There's a whopping 94 locks
his is probably one of the most relaxing ways to see the English countryside – even with the 94 lock gates you’ll need to negotiate.
As you might have guessed, the Four Counties Ring is a series of canals that together, form a loop taking you through Cheshire, Staffordshire, Shropshire and the West Midlands.
Rather confusingly, it’s made up of five canals – the Trent and Mersey, the Staffordshire and Worcestershire, the Shropshire Union (including the Middlewich branch) and the Wardle – but you won’t be thinking too much about which is which, once you get under way.
After hiring your boat (usually with wholesome names like ‘Old Rosie’), why not start off in Stoke-on-Trent, which is famous for coal mining, steel and pottery. Best to leave it until the way back to stock up on that local Wedgewood tea-set, though – there’s a lot of locks between here and the end.
After cruising through Shropshire’s pretty market towns, and the salt works of Middlewich, it’s time to get working – the canal now climbs ‘Heartbreak Hill’ and that means locks – 32 of them to be precise.
The good news with all of this, of course, is that it probably equals about a week of work-out in the gym, so by the time you get to Rode Heath you’ll have a license to eat your way through the menu at the Broughton Arms.