Text and photographs copyright of Jim Shead.
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This article More than a Mooring - Blackwater Meadow Marina is the copyright of Jim Shead - The twenty-third of a regular series of articles on marinas and boatyards. First published in Waterways World August 2005.
Blackwater Meadow Marina
Blackwater Meadow Marina is a comparatively new marina situated close to the junction of the Ellesmere Arm on the busy and ever popular Llangollen Canal. The site was developed in the mid 1990's by Mick Bridges and his wife Christine who fitted out boats and ran the marina until they sold it on 1st August 2002 to the present owners Waterways Property Portfolio (WPP) Ltd. Jamie Hill is the Managing Director of the marina and is also a director of Canaltime but the day to day operation is in the hands of Neil Huggon, the Marina Manager.
Neil had previously worked as a company director in an engineering distribution company in his home town of Barrow-in-Furness. When Neil started with this company it was associated with the shipyard there, which in 1972 had about 14,500 employees but with the decline of shipbuilding the yard had no more than 5,000 remaining by the time he was made redundant three decades later.
Before he started at the marina in June 2003 Neil's only previous boating experience was competitive sailing in the Irish Sea. His first trip on a canal was just a week before he started at Blackwater Meadow Marina when his Managing Director arranged a few days trip from Sawley Marina to Burton-on-Trent. This trip, with a friend from his home town, proved an enjoyable introduction to canal boating and Neil was impressed by the tranquillity of the experience and the quality of the boat.
Although close to the centre of Ellesmere the marina is in a quiet rural setting and provides moorings for just under a hundred private boats of all sizes from small cabin cruisers up to 60 foot narrowboats. It is also one of the bases for the ubiquitous Canaltime fleet of timeshare boats. WPP have a management agreement with Canaltime to service and maintain their boats based at the marina. Four days a week from Wednesday to Saturday they clean, service and prepare a proportion of their Canaltime boats ready for new guests to use. Two years ago they had 11 boats, the following year 20 and this year 28 but the size of the marina means that further expansion here is unlikely.
The workforce too has expanded. When Neil took up the post of Marina Manager there were 9 or 10 people on the payroll whereas at present there are about 14 covering all aspects of the marina's business. Some of these are part-time for the season but the increase in the number of Canaltime boats means that there will be more winter maintenance work to be done and thus the prospect of more jobs continuing throughout the year.
They have three full-time and two part-time engineers to look after the mechanical and electrical work on Canaltime and private boats. They do blacking and small paint jobs but not coach painting or sign-writing work. Pumpout, diesel, gas, chandlery, toilets, Elsan disposal and coal are available. While welcoming everyone to the marina, they do ask that customers first moor outside of the marina to check if these services are available before entering, particularly on the mornings of the Canaltime turnaround days, for safety and operational reasons. As a company they do their best to offer a friendly, reliable, courteous service.
The marina has a slipway for smaller craft and for larger craft the nearby BW dry dock is used for work such as blacking and other tasks that cannot be done in the water. Users of the private moorings have electricity and water available on their pontoons and have a washing machine and tumble dryer available for their use. With the general high demand for moorings and considering the location and setting of Blackwater Meadow Marina it should be no surprise that all the moorings are occupied and the number of people on the waiting list is only slightly less than the total capacity of the marina.
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