Sunday 18th March - Chester
Another snowy day in Chester, too cold to move anywhere, so a quiet day on the boat. The daffodils are bravely keeping their heads up against the cold and the snow.
Monday 19th March - Chester to Ellesmere Port
The weather was vastly improved today, so we moved onto Ellesmere Port. On the outskirts of the town is the most enormous oil refinery - Stanlow Refinery - owned by Essar Energy. It stands on the south bank of the Manchester Ship Canal.
We arrived at Ellesmere Basin and found that the Museum was closed on a Monday so we moored up at the visitor moorings above the basins.
On our explore around, we came across a Manchester Ship Canal tug called MSC Victory, she is 42 years old and spends her days escorting enormous oil tankers along the canal from the refinery to the sea.
After chatting with the crew we were delighted to be invited aboard to have a look round. The crew were obviously very proud of their vessel and were keen to show us around.
The steering wheel is a little different from the tiller we have on Ella.
Dave went down into the engine room and was incredibly impressed by the enormous engines - this is one of two - both kept immaculately clean and shiny.
At the stern and the bow there are these massive ropes which are connected to the ropes from the oil tankers and used to guide the tanker along the canal. Two tugs work together, one in front and one behind the tanker.
This tug was having a break as they were due to move a tanker from the refinery to the sea later on this evening and we decided to be on the canalside to see them go past.
We can see here the sets of locks you can use to get down from the Shropshire Union Canal to the basin. It costs 4GBP a night to moor here, but as the museum was closed we decided against it.
There were already quite a few boats moored up in the basin.
This is the lock which you use if you want to go down onto the Manchester Ship Canal. I understand that there is a lot of coordination needed between various responsible parties to organise a trip along the canal from Ellesmere Port to Weston Marsh Lock onto the River Weaver.
8.15 that evening saw us down on the canal side watching MSC Victory guiding this enormous tanker along the canal, the tug is in front of the tanker. We thought the tug was large when we were on board but it is dwarfed by the tanker!
Here you can see both tugs and the whole length of the tanker once it has passed us. It really was a stunning sight, and although it was a large tanker it is not the largest the tugs accompany.
Tuesday 20th March - Ellesmere Port to outside Chester
In the morning we paid our entrance fee and explored the museum. Dave was able to go aboard one of the 'dumb' barges, effectively a butty but huge which were pulled along the canals by horses.
It was very interesting to see some of the restoration work being carried out. This one is currently drying out before further work can be done to her.
We continued until we were within about 2 miles of Chester and moored up for the night at open moorings and good footpaths so Toby could have a lovely walk without getting muddy!
Wednesday 21st March - Chester to Bate's Mill Bridge - The Shady Oak.
We set off from the outskirts of Chester and made our way up the Northgate Locks, going up them wasn't anywhere as daunting as going down!
Coming along the canal front there is still lots of redevelopment to be done, and we shall look forward to seeing the results next time we visit.
The Steam Mill has been re-developed and at the bottom is the Artichoke Cafe where we had a lovely evening meal and Sunday lunch.
Coming through Beeston is a super shot of the two castles -Beeston Castle on the left and Peckforton just off centre.
We moored up for the night just past the Shady Oak pub.
Thursday 22nd March - The Shady Oak
Today we have decided to stay and fit in a walk exploring the countryside both sides of the canal.
Friday 23rd March The Shady Oak to Barbridge
We left our mooring and headed for the first lock and to our great delight we were followed by nb Le Lapin Agile, this meant that we were able to share the double lock and the lock work was shared between two people.
We also passed these two boats, a powered craft pulling a butty, which we originally saw moored up in Nantwich on 7th March.
As we got to Beeston Iron Lock we met Kate and Rowan who were investigating the state of the footbridge in front of the lock. They wanted to take photographs of the bridge from underneath and hopped on our boat so they could get some decent shots. Rowan is an engineer based at CRT boatyard at Ellesmere on the Llangollen Canal.
Here at the top of the Bunbury Locks we said goodbye to Ian and Yvonne and thanked them for sharing the locks and work with us.
We also thanked Peter the volunteer for his help with the staircase lock.
Further along we met Richard and Ruth on Chamberlain Carrying Company, moored up with their butty. They are on their way to the historic boats meet over the Easter weekend being held at Ellesmere Port.
Our journey took us past the entrance to the Middlewich Branch. There has been a massive breach of the canal, part of the canal over the aqueduct has collapsed in to the River Weaver and there is no access to Middlewich. It could be months before the breach is fixed and will have huge implications for the cruising public over the boating season. Apart from the impact on the natural environment.
Sticky buds appearing on the trees along the canal - more signs of spring!
We moored for the night just past Barbridge and spent a quiet evening on the boat.
Saturday 24th March - Barbridge to Coole Pilate
Very pleasant cruise towards Nantwich where we pulled over to put on diesel and have a delicious bacon bap from the cafe there.
Moored up at Nantwich was The Blacksmith we first met at Alrewas on our way back from Shardlow. I love the names of their boats Emily and Bronte, the blacksmith's forge.
We moored up for the night at Coole Pilate, our final night out on the cut this trip.
Sunday 25th - Coole Pilate to Overwater Marina
A beautiful day for our final trip to Overwater Marina. Sunshine, light breeze, and even beginning to feel a little warmer. Spring must be on its way!
We moored Ella back on her pontoon and spent the day packing up clothes and emptying food from cupboards and fridge.
When we set out 20 weeks ago, in October 2017, we wanted to see what it would be like to live aboard our narrowboat during the winter months.
Well, we have certainly seen some wonderful winter weather, snow, sleet, hail and ice.
Did we suffer through it? No - the boat remained warm with a combination of diesel central heating, log burner and the excellent insulation we remained warm and toasty.
We particularly liked being able to cruise when we wanted to and stay for an extended time in our favourite places - moorings during the winter are mostly 14 days.
Favourite places - Llangollen, Montgomery, Prees Branch, Middlewich Branch, Great Haywood, Stourport. Kinver, Chester, Ellesmere Port.
Special events - Castel Dinas Bran walk, meeting the peregrine falcon on Middlewich Branch, visiting Bourne Boatbuilders in Penkridge, lovely evening meal in Whittington, Tug and tanker in Ellesmere Port, our own 6 day mini break in Chester.
What have we learnt? Some of our best moorings were 'wild moorings' peaceful, quiet, secluded, brilliant for Toby, excellent walking territory.
We gave up planning too far in advance, the countryside and weather will dictate when it is time to move on.
Living on Ella becoming more and more a home, not just a floating holiday home.
Finally, we saw this painted on the side of a boat, and have to agree
"Travelling in the company of those we love is home in motion."
Week 1 - Brown Week 2 - Purple Week 3 - Dark Blue Week 4 - Light Blue
Week 5 - Green Week 6 - Olive Green Week 7 - Yellow Week 8 - Orange
Week 9 - Pink Week 10 - Dark Pink Week 11 - Dark Brown Week 12 - Light Purple
Week 13 - Indigo Week 14 - Blue/Green Week 15 - Dark Green Week 16 - Muddy Green
Week 17 - Yellow Week 18 - Light Orange Week 19 - Dark Orange Week 20 - Purple