From its junction at Trent Lock with the Grand Union and the Erewash Canal, the river Trent travels West towards Shardlow and the Trent and Mersey Canal begins at Derwent Mouth. The canal then runs for 93 miles to Preston Brook and the start of the Bridgwater Canal in Cheshire. The canal was built by James Brindley and was opened in 1777 and one of its principal uses was the smooth transportation of chinaware from the Potteries and Josiah Wedgwood was one of the prime movers behind its construction.
The canal follows the path of the River Trent through some pleasant countryside and at Stenson runs close to the railway line towards Willington, with good moorings, watering holes and shops. Continuing South, the canal runs through the outskirts of Burton-upon-Trent - a place of pilgrimage for anyone with an interest in beer - and there are moorings near Shobnall Basin for access to the town. A little further on is Branston, original home of the famous pickle, after Barton-under Needwood is the charming village of Alrewas, for many people probably the archetypal English village and well worth a visit.
Fradley Junction, where the Coventry Canal begins, is a well-known spot on the network and the canal then runs northwestwards through Rugeley and on to Great Haywood. The canal then travels north through pleasant countryside, passing the charming village of Weston upon Trent and on to Stone, a town closely connected with canals. Here, the town centre is just a few minutes walk from the canal and offers an interesting choice of shopping and refreshments.
North of Stone, the canal runs close to the Wedgwood factory and the enters Stoke-on-Trent, a city created in 1910 from the union of Burslem, Fenton, Hanley, Longton, Stoke and Tunstall. Much of the pottery industry has now disappeared but you will still see bottle kilns, warehouses and deserted factories echoing the craft that made Stoke famous. Festival Park in Etruria was the site of a garden festival in 1986 on what was formerly the Shelton Steel Works, the canal ran through the middle of the works as shown in the photographs.
Shortly afterwards, we reach the Harecastle Tunnel, constructed in 1827 by Thomas Telford to replace an earlier tunnel by James Brindley. The tunnel is 2897 yards long and is only wide enough for one boat. Convoys of up to eight boats navigate the tunnel at any one time and you should follow instructions from the tunnel-keeper. Just past the tunnel is Hardings Wood Junction with the Macclesfield Canal and the boater is then faced with "Heartbreak Hill" - a sequence of 32 locks that take the canal towards the Cheshire plain, past Hassall Green and Wheelock and on to Middlewich. This is a useful spot to stock up on provisions or to take some refreshment and just past Kings Lock is the branch of the Shropshire Union to take you to the main line at Barbridge.
North of Middlewich, a long lock-free section meanders once again through pretty countryside around Northwich and on to Anderton where the recently re-opened Anderton Boat Lift provides access to the River Weaver and the canal continues towards Dutton and the Preston Brook Tunnel after which the waterway becomes the Bridgewater Canal.
Map Ref 5
The Green Man, 1 Canal Bridge, Willington Tel: 01283 702377
2 mins from bridge 23. Jane & Patrick McManamon offer you a warm welcome with good beers and ales, and value-for-money home-made pub food. Main meals from £3, vegetarian dishes, children's meals. Bar snacks, beer garden at rear. Food served lunchtime and early evenings.
"Good food - ample serving"
"Couldn't agree more!!"
"Typical pub grub, well-cooked - hot, crispy and plentiful!"
"Friendly pub, good, reasonably priced food, decent selection for vegetarians"
Map Ref 6
The Willington Green Delicatessen & Cafe, 2 The Green, Willington Tel: 01283 704304 Farmhouse breakfasts with Derbyshire oatcakes, light lunches, cream teas, speciality breads baked on the premises, locally grown veg, hand-made cheeses, olives, pates, cooked meats. Advance telephone orders taken Open 9.30-4.30pm Mon-Sat.
Map Ref 51
The Red Lion, Main Road, Little Haywood Tel: 01889 881314
200 yards from Bridge 72. On the main street in the pretty village of Little Haywood, the Red Lion is popular with boaters and locals, and your host, Robert, greets all customers as old friends. The welcoming bar with its open fire is a great spot to enjoy traditional Banks's beers plus changing guest ales together with value-for-money food. Call in to see us soon... Open 4.30 pm Monday - Thursday. All day Friday, Saturday, Sunday & Bank Holidays. Rolls available every day, Food available lunchtime and evenings at weekends.
Map Ref 50
The Clifford Arms, Main Rd , Great Haywood Tel: 01889 881321
200 yards from bridge 27. A popular stopping-off point for boaters. Snacks, bar meals and restaurant menu. Beer garden, children's menu, takeaways, dog- friendly. Open Mon-Thurs Noon-11.30pm, Noon - Midnight Fri, Sat, Noon - 11pm Sun. Food served Noon-2pm & 6pm-9pm daily.
"Good food and very quick service"
"Great pub. If you are hungry suggest the Ploughman's. Wow!"
"The food was really worth it. we received large quantities at good prices. Really worth a visit even if just for a drink "
"Highly recommended. Great food, good beer. Good menu. Very good value"
Map Ref 49
Canalside Farm Shop Mill Lane, Great Haywood Tel: 01889 881747
Canalside north of lock 22. Fresh fruit and vegetables, freshly baked bread, strawberries a nd raspberries in season, locally produced organic meat. Open 9am-6pm daily April - October, Closed Monday 9am - 6pm Tues-Sat, 10am - 5pm Sun, Nov - March
Map Ref 48
The Greyhound Inn, Burston Tel: 01889 508263
10 minutes from bridge 86, Run by the Jordan family for more than 50 years, a traditional country pub with fine beers and good home-cooked food. Lunchtime specials, children welcome, beer garden. Open daily from 11.30am and from 6pm. Open all day Sunday from Noon. Food served Noon-2.30pm and 6pm-10pm, all day Sunday
Map Ref 46
Known as "the Canal Town", the first meeting of the Trent and Mersey Canal Co was held in Stone and James Brindley established his headquarters in the town. Pedestrianised high street is just 100 yards from the canal with a wide range of small, interesting shops and a good choice of eating places. Visit Wikijum, 61 High St, Fair Trade food, gifts, clothes etc Swan Inn, near Star Lock - Nine hand pulls, free lunchtime food Mon-Sat, Beer Festival July and much more.
Map Ref 47
La Dolce Vita, 19 Stafford St, Stone Tel: 01785 817985
Canalside at Star Lock No 27 A welcoming experience, a canalside view and a meal to remember. A la carte menu at lunch and dinner. Light bite menu at lunchtime. Lunch 11.30-2 Mon-Sat, Dinner 6.30-10.30 Mon-Sat, Sun 12-9
"Arrived late (9.30) but made very welcome. Good pizzas and a lovely setting"
"Excellent food and restaurant. Prices reasonable"
"Excellent Italian restaurant, very good menu, lots of variety "
"Children's menu particularly worth noting"
Map Ref 45
The Plume of Feathers, Station Road, Barlaston, Stoke-on-Trent Tel: 01782 373621
A warm welcome at this canalside pub, serving traditional ales and a full menu in the restaurant overlooking the bowling green. Curry Night Wednesday - Curry & a pint -£6, Quiz Night Wed, Sunday Carvery £5.99, 2 for £11. Free WiFi, disabled facilities. Food served 4pm-8pm Wed-FRi, Noon-8pm Sat, Noon - 4.30 Sun
Map Ref 46
The Salt Barge, Ollershaw Lane,Marston, Northwich Tel: 01606 43064
Traditional country pub servong homemade food and real ales.Families welcome. Live entertainment every Friday, clairvoyant monthly. Food served Noon - 2.30 and 5.30 - 9 Mon - Fri, Noon - 9 Sat, Noon - 8.30 Sun