Tossing the coin, to the left or right?

To the right, we both agreed, lets go to Chester.

Onto the main line, Shropshire union canal

So off we set, travelling northwestish, along the Shropshire Union main line. We weren’t planning to travel far on this first section, because we had heard good things about the “cheese factory” at Calverly. And we were lucky to get a mooring right next to it.

It would have been easy to miss and although there was a short stay 2 hour mooring, it was occupied. Some of the gardens backing onto the towpath, immediately before had boat names and lengths attached to their fences, yet there wasn’t any official CRT signage and not a single boat in sight. We chose an unreserved length, the owners saw us arrive and didn’t say anything so we weighed up the pros and cons and decided that the home owners were probably just trying to deter potential noise at the bottom of their gardens by laying claim to “their bit”. We’d have moved if asked. We stocked up on some Firey Dragon Cheddar and enjoyed a peaceful night there, but the cheese and cafe weren’t quite as “artisan” as I’d hoped.

Calverly Mill cheese factory

Continuing our journey, we had to start working our way through double locks, but the canal is a hive of activity right now and it didn’t take us long to team up and share the load.

Tilstone lock

It didn’t take me long to spot the little round building alongside Tilstone lock. I’ve not yet been able to uncover a confirmed correct purpose of these buildings but the general opinion is that they were a boaters/lock keepers shelter. And one explanation that I like is that the boats carrying explosives for the mining were not allowed any flame on board, so their boats would be cold and dark. These little round houses had a fire so would be a place to warm up, make a hot meal. Fortunately the end of August We were more in need of a cool pint than a warm hot pot. Another unusual feature on this stretch of canal is the Beeston Iron Lock.

Beeston Iron Lock

Most locks are lined with stone but ground structure made it unstable so this one is lined with iron, but even now it is need if constant care, the sides have bowed inwards meaning you can no longer share, for fear of getting stuck when it’s emptied. We caught up with our new friends at the Shady Oak and settled in for an afternoon in the pub and an evening enjoying the sunset.

Looking towards the Shady Oak