Things to Do: Canals & Waterways In Staffordshire
Canals and waterways have provided various economic, social and environmental benefits throughout history. The industrial revolution brought an ingenious network of canals and locks to transport raw materials and market goods across the country. Today, whether by boat, foot or bike, the waterways allow us to explore the towns and villages of the country within preserved trails of natural beauty.
Sandon Hall’s County of Staffordshire is home to two of the country’s prettiest canals. Below we have put together the necessary information for you to enjoy them during your stay at Sandon Hall.
Explore The Canals & Waterways In Staffordshire
Staffordshire is known as the ‘canal county’. With over 150 miles of well-preserved canals and waterways winding their way through the region, it’s not hard to see why. Originally an important network for trade and commerce during the industrial revolution, the canals have been well preserved to offer a pleasurable pass-time for walkers, cyclists, runners, narrowboats, barges, canoes and kayaks.
These canals provide well-kept historical archaeology, mystical narrow pathways, vast green land and pit stops of good old traditional pubs. A delightful scene of British culture and natural beauty.
Activities to Enjoy
There is more to do around these canals than just marvel at their tranquil beauty. Go for a walk, hire a bike, rent a boat, grab a pub lunch or make a stop at a historical building, museum or pottery house. We’ve linked some useful resources below for these activities in the surrounding area.
Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal (46 miles, 43 locks)
Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal is a short drive from Sandon Hall. The almost entirely rural route, with winding alleys, quaint bridges and lock cottages, is one of the most scenic ways to explore the region.
The canal was first opened to connect the rivers Severn, Trent, Merset and Thames back in 1772. It was designed to transport the raw materials brought internationally to Bristol throughout the UK. It appears little has changed to the surrounding natural beauty since then. The Worcester and Birmingham canal took away much of its business around 1815, however, since the 1960s it has gained back its popularity with pleasure boating.
Visiting Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal From The Sandon Hall Estate
To go to the Staffordshire & Worcestershire canal we recommend parking at Haywood Junction or Smestow Valley Nature Reserve.
Haywood Junction: A 15-minute drive from Sandon Hall brings you to Haywood Junction, the northern start of the canal. From Haywood Junction, head west, crossing the bridge over The River Trent, to Tixall Wide for your first peaceful pitstop of an open lake-like area of water.
There is parking outside the Anglo Welsh Ltd (where you could also hire a boat for the day – details in the activities section below) or just across Mill lane by the Canalside Farm, Shop & Café, a delightful spot for a well-deserved riverside meal before or after your walk.
Smestow Valley Local Nature Reserve: If you’re interested in starting further down the canal and don’t mind a further drive (just less than an hour), we recommend commencing from the Smestow Valley Local Nature Reserve, known for bird watching and rare plants. There is parking at the entrance. From there you can walk southwest, passing Smestow Valley Nature Park or northeast towards Haywood Junction.
Public Transport Access To Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal
Stafford Riverway Link: From Sandon Hall, you can get the 841 bus to Stafford Town Centre from Trentfield Lane in less than a half an hour’s walk. Get off at the Crematorium (11 minutes). It is then a 15-minute walk to access the canal via the Stafford Riverway Link. Bus routes change so check before you go using Google Maps or the 841 bus timetable.
Heading east along the canal from Stafford Riverway Link will take you to the end of the canal at Haywood Junction in 1 hour and 20 minutes. Alternatively, walking southwards, you’ll have at least 40 miles of canal at your disposal.
Local Towns & Culture Near Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal
All areas surrounding the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal are preserved under strict conservation. This means an abundance of surviving history, preserved old buildings, sandstone bridges and canal iron work.
The canal runs almost completely alongside rural landscapes such as the wild heathland of Cannock Chase Nature Reserve and also through urban areas such as Baswich and Radford. The urban areas are framed with hedges and trees to maintain at least a semi-rural feel.
Gailey is a sweet canal settlement village with a watchtower, toll house and lock-keeper’s cottage.
Where to Eat On The Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal
South of Haywood Junction
Canal Side Farm, Shop & Café – Beginning of the canal by Haywood Junction. Quality coffee, paninis, cakes and locally sourced meat.
The Radford Bank Inn – 1.5 hour walk from Haywood Junction. Good value, varied pub grub.
The Cross Keys – 3 hour walk from Haywood Junction, 2 hours from Stafford Riverway Link. A cheerful pub with nice scenery.
South of Smestow Valley Local Nature Reserve
House of Canton – 20-minute walk just off Bridgerton road with a huge range of Cantonese food with the option of an ‘all you can eat’ buffet.
Fiume Italian Bar & Restaurant – 20-minute walk also just off Bridgerton road. Delicious and highly rated Italian.
The Mermaid – 35-minute walk to a large, 18th century country pub with outdoor seating.
Canal Side Bar & Grill – 40-minute walk. Open from 5pm on weekdays, midday on weekends.
North of Smestow Valley Local Nature Reserve
The Swan – Up the road from the nature reserve. A traditional pub with a terrace.
Oxley Marine Bar – A family riverside bar, a 35-minute walk for fresh beer, coffee and a snack.
Trent & Mersey Canal (93 miles, 76 locks)
Trent & Mersey Canal is a short walk from Sandon Hall. At 93.5 miles, it has been named the country’s first long-distance canal. It was first built to join Liverpool’s ports with the midland’s Potteries and manufacturing towns such as Stoke on Trent. A charmingly narrow canal, the towpath creates a green corridor through Stoke on Trent, and a stunning cycling and walking route through Staffordshire.
The canal was designed during the industrial revolution in 1766 by James Bridley and instigated by china manufacturer, Josiah Wedgewood, to make transport of his materials cheaper. Today, the main transport seen on the canal is pleasure boaters joyfully cruising the water.
Visiting Trent & Mersey Canal from The Sandon Hall Estate
We recommend that you enter the Trent & Mersey Canal from Haywood Junction or Sandon Bridge.
Haywood Junction: This is where the canal meets Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal. For the Trent & Mersey Canal take the northern path towards Stone and wander through the calm meadows of Weston, Salt and Sandon. Alternatively, head south of the canal through Little Haywood and Colwich to find the lovely forests of Cannock Chase (AONB), an area of outstanding natural beauty.
Just as if you were going to the Staffordshire and Worcester Canal, you can park outside of the Anglo Welsh Ltd (boat hire options are available there). You can also park just across Mill lane by the Canalside Farm, Shop & café.
Sandon bridge: a 15-minute walk from Sandon Hall, just slightly north from Haywood Junction. Join the canal via Salt Bridge crossing the A51.
Local Towns & Culture Near to Trent & Mersey Canal
Cannock Chase Nature Reserve (AONB) is just west of the canal. A must-see area of outstanding natural beauty, known for its 230 species of wildflowers. For more nature and captivating views, explore the vast meadows, woodlands and wetlands.
On the upper north end of the canal you will find yourself in The Potteries. The historic village of Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, is an hour cycle or pleasant boat ride away. Home to an abundance of pottery houses sharing their history and traditions through museums, shops, guided tours and DIY sessions.
Where to Eat Near Trent & Mersey Canal
North of Haywood Junction
Woolpack – a 1-hour walk to a welcoming country pub.
Saracens Head – a 1.25 hour walk for a traditional pub with large open green views.
Star – a 3 hour walk. A lovely canal side pub.
South of Haywood Junction
Clifford Arms – just down the road from Haywood Junction. A pleasant pub with a beer garden.
Ash Tree – 2.5 hour walk from Haywood Junction. Pub-restaurant with a canal mooring.
Activities Surrounding The Staffordshire Canals
- Boat hire – with Anglo Welsh Ltd you can hire a day boat for up to 10 people. Equipped with kitchen, toilet and indoor and outdoor seating.
- Bike hire – at back2bikes a bike bicycle recycling charity supporting employment. opportunities. Rugeley Bicycle Repairs is also an option closer to the south of Haywood Junction. Bike hire options start at £10 a day.
- Halls – Shugborough Hall was first built in 1693, a tasteful building with wide parkland walks and smart gardens. Bishton Hall is a stunning building and gardens with a gin, rum and whiskey distillery and pottery studio.
- Fishing – with 120 logged catches for each canal on fishbrain.com, see reports and key information about fishing on the Trent & Mersey Canal and Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal.
- The Potteries – find out more about Staffordshire’s lovely potteries.
Museum – Bantock House, open on weekends, is a historic residence with a museum of art and archaeology and a Dutch garden.
Explore more Things To Do in Staffordshire
There are plenty of activities, events and places to visit around Sandon Hall and across Staffordshire.