History of the Canal

The Coventry Canal – Fradley Junction to the City Basin

The Coventry canal was built primarily to transport coal from the pits at Bedworth, Coventry and Nuneaton to the rest of the midlands and beyond. Today the evidence of its industrial past is difficult to find. Much of the derelict land has been recovered for housing and other developments or has been reclaimed by nature. From the junction with the Trent and Mersey canal, at Fradley, the canal winds its way through semi-rural surroundings to Streethay Wharf. The canal is never far away from the busy A38 trunk road and as it approaches Streethay the road runs directly along the non towpath side. The new housing developments in the village of Fradley creep right down to the waters edge without overpowering the semi rural scene.

Fradley is a very popular location for both boaters and gongoozlers and moorings can often be very difficult to find. The Swan public house is very busy, especially for food, at the weekends but it is well worth waiting for. The Swan Line boat hire company has a small shop that sells the usual range of canalia along with a limited range of groceries, bread and milk.

Streethay is the first of many new purpose built marinas along the Coventry canal and offers all facilities including repairs and a laundrette. In a little over half a mile the canal reaches Huddlesford junction. The junction is that with the Lichfield Canal (formerly the Wyreley & Essington), much of which is derelict but under restoration. Along with the Hatherton Canal, also under restoration, will, when completed, provide a new link to the Staffs & Worcs. Canal. The restoration plans were recently given a boost by the Governments decision to ensure that navigable culverts are provided beneath the new motorway relief road. The short section of canal in water is home for the Lichfield Boat Club (formerly part of the Coventry Canal Society).

Nearby is the Plough Inn where good food and Ansells beer are available. The village of Whittington is soon reached where bridge numbers change to names and Whittington lock can be seen alongside the canal. When the canals were being built, the Coventry Canal Company ran out of money before joining up the two halves of their canal. The Birmingham and Fazeley Company, whose canal joins the Coventry Canal at Fazeley, built this section to ensure the prosperity of their own canal. The Coventry Canal Company later bought this section back but never changed the bridge markers.

The canal side pub ‘The Swan’ is a very popular evening stop and provisions are available in the village. From here the canal starts its journey along the Hopwas embankment and the surrounding countryside becomes heavily wooded. Hopwas woods contain a MOD firing range and access to the woods is restricted when red flags are flying. Pubs on either side of the canal at Hopwas offer very good food and drink.

Moorings by the pubs can be a little noisy so if you crave for peace and quiet moor up just prior to the village. The village also has a farm shop and post office. The canal continues in rural surroundings to Fazeley where there are good moorings, B.W. offices at Peels wharf with the usual boating facilities and a large number of shops on this busy A5 junction. The approaches to Fazeley have now been extensively developed with housing but it does not overcrowd the canal unnecessarily.

Author’s boat at Atherstone

Beyond Fazeley the canal crosses the river Tame on an impressive aqueduct and skirts round the suburbs of Tamworth. There are many new roads and regeneration sites along this stretch but we soon reach the Tamworth Cruising Club (Coventry Canal Society-Northern Section in former years) and Glascote locks. There is often a queue here in the summer as the locks, like all those on the Coventry canal are quick to empty but very slow to fill.

The canal moves into another area of canal side development at Amington where there are a few local stores. The canal now passes a new golf course and the Alvecote marina. This is another new large marina built on the site of an old colliery. A much older basin on the towpath side offers the usual facilities. A mixture of historical sites and relics of the recent industrial past are both apparent.

As we approach Polesworth, Alvecote priory ruins, Pooley Hall, spoil tips and an overgrown canal wharf follow in quick succession. Local stores, a fish & chip shop and two pubs are to be found at Polesworth. On leaving Polesworth the canal once again becomes rural. The eleven locks of the Atherstone flight are spread out over nearly two miles and many boaters moor up overnight at Grendon before tackling the flight. Be prepared to take up to three hours to finish the flight, although one can stop halfway at the canal side pub the Kings Head.

Between Atherstone and Nuneaton the canal is never far from old quarry workings but still manages to retain its rural image. The B.W. heritage site at Hartshill is worth a visit. You soon come upon yet another new marina, this one built for Valley Cruises. The canal now passes through the urban sprawl of Nuneaton; although redeveloped in parts, more work is necessary. Nuneaton, a mining town, has a vast array of shops and supermarkets in its traffic free centre.

On leaving Nuneaton the canal becomes semi-rural as it approaches Marston junction with the Ashby canal. A mile further on Hawkesbury junction with the Oxford canal appears. The Greyhound Pub is very popular with both boaters and locals. From here the canal is known as the “five ‘n half”, by the locals, and refers to the mileage into the city centre. See the Coventry Canal Art Trail.