Bright red hawthorn berries
Cheshire Challenge, Walk

Cheshire Challenge walk 7 – Two Saints Way & Shropshire Union Canal

I wanted to set myself a goal of walking a 20 mile walk in August 2020. A month before 20km had felt like a tough goal and two months previous 20 miles was a distance that seemed impossible. As the goal was distance only, I made it a little easier by removing most of the navigation challenges by following the canal: which also made it mostly level walking on good paths.

The walk started at Tattenhall Marina. Parking at the marina is residents only, so I called the next door Icecream Farm to ask to use their carpark. Parking can be a touchy subject with tourist’s cars causing obstructions especially in the national parks. I was given permission to park which also set a time target to be back in time to buy icecream! The footpath from the Icecream Farm run down the marina access road the follows a signposted footpath on the right. A small wooden walkway leads out onto the towpath.

As the Two Saints Way diverts off the towpath, I planned this on the outbound leg so if there were navigation challenges then it would be on fresher legs and clearer minds. Following the Two Saints Way from Chester the waymarks are the cross of St Chad, who’s shrine is at Lichfield Cathedral. Following it from Lichfield the waymarks are a goose, the symbol of St Werburgh who’s shrine is at Chester. The path follows the towpath of the Shropshire Union Canal for 4km to Wharton’s Lock. The Sandstone Trail crosses the canal here, and the Two Saints Way briefly follows the Sandstone Trail to Beeston Castle. It then leaves the Sandstone Trail and follows single track roads to Beeston Village and on to the outskirts of Bunbury, and crosses the busy A49. The path then heads down Wythin St to a kissing gate into a field. The right of way runs diagonally across the field, but the crop was heavily wind damaged and a clear path round the edges of the field seemed a better option. There was a then a little more navigation confusion as the path tracks across a field on the map, but there is now a small mature wood. A reassuring waypoint appeared and confirmed we were on the right path. The next field was very wet underfoot alongside the River Gowy, making me question my decision to wear my trail running shoes which employ the principle of allowing the water out easily: which means they let the water in easily. Slightly damp socks later, the path came out onto the road up to St Boniface’s Church.

St Boniface’s is one of many churches along the Two Saints Way and worthy of a visit: but we pressed on. The road out of Bunbury back down to the canal is less pleasant with narrow verges and faster cars, though it is only for about a kilometre. The Two Saints Way rejoins the Shropshire Union Canal at Bunbury lock, an impressive double lock to fox the first-time boat hirers next to an equally impressive stable block.

The next section of the canal is a bit grim at the first impression, the busy A51 runs alongside the canal for about 2.5km with accompanying commercial properties and petrol station. But this was where we spotted a damsel fly – too quick to see enough to identify it, and a male black tailed skimmer dragonfly on the return leg. Never assume that just because its not pretty, nature isn’t thriving. The next major milestone is the junction at Barbridge where the Shropshire Union Middlewich Branch heads east and a short distance further along the Shropshire Union mainline is the midway mark of the walk. A lovely stretch of the canal carries on to the turnaround point where the Llangollen Canal joins at Hurleston Junction at the impressive signpost, with a tiny Two Saints Way waymarker.

Here we turned around, and ‘left’ the Two Saints Way to complete the rest of the walk counting towards the Shropshire Union Canal path. The way back was a steady stomp along the canal with no deviation from it’s towpath. The return walk always seems to go faster, and we made good time back to Bunbury locks. Here we continued along the canal along a section missed out by the Two Saints Way: it was a peaceful stretch of canal with three single locks and surrounded by trees. At Wharton’s lock we once again retraced our steps, and the weather turned and the waterproofs came out. The towpath here is being stabilised and the works barges provided interest as the legs began to tire. Its easy to miss the wooden footbridge back to the car park, but the substantial black and white painted bridge over the marina entrance is a good enough clue that you’ve missed the turn; as we had.

Back at the car, it was a quick stretch and cake before setting home. Though not until I had bought a well-deserved bucket of ice cream, well, it’d be rude not to.

Video of the walk HERE

The route is available on the Ordnance Survey website HERE

Cheshire Challenge distance:32km
Paths walked:Two Saints Way, Shropshire Union Canal
Total distance:33.2km
Total ascent:205m
OS map:OS Explorer 267, 257
Date walked:29th August 2020
Time taken:8 hours, 8 minutes
Cake:Cherry sponge
Dance pose:Ballet barre
Total Cheshire Challenge completed:133.6km (1500km in total)
Walk stats