Monday, 19 February 2018

Mob Handed Or Too Many? 18th February

Ellesmere Port Basin

P1230824smP1230834smSunday morning, a cooked breakfast with a difference. We’d spotted in Sainsburys some mushroom saugsages, Shroomdogs, and thought we’d give them a try. They were nice, low in fat (although you have to pan fry them), but we’d rather have proper sausages or if being good turkey ones, but they were nice for a change.

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I got to have a bit of an explore, not that there is much on this island. Somehow she thought I was up to no good, no idea what made her think that!





Once I’d seared the outside of a joint of Silverside and sat it on top of some onions and carrots in the cast iron pot, given it a tipple of red wine, I sat it on the stove top to slowly cook whilst we had a look at the rest of the museum.

A narrowboat sat in the top lock ready to do a lock demonstration, smoke could be seen rising from one of the cottage chimneys and a couple of ladies were walking round in period dress. There was certainly more activity going on today than yesterday, the volunteers were out in numbers.

P1230840smP1230841smWe took time to look around the boats moored outside. The amount of space you get in a Leeds Liverpool short boat is vast, if we ever upgraded to a fat boat I’d want one of these.

P1230874smA group of volunteers were getting ready to move George, another short boat, out from under cover. George is one of the last horse drawn short boats, therefore has no engine so was going to have to be poled and pulled out from her position. Ropes were being attached to a pontoon bridge which connects the Island Warehouse to the Toll House. We decided to take a seat and watch what was going on.

P1230884smP1230887smContainers under the pontoon needed to be pumped out so that it could be floated out of the way, this was going to take time so we watched the lock demo for a bit. However having already done 721 locks with Oleanna there was nothing said that we didn’t know already.

P1230852smThe narrow locks were built with problems. The top chamber is getting on for 8/9 feet deep the second one maybe only 5 feet. This means that there is an excess of water and the bottom lock and pound above were prone to flooding, added to this that the bottom lock is around 8 inches lower than the pound above it most probably flooded every time it was used. A channel was added linking the intermediary pound to the one between the broad locks. This meant that the water had a much larger area to level itself out. As we came down the locks I’d noticed water coming in from the broad side and the bottom narrow lock did look like it was going to flood the towpath and surrounding area, it didn’t due to the underwater channel.

P1230889smP1230895smOnce the bridge was moveable  it was pulled across and tied up to the side, then it was George’s turn to move. Ropes were flung across to waiting volunteers and a lady poled her from the stern. From where we were it was very obvious that the gap left was far too narrow to get such a broad boat through, but they carried on, realising the bridge would need to move some more. Juggling boats here must have been such a nightmare when there were still the sunken boats about, today it was hard enough.

P1230897smP1230905smWe moved up onto a bridge and from our higher position we could see that more space was needed, but we refrained from calling out directions and left it to the volunteers. Eventually after nudging boats about they got George clear and to the top of the locks where they would need to turn her. There were already too many people helping so we decided we’d be better off inside the museum and left them to it.

George will be going out onto the Ship Canal on Wednesday, from where she will be taken onto the River Weaver and taken to Northwich where she will be getting a fresh coat of blacking on her wooden hull.

P1230955smThe upper floor of the Island Warehouse is filled with even more interesting things.

NB Friendship is the centre piece and she deserves to be.

P1230866smBuilt by Sephtons at Hawksbury Junction for Joe and Rose Skinner in 1924 she was a horse drawn narrowboat. She cost £300 and the Skinners paid an initial £140 the remaineder being gradually paid off by weekly 10 shilling instalments. NB Friendship became their home for over 50 years. Joe purchased Dolly their Mule from the US army at the end of WW1, she was a faithful worker giving 40 years of service. She fell into the Oxford Canal and then developed pneumonia which sadly led to her being put down. Without Dolly it wasn’t the same and with motor boats everywhere it was hard to compete, so they decided to retire at the end of 1959. Even though they had a house at Hawksbury Junction they continued to live on board NB Friendship using the house to store Joe’s scrap and occasionally cook Sunday dinner.

P1230868smThey would go to boat rallies and in 1973 they did their last long trip to Northampton, Joe was now in his 80’s. Joe died following a stroke in 1975 followed a year later by Rose. They had been married 56 years. Friendship was left to Rose’s niece, by 1978 enough money had been raised to bring the boat to Ellesmere Port. Much work was needed, but it was decided that it would be best to store her on dry land and retain the original boat as much as possible. To get her to her location in the museum she had to be cut in half and craned onto the first floor, rolled into position on scaffolding bars where she was put back together.

P1230922smP1230934smP1230948smOn this floor there is so much, you can rock an ice breaker, I managed to clear 5.3m of ice. You can look around a wooden cruiser, virtual tours of several other boats, watch footage of the Telford Warehouse burning to the ground in 1975. Listen to a navvie having a break, look at wooden patterns that were used for casting lock pieces, 1:24 scale models of hulls and try counting the number of granny squares it took to cover Rainbow.

P1230859smP1230953smA good information packed afternoon and we feel that we most definitely got our moneys worth. We could even have returned for some more as we found ourselves skipping over parts. Another £4 to moor another night and some chilled medication to walk back to Oleanna with. Tomorrow when we leave the museum will be closed, so no gongoozlers to help push gates.

P1230961smOur pot roast beef was delicious, we’ll defiantly  be doing that again.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 more night, 1 moor hen, 4 shroomdogs, 48 hours of lights, 8+ to move a bridge and boat, 2 more voices not needed, 94 years old, 1 special boat, 5.3m, £300, 5 boaty craft stalls, 283 squares, 1 super tasty joint of beef, 1 hearth rug finished.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Pregnancy Trekking. 17th February

Ellesmere Port Basin
P1230607smLast night we realised that where we are moored is opposite the Holiday Inn’s function room and we wondered if we would be kept awake tonight with a noisy disco from a wedding or some such. Mick ventured out of the museum to find a Saturday paper, he succeeded at a petrol station, most probably having had to dice with death vaulting over barriers on the big roads around here. But he returned safely for breakfast.
P1230721smAcross in the function room we could see people milling around, a bit early for a wedding. Maybe it was a conference. I zoomed in with my camera to some things that were on a table at the end of the room, sadly I didn’t take a photo. Next to what looked like a raffle prize of a basket of fruit was a display board. There was a map of Africa, a photo of a group of people in football shirts and across the top it said Pregnancy Trekking. All the people in the room were women of various ages, but mostly ladies who had long passed the days of child bearing. Maybe it said Pregnancy Training! They spent the day in that room, had lunch and at one point the curtains were firmly closed, either a film or some group activity that required some privacy.
P1230810smAnyhow, after breakfast we walked up to reception to finish checking in. Our mooring fee for two nights was the entrance fee for us both for the first day followed by £4 a night for Oleanna, £23.50. The entrance fee covers us for a full years admittance here and at The National Waterways Museum Gloucester too. This is very handy as we plan on heading to the Gloucester Sharpness Canal this year, just hope it reopens after a refurbishment before we get there.
P1230610smP1230633smThe Ellesmere Canal was Thomas Telfords first canal building job, linking the Mersey to the Dee at Chester and then the Severn (this section was never achieved). Ellesmere Port was a holiday destination in the 1790’s, very hard to believe now. Golden sands, a modern bathing house and the tourists were brought here by packet boat from Liverpool and Chester. The first canal basin was small, with only a lock keepers cottage, an inn, stables and an engine to pump water from the upper basin.
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The red dot is where we are moored
By 1843 a new dock was opened, updated with warehouses, offices and upgraded locks, it could now be a busy commercial port. New links with the Trent and Mersey, Birmingham and Liverpool Canals meant that the port grew quickly. The Manchester Ship Canal opened in 1894, bringing with it much industry. The Shropshire Union and Railway company advertised itself as the ‘first port on the Manchester Ship Canal’. Metal work, oil and chemicals all brought with it a growth in the population, no longer a holiday destination, just a  mass of industry! A lack of housing and increase in pollution followed.  The port expanded.
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No warehouses around us today
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Oleanna would just be through that archway
Moving goods on and off ships and canal boats took time, so hydraulic cranes were used around the docks to speed the process up all powered from a central Pump House. Later a dock railway did a similar job. They even produced their own gas on site, so work could continue through the night. Where Oleanna is moored at the moment there used to be warehouses spanning the islands, with archways below where boats could be loaded and unloaded. There are still signs of the supporting pillars as we walk too and fro from Oleanna.
P1230745smIn 1956 the docks closed, the site decayed and buildings became derelict. In 1971 an enthusiastic group wanting to preserve boats and the traditions of the canals decided to take action. They created The North West Museum of Inland Navigation, with local support Ellesmere Port became their home. The Toll House was the first to be restored and in June 1976 it housed a small exhibition. In 1980 The Boat Museum Trust was formed and in 1999 it was renamed the National Waterways Museum.
P1230671smP1230730smLast year a project funded by the Arts Council England Resilience Fund meant that many decaying sunk boats could be lifted out from the water and put into storage off site so that restoration work can be carried out on them. The Victoria Arm has funding to help develop it into a dry dock to be used to help conserve the museums boats and possibly for commercial use. The largest of the museums boats Cuddington (our nearest neighbour) will be able to fit in the dock.
P1230625smP1230654smWe spent the morning exploring the slipway, carpenters workshops, stables, power house.
P1230686smP1230706smP1230708smThen having home on our doorstep we returned to Oleanna for lunch before visiting the four Porters cottages which have been laid out spanning from 1830’s to 1950’s. Then we moved on to the Island Warehouse, but only managed to do the ground floor. There is so much to read and look at, things we thought we knew about, but there is so much more. Originally we thought we’d spend a day doing the museum, but because we can, we’ll finish what we started tomorrow, we may even stay another night.
P1230820sm0 locks, 0 miles, 1 private museum, 4 cottages, 52 pregnancy trekkers, 4mm needles, 2 much to read, 2 much to take in, 2nd day needed, 1 quiet night on board.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Turd Hop Scotch. 16th February

Caughall Bridge to Ellesmere Port Boat Museum Basin

P1040778smLast night we watched the final parts of Hard Sun. Part way through one of the episodes I recognised one of the locations along side the Regents Canal. We’d passed it in early June last year as they were filming interior shots of a drugs den, wonder if all the acros were just set dressing or actually needed to hold the building up?

P1230523smP1230526smP1230530smThis morning the top bits of the muddy ground around Oleanna were crispy crunchy with what lay below still squidgy and frost still lay in the fields. We knew that from here on in to Ellesmere Port was likely to be not so pretty and quite noisy due to the proximity of all the roads and industry. The industry of days gone by and access to the sea is why the canals exist so we don’t mind it.

P1230501smP1230516smBridges come at you almost constantly after the first pipe bridge. Old curved hump backed canal bridges, flat askew concrete motorway bridges. We worked our way along passing a long length of moored boats, the icy edges of the canal cracking as the water was sucked from under it.

P1230507smWanting to do a bigger shop to keep us going for a few days we pulled in at the 48hr moorings by bridge 141, which is half a mile away from Sainsburys.

P1230539smStepping off proved somewhat tricky as for every foot of towpath grass there was a large brown dog crap. Marple was bad last year, Nuneaton is usually bad but nowhere near as revolting as here. Even the dogs had had difficulty avoiding the mounds. For every perfectly formed pile there were two that had been trodden in and another that was so flattened that it fooled you into a false sense of clear ground. We played hopscotch with the turds as we moored up, keeping ropes up high off the ground just in case.

Walking round a motorway junction to buy a joint of beef is not what you do every week, but at least we’ve got Sunday dinner sorted.

P1230552smP1230570smWe pushed on, choosing not to stop and passed under more and more bridges. Then the welcome sight of the National Waterways Museum came into view through the last bridge hole. A chap who had been moored at Llangollen before Christmas was just about to pull away from the moorings so we carried on just past the gate to infront of the Reception building. On our very first trip out on NB Winding Down we came this far, filled with water, had a tiny look round the museum, winded and headed back towards Chester, today we were going to stay in the museum.

Two friendly ladies gave us information about the basin and where we could moor, how to get in and out of the museum after hours should we want to. We were also given a form to fill out which we could return with in the morning. It being a C&RT site we would need to find our Insurance Policy number. We’ll return in the morning to pay, the same as an entrance fee to the museum which we want to look around.

P1230574smTilly sat in the window being admired by visitors in the cafe, we were becoming an exhibit.

P1230582smHere there are two sets of locks leading down into the basin, narrow and broad. New water to us, we worked our way down with a group watching us. I soon enlisted the youngest gongoozlers into helping with the gates much to their glee. We waved goodbye and swung Oleanna round into the basin. Here a couple of large boats sit moored to islands. As long as we didn’t moor directly in front of the Holiday Inn or along the long side of the basin we could moor anywhere. Easier said than done as there are not many mooring rings. There were some gaps, but none quite big enough for Oleanna. Only one place left to moor, by the exhibits in between the islands. Mick backed us in and we tied to one ring and ended up having to use spikes for the stern. Doubt they’ll get pulled out by passing boats!

P1230596smShe warned me that there was canal everywhere and that I wouldn’t like it. She even came out to check that I didn’t! It’s another Chester! Sure enough the only thing going for the place was that I could have a bit of a run around on the grass, no trees, no sideways trees, no friendly cover, no holes to put my arms down. The view from the roof was quite good though. I bet it’s fun in the boat next door, it’s huge!

We’d considered going to a talk this evening about the Arts Council Project that had the Boat Museum Society pump out a lot of sunken boats last year. But this was going to follow the Societies AGM, which we didn’t fancy gate crashing. They seem to have talks ever month on various boaty subjects, wonder how many they’ll get in May when the archivist from Peel Holdings gives a talk?

DSCF7114sm2 locks, 4.54 miles, 1 canal with crispy edges, 367 turds, 238 squashed, 63 fully formed, 2 boxes of wine, 1 pair wellies, 25% off, 1 new exhibit, 1 very popular boat cat.