Sunday, March 15, 2009

Canal Walk: Ellesmere Port to Chester ~9 miles

Today's plan was for me and Troy to be dropped off at Ellesmere Port at the Boat Museum and then walk to Chester to be picked up again.
Ellesmere Port was a transhipment centre, here the canal network meets the Manchester Ship Canal and the River Mersey. Unfortunately the milepost at the museum is just inside the fence so Troy couldn't pose for a photo in front of it. As usual my camera batteries were flat so I changed them as Troy wondered why he had been abandoned on a towpath. With the camera ready we set off.
Not far from the museum we came to the first of the typical brick bridges. They are nicely proportioned humpback bridges built of red brick. Most show signs of having once been painted white/grey.
Its been a while since I last sailed this stretch of canal and I don't really remember it at all. The canal passes by the huge Stanlow oil refinery and there are lots of ugly concrete bridges and pipes crossing the canal.

There have been attempts to brighten up this bit of canal. There are large metal waymarkers, and some bits of sculpture. The daffodils and other yellow flowers did their best to brighten up a rather grim bit of canal.

There are some views which would be perfect rural scenes but they all have motorways, pylons or factories superimposed upon them. There wasn't much in the way of wildlife about, some mallards, swans, and I heard a woodpecker. There were quite a few bumble bees about though.

The towpath was quite busy, there were as many people on bikes as there were walkers. The towpath along the whole distance is tarmac-ed so idea for cyclists.


Troy checks out the map

We stopped at Croughton bridge number 135 to share a sausage roll and a drink of water. After bit of a breather we set off again and were soon passing by Chester Zoo. You cant see or smell the zoo from the towpath but it is only about half a mile from bridge 134. Caughall Bridge (134) is a nice iron arched bridge.
Military Training: Note the soldiers in camouflage
One of the highlights was the large railway viaduct crossing the canal as bridge 131A. Built in 1839 it was once the Great Western Railways route from Paddington to Birkenhead Woodside.
As we neared Chester housing estates appeared on both sides of the canal. Soon we were at Tower Wharf with its dry dock and wharf buildings. We had another sit down and another sausage roll.
We followed the Dee Branch down to the river lock. It was good to see the lock which appears in the old photos on my site: http://www.towpathtreks.co.uk/aboutphotodisplay.asp?ino=420 The basin has been massively redeveloped since the photo was taken in the 1960s.
Back on the main line we headed up past the intriguing hook, and up the flight of locks. The sandstone cutting below Chester's city walls is one of the best canal stretches we have.
With some time to kill we headed up to the city walls and walked round to the river. After a sit by the river we got back on the walls and walked around to the Tower Wharf to get our ride back home.

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