Travel down the Llangollen Canal and onto the Shropshire Union Canal, a meandering canal that winds its way through pretty countryside and small villages.
The grand plan was to build a barge or wide canal from Ellesmere Port and Chester to Birmingham to transport goods from the ocean going ships that anchored at Liverpool. The reality was that, due to the bickering of the privately owned canal companies, the grand plan only reached Nantwich Basin before the narrow minded directors of other companies reverted to the cheaper but slower and more restricting narrow locks.
It could have rivalled the Grand Union Canal and its fast route from Birmingham to London but alas it was not to be. History is littered with such turning points and the ifs and buts still echo down through the years. However, what is left has given a unique opportunity for the modern canal boat holiday hirer to visualise what might have been as they turn their narrowboat left at Hurleston Junction and leave the narrow waters of the Llangollen Canal for the wider and windier Shropshire Union Canal.
There are plentiful moorings for your canal narrow boat at Barbridge where the nearby Barbridge Inn and The Jolly Sailor welcome canal boaters and their families to while away a few pleasant hours. Just beyond you pass the junction with the later and straighter Middlewich Branch built, with some reluctance by the canal companies concerned, to link the Shropshire Union Canal to Brindleys Trent & Mersey Canal. The realisation that you are on a somewhat different waterway dawns as your narrow boat reaches the 3 lock staircase at Bunbury.
This daunting looking obstacle is fine if you just follow the instructions clearly displayed on the lock side and even better if you can find a fellow canal boat to share your passage with. This applies to all wide locks as 2 narrowboats fit more snugly than one and the force of water from the paddles will not throw your narrowboat across the lock as it can if negotiated singly. With Bunbury out of the way the canal locks at Tilston, Beeston Stone, Beeston Iron and Shady Oak don't seem so bad. The view across to Beeston Castle on its lonely hill overlooking the Cheshire plain is one that remains in sight for many miles as your canal boat holiday journeys towards Chester surrounded by the reminders that this county is renowned for its dairy farming.
One of the most popular tourist destinations in the UK is ahead of you, the Royal City on the plain that is Chester. Alas, although you could undoubtedly happily spend a week or more exploring its many historical and interesting sights and enjoy its many shops, pubs and restaurants the humble canal boat traveller can only linger for a short while before moving on along his watery highway.
There are good moorings for your narrowboat before Cow Lane Bridge and those fearing the decent of the deep and daunting Northgate staircase locks may choose to turn their narrow boat in the winding hole before the bridge. Others, perhaps more adventurous, journey on with the unique experience facing them of passing through the locks hewn out of the very sandstone on which this ancient city was built. Below there are more good moorings within a short walk of the town centre at Telford's Basin with Telford's old canal warehouse now a popular entertainment venue, pub and restaurant.
More Informative Canal Guides, Route Maps and DVD's can be purchased from the Waterway Routes website.