The Mighty Cornflake Barge

The Mighty Cornflake Barge

Imagine if you will a 20th century kernel of maize shipped from the Great Plains through the Great Lakes, down the St Lawrence Seaway, across the Atlantic, up the Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal to the Manchester Docks. From there it must make its way to the heavily fortified Kellogg’s factory on the Bridgewater Canal to be transformed into cornflakes for the breakfast tables of England. For those last few miles it would have been transferred to the Bigmere.
A packet of cornflakes weighs 18 ounces, and is about 10% sugar, leaving about a pound of actual corn. The Bigmere could carry 114 tons, which is enough corn for over a quarter of a million packets of cornflakes, or about four million breakfasts. Alas, the Kellogg’s branch of the canal is now gated off…
Kellogg's Branch
… and cornflakes are made of recycled copies of the Daily Mail.

The Bigmere is one of the many historic boats that the National Waterways Museum in Ellesmere Port. Unfortunately, some of them are in need of a bit of work.
Boats in need of work

Here are a few of my favorites. This one is a thousand year old dug out made from a single tree trunk.
Dug out
The age of similar canoes had been established by dendrochronology (dating using tree rings), a fact which I share with you mostly because I want to use the word dendrochronology.

In winter the canals may freeze up, so why not send an ice breaker down them? This was pulled by a team of horses, while men hanging onto the center bar rolled the boat from side to break up the ice.
Ice breaker

In summer, weed grows in the canals, so let’s send along a weed cutting paddle wheel boat.
Weed cutter
They could do with that on this end of the Shropshire Union, it’s quite weed infested. However, I have now mastered the use of the weed hatch, a process which requires putting on wellies and sitting on the engine with my feet in the bilges, so I fear not the pondweed.

This was one of the boats that started it all.
Remember when I was rabbiting on about boats coming straight out of a flooded coal mine and onto the canal? Well, this is one of those boats. To fit in the mine they had to be so narrow they were called “starvationers”.

Wildlife sightings today include a turtle of some sort in the canal (so I will probably be whistling Terrapin Station all day tomorrow) and a family of rats, one of which was swimming in the canal. If you wondered about the quote about the guy in the lion’s den from yesterday’s post, it’s from the bit of Terrapin Station that the Dead never sung, because some knowledge is too dangerous even for deadheads.

We left Chester earlier today. The canal past Chester city walls is very cool. It goes through a narrow sandstone cutting…
Canal in Chester
… and past the tower where King Charles I is said to have watched his forces defeated in the Battle of Rowton Heath.
King Charles Tower
He actually watched from the cathedral tower, but let’s not let mere facts get in the way of a good story.

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