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Pubs and advice - Four Counties Ring


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I'm aware somebody else has been seeking advice about the Four Counties Ring here - but wonder if I too can take advantage of the knowledge I'm sure is out there?

 

Just after Easter next year I'm planning to do the Four Counties Ring in a week. Eight of us will be hiring a boat from Napton Narrowboats at Autherley Junction. As a group we've done a similar length trip in a week three times before, so I'm confident we can do the hours and cover the distance - but would really appreciate advice about two things.

 

Firstly - which way round to do the ring? My instinct is to do the interesting bits early on, which might suggest going anti-clockwise, but I'm quite willing to be told the other way works better.

 

Secondly - pubs and/or other interesting places to include or avoid. We won't have lots of time for sightseeing - but as we tend to start before breakfast we will have time to look at places of interest close by the canal. This year we cruised the Llangollen and part of the Shroppie - and I got some brilliant advice from this forum about which pubs to stop at and which ones to avoid. Any help on this greatly received.

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I'm aware somebody else has been seeking advice about the Four Counties Ring here - but wonder if I too can take advantage of the knowledge I'm sure is out there?

 

Just after Easter next year I'm planning to do the Four Counties Ring in a week. Eight of us will be hiring a boat from Napton Narrowboats at Autherley Junction. As a group we've done a similar length trip in a week three times before, so I'm confident we can do the hours and cover the distance - but would really appreciate advice about two things.

 

Firstly - which way round to do the ring? My instinct is to do the interesting bits early on, which might suggest going anti-clockwise, but I'm quite willing to be told the other way works better.

 

Secondly - pubs and/or other interesting places to include or avoid. We won't have lots of time for sightseeing - but as we tend to start before breakfast we will have time to look at places of interest close by the canal. This year we cruised the Llangollen and part of the Shroppie - and I got some brilliant advice from this forum about which pubs to stop at and which ones to avoid. Any help on this greatly received.

Personally I prefer the Four Counties clockwise just because the by-washes on the Shroppie can be quite fierce and are easier to manage going down the flight.

 

As far as recommending pubs is concerned it's always risky because things change so quickly. Someone else can do the recommendations for beer but we have eaten well at:

 

The Italian restaurant canalside at Wheelock

 

The Toby Carvery at Etruria Marina

 

The pub by the Post Office in Great Heywood, I think it's the Clifford Arms

 

Hope this helps.

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I you are going anti-clock the first one you hit is the Fox & Anchor probably about an hour from Autherly. Uninspiring TableTable chain pub. After that I am not sure of 'owt else till Penkridge where we use the Boat which is ok. There are a few more pubs in Penkridge, 10 mins walk.

 

In between Penkride and Grt Haywood I cant comment on pubs as we usually say on board. Two pubs in Grt Haywood, both do food, both ok.

 

If you like real ale Stone is a good stop. There is the excellent Swan just over the road from the canal side Star. At the top of the main street there is a Spoons but if you walk up the hill past the Spoons about 400yds there is the equally excellent Royal Exchange.

 

After Stone there is Plume of Feathers at Barleston but if you overnighted at Stone you would have no need to stop at the Plume. And you wouldn't be missing much.

 

I cant comment on Stoke. Its on my to do list. Normally after a couple of days in Stone I need to recover so do more cruising and less boozing.

 

The first pub, of my choice, after the tunnel is the Blue Bell and easily doable from Stone in the day. My personal favourite on the ring. Just be aware of the opening times and it doesn't do grub. http://www.bluebellkidsgrove.co.uk/index.html

If you want pub grub the Red Bull is about half an hour further on.

 

There are a couple of pubs at Rode Heath but again if you overnighted at the Bell or the Red Bull they will come to soon, so the next place is Wheelock where there is the quirky Commercial Hotel or the Cheshire Cheese. Never seen anybody eating in either so am presuming no food. We normally have a few scoops in the pubs then go to the chippy or Chinese. There is an Italian restaurant canal side. Never been in, cant comment.

 

There are quite a few pub in Middlewich. All equally uninspiring so we tend to give it a miss these days. Hopefully someone can tell us different.

 

Barbridge Junction is, again, doable in a day from Wheelock. Two descent pubs there. We usually have a few drinks in the Barbridge where the beer is good, then eat in the Jolly Tar where the beer is not quite so good but you can get two good meals for the same price as one portion of fish and chips in the Barbrdge.

 

Nantwich is a brisk 10 mins walk from the embankment. Plenty of pubs for most tastes. The Black Lion and the Leopard being my two favourites.

 

Can't think of anything then till Audlem. My mate has just started mooring there and apparently the Shroppie Fly is on its arse and most boaters moored there seem to use the Bridge although there is the Lord Combermere also. Both ok IMO when we were there a few weeks back.

 

Nothing much then till Market Drayton. Although not to far into town it always feels a bit of a trek to me. There are a good few pubs in town although nothing to special apart from the Red Lion and a Spoons. We normally eat in the Talbot which is about 100 yds from the canal.

 

The pubs are a bit more isolated now. The Wharf at Goldstone, never tried, so cant comment, the Wharf at Shebdon, never seems to be open when we pass so never been in.

 

The Anchor (tin hat goes on) is fine. The pub, the people, the atmosphere, the setting and the fire in winter are all first class. The beer IMO isn't. Having said that it is certainly worth calling in for the other reasons. No food.

 

Junction at Norbury Junction is ok should you find yourself having to overnight there. Food available and beer ok.

 

Couple of descent pubs at Gnosall both canal side and good for beer and grub as is the Hartley Arms at Wheaton Aston. After that there is just Brewood left which has a few pubs (4 I think) and most, if not all, do grub.

 

Then after that's it pal. All over. Have a good 'un.

 

Hopefully someone else will be along to fill you in with sights and pubs/eateries i have missed.

Edited by Rod a mod from Tod
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Personally I prefer the Four Counties clockwise just because the by-washes on the Shroppie can be quite fierce and are easier to manage going down the flight.

 

As far as recommending pubs is concerned it's always risky because things change so quickly. Someone else can do the recommendations for beer but we have eaten well at:

 

The Italian restaurant canalside at Wheelock

 

The Toby Carvery at Etruria Marina

 

The pub by the Post Office in Great Heywood, I think it's the Clifford Arms

 

Hope this helps.

 

We're also doing the 4CR after Easter, so I've researched a few pubs already! Note that I haven't been in them myself (yet!)

 

The Anchor on the Shroppie - real old school, beer in pitchers, no food!

The Bluebell (I think) at Red Bull Junction

Shroppie Fly

 

My other personal 'must moor overnight' is Tixall Wide.

 

I would ;pic a few essential overnight stops, and then plan around that, as the required miles in a day may not allow you to visit every pub!

 

Enjoy!

 

Dave

 

PS - if you are leaving on the 6th April, going anticlockwise, we will pass you at some point!

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Have a think about how you'll best do locks. There were only 2 of us so we decided going up is more efficient if in a closely spaced flight (eg the ones on the SU main line). The reason is, its easier for the driver of the boat to 'finish off' a lock going uphill, than downhill. So the non-driver can walk on and set up the next lock in readiness, get the gates open, and once the boat is in close the gates, open the paddles and walk on to the next. This is possible on heartbreak hill but more walking involved (boat would then catch up etc).

 

With 8 of you, you'd be able to send people on to the next lock nice and early. So it probably won't make a difference.

 

As far as mooring spots go, the Shroppie Fly/Audlem flight is a nice one, as is the pub at Rode Heath (if you're visiting the pub, you can moor offside ie pub side no worries). Also this breaks up heartbreak hill quite nicely, though it might muddle up your timings etc. We planned the whole trip out but didn't really follow it after about day 2, because we were so far ahead. I guess its handy to do in case you get behind, though.

 

We were also lucky with the timing of the Harecastle tunnel passage - we did it south-north (ie anticlockwise), got the last passage of the day through the tunnel with no delay, and did 12 locks to get to Rode Heath and the pub in the evening (we'd started that day at the top of the Caldon Canal though).

 

PS Tixall Wide was v busy, considered anchoring, but got the last space which was 1 foot longer than our boat, fortnately.

Edited by Paul C
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I would always go around the ring anti-clockwise as Cheshire LOcks going uphill are very fierce - be careful of the Middlewich Arm locks as the paddle draw is VERY strong

 

AS for pubs, good list above although left out the re-opened Badger at Church Minshull (good food and beer) and The Lord Combermere in Audlem

 

Full list of pubs (if you find any out of date please advise)on the ring shown via the link below

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I you are going anti-clock the first one you hit is the Fox & Anchor probably about an hour from Autherly. Uninspiring TableTable chain pub. After that I am not sure of 'owt else till Penkridge where we use the Boat which is ok. There are a few more pubs in Penkridge, 10 mins walk.

 

In between Penkride and Grt Haywood I cant comment on pubs as we usually say on board. Two pubs in Grt Haywood, both do food, both ok.

 

If you like real ale Stone is a good stop. There is the excellent Swan just over the road from the canal side Star. At the top of the main street there is a Spoons but if you walk up the hill past the Spoons about 400yds there is the equally excellent Royal Exchange.

 

After Stone there is Plume of Feathers at Barleston but if you overnighted at Stone you would have no need to stop at the Plume. And you wouldn't be missing much.

 

I cant comment on Stoke. Its on my to do list. Normally after a couple of days in Stone I need to recover so do more cruising and less boozing.

 

The first pub, of my choice, after the tunnel is the Blue Bell and easily doable from Stone in the day. My personal favourite on the ring. Just be aware of the opening times and it doesn't do grub. http://www.bluebellkidsgrove.co.uk/index.html

If you want pub grub the Red Bull is about half an hour further on.

 

There are a couple of pubs at Rode Heath but again if you overnighted at the Bell or the Red Bull they will come to soon, so the next place is Wheelock where there is the quirky Commercial Hotel or the Cheshire Cheese. Never seen anybody eating in either so am presuming no food. We normally have a few scoops in the pubs then go to the chippy or Chinese. There is an Italian restaurant canal side. Never been in, cant comment.

 

There are quite a few pub in Middlewich. All equally uninspiring so we tend to give it a miss these days. Hopefully someone can tell us different.

 

Barbridge Junction is, again, doable in a day from Wheelock. Two descent pubs there. We usually have a few drinks in the Barbridge where the beer is good, then eat in the Jolly Tar where the beer is not quite so good but you can get two good meals for the same price as one portion of fish and chips in the Barbrdge.

 

Nantwich is a brisk 10 mins walk from the embankment. Plenty of pubs for most tastes. The Black Lion and the Leopard being my two favourites.

 

Can't think of anything then till Audlem. My mate has just started mooring there and apparently the Shroppie Fly is on its arse and most boaters moored there seem to use the Bridge although there is the Lord Combermere also. Both ok IMO when we were there a few weeks back.

 

Nothing much then till Market Drayton. Although not to far into town it always feels a bit of a trek to me. There are a good few pubs in town although nothing to special apart from the Red Lion and a Spoons. We normally eat in the Talbot which is about 100 yds from the canal.

 

The pubs are a bit more isolated now. The Wharf at Goldstone, never tried, so cant comment, the Wharf at Shebdon, never seems to be open when we pass so never been in.

 

The Anchor (tin hat goes on) is fine. The pub, the people, the atmosphere, the setting and the fire in winter are all first class. The beer IMO isn't. Having said that it is certainly worth calling in for the other reasons. No food.

 

Junction at Norbury Junction is ok should you find yourself having to overnight there. Food available and beer ok.

 

Couple of descent pubs at Gnosall both canal side and good for beer and grub as is the Hartley Arms at Wheaton Aston. After that there is just Brewood left which has a few pubs (4 I think) and most, if not all, do grub.

 

Then after that's it pal. All over. Have a good 'un.

 

Hopefully someone else will be along to fill you in with sights and pubs/eateries i have missed.

 

 

I agree with all these recommendations , Nantwich is the best town to walk into the Oddfellows is a really friendly pub on the walk in before the Black Horse , good Indian next to it. The Italian by the Cheshie Cheese at Whhelock is good.

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The Cross Keys in Penkridge does a good beer and is well worth a visit

 

The Navigation in Gnosall does really good value for money food and great beer (and very welcoming too)

 

The Anchor at High Offly has to be experienced by anyone who wants to step back in time. They are not open all day though and do food as has already been mentioned

 

Up until recently I would have suggested Calf Heath Marina but it closed a few weeks ago. Hopefully it will be open again by Easter as there are a lot of forum members hoping to meet up there for a banter. If you do anti clockwise you may well meet up with them

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If stopping in Stoke I would seeriously recommend the Holy Inadequqte in Etruria for the beer (Don't think it does meals but could be wrong) It is only a few minutes walk from the canal and has just been voted by the Potteries CAMRA as their pub of the year.

 

If stopping at Kidsgrove the Blue Bell is the place for beer, but not food. A few weeks ago we ate at the Balti house in the town centre which is cheap and cheerful, it is not licensed but you can take your own alcohol which saves a lot of money, also don't make the mistake of ordering too many Naaan bread - they are enormous!

 

Tim

Edited by Tim Lewis
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The Four Alls is worth a visit if you fancy a 10 minute walk from the canal. It's down the road (west) from Tyrley top lock, on the main road. Nice place to moor as well, if there's space. The Badger at Church Minshull is also good, be prepared for a bit of a scramble down the wooded footpath alongside the River Weaver to get there! If you stop in Middlewich then the Blue Ginger restaurant is good for an Indian, it's in the town centre.

 

Going either way round has pros and cons really - as mentioned the by-washes on the S.U are strong (some very strong!) and they would be more difficult to handle than fierce ground/gate paddles. On the other hand I'd be happier spending the last few days of the trip on a run down the Shroppie, as opposed to the Trent Valley/North Staffs and Worcs. Just think the scenery is more interesting on the former.

  • Greenie 1
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  • 2 weeks later...

If stopping in Stoke I would seeriously recommend the Holy Inadequqte in Etruria for the beer (Don't think it does meals but could be wrong) It is only a few minutes walk from the canal and has just been voted by the Potteries CAMRA as their pub of the year.

 

If stopping at Kidsgrove the Blue Bell is the place for beer, but not food. A few weeks ago we ate at the Balti house in the town centre which is cheap and cheerful, it is not licensed but you can take your own alcohol which saves a lot of money, also don't make the mistake of ordering too many Naaan bread - they are enormous!

 

Tim

 

We've always found the food (..and the beer..) at The Red Bull to be OK, and it's not a long walk from there to The Blue Bell. One of our party still raves about the excellent steak he once had at The Red Bull - admittedly, it was years ago, and could have been the one excellent one out of ten mediocre ones... as with all things pubby, things can change literally overnight.

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I agree that the Navigation at Gnosall is very friendly and does excellent food. A couple of miles from Aston Marina (which does very good if pricey food) is a path from the canal through the village of Burston where I recommend the food at The Greyhound.The cafe by the lock at Gt. Heywood is very good too.

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I'm aware somebody else has been seeking advice about the Four Counties Ring here - but wonder if I too can take advantage of the knowledge I'm sure is out there?

 

Just after Easter next year I'm planning to do the Four Counties Ring in a week. Eight of us will be hiring a boat from Napton Narrowboats at Autherley Junction. As a group we've done a similar length trip in a week three times before, so I'm confident we can do the hours and cover the distance - but would really appreciate advice about two things.

 

Firstly - which way round to do the ring? My instinct is to do the interesting bits early on, which might suggest going anti-clockwise, but I'm quite willing to be told the other way works better.

 

Secondly - pubs and/or other interesting places to include or avoid. We won't have lots of time for sightseeing - but as we tend to start before breakfast we will have time to look at places of interest close by the canal. This year we cruised the Llangollen and part of the Shroppie - and I got some brilliant advice from this forum about which pubs to stop at and which ones to avoid. Any help on this greatly received.

 

 

This year (2012):

 

We had good steaks in The Wharf at Goldstone and decent fish 'n chips in the other pub (ie not the Cheese) at Wheelock (NB the chippy shuts about 8, even on a Friday). The Romping Donkey at Hassall Green was being re-designed by a big JCB as went by so may now either be new and flashy, or no longer there!

 

Middlewich is OK for shopping (if something of a hike) and the pub at Kings Lock produced some decent beer, but may be a bit 'modern' for some tastes. The Brewery Tap in Market Drayton is worth the walk for a pint, didn't try their food.

 

N

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Be warned that there is a banter in the planning stage at the Navvy in Gnosall over the Easter weekend. If you get caught in that you will have a great holiday but you will not finish the ring!

 

Otherwise - a lunchtime stop at Brewood is good. Walk up to the town for great beer at the Swan and stock up at the local deli and the local butcher has the best home-cured bacon for miles around.

 

The Bakery at Gnosall is a good little convenience shop and the Navvy is a very boat-friendly pub - dogs allowed in the public bar and very nice meals in the conservatory.

 

If you time it right, a brewery tour at the Joules brewery in Market Drayton is excellent value, but you need to book and I think its the first Wednesday in the month. Otherwise the Red Lion next door has Joules beer and the food is very good. Oh and don't forget Market Drayton has a home-brew shop and an excellent chocolate shop and a good market on a Wednesday.

 

On the other side there is a big market at Penkridge on a Wednesday. Number of pubs canalside and in town but we like the Horse and Jockey in town best.

 

Enjoy yourself

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  • 3 weeks later...

We did the 4C ring last summer, in the rain mostly :(. But was a great trip. We had two weeks, and for me one week would probably be a bit of a rush round. Ten days would be about right, two weeks was a bit of a luxury :)

 

We went anti clockwise, and when I do it again, I’ll probably go anti clockwise again. Bear in mind we started from Norbury, which is a day into the journey for Autherley Junction.

 

I have found that pubs nowadays serve ready meals mostly, frozen Brake Bros muck that is over priced and of poor quality. We did eat out, but not in many pubs, even those that advertise as “home cooked food” never seem to step up to the mark. I digress.

 

Penkeridge is a fine small town, good market with some busy pubs, we ate in the indian there which was ok, had a drink in the Cross Keys which was very friendly, pleasant atmosphere and great canal side location. I don’t think they do any food. We have eaten in the Boat, which is fine if you like pub food (See comments above). Theres a good little café which serves fabulous a breakfast. And the bakery is a must visit to get fresh bread, its worth mooring up on the way through if you’re not going to stay the night, just for the bakery!

 

We self catered mostly, and moored in the countryside, but we also ate in The Olives, and Italian restaurant in Stone. I do not recommend this place at all, massively overpriced and a poor experience. We were recommended La Dolca Vita but it looked expensive and we made the wrong choice. Had a drink in The Star by the canal and it was friendly pleasant atmosphere.

 

We ate in The Red Bull at Kidsgrove and confirmed everything bad we know about pub food.

 

Fish and chips in Middlewich were fantastic, small chip shop you can see from the canal as you approach the junction. Recommended.

 

The Tia restaurant in Nantwich was also incredible value for money and proper quality, very friendly. Apart from a meal I cooked myself :) it was the best meal we had the whole trip and was around £20 per head including a bottle of wine. Aroi Tai Restaurant, we will definitely go there next time we’re in Nantwich.

 

Apart from a breakfast in Morrisons at Market Drayton, we didn’t eat out much after that.

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