An integral part of the popular Four Counties Ring, the Shropshire Union Canal is an impressive waterway, striding powerfully across the landscape on high embankments and through deep cuttings, in a powerful hurry to get from Wolverhampton to Ellesmere Port. Not that it lacks charm, for its journey takes it through a host of inviting towns and villages, and through a delectable landscape comparatively little changed by the march of time.
Highlights of this superb canal are numerous enough to make selection difficult. There’s Brewood, so close to Wolverhampton but so villagey; the impressive cutting at Woodseaves; Market Drayton, with its ancient market and statue of Robert Clive; the pretty lock flights at Adderley, Audlem and Tyrley; the busy junctions at Hurleston (where boats head off to Llangollen) and Barbridge; and, of course, Nantwich, beautified by its floral displays and its black-and-white architecture. This sedate Cheshire town has a fascinating little museum and a host of fine pubs and tea rooms, making it the ideal place to linger awhile.
The nature of the canal changes north of Nantwich, becoming wider, more winding and with its narrow locks replaced by broad ones. At Barbridge the Middlewich Arm provides a link with the Trent & Mersey Canal. On the main line several miles of exceptionally pleasant cruising bring you to the fabulous city of Chester, with attractions too numerous to detail here. (But do find the time to walk the City Walls, visit the Deeside Promenade and do a little shopping in the historic ’Rows’.) Many boaters end their exploration of the Shroppie here, but it’s certainly worthwhile proceeding past Chester Zoo and on to Ellesmere Port, if only to visit the Boat Museum or to gaze at the wide waters of the Manchester Ship Canal and the Mersey beyond.