Two-mile walk at Fradley
This walk takes you from Fradley Junction, a bustling hotspot which is popular with boats and equally popular with ‘gongoozlers’ (people who watch boating activity), to the peaceful village of Alrewas.
The towpath between is a rural haven for wildlife. Each step you take brings calm as you steep yourself in the water, with expansive views of open countryside all around. Wildlife and wild flowers line the canal water, the only sounds are birds in the water or hedgerow, and seats along your route invite you to simply relax and watch.
Canal: Trent & Mersey Canal
Start: Fradley Junction OS Grid ref: SK140140 Postcode: DE13 7DN
Finish: Alrewas Lock OS Grid ref: SK171154 Postcode: DE13 7AL
Distance: 3.6km / 2¼ miles
Start: Fradley Junction is where the Coventry Canal ends as it meets the Trent & Mersey Canal in the middle of a flight of five locks. The Swan (known as the ‘Mucky Duck’) sits right on the junction, and there’s a boatyard with dry dock opposite.
1. Follow the wide towpath to explore the last two locks of the flight, past the teashop by the caravan site. Fradley is a popular mooring spot for visiting boats, providing plenty of canal life for the walker to soak up. Shadehouse Lock and lock house sit at the top of the lock flight. All the locks and bridges along the flight date back to the 1770s and are Grade II-listed. Deep grooves are worn in the stone by the ropes of working horses towing canal boats. Turn to head back down enjoying the great views towards the junction.
2. Boats can struggle with the sharp 90-degree bend from the Coventry straight into Junction Lock, so the bridge here is very popular with gongoozlers. Boaters have to try to ensure any boat manoeuvres are well controlled under their watchful gaze. Just over the bridge on the opposite bank, there’s a welcome station and café.
3. Fradley Pool is an award-winning nature reserve, and has a bird hide, pond-dipping platforms by the pool and a tree sculpture trail. There is usually a collection of birds on the water and many more can be heard in the surrounding trees.
4. Be wary of traffic as you cross the road just beyond Keepers Lock. Follow the towpath, heading past Hunts Lock and a row of moored boats towards Alrewas.
5. Almost immediately your surroundings will feel like you’re in the middle of lush countryside here. Listen out for birdsong and along the water’s edge and in the hedgerows are butterflies, bees and dragonflies. Common Lock sits with fields around it and Fradley Marina just below.
6. The decorated Bridge 49A carries the A513 over the canal just on the edge of Alrewas, closely followed by the idyllic setting of Bridge 49 and Bagnall Lock. This pretty village sits close to the River Trent and was once famous for basket weaving from the alder trees which grew in the river’s floodplain. The name Alrewas, pronounced ‘Olrewus’, is believed to derive from the words ‘Alder Wash’ referring to these trees. It is now also known as the location of the National Memorial Arboretum, just under two miles from the canal. Some village gardens lead straight down to the canal or towpath.
7. Just beyond Bridge 48, there’s an option to detour through a gate next to All Saints Church. The current church dates back over 1200 years and is noted for its ‘leper’ window through which contagious sufferers could receive the sacrament. Loop round its grounds along Mill End Lane into Church Road, and re-join the towpath at Bridge 46.
8. Below Alrewas Lock, the canal briefly joins the River Trent. Walk the long thin footbridge over Mill Stream to the grass meadows and willows of Alrewas Island and then over the River Trent to reach its tree-lined riverside path. Take in the expansive views and watch for birds and waterfowl attracted by the river and nearby weir. There may be heron fishing on its banks or even the blue flash of a kingfisher.
End: Relax here, and then turn to retrace your steps along the towpath. You could detour at Bridge 46 to explore the village, and then hop on a bus or get back on the towpath at Bridge 48 to return to Fradley Junction from a fresh angle.