Coventry Basin, City Centre - 7½ hours
Coventry Basin is the start of the Coventry Canal and is home to small small shops, a boat hire company and a range of historic canal architecture. The trip to Coventry Basin is 2.5 hours beyond Hawkesbury Junction, and so is 7½ hours long in total. This makes it ideal for a full days, self-catering trip, as there is no time to stop for lunch.
What to See
Starting from Bridge 20 on the Coventry Canal, this trip passes through the outskirts of Nuneaton before reaching open countryside. Watch out for some creative gardens.
The first point of interest will be on the right as we pass All Saints School and the allotments. We soon reach a point where the canal is on an embankment (look at height of the trees and down where the steps are). Shortly we see on the right, the remains of the entrance to the Griff arm of the canal which served the collieries at Griff and Clara (Bermuda Park). This now forms a winding hole (place wide enough to turn a narrowboat).
Bridge 18 is known as the Turnover Bridge (and to some as Mollies Bridge). It is unusual in that it is designed to allow a horse pulling a boat to cross the canal from one towpath to the opposite side without untying the rope.
Just after the ‘pipe bridge’, there is evidence of the canal that used to serve the Arbury Estate. Look for the line of reeds across the edge of the field towards Collycroft. If you visit Arbury Hall you may see remnants of the canal route which was for smaller boats that used the main canal network.
At Marston Junction the Ashby Canal entrance is on the left under bridge 15a.
We soon reach Charity Dock with its unique display of mannequins and then Nicholas Chamberlaine School. After bridge 14 the canal passes through a cutting – one of the rare straight sections on the canal.
Just past bridge 13, the old Newdigate canal arm can be seen heading off to the right – now cut off by a footbridge. This is another place wide enough to turn a boat.
On reaching Hawkesbury, there is the engine house for the steam engine that used to pump water from the mine to the canal. The Newcomen engine ceased work in 1913 and is now on display at Dartmouth.
Hawkesbury marks the junction of the Coventry and Oxford canals. The narrow section being where the charges were taken for working boats to use the canal – think M6 toll. Hawkesbury is often referred to as Sutton Stop after the family who used to work there. Sephtons boat yard was opposite the distinctive iron bridge on your left, which was installed when this new canal junction was made – initially the 2 competing canals ran in parallel to Longford.
This length of canal has various art installations. Look for sculptures on a couple of the bridge railings, a concrete sofa, colourful painting on the side of a building, and other things as we go.
Just before Coney Lane Bridge, we pass Exhall Basin on the right, where you will see boats moored. Soon after we pass under the M6 and travel towards Longford and pass by the Arena Retail Park and Ricoh Arena on your right.
The canal gradually becomes more industrial and built up, with many new housing developments. On the left we pass Stoke Heath Basin and from now on the canal becomes more winding and, in some cases, points directly away from Coventry centre.
Note which roads we pass under, and see if you can figure out where they are in the road system. Cruising on the canal can feel uncannily like drifting through another dimension!
Soon after bridge 5 you will see Cash’s Hundred Houses, which had weaving facilities on the top floor and weaver’s accommodation on the 2 floors below. Although called the Hundred Houses only 48 were built, of which 37 still stand.
After Cash’s Lane Bridge we reach Bridge 1 into the Coventry Basin. You will notice that this bridge is particularly narrow and has no towpath – this was for security of boats in the basin loading and unloading.
Coventry Basin is our turning point and contains the offices of the Coventry Telegraph and some retail premises with irregular opening hours. There is also a statue of the canal engineer James Brindley.
Self-catering is the best option for this cruise, as it is a full day. You can eat as we cruise and enjoying the ever changing scenery.