The colourful spectacle of the Easter Boat Gathering returned to the National Waterways Museum in Ellesmere Port over the Bank Holiday weekend.
Organisers said that while the 80 to 100 narrow boats and barges were undoubtedly the main attraction there was much more to enjoy on the town’s waterfront from live music to a chance to dive into the waterways archives.
For the first time the Canal and River Trust was able to offer moorings in the upper basin of Thomas Telford’s Victorian port as the boats previously stored there were lifted out in a ground breaking operation last October.
With the historic craft now under conservation there were opportunities for visitors to see the museum’s new boat store where the vessels raised from the water are being stored and worked on.
Moored at nearby Telford Quay the steam cruiser Daniel Adamson, which has strong links with Ellesmere Port, welcomed passengers on board for short cruises in vintage style.
The mini cruises aboard the vessel, restored under a £5m project and which predates the Titanic, gave passengers an insight into the activity and shipping on the Manchester Ship Canal, opened in 1894 as a 36 mile maritime highway allowing ocean going ships to navigate into the heart of Manchester.
The museum’s own narrow boat Centaur was busy taking trips along the Shropshire Union Canal and visitors were also able to go through the series of locks at the historic port and experience at close hand how they operate.
Costumed interpreters brought the Victorian Porters Row cottages and the original slipway at the museum to life while 21st century technology brought Ellesmere Port’s own 19th century history to life with the people who lived and worked in the Port returning to tell their stories.
With a packed programme of music, a musical stage show for the youngsters and their families, exhibitions, trails and activities for the children the South Pier Road attraction was buzzing at the traditional start to the boating season.