A couple of Australians, old enough to know better, touring the canals and rivers of the UK and Europe
A contrasting and thoroughly enjoyable canal, the Shropshire Union Canal, (“the Shroppie"), is one of the most popular British Canals. It features high embankments, deep damp cuttings, pleasant villages and towns, and spectacular scenery.It is rightfully one of the most popular British Canals
The journey commences at Autherley Junction, through a six inch stop lock. This lock was inserted to prevent the two canal companies fighting over water supply.
Although close to Wolverhampton, Autherley Junction is a pleasant spot, with a well stocked canal shop at the Water Travel base, and water point and sani station a bit further along. But the housing estates and sewerage plant here have always put us off mooring for the night.
Wide and straight, the Shropshire Union Canal cuts across the rolling Staffordshire hills. The old Defiant night fighter factory is by bridge 4, just past the Wolverhampton Boat Club.
The canal is forever changing as you experience the views from high embankments, then plunge into a deep cutting, damp with thick ferns and vegetation. And, look out for the narrowing of the canal by bridges 4, and just after bridge 8.
The first village we come to is Brewood, or "Brood" as the locals call it. Here is a delightful village with plenty of old fashioned shops and pleasant locals. Take your time to walk around the streets and get to know Brewood.
Try The Bridge hotel, by bridge 14, an old enlarged boater’s pub, serving Burtonwood ales.
There is also a super Spa, post office, great hairdresser, chemist and newsagent. The Swan, in the town centre serves Theakstones XB and Pedigree. The highly recommended Admiral Rodney, well worth the stroll through the town to Dean Street.Friendly staff, lots of pictures of H.M.S. Rodney, and a fine pint of Abbotts Ale. A great pub!
Good mooring spots between bridges 13 and 14
Just past Lapley Wood cutting isWheaton Aston. Here by bridge 19 is Taylor’s garage, where there is a water point and sani station with fuel also available.
More importantly the Hartley Arms is also by Bridge 19, offering food,
a fine pint of Banks Original, and warm, open fire.
Good moorings here between bridges 19 and 20.
From Wheaton Aston to Gnosall is a pleasant lock free couple of hours, where you can relax and really enjoy some of the nicest scenery on the Shropshire Union Canal.
Gnossal, (it’s actually Gnosall Heath) has a very friendly butcher in the group of shops on the right over bridge 34, as you head into town. Also in the town is a Bowells of Gnosall (with their own radio station playing), a fish and chip shop, and a bakery.
The two pubs on the canal are the Navigation, by bridge 35, and the Boat, at bridge 34. To be fair, we tied both, and suggest you do the same.
The Navigation was clean, very friendly and served a good meal and a fine pint of Directors.
The Boat, with its much photographed curved front wall, is a smaller, local serving Banks and Marstons. It also has an outside area overlooking the canal.
A lovely village, one of our top spots on the Shropshire Union Canal. Idyllic mooring opposite lovely gardens, between the tunnel and bridge 35.
Just through the Shelmore Embankment is Norbury Junction.This is where the old Newport branch headed off, hence the "Junction" in the name. Now, Anglo Welsh hire narrowboats have gone, replaced by the very enthusiastic Norbury Wharf Cruisera. There is a pump out and water point here also. The Junction Inn Anglo Welsh,is opposite, by bridge 38. The in-appropriately named Grubb Street cutting is a deep cutting with lush thick vegetation. We found it a fascinating experience
The double arched bridge taking the A519 high above, carries the much photographed telegraph post, still standing as it has done for a hundred or so years.
Try and moor by bridge 42, where the very famous Anchor in is located. An original boaters pub, the Anchor is still pretty much as it was when it quenched the working boaters thirst. They serve Wadsworth 6X from the cask.
It is also a pleasant walk into High Offley, but we never did find the pub there.
Further on, the Wharf Tavern, by bridge 55 offers a pleasant canal side beer garden. Good food here apparently, but we didn’t try it.
Again, a pleasant stroll up to the village, Cheswardine, but were rewarded with both pubs, (Fox and Hounds and Red Lion) being shut
Two more cuttings, Woodseaves and Tyrley Cutting lead to Market Drayton Woodseaves is again deep, with the vegetation meeting overhead forming a canopy. There is a 2mph speed limit through this area, to help avoid rock slide, so take it easy!
Bridges 57 and 58 tower above in another world.
Tyrley Locks are well maintained and in very pleasant surroundings.
There are 5 of them, and warm you up for the job ahead.
A pleasant surprise at the top of Tyrley, was the Four Alls.
Just ten minutes walk from the locks, this welcoming inn was a welcome resting place after the days locks.
They serve a fine Woods Shropshire Lad, and we were so impressed, we stayed for dinner!
The Adderley and Audlem flight keep one moving as you enter Cheshire. There are 5 locks at Tyrley and 15, yes 15, at Audlem.
All are in good condition and easy to use. We usually do the Audlem locks in 2 days, mooring between locks 2 and 3, then down the flight to between locks 11 and 12 the next day.
This allows us to catch our breath, and spend more time enjoying Audlem. A great little town, Audlem has all you want in a Cheshire village. Winding streets, beautiful church, shops and pubs. The Shroppie Fly, between locks 12 and 13 has the well known narrow boat bow as a bar. They serve good pint of Wadworth 6X , Boddingtons and Flowers.
Up the canal, near bridge 78, is the Bridge. This has had a real facelift, and with a new team in charge was looking good. We enjoyed a Marstons out on the rear deck overlooking the canal.
The Lord Combermere, in the village,has also been recently done up,and was unrecognizable from the last time we were there.
Theakstones, Timothy Taylors and very nice snacks.
Mooring can be in demand here. Best spot is below bridge 78. We often moor below lock 15 when coming up to Audlem, and tackle the locks the next day.
There are scenic accross the valley, where wildlife congregate in the wetlands.
The Shropshire Union strikes out strait and true across the Cheshire plain towards Nantwich, with only the Hack green locks causing an interruption.
The stone bridges frame each other in the distance, rolling green hills and grazing dairy cattle keeping you company. Nantwich is just about the perfect Cheshire town.
Packed with Medieval buildings, most dating from the fire of 1583. It is worth taking your time to get to know Nantwich.
Head to the tourist information office in Church walk, and just wander the streets.
Market day is Thursday and Saturday. If you happen to be around there in April, there is a great music festival .Most of the hotels have free live music in for over this second April weekend.
The nearest pub to the canal is the Oddfellows Arms, a very welcoming pub with low beams and clean bars. They serve a very fine Burtonwood and Top Hat.
The new landlord even does a floorshow here on Saturday evenings. one of our favourites.
Don’t miss the Black Lion, with three atmospheric areas, stone floors, low dark timber beams. A great little pub serving local Wheetwoods.
Also worth trying here are the Vine, (Hydes Jekyll) ale) and the Crown, (below,left) in the centre of the town, serving Boddintons and Flowers IPA
Plenty of shops here as well. A butcher, newsagent and lots of eateries.It can get very busy here, but normally there are good moorings either side of the aqueduct.
If you get a chance, walk up to the little town of Acton. (from bridge 93, or head up under the aqueduct, away from Nantwich) A quaint little village with The Star, a 13th Century pub with mounting steps out the front.
the front. They serve Bass; the landlord has been there 14 years!
From Nantwich the Shropshire Union head past the Hurleston Junction on the left, and ignoring the temptation to head up the Llangollen, pause at Barbridge Junction, where the Barbridge Inn always tempts with an excellent Cains Bitter. We have never been game enough to cross the A 51 to the Jolly Tar, but have read and heard good reviews of it.
The canal narrows at the point where the old warehouse once graced the canal, then we pass the Middle which branch on the right as we press on towards Chester.
Pleasant moorings are at Calveley, by bridge104. We had a very pleasant stroll to the Davenport arms. It was recommended to us, and it didn’t let us down. Very friendly, and a fine pint of John Smiths.This is what canal holidays is all about!
We now have the staircase locks at Bunbury, where the Anglo Welsh base is located. We have taken a boat form here, and found the staff here very helpful. The "Shropshire Union Canal and Railway Co." can still be seen on the building wall.
Further down the canal is Tiverton, is Chas Hardin where one can hire narrowboats. There is also a cattle market on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
A very attractive part of the canal here, with lots of swans, rabbits and, occasionally, deer.
The Beeston Castle hotel, reached from bridge 107, is a popular pub, but we liked the Shady Oak, further along the canal by bridge 109. Here we sat out the front in the beer garden, watching and chatting with other boaters. They serve Theakston's and Courage ales. Moor between bridges 108 and 109.
Lots of moored boats near Hargrave, but the new development around Egg Bridge and Waverton is attractive.
If you don’t want to cruise all the way to Chester you can moor near the Old Trooper, and catch a bus from Christleton.
If you continue, five locks take you down through an n industrial backdrop, but as you get into the centre, things improve.
Mooring spots can be found either through staircase locks and into the arm, or by the winding hole near the walls.
Chester is an enjoyable experience. The River Dee wanders through, and a stroll around the city walls is not to be missed. Pubs are plentifull,we enjoyed the Telfords warehouse, at Tower Wharf, and try the Old Harkers Arms, by bridge 123b, and down by the Dee the Boat House, with a superb river outlook.
Those wishing to continue on past Chester, will find it industrial, but well worth the effort.
The Canal Museum at Ellesmere Port is one of the highlights of the British Canals. Housed in former warehouses, this is one of the best collections of waterway craft. Our favourite is Joe and Rose Skinners "Friendship" housed upstairs, and Charlie Atkins "Mendip" moored in the basin.
The Shropshire Union Canal, from Autherley Junction to Ellesmere Port, is 66.5 miles, has 47 locks, and a tunnell.One of the most popular British Canals, it has just about everything one looks for in a canal holiday
The whole trip has taken us through 67 miles, and 43 locks. We have travelled through 3 counties, Staffordshire, Cheshire, and Shropshire, and visited bustling towns and sleepy villages.
First, you need a good guide.
We have always used Pearson, because of its clear layout, easy and entertaining text with lots of current information.
The Shroppie is covered in the Welsh Waters Companion
Don't leave without one!
Nicholsons seem to have the market of boat owners.
The Shroppie nis in their fourb Counties and Welsh Waters Guide.
A consice, if more formal guide, it is highjly regarded.
And for a boat?
Maestermyn Cruisers are at Whittington on the Llangollen, so you can get a glimpse of the lovely llangollen cruising down to the Shroppie.