I found a convenient mooring in Chester the following day, to do some shopping before moving on to Ellesmere Port and the Boat Museum. The city was crowded with tourists on this hot summer’s day and there was a friendly atmosphere in the city, as I found out when asking where there was a grocery store.
I moved on shortly afterwards to experience the Northgate Staircase Locks – all three of them, which drop the level 33ft.
Passing the city walls on the left.
Northgate Staircase - 33ft from top to bottom!
It took me twenty minutes to set them in my favour – that is to fill the top lock into which the boat would go first and empty the other two, so that the water in the top lock went down with me; quite a formidable task as there were single paddles only on the middle and top locks, which were slow and very difficult to operate with a short windlass. I bow hauled the boat into the second and third locks and by now I had an audience of gongoozlers who wanted to know all about it, so no mistakes allowed for! It was hot and thirsty work, but I passed by the Thomas Telford pub at the bottom and continued past the Dee Locks and dry dock.
Rafts of floating pennywort to negotiate.
The cut was getting more and more weedy, mostly floating pennywort, until eventually I had to navigate between islands of it. There was also long grassy weed, which wound itself around the propeller shaft, so causing the engine to overheat slightly. I saw another boat moored up close to bridge 138, where I knew there was a path to The Bunbury Arms, a very welcome sight after those locks.
A quiet mooring, but close to the pub.
The crew of the other moored boat were on their way there too and I had a brief word with them. The service was very slow in the pub and I bought two pints together for the second and last round, but the captain of the other boat bought me a pint too, so I finished with four in all – woe is me! I slept extremely well that night.
They left the mooring at 8am the following morning and I attempted to catch up with them, but I think they had the sports version, because when I got to cut end, they had already winded and moored up. I did expect to have to negotiate locks into the museum, but it was possible to moor above them, with room to spare.
Approach from the Shroppie, with boat moorings on right.
The museum opened at 10am and I was there shortly after. I found it to be much better than Stoke Bruerne and Gloucester, because there was a lot more going on and a great deal of it was outside.
Some canal 'porn' for those aficionados amongst you.
There were many boats in a state of restoration and awaiting restoration, there was a working blacksmith in the forge, many historical engines on display, a pattern shop for the foundry, stables, locks and several historic boats to see and visit, including the un-restored horse boat “Friendship”, the home of Joe and Rose Skinner for many years.
Joe Skinner refused to have an engine fitted.
. When I say un-restored, I mean that the fabric of the boat is the same as when it was lifted out of the water, although the exterior of the back cabin has been repainted by Tony Lewery.
Plenty of space.
I wonder if the LH boat is Cressy? Friendship on right.
The Manchester Ship canal.
I met one of the volunteers, who had been working there since the ‘70’s and when Henry Johnson’s name came up, she told me that his wife Phyllis was a niece of Charlie Atkins, aka ‘Chocolate Charlie’, a well known figure on the chocolate crumb route to Cadbury’s at Knighton in years gone past.
The Lower Basin in panorama view.
I spent three interesting hours there and did consider staying the night, as there were now vacant moorings, but decided that I could get back the 8 miles to Chester comfortably, apart from those deadly Northgate locks. I had to have the weed hatch up at the aqueduct, as the engine was overheating again – what a difference that made to steering and speed of the boat! Fortunately for me, there was a museum volunteer on the lockside and asked if he could help me, as he had never seen a boat go through the locks. I must say that he was made very welcome and we heaved the stiff gates together and he wound most of the paddle gear, so I was soon through. I offered him a ride and a pint at the end of it, but he refused as he had to yet drive home. Thank you Colin!
Another free mooring at the far end.
Despite it being 6pm when I arrived in the city, there were at least two good moorings available – amazing, where are all the boats?