Old Turn - Whittington Brook Pt. 2
Birmingham and Fazeley Canal
13 miles 4 furlongs (Minworth - Whittington Brook)
From The Boat, the canal is in tandem with the Kingsbury Road and you have the juxtaposition of industrial units and warehouses on the tow path side, while on the other there is rolling Warwickshire countryside. Passing the Hare & Hounds pub and what's left of the Minworth Arm, the tow path deteriorates in more rural surroundings following the Cuttle Bridge Inn.

However, you're never too far away from industry even along the pleasant stretch through Curdworth which includes the eponymous tunnel, look up and you'll see an industrial estate high above. After Baylis's Bridge, Curdworth Locks are reached and the mighty Curdworth Lock Bridge carries the M6 Toll Road over the canal, this contrasts with the cute bridge that takes the tow path over the former entrance to Dunton Wharf.

Although now quite rural in aspect you are only too aware that the canal is now running adjacent to the M42 and will continue to do so until the Dog & Doublet is reached at lock 9. Just before the pub at Double Bridge there's a reminder that HS2 will soon join this motorway melange and totally alter the existing landscape. Long term moorings are passed at Bodymoor Heath and before the bottom lock and Kingsbury Swivel Bridge is reached, the keen eyed walker will see the Aston Villa training complex in the distance on the other side of the canal.

The canal now straightens and on the tow path side old gravel pits have been transformed into nature reserves criss crossed with paths. The tow path is now quiet and a treat is in store as you turn a corner to be met by the bizarre Drayton Foot Bridge and adjoining swivel bridge courtesy of the nearby Drayton Manor Theme Park. Drayton Narrow Boats and moorings are then passed and, although it's never been entirely absent, traffic noise increases past Fazeley Mill Marina by Coleshill Road Bridge. Carrying on past an increasing number of moored boats, Watling Street is the final bridge before Fazeley Junction.

Although a substantial location, Fazeley Junction has a somewhat subterranean atmosphere, hidden away from the walker and not particularly easy to access. Notable for its handsome toll house, this is where the Birmingham and Fazeley canal follows the line of the Coventry Canal northwards for 5½ miles towards Fradley Junction. The Coventry Canal starts again at Whittington Brook. This anomaly arose in the late 18th century when the Coventry Canal, which was planned to go all the way to Fradley, ran out of money when it reached Atherstone.

After protracted negotiations, the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal agreed to construct the route to Whittington, if the Trent and Mersey stumped up the money to build the remaining section to join their canal at Fradley. Brindley's dream of connecting the Thames,Trent, Mersey and Severn would then be realised. By 1790, the Coventry Canal company had completed the Atherstone to Fazeley section. They then bought the Whittington to Fradley section, but not this initial portion that quickly came under the control of the Birmingham Canal Navigations.

From underneath the gaze of two giant kingfishers, you pass refurbished canal buildings, the Three Tuns pub, C&RT offices and Peel's Wharf long term mooring on the far side while on the tow path side there's a modern housing estate. By Bonehill Road Bridge you should be out in the countryside but still have the A5 to deal with. You finally shrug off the Tamworth environs between Sutton Road and Dunstall Farm Bridge with the Lichfield TV transmitter visible in the distance. For telecommunications geeks there is at one stage the chance to spot both this and the Sutton Coldfield transmitter in one exciting vista.

From Dunstall Bridge the canal meanders along the contours of middle England reaching moorings just before Ball's Bridge and the outskirts of Hopwas. After Dixons Bridge you can take your ease at either the Red Lion (a fairly traditional pub with good beer and food) or Tame Otter (more food orientated), both have canal side gardens. Following Lichfield Road Bridge there's fresh flowers decorating a bench in memory of a skipper who loved these waters until 2003. Further on there's a chance to visit the Coton and Hopwas Social Club but you have first to get past a 'Chien Lunitique' who turns out to be on of those snappy little dogs that everyone hates.

There are a few boats moored at Hopwas Visitor moorings before the canal starts to run above and parallel to the River Tame. A pill box stands next to Hopwas Wood Bridge, perhaps over emphasizing its current importance. The woods are designated a firing range (Whittington Barracks is close by) but his does not seem to deter several walkers. The trees end at Tamhorn Park Bridge but the countryside remains attractive even if the tow path can be muddy. Instead of a river there is now the West Coast Mainline to keep you company. Eventually the winding canal straightens towards Hademore Farm Bridge but then curves by the village before passing a sweet memorial 'Good friends are hard to find, harder to leave and impossible to forget' and a large field completely taken over by polytunnels.

Whittington Bridge is the last one that is named, the following bridges will be numbered, and this is a clue that, adjoining some unused winter mooring opposite modern housing, there is a tablet at Whittington Brook marking the end of the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, and the resumption of the Coventry Canal.
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