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News article created on 18 June 2013

Historic boats set off from National Waterways Museum

Staff and volunteers at the National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port, have waved two boats off to the Lymm Historic Transport Day – the latest in a summer of boating.

Historic boats Mendip and Gifford have left the Cheshire museum for a week long journey across the county to represent the Canal & River Trust at the gala festival on Sunday June 23 – which organisers expect to feature up to 100 historic narrowboats.

Mendip has only just returned to the museum after journeying down through the Midlands to show off at the Crick Boat Show in Northamptonshire and will be accompanied on this trip by Gifford, an unpowered boat owned by the Boat Museum Society on display at the museum.

A crew of volunteers from the museum will work the two boats on the journey to Lymm – which will see the boats travel on the Shropshire Union Canal, Trent & Mersey Canal and Bridgewater Canal.

Living museum

Museum general manager John Inch said: “We’re a living museum and we really like to use our boats to bring history to life by taking them out on the canal network and to festivals  – it’s a great way to showcase the work of our volunteers, staff, funders and partners. Every boat is unique and has its own story to tell.”

Mendip is famed in the canal world for her association with ‘Chocolate’ Charlie Atkins – the nickname stems from the years he and his boat spent carrying chocolate crumb between Cadbury’s factories at Knighton and Bournville. She has been based at the Museum since 1981.

Gifford is owned by the Boat Museum Society and was built in 1926 as a horse drawn oil carrying barge – carrying oil from Shell at the Stanlow Refinery near the Museum at Ellesmere Port to the Midlands. She has been at the museum since the opening in 1976 and is a regular visitor to canal rallies across the country.

Traditional skills

Mendip was restored in 2011 in the museum’s Heritage Boatyard, a project working with a range of partners and funders that aims to preserve traditional boat building skills relating to inland waterways craft and pass on these skills to a new generation. The Heritage Boatyard is working to restore and maintain the museum's collection of historic craft and in time develop into a commercial restoration boatyard. Three new trainees have just started in the yard and are beginning their 18 month programme.

The National Waterways Museum, at Ellesmere Port, is home to the national collection of historic working boats, some of which visitors can get on-board to explore and find out how working boat people used to live. The Museum also has a trip boat, hands-on exhibits, films, touch-screen displays, stables, a blacksmith, docks, pump houses, workers cottages and gardens, an archive, a soft play area, Museum shop and cafe. 

Find out more about the museum and plan your trip