The Coventry Canal & the Ashby Canal
The Coventry Canal leaves the Trent & Mersey Canal at Fradley Junction and runs for 38 miles up 13 locks to Coventry. It is neither a long nor outstandingly attractive canal but it was, and still is, an important link between the northern and southern canal networks, cutting out the need to lock up into, and then down out of, Birmingham. Allow two days to cruise the canal.
Leaving Fradley Junction and the well known Swan Inn the canal first cuts across flat wooded land, passing an old World War Two airfield, to Tamworth and Fazeley where the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal goes off to join the Birmingham Canal System. Spoil heaps from the old coal mining industry soon rear unusual shapes on the skyline, though much of the mining and quarrying scars have been quickly covered by landscaping and wild growth.
Atherstone is a pleasant market town with some Georgian buildings. It holds a football match on Shrove Tuesday which follows 12th century rules! Tamworth has a 13th century castle built by Mercian king Offa and is well worth a visit.
Hawkesbury Junction near Coventry used to be a bustling canal centre where boat people would take a rare opportunity to socialise while waiting for their next loads of coal from the many local collieries. Sutton stop lock, named after its first lock keeper, is in the distance on the right hand side in the photo above right. The lock which has only a very small fall was built to prevent water belonging to the Coventry Canal Company being used by the adjoining Oxford Canal Company whose canal starts here. At this unusual junction the Oxford Canal now joins the Coventry Canal but it originally ran parallel with the Coventry Canal for a few more miles towards Coventry. The junction beneath the elegant cast iron bridge was cut through in 1828 when the Oxford Canal was being shortened by having some of its tortuous loops cut out. The Coventry Canal carries on through the suburbs into Coventry. Coventry was heavily bombed in WW2 but there are still many surviving medieval buildings. The famous "new" Cathedral should be visited and there are a number of interesting museums.
The Ashby Canal runs for 22 lock free miles through pleasant countryside and skirts the War of the Roses Bosworth Battlefield (1485) on which Richard III was killed.