Audlem is famous for its run of 15 locks on the Shropshire Union Canal. With its canalside pubs and attractive towpath, the walk alongside the locks is one of the finest in lowland England. Interpretration panels by the towpath in Audlem describe the operation of locks and the canal's history.
Touchscreen computers have been installed in Audlem Mill and at the Overwater Marina detailing the life and works of Thomas Telford as well as a wide range of tourist information featuring award-winning films, photographs and information.
The Audlem Lass is a boat service which operates on the Shropshire Union Canal between Audlem's Lock 15 and the Overwater Marina. Audlem Lass was a new initiative introduced in 2011 and carries over 4,000 passengers each year to and from Overwater Marina.
The service is operated by a team of volunteers, who are all fully trained RYA coxswains and who aim to make every trip on the Audlem Lass a memorable experience for all the family to enjoy!
To see details of the Scheduled Service times for the Audlem Lass, click here
In addition, the boat can be booked for Private trips, School parties and other organisations such as WI, Brownies, Guides, Scouts and Cubs. All Passenger donations go towards the running costs of the boat and supporting the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.
The Shropshire Union Canal was surveyed and engineered by Thomas Telford and construction began in 1827. There is a story that Thomas Jackson, in charge of the cutting of the canal, was lent £5 by a lady from Audlem when he ran short of funds.
His luck turned and years later he had a stone erected and railings put round the grave of his benefactress in the old Churchyard. He himself was buried in the new Cemetery in 1885, aged 76.
The 39 mile stretch from Autherley Junction near Wolverhampton to Nantwich was opened to traffic in 1835, with 15 locks at Audlem taking the water level down from the Shropshire heights to the Cheshire Plain, some 93 feet (30 metres).
During the period up to 1920 the canal was the scene of great commercial activity. All the boats were horse-drawn with the exception of the stone barges which were often pulled by donkeys.
The Shropshire Union Canal Company worked its own boats from the wharf each day and took goods from Audlem to Birmingham, London and Chester. Every Saturday morning a cheese boat was loaded and it was a common sight to see the roads to the wharf full of carts bringing cheese to be sent to Manchester.
Twice a week fly-boats travelled between Birmingham, Audlem and Ellesmere Port. As speed was essential, they travelled on through the night, lit by huge oil lamps carrying up to 25 tons of butter, cheese, ham and grain, or coal, timber and limestone for road construction.
The towpath is extremely well maintained and walkers have the choice of a southerly walk towards Coxbank and Market Drayton which passes the majority of the locks. The walk is particularly attractive in May when the Hawthorn blossom is out while pine and damson trees also line the route.
Kingfishers are seen as are herons, grey wagtails and, above, buzzards which have colonised the area around Audlem in recent years. Otters have returned to the canal in recent years. There has been extensive planting of new trees, bulbs and wild flowers along the towpath.
There are walks off the canal going southward along Audlem Vale (which returns to the village); to Green Lane; to Kinsey Heath and Swanbach; to Coxbank and, nearly a mile beyond the Shropshire border, and about 2 miles from Audlem, to Highfields and to Adderley. (See ' Walks ' section for suggested local walks).
The stretch of canal southwards passes ten of Audlem's fifteen locks and has been described as one of finest walks in lowland England. A mile south of Audlem, just beyond Coxbank and a wooded section of canal is the Cheshire/Shropshire border, unmarked but the basis of Audlem's boast to be 'The First Village of the North.'
Walking northwards along the canal towpath, there is a run of locks which passes Moss Hall (a footpath leads eastward across the pasture in front of Moss Hall back to the village and provides fine views) and then the Old Stables at the Bottom Lock where narrowboats can turn about.
There are views across the newly created fishing lakes at Moss Hall before the canal crosses the River Weaver which flows through a wide flood plain northwards towards Nantwich. Further on, the Overwater Marina is seen to the left and can be reached via footpaths after crossing Bridge 80.
With 11,000 narrow boats a year passing through Audlem, there's normally activity and much to see with the locks in action and interpretation boards to show how a lock works, life on the canals or information about the canal's builder, Thomas Telford.
(See ' Walks ' section for suggested local walks)
The Shropshire Union Canal at Audlem is one of the most attractive places to visit in lowland England. It is hardly surprising that Audlem Locks is pictured on the front cover of the Ordinance Survey Map Explorer 257 covering much of South Cheshire.
All the footpaths mentioned can be found on the OS map while Audlem has published its own map of Parish Paths which can be bought at Williams' (the newsagents and Tourist Information Centre) and Audlem Post Office. Walks leaflets are also available in local shops, pubs and cafes.
Thomas Telford was born in 1757 near Dumfries in southern Scotland. He became one of Britain's most famous engineers and was the first President of the Institution of Civil Engineers founded in 1818.
He was responsible for the Menai and Conwy Bridges in Wales; great canal aqueducts and the Caledonian Canal in Scotland. He designed and built harbours at Aberdeen and Dundee as well as more than 900 miles of roads including many bridges.
When he was employed to build canals to meet the threat of the new competition from the railways, he built the new tunnel at Harecastle on the Trent & Mersey Canal as well as the new canal from Wolverhampton to Nantwich, now called the Shropshire Union.
Other major works include the Gota Canal in Sweden and St Katherine's Dock in London as well as roads in Scotland and bridges over the River Severn at Gloucester and Tewksbury.