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Ellesmere Port

January 5, 2017

Tucked away in an unfashionable corner of Cheshire, in North West England, a network of waterways forms a fragment of the country’s industrial heritage. Adjacent to the now sleepy town of Ellesmere Port, the Manchester Ship Canal begins its stately progress from the Mersey Estuary to Manchester. Today, a solitary freighter is a reminder of busier days.


Along the canal, squat cooling towers and pinnacle chimneys belching streamers of smoke present an unpromising scene in greys and blues.


Closer to hand, a sculpture of anchors surmounts the pavement. But, out of view, a section of brick pavement has been summarily dug up and removed by opportunist thieves.


Approaching the Irish Sea, a ferry chugs across the River Mersey from the Liverpool dockside to Birkenhead.


At the Albert Dock, the shuttered doors of the Great Western Railway terminal building are overseen by glass fronted offices and the stately dome of the Port of Liverpool Building.


Meanwhile, back at Ellesmere Port, you will find the Ellesmere Canal. It was planned to link the Rivers Mersey and Severn, connecting the port of Liverpool with the manufacturing centres of the West Midlands. Rising costs and a lack of traffic scuppered the plans, and those sections that were built lost their identity as they became incorporated into other canals. But today you can take a leisurely walk around the dock basin.


On open days, heritage is brought to life at the National Waterways Museum, where steam powered working boats are manhandled by high visibility enthusiasts….


… and manoeuvred through the narrowest of locks.


Stepping aboard the tiny living quarters of Ferret No. 58, where a whole family would have lived in the closest of proximity, you glimpse the unromantic realities of life on a working boat.


Even on the coldest of days, this is a corner of England that is well worth a visit.

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