Venetian to Market Drayton (via Barbridge junction, through Nantwich to Audlem)
The Shropshire Union canal opened in 1835 and offers 66 miles of canal cruising from the River Mersey at Ellesmere Port which is home to the National Waterways Museum to the edge of urban Wolverhampton. This canal which is normally called the Shropshire Union Main Line was one of the last to be built. It was originally named the Birmingham and Liverpool Canal, which shows that it was really built for long distance traffic. The engineer was Thomas Telford who at the time was the most respected engineers in the country.
Leave Venetian Marina and go straight into your first lock (Cholmondeston lock) keep cruising but be aware of the various canal moorings normally found on both sides of the canal as you approach the Barbridge Junction. It’s well worth noting that the turning is very sharp as you go under the bridge to join the Shropshire Union Canal main canal. However if you decide to moor up near this junction you'll find lots of canal side mooring options and two very popular pubs within walking distance, The Jolly Tar and the Olde Barbridge Inn.
The first village you come to is the picturesque market town of Nantwich set by the River Weaver which offers various shops, pubs, restaurants to visit and the popular outdoor market held every month. The town also boasts the largest collection of historic timber listed buildings outside Chester in the country. The Shropshire Union Canal runs through the west side of the town on an embankment, crossing the A534 via an iron aqueduct which was purpose built in 1832 by Thomas Telford. It’s well worth mooring up on the tow path or in the basin and taking the 5 minute walk into the town to enjoy the many listed buildings some of which date back as far as the Doomsday book. Nantwich also boasts a small player’s theatre, museum and the only outdoor brine swimming pool in the Country plus much more.
Carry on and you’ll cruise through lovely rural countryside deep in the heart of Cheshire until you reach two locks (Hackgreen). Audlem is your next stopping point, a beautiful well-kept large village and home to a 15 lock flight, lifting the canal height by a staggering 90ft. It’s worth noting that the locks are close together, very well maintained and will normally provide over two hours of energetic navigation. The village has various mooring opportunities and boasts two very popular canal side pubs, a general store and gift shop. A particular high light of Audlem is The Shroppie Fly pub which is worth a visit if only to enjoy the canal barge style bar and live music.
Leaving Audlem you cruise on into the country and regain the peaceful isolation, passing through woodland until you reach the small quiet village of Adderley. Five more locks again which are well maintained and situated close together. As you approach the town of Market Drayton you can enjoy some beautiful architecture. You'll find half-timbered and red brick buildings in the town centre and the skyline is dominated by the beautiful 14th century church which is built from local sandstone. The locally named 40 step aqueduct is very popular with walkers. An interesting fact is that Market Drayton claims to be the home of gingerbread, there are two bakeries in the town with two recipes to choose from. The five Tyrley locks raise the canal higher and as you reach the wharf you’ll notice that this area has recently been rejuvenated including the Betton Mill bringing the area back to life. There is a turning point at Tyrley Wharf or you can cruise on to Shebdon, Norbury Junction etc.
The canal line between Nantwich basin and Chester was opened in 1779.
Happy Christmas to all from all the team at Venetian Marina