Sometimes all you want is a nice simple, long walk to let your mind wander and not have to concentrate too much. This walk was to be a 20km stomp along the Shropshire Union Canal, finishing where the South Cheshire Way crosses the canal and where I had planned a series of circular walks to save for walking with friends. From Audlem and south, no other Cheshire Challenge walk crosses the canal so most of it will be solo and possibly multi-day walks for me.
I set off from just outside Cheswardine; as is often the way with canal walks it started at a narrow canal bridge and steps down to the towpath. The October weather was warm and sunny with clouds gathering but no sign of rain. I’d planned a walk and talk with a polar friend, Lungi and passed the first two kilometers happily chatting about training and back-up plans should trips be cancelled again, sharing the rural Cheshire scenery on Facetime to South Africa. Social media may not be perfect but sharing a walk with a friend I have not met in person is pretty special.
Then the barrier fencing loomed into view. Recent heavy rain had caused landslips in the cutting and the towpath was closed. Drat. That’ll teach me to check with the Canal and River Trust before setting out. Of course, this was the one time I had not bought the map with me as the navigation was just ‘follow the canal for 20km’ and so I had to end my chat early to work out a route on the OS app instead. It wasn’t the most pleasant of detours and involved a section of verge walking along the busy A529, it barely added any distance to the day but it does mean I now have a stranded bit of towpath I need to walk. Re-joining the canal at Tyrley Locks was a friendly greeting from the slower pace of the canal after the lorry-dodging on the roads. A snack later and I was ready to carry on.
The whole of the walk is gently down hill and there are plenty of locks along the way. A deep tree lined cutting just along from Tyrley with a series of locks was a magical dell with ferns and mosses covering the engineering epic that it must have taken to build it.
Aproaching Market Drayton I was greeted by a very enthusiastic parrot in a narrowboat, who waved their toys enthusiastically at me as I walked by: I’d say its not what you expect to see but I’ve learnt you see all sorts of life on the waterways. A little further on another out-of-place sight was a grade 2 listed Pillbox at Market Drayton built in 1940. As I stopped, slightly surprised by it, I got chatting to a couple who had recently become full-time boat dwellers. Canals seem to attract friendly people; I am not sure how long we talked for and I don’t really recall what we talked about but it was lovely to have a touch of normality and connection with people.
Another thing I like along my walks is to read the plaques on benches. Often they are just a name and dates in memory of someone but some are beautifully poignant, witty or just make you stop and think. I’d hope that lots of people have smiled and sat with Ellen and Ike.
The walk ended a few kilometres north of Audlem, which meant walking the full length of the locks flight, with an honesty box cake stall at the top and plenty of pubs at the bottom for boaters to steel themselves for or recover from the effort of working the 15 locks. The top of the locks to the end of my walk was a repeat of the towpath, also part of the Weaver Way which was walk 4 of the challenge for me, the finish today was Austin’s bridge now a footpath on the South Cheshire Way. I’ll be back here someday soon.
Video of the walk HERE
The route is available on the Ordnance Survey website HERE
|Cheshire Challenge distance||17.2km|
|Paths walked||Shropshire Union Canal|
|OS map||Explorer 257, 243|
|Date walked||Ocotober 2020|
|Time taken||6 hours|
|Dance pose||General silliness|
|Total Cheshire Challenge distance completed:||153km|