The Coventry Canal from Coventry to the River Trent

via Hawksbury, Fazeley and Fradley Junctions

 Researched and written by Jeannette Briggs

The Coventry Canal was originally built to enable the cheap transportation of coal by canal boat from the Bedworth coalfield to the north of the city, and to link Coventry to the Trent and Mersey Canal at Fradley Junction then on to the River Trent at Trent Lock.  Initially the canal was constructed as far as Bedworth, under the directions of James Brindley the engineer, but the corporation that was financing the canal ran short of money and Brindley was sacked. By 1790 the canal was operating, but was in competition with the newly constructed Birmingham and Fazeley canal and the Oxford Canal, which had been extended north from Napton Junction via Rugby towards Hawkesbury Junction. However,  despite competition, the Coventry Canal was very profitable because of the transport of coal, and remained so until 1947.  After this it fell into disuse and disrepair until the rise of leisure boating, and it is now well used by boaters who wish to get from the Oxford and Grand Union Canals up to the River Trent.

Coventry is the city that was terribly bombed during the Second World War and lost more than 85% of its old buildings, including the magnificent Cathedral.   Coventry has now become the centre of a movement for reconciliation, and a huge new cathedral was designed by Basil Spence and was opened by The Queen in 1962. It is a great example of modern architecture.

The canal begins in the Coventry Basin in the centre of the city. The wharf here has been restored and has some old warehouses, now with restaurants, craft shops and a small canal museum.

   

Above: The rebuilt Coventry Cathedral alongside the bombed remains of the old one - photo by Ken Crosby and reproduced by kind permission

Above: The canal at the City Basin - photo
by Hugh Craddock and reproduced by
kind permission

The canal leaves the basin in a northerly direction, and passes through some industrial scenes, before you reach Hawksbury Junction, where the canal meets with the North Oxford Canal ( see separate section).  It was and still is a very busy canal centre with lots of moored narrowboats, and canalside pubs like The Greyhound. It makes a pleasant overnight stop. Beyond Hawkesbury junction the canal continues north through some fairly industrial setting, past the former Bedworth collieries. There is at least a nice old canalside pub here, called the Navigation at Bridge 14. After Bedworth the canal joins with the Ashby Canal at Marston Junction.  The Ashby is a sort of spur off the main Coventry Canal, and goes to Hinkley,and Snarestone - and back again!  It suffered badly from mining subsidence and 10 miles of the original through route were abandoned.  

From Marston Junction the canal begins a north-westerly course and reaches the town of Nuneaton which is very industrial. However, the canal seems to run around the outskirts of the town. Warwickshire Narrowboats are at Boot Bridge as you first enter the town, and the Wharf Inn is right by Bridge 19.  Nuneaton may not be very pretty, but at least it is near enough to the canal to enable you to obtain all the supplies you will need for your journey.

Once you leave Nuneaton the canal seems to be cut into the side of a hill and passes a mixture of open countryside and spoil heaps left over from quarrying. 

At Hartshill you can still see clock tower in the BWB yard.  Here is The Anchor, a canalside pub and you can obtain supplies from the village.  The next little village you pass is Mancetter, which is set back from the canal.

   

Above:  The canal at Hartshill - photo by
John Winterbottom and reproduced by
kind permission

Above:  The flight of locks at Atherstone
- photo by Maurice Pullin and reproduced
by kind permission

Until now the canal has been lock-free, but all that changes as you approach the town of Atherstone. You are faced with a series of  locks (11 in all which is quite a challenge this is your first time canal boat hire or canal boat holidays) that enable you to descend to the Leicester plain. The countryside around here is lovely, and you can admire it as you work your way down the flight of locks. Valley Cruisers are based in Atherstone and there are some canalside pubs like The Kings Head.

Once you leave Atherstone the scenery becomes distinctively rural for a short while as you pass Grendon and Polesworth, before you approach Tamworth. Polesworth has the remains of an ancient abbey and Pooley Hall, a lovely old Tudor mansion built in 1510 of red brick and clearly visible from the canal. Tamworth has more locks and housing estates, and the canal skirts the town, which is however near enough to enable you to do shopping for essential supplies. Just after Tamworth you will reach Fazeley Junction which is the meeting point with the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal (see separate section).  Fazeley has some good moorings and the BW yard, plus pubs like the Three Tuns, and it makes an excellent stopover.  At Fazeley Junction you can either turn left down to Birmingham or continue on your way towards the Trent and Mersey Canal at Fradley Junction by turning right - you will shortly reach the village of Hopwas on this course.   Hopwas is built on the side of a hill that gently slopes down to the canal. The Chequers is a canalside pub here along with the Red Lion.

From Hopwas the canal passes through a large wooded area called Hopwas Hays wood, but this is close to the Whittington Firing Ranges and landing is forbidden. Past here you approach Whittington village which is really a village in two parts.  The old centre is located away from the canal, and you are surrounded by modern housing estates at this point.

 
 

Above:  The canal at Hopwas - photo by Darren Cummings and reproduced by kind permission

Above:The canal sign post at Fazeley Junction

After Whitttington you will see the flat countryside that will be with you all the way to Fradley Junction and the Trent and Mersey Canal. Here are moorings, and the BW Fradley yard, plus Swan  Line Cruisers, and pubs like The Swan, which is famous in canal terms, and a great place to visit. Your journey on the Coventry Canal is over and you now have to decide which direction to take once again.

I hope that this brief introduction to the Coventry Canal will inspire you to make the journey from the city to the Trent and Mersey.