Cruise 5 - Four Counties Ring
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3rd – 17th May 2022 (14 nights)
From: Aston Marina (Trent &
Via: Staffs & Worcs canal,
Shropshire Union Canal,
Middlewich Branch (SUC)
Trent & Mersey Canal
To: Aston Marina (Trent &
Secret Nuclear Bunker,
After a few days rest and recuperation (with the luxury of Shoreline) in Aston Marina, we’ll be ready to depart when our guests arrive around 1.30pm.
On this occasion, rather than doing the Four Counties Ring in 2 parts as usual, we’ve merged a couple of 7 nighters together to make for a more relaxing 2 week cruising ring – typically allowing for circa 5 hours of cruising per day… that is flexible though depending on weather conditions and desired excursions etc.
After an introductory blah blah and a glass of something fizzy, we’ll pull ropes and chug off up through Stone. Depending on a) weather conditions and b) a desire to visit the Wedgewood Factory, we may put in a long first afternoon and tie up for the evening around Etruria. This will facilitate a next day visit to the Industrial museum OR we can just chug off through Stoke on Trent instead.
We can stop at Middleport for a visit to the Potteries if desired – likewise for a wander around Westport lake before we head through Harecastle Tunnel (2919 yards long) – hopefully by 2022 CRT will have stopped using ‘Covid’ as an excuse to restrict operating hours… if not, we may have to over night at the tunnel entrance if we get there too late… it’s not a problem.
Assuming we’ve gone through the tunnel the previous day, we’ll awaken somewhere around Hardings Wood in readiness to continue our Northerly journey. ‘Heartbreak Hill’ lies ahead and’ we’ll probably moor up for the day at the top of Wheelock.
Next day we’ll approach Middlewich (Kings Lock) and depending on timings, may stop for Fish and chips… chances are it’ll be around tea time when we get there so rather than stay in the noisy place (near the chippy) we’ll descend the lock and then turn left on to the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal – tying up for the night as soon as there is space.
The Middlewich branch is quite lovely and in no time we’ll have chugged past the sight of the infamous breech which left the canal closed for over a year. It’s all fixed now (although reports of water leaking “near” the repairs are a bit alarming. Hopefully we’ll ascend the locks before anything else goes wrong there!
It’s a shame to rush through the branch but we really need to get as close to Nantwich as we can before the day is out for our 5th night.
Following a (hopefully) peaceful night, we’ll turn left at Barbridge Junction and on to the Shroppie Main Line. We follow this through Nantwich (waving at the Llangollen canal as we pass it’s junction) and today will be quite a long day – not stopping until we reach Audlem… we’ll then have to decide (depending on time) whether we begin the flight (we can pause overnight about half way up) or wait until morning.
Whatever decision has been made, the next morning will see us heading for Market Drayton where we’ll moor as early as possible and explore the town. We’ll have seen signs for an oxi moron: ‘Secret Nuclear Bunker’… perhaps worth a visit if time allows.
Our 8th night will probably find us moored in Gnossall and the skipper might demand a night of cooking and suggest a trip to either the Navigation Inn or the Boat Inn (he can’t remember off hand which is the best for food but will be able to when he sees it).
As we continue our (now southerly) voyage, we’ll probably stop for lunch around Wheaten Aston (perhaps topping up with diesel as it is refuted to be the cheapest on the canal network) and after passing through Brewood, we’ll chug out to a quiet mooring area before Autherley Junction.
Next day, we’ll make our way to Autherley, through the stop lock and turn left on to the Staffs & Worcs. canal. And most likely stop for the evening around the Anchor Inn – we may even dine there if the Capt. Is feeling like a night off cooking. Once we get underway again, Next stop will be Penkridge and after a look around there, we’ll probably chug on and spend the evening moored at the lovely ‘Tixall Wide’.
Our journey takes us on to Great Haywood Junction, where we turn left back onto the Trent & Mersey canal again and we’ll meander our way back up to Stone where our guests will depart following breakfast on the final morning of the trip.
None of the mooring places are set in stone on this trip – it’s a relatively leisurely cruise with time to stop and explore if desired – perhaps spending a couple of days moored without movement to just chill out and enjoy the scenery.
This is a trip of 110 milesand 94 locks.