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Cheshire walk - Nantwich, River Weaver and Shropshire Union canal

PUBLISHED: 18:23 12 April 2015 | UPDATED: 13:24 23 January 2017

An inquisitive swan on the Shopshire Union Canal

An inquisitive swan on the Shopshire Union Canal

not Archant

What could be nicer on a spring day than an easy walk which combines town and country...especially when that town is lovely Nantwich

Welsh Row, NantwichWelsh Row, Nantwich

Striding beside the Shropshire Union canal at Nantwich on a crisp, sunny day, I suddenly realise I have been here before.

At a wide section in the canal, I recall performing a laborious 27-point turn, involving barge poles and much huffing and puffing, to point the 69-ft narrowboat I was piloting back where we’d come from. It was one of many little dramas on a fulfilling but exhausting holiday. You can only marvel at the fortitude of the bargemen who made their living on the waterways when horsepower and brute strength were required to keep the arteries of newly industrial Britain flowing.

This stretch of waterway celebrates a birthday this year. The Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal from Nantwich to Autherley Junction, was completed in 1835, one of the last works of Thomas Telford.

We enjoy this civil engineering marvel, including the very elegant cast iron Nantwich Aqueduct, on the homeward leg of a circular walk which offers a bit of everything: a walk beside the river, a walk beside the canal, a stroll across fields with a view over the Cheshire Plain and an historic town with an embarrassment of architectural riches.

Crossing fields between the Weaver and the Shropshire UnionCrossing fields between the Weaver and the Shropshire Union

All this and an absolute guarantee: you cannot get lost on this walk. Why? Because every twist and turn is helpfully signposted. Just follow directions for the Nantwich Riverside Loop.

1. We start at the car park in St Anne’s Lane, just off Welsh Row, Nantwich. Or at least we do if we can find a parking space. (If not, try the parking area just off Shrewbridge Road, and start your walk from 2.)

Take the footpath which runs almost as a continuation of St Anne’s Lane and cross the footbridge over the River Weaver. Turn left, following the Nantwich Riverside Loop sign, then a few yards later go right, with the mill chase to your left, then cross the bridge over a weir. The Weaver is on your left now, and you cross over it on another footbridge, then bear right, passing below a railway bridge.

The Shropshire Union canalThe Shropshire Union canal

2. Continue on the path beside the river. (If you parked at Shrewbridge Road, walk the few yards to the river and turn left along the path). Only a few minutes out of town, you already feel as if you are in countryside. Continuing on the path beside the river, you soon pass by a wildlife pond which is a refuge for pond skaters, frogs and sticklebacks. Then comes Nantwich Lake, which was created in the 1970s to control the flow of brine from springs nearby. On my visit, it was buzzing with birdlife, mainly Canada geese, ducks and swans.

3. Keep beside the river, then cross the footbridge over the outlet to Nantwich Lake, turning right to reach Shrewbridge Road. Cross over to the pavement, turn right and walk 100 yards or so until you see a bridleway and the familar Nantwich Riverside Loop sign on the right side of the road. Go through the gate and straight across the field, on through another metal gate and over a little bridge covering a stream. Through the next gate, you head up the hill bearing slightly to the right. Beyond this rise, you see a stile on the right, but don’t take this path. Instead, follow the arrow to the top right of the field and go through a metal field gate.

Follow these signs and you can't go wrongFollow these signs and you can't go wrong

4. You emerge into a field with a fence to the left. Keep going straight ahead, over the railway line and keep following the path with the field hedge to your left. You come to the Shropshire Union canal at bridge 90. Take the steps down to the towpath and turn right. A gentle amble beside the canal will bring you back to town.

Immediately after crossing the aqueduct, take the steps to the right. Welsh Row is straight ahead of you at the bottom of the steps. Don’t be tempted to take the road sign pointing left along the A534 to Nantwich town centre. Instead, follow Welsh Row back in to town, passing Malbank Sixth Form College and some intriguing structures which are among Nantwich’s 132 listed buildings.

5. Your legs should still be fresh enough for a wander round Nantwich, which still has a fair crop of black and white timber buildings, despite the catastrophic fire of 1583, and a very handsome church in the shape of St Mary’s, a red sandstone pile which has its origins in the 13th century and some wonderful stained glass windows, particularly the Harry Clarke window, dedicated to the memory of Richard Knowles who died in the First World War.

Area of Walk: Nantwich, River Weaver and Shropshire Union canal

Distance: 3 miles

Time to allow: 1½ hours

Map:OS Explorer 257

Refreshments: Lots of choice in Nantwich. Refreshments: Fruitition, 4b Mill Street, Nantwich CW5 5ST; Pillory House Cafe, 18 Pillory Street, Nantwich CW5 5BD; The Cheshire Cat, 26 Welsh Row, Nantwich, CW5 5ED.

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