Having got to Chester, we just had to complete the journey to the end of the line at Ellesmere Port. Back in the 1790s, engineers had a similar idea when they wanted to create a waterway which would connect the Mersey and the Severn. However disagreements, rising costs and falling traffic needs meant that the full route was never completed, and instead of being the Ellesmere canal, this section earnt the nickname of the most unsuccessful canal. Nowadays however it is a interesting change from the rest of the Shroppie. Much much quieter than the run into Chester, floating weed replacing hire boats as the main obstacle
It would have caused havoc if the weed had got wrapped around the prop so we were going extra slowly, so the locals didn’t really need it keep such a close eye on us, cause we weren’t going to trigger this speed camera
But apart from the weed it was ok to cruise along, and we found some lovely mooring places
At Ellesmere Port , where the Shroppie, Manchester Ship canal , Mersey all come together the Canal and River trust have utilised the old wharf buildings to create a fantastic museum
It showcases canal history, how times have changed. When families worked the canals instead of mooching about like we do, they lived in a fraction of the space we have, with one tiny cabin for the whole family to cook, eat and sleep in, and moving from first to last light every day.
It brings a new meaning to WFH(working from home)
And they were no less proud of their homes. A tradition barge would have been beautifully decorated with ornate paintwork of roses and castles, crochet trim and polished brass.
The horses would also have had crocheted fly protectors and painted tack. But I don’t think they would have had a whole granny square coat like this one.
Of course not all narrowboats were how we imagine them with our rose tinted glasses. The first commercial canal was the Bridgewater canal , servicing the coal mines at Worsley. These were known as Stavationers, because the internal ribbing looked like a starving persons ribs.
And the wide beam boats often did shorter journeys so didn’t all have living quarters. The site at Ellesmere Port was not only a wharf for goods ferried across the Mersey, but it was the site of the local gas works, where coal was burnt to produce Town gas. One of the buildings is dedicated to some magnificent old engines and we were lucky to get a guide who talked us through the machinery.
The entry ticket to the museum is valid for a whole year, which is a good thing because there is so much to see and too much to absorb in a single visit. But the day we visited felt like November not September and we got our wires crossed about what we both wanted to do, so didn’t stop overnight as we could and should have done. And of course once we had left and moored up the weather improved.
I would wholeheartedly recommend a visit to this museum for all boaters. Just don’t cycle to it along the Towpath.