The Four Counties Ring is a great route for when a week just isn’t enough.
The Four Counties Ring is a very popular route goes south from Preston Brook through three tunnels to Anderton (a good first night stop) and then Middlewich on the Trent & Mersey canal.
From Middlewich, we travel through the outskirts of the old market town of Sandbach with its large Saxon crosses standing proud in the town square. The canal now starts the long climb up the Cheshire Locks to Hardings Wood junction and onto Kidsgrove. We then pass through the 1.6 mile Harecastle tunnel to Stoke-on-Trent. The tunnel is controlled by tunnel keepers, letting several boats travel in one direction. The tunnel is long and dark and once inside it takes a while to be able to see the other end.
At the junction with the Caldon Canal, a detour from the Four Counties Ring can be made to Leek and Froghall and one can visit the Wedgewood potteries and the Gladstone pottery museum.
The Four Counties Ring continues south through the beautiful Trent valley and the canal makes a gradual descent to the next junction at Great Haywood.
Turning right here onto the Staffordshire & Worcester canal we pass through Tixall Wide and on via pleasing countryside and river valleys to Autherley junction on the outskirts of Wolverhampton. Our route now turns north onto the Shropshire Union canal which passes almost lock free through massive rock cuttings and over high embankments to the pretty flight of locks at Tyrley and onto the picturesque black and white timbered buildings of Market Drayton.
Further north we come to the Audlem flight of 15 locks taking us down into the Cheshire plain. At Barbridge junction a right turn takes us towards Middlewich and the shortest canal in the country at Wardle lock. We now leave the Four Counties Ring as another right turn takes us onto the Trent & Mersey canal and back home to base at Preston Brook.