thomas Tallis.
Today: 14 miles, 3 locks and 9.2 hours (inc. power yesterday) and seven herons.
Trip: 288 miles, 208 locks and 212.6 hours.

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