Nuneaton, Coventry, Tamworth: they might not sound like the most appealing destinations for a holiday. But there’s more to the Coventry Canal than meets the eye.
The quietest stretch is, paradoxically, the most urban. The first 5 or so miles, from a terminal basin in Coventry city centre to Hawkesbury Junction on the outskirts, see few boats. The basin has been attractively rebuilt under the watchful eye of a statue of James Brindley, the canal’s original surveyor. (The Coventry Canal has the accolade of having sacked the great Brindley for not devoting enough time to the project.) Coventry may not be high on the tourist trail, but there’s enough to merit a boat trip here, not least the stunning modern cathedral.
Hawkesbury is a place redolent in history. The classic view of the Greyhound pub, the cast-iron bridge and the stop lock is little changed from its commercial heyday, though the power station that consumed so much coal has been demolished.
From here, the Coventry becomes a very popular cruising waterway. Its scenery, though understated, is better than you’d think. There are some lovely rural reaches, the descent from Atherstone through 11 locks being one. Another comes after you pass the busy junction at Fazeley, where – if you’re not distracted by the tempting pubs of Hopwas – a delightful, secluded wooded section awaits. From Fazeley to Whittington, where there are still more cosy pubs, the canal was actually built by the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal; many boaters still call it that.
And then, of course, there’s the terminus on the Trent & Mersey at Fradley Junction. Just as classic a canal scene as Hawkesbury, and if anything even busier, this is a high point of anyone’s trip. In the summer months, though, we suggest you tackle it early in the morning or in the late evening to beat the crowds!