The rain and cold weather arrived as forecast on Sunday so after another excellent breakfast at the Bears Paw we decided to visit the National Waterway Museum at Ellesmere Port . They had plenty of free parking and fortunately opened the barrier for a camper van in front so I was able to get the car under the barrier taking the bikes off the roof.
The 7 acre complex is situated on the Shropshire Union Canal. It was designed in 1795 by Thomas Telford as the canal docks and the site acted as a link between the canal network, the river Mersey and later the Manchester Ship canal.
By chance we picked a day when a lock opening day was taking place. Not only did that give us a reduced price entry in the museum from the usual £6.50 you could also a have a free tour around a lock that was being refurbished. The tour included free tea, coffee and biscuits. The tour was excellent and our guide was wealth of information. Each gate weights around 850kg and lasts on average 25 years. Every lock gate is made to measure.Every lock on the network is graded from to A to D depending on its condition. With A being in the best condition and D the worst. Maintenance has to be planned well in advance and coordinated with other areas so they can keep a North South route open during the maintenance works. The traditional material for the paddles that let the water in an out of the lock is Elm. This is better than the more modern equivalents because its slippery in water and easily slides against the lock face. However it is getting had to source from stainable sources so modern materials are now used. The bearing cups are slight elliptical in shape. This allows the gate to move out when closed and give a better water seal better on the face of the lock. The tour concluded with a look at the maintenance barge. An excellent comprehensive tour.
All the good investigating made us ready for a late lunch. The cafe was able to rustle up a couple of round of sandwiches including a rustic style cheese sandwich with a weeks supply of cheese.