Follow the Llangollen branch of the Shroppie through pastoral countryside.
Distance 6 miles (9.7km)
Minimum time 2hrs 30min
Level of difficulty Medium
Paths Tow path, lanes and field paths, very overgrown, 19 stiles
Landscape Low-lying farmland, pastoral and arable, attractive canal
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 240 Oswestry
Start/finish SJ 325312
Dog friendliness Can run free on tow path, but probably nowhere else
Parking Car park next to Whittington Castle - honesty box
Public toilets At castle when open
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1 Turn right by the Shrewsbury road (B5009), using a footway on the left. After about ½ mile (800m), cross a stile and follow a waymarked path across three fields to the far right corner of the third.
2 Walk along the edge of the next field, with a wood on your left. Cross a stile in the corner, then go obliquely across another field as indicated by a waymarker. A prominent oak tree is a useful guide. There is a stile near the tree, but you may have to wade through nettles to get to it. Continue in the same direction across the next field to a lane and turn left.
3 Keep left when you come to a fork and continue to the A495. Turn right for a few paces, then cross to the other side. Join a footpath that runs along the left-hand edge of a field to a stile and footbridge. Beyond these, keep going along the field edge until a gap in the hedge. Go through, but continue in the same direction as before, soon going up a bank.
4 Meet the canal at Pollett's Bridge (No 6). Don't cross it - go under to join the tow path. Follow this to Hindford Bridge (No 11), then go up to a lane. Turn right past the Jack Mytton Inn, then right again, signposted 'Iron Mills and Gobowen'.
5 Take a footpath on the left. Walk down a long, narrow paddock to the far end, then cross a stile on the right. Follow a fence to a foot-bridge, then continue across the next pasture to another footbridge and keep straight on to a stile ahead. Go up to the far right corner of the next field, through a gate and then left by a field edge.
6 Join a track that soon bends right beside the course of a dismantled railway. Look out for a stile giving access to the railway. Turn right on the former trackbed for a few paces, then up the bank on the left - watch out for steps concealed in the undergrowth here. Cross a stile to a field, turn right to the far side and cross another stile. Bear left to a large oak tree, then continue to a lane. Follow it to Top Street and turn right, then left to Whittington Castle.
This walk explores sections of the Montgomery Canal (the Monty), which runs for 35 miles (56km) from the Llangollen (formerly Ellesmere) Canal at Frankton Junction to Newtown, Powys. Originally, it was three canals - the Ellesmere, and the eastern and western branches of the Montgomery - built by three different companies over 25 years. The Ellesmere (Frankton to Llanymynech) section opened first, in 1796. It met the Montgomery Canal's eastern branch at Carreghofa, but the Monty was completed only as far as Garthmyl (near Welshpool) before the money ran out in 1797. Work ceased for years until a Newtown entrepreneur, William Pugh, put up the cash. By 1819 it was finally finished, right through to Newtown.
Frankton Junction became the hub of the Ellesmere system. There were actually two junctions, forming an H-shape, from which waterways radiated out to Weston Lullingfields, Ellesmere, Pontcysyllte and Llanymynech. The limestone quarries at Llanymynech provided one of the canal's most valuable cargoes. The Weston branch was intended to continue to Shrewsbury, but was never completed. It's derelict today.
Many renowned engineers were involved with the Monty, including father-and-son teams William and Josias Jessop and John and Thomas Dadford, as well as Thomas Telford. In engineering terms it's an unusual canal; it first descends by 11 locks from Frankton to the Severn, then climbs again, with 14 locks taking it up the Severn Valley to Newtown.
By 1850, the Monty had become part of the Shropshire Union Railway and Canal Company (the Shroppie), but was subsequently taken over by the London and North Western Railway Company. In 1923, it came into the ownership of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company (LMS). In 1936, the canal burst its banks by the River Perry below Frankton Locks. The LMS made no effort to repair it; the canal was simply left to its fate. Legal abandonment came in 1944 with the LMS Act of Parliament, which closed many miles of waterway. Under the 1948 Transport Act, the Monty passed into the ownership of British Waterways. Restoration work began in 1968.
The village of Whittington is dominated by its 13th-century castle, built by Fulke FitzWarine on the site of an earlier timber castle. What remains of his stronghold is mostly earthworks because the castle fell into disuse after the Civil War and its stone was plundered for road repairs. However, the handsome gatehouse survives intact, its twin circular towers reflected in the moat.
Oswestry was once the headquarters of the Cambrian Railway and a hub for services to North Wales. One of the former engine sheds now houses the Cambrian Museum of Transport, which chronicles Oswestry's railway history. The Cambrian Railway Society regularly steams up one of its locos on site and there is plenty of railway memorabilia.
There is a tea room at the castle, a Spar shop near by and two pubs, Ye Olde Boote and the White Lion. The Jack Mytton Inn at Hindford is an appealing place with a large canalside garden in a very pleasant location. Children are welcome and there is a vegetarian menu.