Shop front in the summer

Friday, 13 July 2012

Real England is just beyond the towpath - PART 3

Just 40 minutes north of Norbury is High Offley. Nothing much interesting about the village which is quite a way from the towpath – but right alongside it is The Anchor, possibly one of the most famous pubs on the canal. Owned by the same family for many, many years it is an old fashioned place with all the charm of its era.

The present landlady doesn’t serve food and, until very recently, brought up the Wadworths 6X in a jug from a barrel in the cellar. There is now the modern innovation of a beer pump, but it is still pulled into a jug and then served into the pint pots.

It’s a slightly eccentric pub that opens most evenings but not every lunch time and once you get inside it is more like a living room in a private house. There is no telly, no recorded music, but there is a regular Friday night get together and sing-along if you are passing.

Beyond Tyrley Locks Market Drayton is a small market town and here you are actually in Shropshire – just like the canal says.

It is a bit of a trek, around a 15 minute walk, into the town centre and certainly well worth it on Market Day. Set in a highly agricultural area it provides work producing pork pies and other meat products for the Pork Farms brand and Müller Dairies have a factory making yogurts.

I don’t know if someone introduced the locals to fire insurance but this is yet another Shropshire Union Canal town that suffered a great fire. In Drayton the blaze destroyed almost 70 per cent of the town in the 17th century. It was started at a bakery, and quickly spread through the timber buildings. The Butter Cross in the centre of the town still has a bell at the top for people to ring if there was ever a repeat.

Between Market Drayton and Audlem are the Adderley and Audlem lock flights, 20 in all that drop you down to the Cheshire Plain.

It is a truly pretty village with a lovely church at its centre and has won all sorts of awards. Three good pubs, a fish and chip shop, village butcher, greengrocer, chemist and a Co-op supermarket make it an ideal place to top up the stores but it is also worth exploring as this is another village with a thriving local community.

After winning the county's 'Building Community Life' award, Audlem went on to win England's 'Building Community Life' award.

Audlem has clubs for tennis, badminton, football, cricket, golf, pigeon racing (or pigeon-fancying), caravanning and bowls.

Mostly it is a really friendly place with a recreation ground and children’s play area. The highlight for many boaters is the canalside pubs, especially the Shroppie Fly, and Audlem Mill which has a fascinating collection of canalia as well as arts and crafts. The moorings are good and this is a place well worth a day or two of your time.

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