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New review – Boat inspired play area at National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port

New review – Boat inspired play area at National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port

📬 National Waterways Museum Ellesmere Port, S Pier Rd, Ellesmere Port CH65 4FW

📞0151 355 5017



💷 Adult £9.75. Child (6-15) £6.00. Child (5 and under) Free. Family £25.00. Concession £8.50. Your ticket allows you to return as often as you like for one year.
🚗 Free large car park
♿ Pram and wheelchair accessible. Lifts available in museums where applicable.
🐾 Dogs on leads welcome.
🌯 Refreshments available to purchase.

🥪 Picnics welcome.

🚻 Toilets on site with baby change and disabled toilet.
🔓 Open Thursday to Sunday from 10.00am to 4.00pm.  External grounds where you can see part of the canal and the river are always open.
🕗Estimated visit time is approx 2 to 3 hours.
🦆 Duck feed is available from the gift shop.
😷 One way systems, masks in indoor spaces, social distancing recommended, sanitiser located throughout museum including areas where children are encouraged to use interactive screens and the play area. Safety video on arrival. Contactless audio trail.

Locks, National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port 

After seeing teasers of the new play area we just had to head down to the Boat Museum (as us locals call it) to put it to the test with two very eager and energetic four year olds and a one year old. Sitting where the Shropshire Union Canal meets the Manchester Ship Canal and the River Mersey, this transhipment dock, once a noisy and bustling hub, is now a great space for children to learn about Ellesmere Port and Liverpool’s shipping history.

When we arrived, we were greeted by smiling staff who took the time to run through the maps and best routes to take with children to cover the ‘must see’ areas. We picked up a ‘Little Explorers’ activity sheet and headed out to soak up the sun stroll around this seven acre site.

Grounds are well maintained and picturesque. Our kids loved looking at the boats, watching the canoe sessions (events run regularly), and of course feeing the ducks. There is an abundance of wildlife for the kids to spot and we were lucky to see a heron.

Enjoying a private giggle at the Boat Museum, Ellesmere Port 

After arguing with them about why they couldn’t just help themselves to a canoe, they made a beeline to the new ‘Blue Belle’ outdoor play area. There is a large variety of play apparatus ideally suited for children aged three and up with a large range of climbing apparatus such as climbing walls and nets, slides, sand pit, ropes, bridges and more.

‘Belle Blue’ The new nautical inspired outdoor play area at the National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port

The toddlers loved the nautical theme which of course compliments the history of the site perfectly. The ground is predominantly grassed for safety. As the space continues to grow, it would be great to see a few pieces of equipment for younger childrens so that families with kids of different ages can really utilise this space. The attention to detail was fantastic with a giant knot and little wooden fish carvings.  There are picnic benches nearby to watch the kids play, or you can sit on a few of the pieces of play equipment if  you want to be a bit closer. 

Ready, Steady, Slide – Space for all the siblings on the new giant slide in the Boat Museums outdoor play park

An hour later we get them off the play area to explore. Volunteers Blacksmith in Smithills Forge, Power Hall and the Stables were helping families imagine the working conditions and the roles people played at the time. The look of surprise when they learnt that horses wear shoes was hilarious. We enjoyed listening to the roar of the engines in Power Hall then headed to the stables to learn about the importance of the horses. Our two loved being locked inside the stables pretending THEY were the horses. Volunteers are very knowledgeable and keen to answer any questions and get the kids involved.

Horsing around in the stables

Off we go to the Island warehouse exhibitions. The kids loved the sense of adventure as they travelled over the bridges and locks with the water crashing below their feet.

The Locks, National Waterways Museum

Inside, they enjoyed the interactive elements to the exhibition, learning about the trade and transport of goods via a touch screen with drag and drop activities. Normally when there are not covid restrictions in place, kids can dress up as a local working on the waterways and use Kapla blocks to see if they can build strong structures like the Victorians.

Porters Row cottages form the oldest row of cottages in the town of Ellesmere Port and families can step back in time to see the living quarters of the workers through the ages. Our kids were puzzled about how different the TV’s, washing machines and cookers were. They couldn’t imagine taking a bath by the fire and sharing bath water. It was an eye opener for them (and for us). Pre covid the kids could play with some traditional toys similar to those played with by local children whose parents worked on the water

There is also an under 5s indoor play area but we didn’t get to see this as its currently closed due to covid restrictions. We also cant wait to see the boat trips resume once restrictions ease further.

As you explore the site there is a contactless audio trail you can follow. Simply scan the QR codes at various locations. In addition, through augmented reality, the people that lived and worked in the port return to tell their stories. Download the app search National Waterways Museum. Family tours also run at select times. The Little Explorers activity sheet gives children a range of key features to look out for, asks them to use their imagination to draw images, and gives them questions to form an opinion about, thereby providing a great way of encouraging discussion and communication skills. To help lay the early foundations of looking after our planet, there’s an Eco-Heritage trail. Finally there is a Little Explorers water safety guide, which was well designed using cartoon characters in real life situations and highlighting what to do in case of an emergency.   

Lower Basin – An abundance of boats, perfect for little boat enthusiasts at the Boat Museum. 

Where to eat

In terms of refreshments, the Waterside café offers dining with canal side views. The menu is predominantly sandwich and jacket potato based. The little boatman meal for kids was priced at £6 and inside a brightly coloured animal themed box, little ones can tuck into a sandwich large enough for an adult, pack of raisins, drink, crisps and crayons. Little Boatman sandwiches can be premade to order e.g. no margarine. Where possible dietary requirements will be catered for. Packaging on food was largely compostable and eco-friendly.

There are also plenty of green spaces with picnic benches to enjoy a picnic including benches by the new play area. It was nice to chill with ice creams after all that running and climbing.

To conclude....

To conclude, we really enjoyed our visit. The new play area and the fact that each adult only pays the one entrance fee for 12 months admittance means that if you are sat at home thinking how to entertain the kids, you can simply pop on down to the National Waterways Museum for a cheap day out.  Here theres ample space and a range of equipment to let them burn off some energy whilst learning about engineering and Ellesmere Ports heritage. We spent three and a half hours here and even then we had two kids who were really upset that we had to go. They would have spent all day at the park if we let them as there’s so much for them to play on. Its certainly one of the better play areas we have been to and we have been to A LOT! We loved that the museum had interactive elements so our kids could get involved and the walk around the site is beautiful, tranquil and relaxing.

So for a cheap family day out (which should result in kids ready to go to bed early) why not head to National Waterways Museum? Its an absolute must for boat enthusiasts.

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Terms and conditions...

*We have tried our best to give a factual and honest review based on our own experiences. However, this is just our interpretation and different people will naturally have difference experiences. Therefore, please regard this review as intended. 

*As far as we are aware, all information is correct at the time of publication. If a mistake has been made, or if there is a recent update we should be aware of, please contact admin. Prices and facilities are subject to change, especially as covid regulations change. 

*For more things to do in Cheshire please feel free to follow us on social media. The links are above. 

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