The Coventry Canal & 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 20 or more into and then 20 or more down out of Birmingham. Allow two days to cruise the canal.
The Coventry 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 Fazeley where the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal goes off to join the Birmingham Canal System, and on through Tamworth. Tamworth has a 13th century castle built by Mercian king Offa and is well worth a visit.
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 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!
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.
The Greyhound pub which dates back to the early 1800s is still a popular stopping place for boaters for its beer and food! Sutton stop lock, or just ‘Sutton Stop‘ was named after its first lock keeper. 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 meets the Coventry Canal but the Oxford originally ran parallel with the Coventry 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. Narrowboats have to make a very tight 180 degree turn to get off the Coventry Canal and into the lock, especially if they are pulling a butty!
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
The Ashby Canal runs for 22 lock free miles from Marston Junction on the Coventry Canal through pleasant countryside and skirts the War of the Roses Bosworth Battlefield (1485) on which Richard III was killed.
The canal now terminates 8 miles short of its original destination of Moira just north of the Snarestone Tunnel. Years of coal mining around Measham, where the well known Measham Pottery was made, had caused serious subsidence undermining the canal enforcing a progressive closure.
The Ashby Canal Trust has restored one and a quarter isolated miles of the Ashby Canal at Moira and aims to reconnect it to the canal at Snarestone. They have a base at Snarestone Wharf where there is an information kiosk, shop and visitor moorings. A trip boat operates from Moira Furnace.