The customary New Year's Day walk started from The Red Lion pub in Hopwas. Although the weather was overcast and showers were likely the turnout (28) was splendid, with one walker even driving all the way from Malvern in Worcestershire, which must be something of a record for the branch.
It had been planned to walk outbound along the towpath and return along the river Tame, but due to recent flooding, this route was abandoned and instead we returned along a tarmaced lane.
Strung out along the towpath of the Coventry Canal we proceeded in the direction of Tamworth, with fields to our right and hedging to our left. The group had been warned that the first mile or so would be muddy, and we must have been going quite slowly, because a narrowboat coming from Hopwas managed to catch up with us. The obligatory group photo was taken at Dunstall Farm bridge, just before a shower. This part of the Coventry Canal has remained surprisingly rural, wedged as it is between Tamworth and the A5. However, all could change very soon, with plans approved to build 800 houses on land between the river Tame and the Coventry Canal. Whilst the proximity of the canal will help to sell the housing, this development will dramatically change the character of the area, not to mention the fact that the developers seem to have overlooked the words "flood plain".
We left the towpath at the humpback Sutton Road Bridge and turned left to enter Ventura Park and the glitzy car showrooms of Tamworth. Like moths to a flame, one car company set up there first and their competitors had to follow suit. We walked down a short side road to enter Dunstall Lane, a designated cycle path between Tamworth and Hopwas. Although accessible at both ends for cars there is virtually no traffic on this road, not least because it is single track and there are no passing points. We were now walking parallel to the canal on our left.
The change in route added half a mile to our walk, but the easy walking meant we covered the 4½ miles in just over an hour and forty-five minutes. Having ordered our food in advance, our meals arrived in good time, most of the walkers deciding to dine in The Red Lion.
(Report by Clive Walker, photo by Margaret Beardsmore)