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Busy Bedworth and the Canals

An easy walk to see Hawkesbury Junction where the Coventry and Oxford canals meet.

Distance 4.5 miles (7.2km)

Minimum time 1hr 30min

Ascent/gradient 56ft (17m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Lanes, field paths, woodland tracks and tow paths, 3 stiles

Landscape Canalside and gentle countryside

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 221 Coventry & Warwick

Start/finish SP 364839

Dog friendliness Off lead along tow path, otherwise under control

Parking Near Elephant and Castle in Hawkesbury

Public toilets None on route

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1 From the Elephant and Castle ascend to the Coventry Road. Go left, crossing the bridge over the Oxford Canal, and follow the road past the Old Crown.

2 In about 250yds (229m), just before the large sign for Bedworth and Nuneaton, go right and take the footpath into meadowland. Continue along the footpath to a stile, then go left over the stile into a large field. Cross the field, heading towards a double stile at the end, but don't go over the stile.

3 Go left again and head towards another stile in the field corner. Cross this and continue in a north-easterly direction. Your route passes by Trossachs Farm (on the left) and you continue along the path by the field edge. After going over a footbridge, walk diagonally over a large hay field, aiming to the left of an oak tree in the far corner.

4 Go over the stile near this tree, then left to join the Coventry Way. Take the footpath by the field edge over several fields until you exit on to the Coventry road once again, near to Mile Tree Farm. Cross the road and continue ahead on a footpath heading generally towards Hollyhurst Farm. The path arcs left and you go through a hedge gap into an area which is being prepared as a nature reserve - this is called Coalpit Fields Woodlands. Keep to the left and go over a stile on to a farm track. Follow this track as it arcs left to reach a bridge over the Coventry Canal.

5 Just before reaching the bridge, go left and descend to the tow path along the pleasant canal. Head south along the tow path - this is part of the Centenary Way. The path arcs gently right (south west) and soon you reach Hawkesbury Junction where large numbers of colourful narrowboats are usually moored and the Greyhound pub offers a welcome break.

6 Leave the Coventry Canal and go left along the Oxford Canal tow path. Walk beneath the electricity pylons and make your way back to the Elephant and Castle.

This easy walk gives you the opportunity to share a Midlands canal experience by walking the tow paths of two of the area's most important canals. They formed an important link into Britain's network of canals during the Industrial Revolution.

The route takes you from Hawkesbury through pleasant countryside to reach the Coventry Way. After passing newly constructed Coalpit Fields Woodlands Nature Reserve you join the Coventry Canal near Bedworth. Quiet now, this was once a major mining community. You'll pass the Hawkesbury Junction conservation area where an elegant 50ft (15m) cast-iron bridge, built in 1837, spans the junction of the Coventry and Oxford canals.

Hawkesbury Junction was also known as Sutton Stop, after the name of the first lock keeper. It became a famous resting place for bargees on this part of the canal system. In 1821 an engine house was built to pump water up into the canal from a local well. The Newcomen-type atmospheric steam engine which lifted the well water was called Lady Godiva. It ceased pumping in 1913 and has since been transferred to the Dartmouth Museum in Devon. Thomas Newcomen was born in Darmouth in 1663, and Lady Godiva forms the centrepiece of his memorial museum. At Hawkesbury Junction, the Greyhound Inn and the pump house are reminders of this once busy scene. Photographers will find a classic shot through the archway of the cast-iron bridge.

The Act of Parliament to enable the construction of the Coventry Canal was passed in 1768 with two objectives. Firstly to connect Coventry with a new trade route called the Grand Trunk (today known as the Trent and Mersey Canal), and secondly to provide Coventry with cheap coal from the coalfield at Bedworth, a major mining community. By 1769 the stretch of canal between Coventry and Bedworth had been completed but, because of some wrangling with the Oxford Canal Company, the Coventry Canal did not reach its point of linkage with the Grand Trunk at Fazeley until 1790. James Brindley was the original engineer for this attractive, contour canal, but he was sacked from the job following an overspend of authorised capital.

Brindley was also the engineer of the winding 91-mile (146km) Oxford Canal, one of the earliest to be built. Its objective was to connect the Midlands with London. It reached Oxford in 1789 and was completed in 1790. Initially the link was achieved with the Coventry Canal via a 1-mile (1.6km) parallel stretch of canal. In 1801 the Hawkesbury Junction was constructed to avoid this costly duplication. The price of coal in the capital, which was previously transported from Newcastle by sea, dropped almost immediately.

While you're there

Spend a little time at Hawkesbury Junction enjoying the magical scene with its traditionally decorated narrowboats as their occupants visit the chandlery (or the Greyhound) or manoeuvre between the two canals. This once busy industrial canal centre is now used solely for leisure purposes.

Where to eat and drink

You are spoilt for choice around Hawkesbury. The Elephant and Castle is by the Oxford Canal in Hawkesbury and welcomes walkers - children and dogs are allowed in the gardens. The walk passes the Old Crown in the village and then at Hawkesbury Junction, the Greyhound. This is attractively placed and has large gardens where children and dogs are allowed.

What to look for

The canals are heavily used by local anglers, usually with rods much taller than themselves. You may see pike, roach, perch, bream or carp being hauled on to the bank. If you stroll off the main route at Bedworth Hill Bridge you can visit two small lakes where, apparently, the fish are bigger.

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