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 excellent 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. Hawkesbury Junction 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 local collieries. There's a stop lock, designed to prevent water belonging to one canal company being used by an adjoining canal company, in this case the Oxford Canal Company whose canal starts here. The Coventry Canal carries on through the suburbs into Coventry.
Atherstone holds a football match on Shrove Tuesday which follows 12th century rules!
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.
At the unusual canal junction at Hawkesbury near Coventry the Oxford Canal joins the Coventry Canal. The Oxford originally ran parallel with the Coventry for a few miles towards Coventry but 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. Sutton stop lock, named after its first lock keeper, is in the distance on the right hand side in the photo. This has a very small fall and was built to keep the waters of the two canals separate.
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.