A jaunt along the Monty. This level 11 mile walk on The Shropshire Way follows the towpath of the delightful northern section of the 34 mile Montgomery Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal. Much of this walk is alongside navigable waterway though there is a ‘dry’ section awaiting restoration.
Level, Canal towpath. Minor inclines at locks
Lat/Long: 52.7810020432, -3.0887436976
Along the canal
Looking along even the straightest (and therefore most direct) stretch of canal it is impossible not to marvel at the sheer graft that created it, and equally to wonder what is round the next, albeit far bend.
The restoration work – much of it being done by volunteers – has sensitively involved the creation of Nature Reserves such the one at Aston Locks. These are unheralded to prevent too much human footfall but you are welcome to explore them. Prepare to be enchanted by place names such as Cupid’s Ramble, Queen’s Head, Keeper’s Bridge (finders keepers – where is it?) and Maesbury Marsh along the way. Make sure you visit Canal Central at Maesbury Marsh with its homemade food and horse-drawn boat rides (Tel: 01691 652168).
St Winifred’s Well – a short detour
St Winifred was a seventh-century Welsh princess, sworn to a life of chastity, who was brought back to life after being decapitated by an frustrated suitor. The well marks the place where 12th century monks bearing her bones rested on their way to Shrewsbury Abbey. Later the well was enlarged to form a cold bath for the general public, whose conduct became so riotous that it was closed in 1755. The little building above is the medieval well chapel which now functions as a Landmark Trust holiday cottage. This is a quiet and picturesque spot, whose spirit was probably worshipped long before Christianity. The well is open to view but please respect the privacy of the cottage occupants.
Canals and railways
The Bone Canal is a narrow canal arm that leads to a wharf that served the former Rednal Bone Works. Cattle bones were boiled and stripped of fat and tissue which was loaded onto boats to go to the soap factory at Port Sunlight. The bones were then ground for fertiliser. Fast horse-drawn packet boats would draw up at Heath Houses ‘cross over’ bridge to allow passengers and light goods from Newtown, and places between, to transfer to and from the nearby railway at Rednal Station.
Pant, meaning ‘hollow’ in Welsh, has seen silver, lead and copper mining come and go. More recently quarrying for limestone was its business. The canal, and later the railway line that ran alongside it, was a vital transport link allowing the export of limestone and also burnt ‘quicklime’ used for building mortar and fertiliser. You will see limekilns and also the chimney of the more efficient ‘Hoffman’ kiln. The walk on Route 24 will take you through the Llanymynech Heritage Area where you can find out more about the limestone industry.