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Portland Basin Museum (Ashton-under-Lyne)

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Museum in Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester.

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      13.09.2011 16:15
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      It's amazing what you find in old mills these days

      Over the passed few weeks, due to the fact the kids were on that seriously long holiday from school, I mean, 6 weeks trying to find something to do to stop the kids getting bored, I have racked my brain in the hope of finding something to do or somewhere to go so family life would run smooth and stress free. So, with extra times off from work, and the monthly wage running a little low, I was quite happy when I heard about a place which my kids may find of interest, and, which was music to my ears, it was free to get into. The place that a friend told me about was in fact a museum and was situated in a town I have visited several times but didn't know that this museum existed, (nor did I realise that there were other museums in the town). The town I am talking about is called Ashton- under Lyne with this particular museum being called Portland Basin. ** A LITTLE ABOUT THE MUSEUM... The museum is inside what was once the Ashton Canal Warehouse and was known as the Portland Basin Heritage Centre. But, after an injection of money, it had a bit of a face lift and was reopened in March 1999 as the Portland Basin Museum. It is located at the side of the Ashton Canal at Portland Basin, hence the name, near the canal junction with the Peak Forest canal. There are boat trips along the canal beginning at the waterfront and there is also mooring for people arriving by canal boat, (lucky people). Also along the waters edge, there are several restored barges for people to look at and admire. The actual museum is on two levels with the first level being the ground floor and the second level being on the lower floor, sort of. What I mean is that when you enter through the doors you walk straight into the 'upper level', with the steps leading downwards to the next level. On the upper level, or the ground floor, which ever way you want to look at it, there are many things to look at, including several glass cabinets containing what ever subject is on that particular day. When we went it was something called 'Make do and mend', which is on until May 2012 and is basically about recycling things that you have by fixing them instead of throwing them away. It shows how people were actually recycling well before it became a fad these days, giving tips on how it was actually done in the past, with a rather interesting look into the 'make do and mend' policy back in World War 2. Also on this floor there is a rather nice surprise which consists of a 1920's street look which lets you walk down a 1920's street, passing such buildings as a shop, chippy, school, a house itself, a church and a pub, plus a doctors surgery, all showing how life was in the 1920's. The lower level, or the basement, canal side, there are exhibitions showing how the canal played such an important part in the industrial upcoming, with such things as historical machines scattered around the floor, a look into how such things as metal, cloth and the like were used and a lot more as well. Plus, for the youngsters in the group, there is rather delightful little educational area as you step through the doors coming from the stairs on the lower floor, just remember that the sheep in the pen is not real. Also at the museum there is a shop on the upper level, selling souvenirs and the like for you to take home, also on this floor there are the toilets, including baby changing facilities. On the lower floor, apart from the exhibitions, there are the doors to the canal side where there are several picnic tables along the canal side. The lower floor can be accessed by the stairs or via a lift, which caters for those with walking difficulties and those with pushchairs. ** OPENING TIMES... It is open Tuesday's till Sunday's from 10am until 5pm, and it is open on Bank Holidays. If you wish to ask for details before setting off, such as what exhibition is on, then the museum staff can be contacted on 0161 343 2878. There is a car park on the front of the museum which is quite a good size, although it can get busy quite quickly. ** GETTING THERE... The museum is situated at Portland Place on the Portland Basin in Ashton-under-Lyne, sat nav OL7 0QA. To find it by car you come off the A635, (Ashton By-pass) and follow the signs, but do watch out as the road down to the museum is cobbled and can wreak havoc on ones suspension springs. There are bus stops nearby, with the nearest one being on Cavendish road outside a large supermarket with a green sign. Or you could get there on foot along the canal towpath. ** ENTRANCE FEE... The cost to get into this museum is nothing... yes it's free, gratis, zero, but this could change due to all these cuts so get there now. ** A TYPICAL VISIT... After I'd parked up, and I'd finally managed to stop my bones from rattling after driving over the cobbles into the car park, we headed into the museum through the door which was below a large blue sign which read 'Portland Basin Museum', so we knew we were in the right place. Once inside, and through the entrance room, which has doors and stairs leading off to the conference rooms, which we weren't allowed in, we were in the opening part of the museum, into the area where the shop is, but luckily I managed to steer my kids and wife away from that, saving me a bit of money. This first room is where the exhibitions are usually located, and even thought this room is small the exhibits in it are well placed out so that they don't look too clustered We then wandered down the 1920's street, which is without doubt simply brilliant, starting with a small house consisting of a living room and a kitchen, with an outside toilet staring at us. I loved the street, finding it very interesting indeed, and when we were there there was a teacher in the school room shouting at some visitors who had foolishly sat inside on the small benches. In fact, some of the smaller visitors faces looked pretty terrified as the teacher slammed the cane she was holding onto the table. My kids looked at me and quickly headed off further down the street, with my youngest looking a little paler then she normally looks. On the lower level, passed the children's education section, we wandered through a doorway and came upon a rather well made model of a landscape, featuring such things as a train track with moving trains, a canal stretching along the land, busy looking factories with trucks moving around. This model represents the working life around the area. It is quite intriguing and is well worth taking a few minutes to look over, as we did. Passed this model we then came upon what can only be described as a cut up canal boat which you can stand on the stern, pretending to steer it as you look upon a screen on front of you. It offers a challenge where as you have to steer the boat along a section of the canal without crashing into the banks, this is not as easy as it sounds, ask my kids. On the bow of this boat you can take a peak into how they may be set out, with a small seat, a bed, a cooker and so on, all crammed in a space the size of a shoe box. Then, on the same floor as the canal boat, although in a different section, there are several little exhibitions showing things like clothes makers, cobblers, iron mongers and more, with each one being in a small room of there own. Finally, we stepped out through the doors leading onto the canal side where we saw several boats in the moorings, some being owned my visitors whilst other being owned by the museum itself. So that's the museum in all its glory, which, for me, was a very pleasant and rather interesting visit indeed, even my kids seemed to enjoy themselves without the usual comments such as 'I'm bored' or 'can we go now?'. ** MY OPINION... This museum may not be on the grand scale as many in the bigger towns, such as London's Natural History museum or even Manchester Museum of Science and Industry, but for its size it is certainly a very interesting place indeed. There's quite a bit to see and even a few things to do, especially for the kids, with some rather nice places to sit and have a bite to eat. I particularly enjoyed the walk down the 1920's streets, where you can actually walk into the shops, church and the tiny pub, which is at the end of the street. I took several photos of my kids in these shops and they look pretty good as they stood next to the mannequins that are in some of the places. It's not exactly a full day out, as it's not a massive museum, but it's certainly worth taking a couple of hours out of your schedule to see what this place offers, so if you're in or around Ashton-under-Lyne then have a look out for the Portland Basin signs and take a look in, it doesn't cost anything and you may learn something. In all, a rather well set out little museum with quite a bit to offer and well worth a visit.

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