Our most recent trip was to the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire.
The place has actually been around since the 1970s when it began as the North West Museum of Inland Navigation, and essentially was started by a group of enthusiasts who wanted to preserve the canal way of life.
They began by bringing together a collections of boats, traditional clothing, painted canalware and tools.
Since then the collections have been ‘designated’, which means that they are recognised and accepted as being of national importance. More recently (in 2012) the museum was incorporated into the then newly formed Canal & River Trust.
Entry cost us each £9.75 – and the ticket allows access as many times as you like for a 12 month period, although to be honest I’m not so sure its the sort of place that would change enough over a year for many visitors to want to go back, but if you are a keen enthusiast then I reckon it’s great value.
We were there just about on opening time (10.00am) and it was fairly quiet – which suited us. There’s enough to see that will occupy most visitors for at least a couple of hours and the place is generally pretty well set out. Its spread over a reasonably sized site (seven acres), and we were glad that it was a dry and bright day when we were there. Wandering around the site wouldn’t have been half as much fun had we picked a damp day.
The museum is located right next to the Manchester Ship Canal we found it all pretty interesting as we ambled around and looked in the various old Victorian buildings, including the Blacksmiths Forge, the Power Hall and the Porters Row Cottages.
We both really enjoyed the Porters Cottages – although there was something quite sobering seeing the cottage that depicted the 1950s and items presented as museum pieces when you realize that you’re actually old enough to recall many of the items from your own childhood!
Theres some pretty impressive double locks as well (on the Shropshire Union Canal) – there is an option to download a free app that can be used via smart ‘phone at various points and that brings exhibits to life with video clips – it wasn’t something that we used but we saw some folk using it and it did look quite good.
I understand that on some days there are characters fully costumed who talk about their way of life etc, although we didn’t see any whilst we were there.
There is also the opportunity to clamber down into a couple of the canal boats and barges and we both found it a genuinely fascinating place to visit – and we came away knowing more than we did on the way in.
On the down side we were each provided with an audio gadget that we think was supposed to provide commentary at various points, but it just didn’t seem to work – but as we hadn’t expected that we were not disappointed either and simply popped them in out pockets until we were back at the reception.
Not surprisingly there was the inevitable gift shop and cafe – both of which seemed quite reasonable with their offerings and prices.
So all in all not a bad day out at all and there’s enough there to fascinate children just as much as the adults.
Some more pictures from our trip are posted below.
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