The Shropshire Union Canal system has lots of opportunities for exercise, play and a little light education. The towpath provides miles of easy walking and between Newtown and Llanymynech, the Montgomery Canal towpath has been surfaced to a multi-user standard for walkers, cyclists, buggies and wheelchairs.
The Shropshire Union also links a network of picnic sites, nature reserves and other heritage areas maintained by the Canal & River Trust, wildlife trusts, the Society and other volunteer organisations. Many of these sites can be accessed by road as well as from the canal.
Listed below are the main sites that are free to access and have free car parking nearby so make for a low cost day out. We have also tried to identify those that have public transport nearby (but please check your local bus timetable). A two-hourly bus service (T12) connects Newtown (which has a rail service), Welshpool (rail service), Coed y Dinas, Arddleen, Llanymynech, Oswestry, Chirk and Wrexham (rail service).
The Marches Mosses are a magical place, an unforgettable day out for the whole family, a way to reconnect with nature. Walk along the shady wooded paths into the Moss, emerging into the open expanse of the peatland. Experience the tranquility and quiet that is so difficult to find in today’s bustling urban life.
Learn about how peat forms and why it is such an important barrier to climate change. Understand how the industrial extraction of peat for gardens etc damaged this fragile habitat and how it is being restored for plants and wildlife.
Walk the ViewfinderTrail or climb the Mammoth tower.
There is a free car park at Morris Bridge on the canal near Whixall (what3words.com/forecast.serenade.under).
More information can be found here: themeresandmosses.co.uk/visiting-the-mosses.
One of Shropshire’s most beautiful meres, Colemere is almost completely surrounded by mature woodland and has two very attractive hay meadows. The site attracts a variety of wildfowl and waders including snipe, curlew, goldeneye, and pochard. With its diverse variety of wildlife habitats, with mature woodland, open meadow, hedgerows, and a large expense of water, Colemere is rich in birdlife throughout the year.
There is a circular walk from the free car park (what3words.com/champions.fellow.pins) or you can walk along the canal towpath from Ellesmere in about an hour and a half each way.
More information can be found here:
Lower Frankton – Lockgate Bridge Picnic site
There is a free car park and picnic site by Frankton Locks (what3words.com/sweetened.basis.tortoises).
Watch the boat crews puzzle out how to use the staircase lock!
Alternatively, get the bus from Ellesmere to the Narrowboat Inn and walk back – this should take about three hours including the walk down the locks to the picnic site.
Aston Locks Nature Reserve
The lakes and channels of this Reserve are designed to mimic the habitats found along the canal. There is a walking trail and a hide from which you may just see an otter.
There is a free car park just off the A5 opposite Queen’s Head pub (what3words.com/ tilting.anchorman.absorbs).
The X5 bus Oswestry -Shrewsbury stops here.
Llanymynech Limeworks Heritage area
A site steeped in history spanning both sides of the English/Welsh border.
Short circular walks, taking 30 minutes to two hours, take you past impressive lime kilns, through woodland, along canals and disused railways and across grazed pasture with views of Llanymynech Rocks and Shropshire Wildlife Trust and Montgomery Wildlife Trust nature reserves. There are interpretation panels and specially commissioned sculptures along the way.
Check out the huge (and rare) dungeon-like Hoffman Kiln or follow the route of the inclined ropeway up to the Rocks nature area to admire the view.
There are short canal boat trips on Sundays and Bank Holidays.
There is a free car park off the A483 (what3words.com/embellish.reflector.strong).
More information can be found here:
There is a free car park and picnic site (what3words.com/piglets.elbowed.note).
From here you can walk along the towpath to the Whitehouse Nature reserve (20 minutes) or across the main road to the Llyn Coed y Dinas reserve with its ‘nature play area’. More information can be found here: montwt.co.uk/nature-reserves/llyn-coed-y-dinas.
As well as the above sites, there are small canalside nature reserves/picnic sites with free parking at:
- The Wern Claypit near Arddleen (what3words.com/gallons.log.coping)
- Buttington Wharf Welshpool (what3words.com/torches.musically.writings)
- Berriew Aqueduct (what3words.com/animator.waving.exploring). From here, it is a 20 minute walk to the grounds of Glansevern Hall where there is café Friday-Sunday and free entry to the grounds and lake. More information can be found here: glansevern.co.uk.
- Pwll Penarth nature reserve, Llanllwchaiarn, Newtown (what3words.com/evoke.ombudsman.towel). More information can be found here: montwt.co.uk/nature-reserves/pwll-penarth.
And if you want even more ideas, you could also consider challenging your children to walk through the Chirk Tunnel – there is a circular walk from the Glyn Wylfa free car park in Chirk (what3words.com/broth.discount.boxing) and try the echo. Take a good torch!
Or to walk across the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct – there is a pay-and-display car park in Queen Street, Cefn Mawr (what3words.com/jeering.bidder.habits). You’ll need a head for heights!
And for £10, you can hire a canoe from Canal Central at Maesbury Marsh and explore the canal by water or try out their miniature railway. Check with them first on 01691 652168.