70 miles , 36 locks and 1 tunnel
Coventry Basin, Coventry Canal, Hawkesbury Junction, Atherstone Locks, Fradley Junction, Trent & Mersey Canal, Great Haywood Junction, Stone, Etruria
A suprisingly green and pleasant route between these two great industrial cities. Pleasant spring walks, lively canal junctions and good old English pubs!
We leave the basin in Coventry, which is home to a number of small shops, businesses and an art gallery, and begin making our way along the canal towards the edge of the city. The canal here survived the bombing of Coventry during the blitz and when at risk of closure, was saved by volunteers who fought to keep it open. Our course passes many works of art which have been installed along the towpath to make an Art Trail, which adds interest to our cruise from town to countryside, on the way to Hawkesbury Junction. We may have time to enjoy a pint at the Greyhound Pub at Hawkesbury Junction and to admire the ornate black and white iron bridge here, before we continue along the Coventry Canal towards Atherstone.
We travel past old quarries, some used as far back as Roman times, which have now been transformed into nature reserves and at Harts Hill we have magnificent views across the Anker valley. The flight of locks at Atherstone have at least one working side pound. Our work through the locks is eased by using the original hooks. This allow us to use a block to get the butty moving.
Cruising through farmland on a long, lock free section, brings us past Polesworth and through a pretty wooded area, until we descend the two locks at Glascote. We pass the junction at Fazeley, travelling now through flat open countryside, following the course of the River Tame for several miles. Hopwas Wood rises on the hill to the west and there are views over the Tame Valley to the east.
The course of the canal meanders, as it follows the contours of the land away from the river. This is a pretty, secluded section with overgrowth on the towpath and limited places to moor until we encounter the busy hub of Fradley Junction where we meet the Trent & Mersey Canal. Once we have negotiated the top half of the busy flight, we are once again in rural seclusion and greenery until we pass the Armitage Shanks factory, named after this small town, where bathroom items were made, and then travel to the larger town of Rugeley beyond.
Beyond Rugeley we emerge back into the countryside again, and we can see Cannock Chase up on the hill ahead, an ancient hunting ground and home to herds of deer. The River Trent winds its course close to ours now, accompanying us past Shugborough Hall and The Haywoods. It is just here that the locks begin again, interrupting our cruising every mile or so, making for some lovely easy walking for those wishing to stretch their legs. The gentle countryside continues to the pleasant market town of Stone, which has become something of a spiritual home to many boaters and, as we climb up the flight of four locks on the edge of the town, we pass three boatyards.
Another flight of four locks at Meaford and one further, lonely lock, mark our journey towards Stoke, where a spread out flight welcomes us into Etruria and our mooring for the end of this cruise.