The Coventry Canal survived the severe bombing of the city during the blitz, but after the war was in danger of being built over. It was saved by local volunteers.
The Coventry Canal Society led the campaign to put the canal back at the heart of Coventry. The restored Coventry Canal Basin is now home to shops, small businesses and an art gallery, as well as a colourful collection of narrowboats.
Beyond Coventry, much of the canal is rural, and home to diverse wildlife. At its other end, the Coventry Canal joins the Trent & Mersey Canal at picturesque Fradley Junction. Here, information boards tell the story of the canal, and a there is a nature reserve where you can go pond-dipping and bird watching.
The Coventry Canal was constructed to connect the rapidly expanding city of Coventry with the Trent & Mersey Canal. This way, its promoters hoped to exploit the potential of the Warwickshire coalfields, shipping fuel both to north (via the Trent & Mersey) and south (via the Oxford Canal).
Its construction period dragged on for over 20 years before the whole line eventually opened in 1790. Nonetheless, it was a profitable venture that still paid a dividend right up to 1947, the year before the canals were taken under the Government's wing.
The section of the Coventry Canal between Fazeley Junction and Fradley Junction proved particularly problematical. The Birmingham & Fazeley Canal had reached Fazeley in 1789, where it joined the Coventry. Frustrated by the lack of progress in completing the Coventry Canal, the Birmingham & Fazeley and Trent & Mersey Canals got permission from Parliament to build the missing section. The two companies built half each, meeting at Whittington; the Coventry Canal then bought the northern portion, which is why there is an apparently isolated stretch of Coventry Canal between Whittington Brook and Fradley.
Commercial traffic north of Nuneaton continued until the 1960s and has now been replaced by increasing volumes of pleasure boats. The line terminates a short walk from the cathedral at a basin that has itself undergone much improvement in recent years.
For about a mile south of Hawkesbury Junction, the old route of the Oxford Canal can be seen running parallel. This was the ludicrous result of a disagreement between the rival companies, which was only resolved when the connection was cut at Hawkesbury. The resulting sharp turn from one canal into the other can present something of a challenge to navigators of longer craft.
The present junction is also known as Sutton Stop, after the family of the same name who once lived in the attendant cottage.