Hartshill Hayes and the Coventry Canal


Hartshill Hayes


4 miles (6.4kms)

330ft (100m)

About the walk

The 100-mile Warwickshire Centenary Way offers the chance to get to the heart of the county on foot, discovering its gentle beauty and hidden landscape by simple but effective means. The route starts at Kingsbury Water Park and finishes at Upper Quinton on the Gloucestershire border. Along the way the trail makes for Hartshill Hayes Country Park, starting point for this very pleasant circular walk. It was just after midnight on the first Saturday of 1991 when five young men from the Atherstone District Scout Fellowship began their adventure. They were to walk through the night, into the next day and beyond. Their aim was to complete the Centenary Way in full. Three of them finished their trek at 4.58 the following Monday afternoon, describing the walk as ‘a weekend of fierce storms and lashing rain.’ Conditions may not have been very pleasant – they admitted the exercise was perhaps ‘not the best way of seeing Warwickshire’ – but the scouts clocked up the first recorded continuous trek along the Centenary Way, which was eventually opened to walkers in the summer of that year.

George Eliot country

The task of planning the Centenary Way dates back over a quarter of a century. The original idea was conceived by Warwickshire County Council and was intended to be part of a programme of events marking its 100th anniversary in 1989. More than anything, the route reflects the diversity of scenery to be found within the county. Following a string of public footpaths, bridleways, canal towpaths and disused railways, the Centenary Way follows many miles of glorious countryside, passing through picturesque villages and beside ancient woodland and winding streams along the way. In the north of the county the walk explores a landscape known to George Eliot. The 19th century writer spent her formative years on the Arbury Hall estate, near Nuneaton, where her father was a land agent. The Warwickshire influence of her childhood never abandoned Eliot, whose real name was Marian Evans, though in later years she regarded much of rural England as a vanished world.

Building stiles and bridges

By then, the pace of life had accelerated, the railway age had dawned and a landscape once littered with farms and market towns had been transformed almost beyond recognition by the rapid development of industry. Planning and developing a long-distance path is a long job and a major responsibility for anyone. With funds from the Countryside Commission, the council set to work, inviting volunteers to help by building stiles and footbridges, clearing vegetation and erecting signposts. The Centenary Way, which is divided into eleven sections, was officially opened at Upper Quinton, where the trail meets the Heart of England Way.

Walk directions

Pass to the rear of the refreshment kiosk and toilets and then walk alongside a children’s play area. When the path divides, keep left alongside the boundary of a reservoir. Pass a commemorative panel and follow the path as it descends through the trees of St Lawrence’s Wood. At the bottom, avoid the path on the right and cross two footbridges. Go down the field slope and then bear left in the corner to pass alongside a hedge. The path passes through a gap and then continues with the hedge on your left. Bear right and ascend to the brow of the hill, then down to a fork by a kissing gate.

Go straight on through the gate and head down through farmland with grand rural views from this breezy high ground. Make for some gates and a kissing gate in the bottom of the field and follow a track to a junction. Turn left and walk along to the road. Turn right by traffic lights and make for the towpath of the Coventry Canal.

Keep the waterway on your right and head for bridges 35 and 34. Continue to bridge 33, pass a footpath on the left and walk along to bridge 32. This is the site of the Hartshill Quay maintenance yard. Leave the towpath and head up towards the road. Before reaching it, turn sharp right and cross bridge 31.

Follow the lane uphill and at the junction at the top, turn right. Continue climbing. Pass a playground on the right and follow the lane towards Hartshill Green. Turn right beyond the Malt Shovel and make for the next road junction. Cross over, following the path to the right of the flats. When it divides, keep left and descend the steep steps to cross a lengthy footbridge.

This next stage of the route is part of the Quarryman’s Walk and the North Arden Heritage Trail. The latter is a circular route through the countryside of North Warwickshire. Keep ahead through woodland and eventually bear right at a stone seat. Pass a wooden seat and keep on the Quarryman’s Walk. Make for a kissing gate at the corner of the wood, turn left and return to the car park.

Additional information

Field paths, towpath, quiet road, woodland paths in country park

Country park, farmland and canal

Off lead in park and on towpath

OS Explorer 232 Nuneaton & Tamworth

Fee-paying car park at Hartshill Hayes Country Park

Hartshill Hayes Country Park

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About the area

Discover Warwickshire

The sparkle of sunlight on a gentle river as it meanders through beautiful countryside; the reflections of sailing boats on a lake; relaxing with a pint in the garden of an old English pub in a picturesque village; brightly coloured narrow boats making their way through a flight of lock gates; the imposing silhouette of an historic castle. These are the scenes that make Warwickshire a delight. 

There may be few seriously high hills in this fertile plain, but it is an area full of attractive walking in rolling countryside, blessed with a fascinating history and wonderful places and buildings to visit. This is Shakespeare’s county, and the footprint of the famous Bard appears almost everywhere. He was born and brought up around the beautiful Warwickshire town of Stratford-upon-Avon, and many of his plays draw upon his own experiences in the area.

Warwickshire has a history that embraces the Civil War, castles and large country houses are scattered over the county. Warwick Castle is the home of the Earl of Warwick, Kenilworth Castle was a stronghold for lords and kings of England in the 11th and 12th centuries, and so the list goes on.

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