THIS is the renowned Nantwich wooden horse which
stands by the side of the Shropshire Union Canal.
It used to be lock gates until two
artists, John Merrill (who recycled the wood) and Julian Taylor (who did the
iron work) came along and produced the very solid sculpture at an open
studio at Reaseheath College, just outside Nantwich (A51).
Its mane has gone much "redder"
since it was installed as the metal has rusted over the years.
A plaque (seen right and below) tells that
the sculpture is "celebrating the restoration of Nantwich Embankment."
The route of this part of the
Shropshire Union Canal meanders across the face of the plaque with miniature
versions of the canalside sculptures and lines from a poem called "Clipperty
clop, clipperty clop".
There is also a small square plaque
on the side of the stand with the date 1644 and crossed swords, marking the
English Civil War Battle of Nantwich which was fought in fields on the town
side of the canal.
The Sculpture Trail includes the horse and smaller sculptures (one of which
is seen far right) created by schoolchildren.
According to a leaflet that is now
out of print, the trail "is the culmination of a collaborative Community
Arts Project, initiated to celebrate the restoration of the Nantwich
Embankment." It tells how local schools and community groups "took part in a
variety of creative workshops and celebratory events."
canal is featured in two walks described in a subsequent Nantwich
Information Centre leaflet, "Local Walks". They are the Nantwich Riverside
Loop (three miles / 5km) and a walk around Nantwich and Acton (five miles /
8.5km) which extends the Loop for keen walkers - or to be tackled on another
day. The second walk is a variation of the latter part of the Loop.
THE Basin End, a marina owned by the Canal and River
Trust (formerly British Waterways) was created - I understand - as the
result of the owners of Dorfold Hall, Acton, preventing the canal
navigators crossing their land, just over the Chester Road (A534).
They said no, the new
transport system could not cross their land. So the main channel had to take
a detour around the hall land - taking a meandering route. The cutting, up
to the hall land, was widened and become a stopping place for canal traffic.
Of course, it might have been intended to be
like that all along, but the version I have always understood to
be what happened in the history of the inland
waterway is more interesting.
The canal and the various sculptures
are on the outskirts of Nantwich on the A534 Chester Road, one of two roads
leading towards the city of Chester. The other is the A51 Nantwich by-pass
which sets off along Barony Road. Take that and you would miss the Basin End
- unless your map reading picked up Welshman's Lane, a route across
countryside between the two routes. This would bring you out on to an inner
ring road that bypasses the Welsh Row end of the town. (This one starts at
the River bridge in High Street). From the lane, turn right on to the ring
road and then right again at the traffic lights by the aqueduct.
You can travel by car and park at
the Basin End. Parking is free during the day, but there is a charge for
overnight parking. The Basin End is the location of the
Nantwich Canal Centre. As an alternative to
driving, take the 84 bus from the bus station next to Nantwich Civic Hall,
or - if you are feeling fit, and it's a nice day -
you could walk the route. It is around a mile and a
half (1.75km or so).
You will reach Telford's aqueduct
(below) first and this is the best access to the canal if you are on foot.
There is a set of steps or a much
easier footpath which slowly climbs up the embankment to emerge on the canal
tow path. Or use the metal structure (which carries the canal over the
road) as a landmark telling you that the Basin End is just ahead on the
But there is no footpath on the
right-hand side of the road, so cross over to the woodland side of the road
until you reach the Basin End.
The smaller sculptures are on the
canal towpath to the left and right of the aqueduct. Turn right as you reach
the towpath to see the horse sculpture.
times: This is an open air site with
no closed times, except at the Canal Centre and Empress Holidays. There is a
cafe on site.
There is no charge to access the area, of course
access?: Yes. Visitors by car or bus will find there is just a slight
incline in the area of the Basin End, although you might have a little
difficulty negotiating the old stone bridge over the canal to get to the horse.
But you can easily see the horse across the water if you decide not to risk it.
Those approaching the canal on foot or in a wheelchair from the town centre will
reach the aqueduct over Welsh Row before the Basin End. You will find a long,
gentle slope up from ground level to the canal towpath, running alongside a set
of steps cut into the embankment.
Parking is permitted at the Basin End marina - under the aqueduct and first
right about 50 yards further on. (On the left as you see the aqueduct ahead, if
approaching from Chester or North Wales directions).
The Canal Centre:
Empress Holidays. Shropshire Union Canal Society: