A Coventry Way is a walk devised by Cyril Bean in the seventies that circumnavigates the city of Coventry, never being more than five miles or so from the centre.
The distance around is forty miles and once a year, an organised event takes place to walk the loop in one go within a time limit of sixteen hours. The starting (and finishing) point is The Queens Head in Meriden.
It was, obviously, dark when I arrived at Meriden and parked the car.
I got my stuff together and made my way into registration. I gave my name and when I was found on the list (towards the end as I was a late entry) I was given my green book and told my number – 320.
At each checkpoint, I would need to tell the helpers my number so that they could record that I’d passed through.
I was asked when I wanted to start.
“In a minute?” I suggested.
“I’ll put you down at 5:34” I was told.
I thanked the volunteers and made my way out of the door.
The route immediately climbed, firstly to cross Birmingham Road then up the hill to St. Laurence’s church.
The route passed through a kissing gate into the churchyard. On the gate was a memorial plaque to Cyril Bean.
I pressed on along the road for a short distance before cutting across fields towards Back Lane which was crossed to skirt around Berkswell.
It was now light enough to put the head torch away as I continued across field and along lanes until dropping down onto the Kenilworth – Berkswell Greenway next to a large electricity sub station, gently humming away.
The Greenway is a linear country park which runs along the route of a former railway branch line that was closed in the sixties as part of the Beeching cuts.
The Greenway was followed for around three miles before crossing over the main Coventry – Kenilworth road on a high bridge.
Making sure that I was well hydrated before starting meant that, at some point, I would need to answer the call of nature.
Making sure that the group in front was far enough in front and there was no-one behind, I stepped off the path and watered the undergrowth.
Back on the track, I soon caught up with the group in front and was confronted with one chap stood on the side of the path, also doing a spot of watering.
“I saw you going,” he stated, “and couldn’t hold on any longer!”
Eight miles after leaving Meriden, I arrived at the first checkpoint. “Three Two Zero,” I called out. Whilst my time was being added to the check sheet, I grabbed some goodies from the table then after thanking the volunteers pushed on.
A short hill was crested before a track between the houses was followed to Kenilworth Golf Course.
The golf course was carefully crossed taking heed of the warning signs about errant balls.
The path left the golf course crossed a few fields before climbing a few steps to cross the A46 and head towards Stoneleigh.
Bubbenhall was the site of Checkpoint 2 where a cheese roll, cheesy biscuits and sweeties were grabbed. Leaving the sports hall which housed the checkpoint, the cheese roll was munched as I traversed fields towards Ryton.
The site of the previous Talbot/Peugeot factory was seen on the right and a new industrial estate, that had sprung up since 2017, on the left.
Remembering back to registration, I noticed that finishers’ T shirts were available for a tenner. Unfortunately, I had no cash on me but when passing a co-op in Ryton I espied a cash machine. I stopped for long enough to draw out a few notes.
From the co-operative, the A45 was crossed under through a colourful subway.
A short walk was taken alongside the busy A45 before climbing a few steps and heading away from the noise.
A bubbling sewerage works was passed, a wood traversed and checkpoint three spotted at Wolston.
Number given and goodies taken; that was eighteen miles completed – almost half way.
The picturesque told of Wolston was left behind as a housing estate was walked through emerging at the impressive former Wolston Priory.
More fields were crossed before the settlement of Bretford where the River Avon was crossed on a footbridge which ran alongside the single track road bridge.
Opposite the Queen’s Head pub, a bridleway was taken, climbing gradually. This thoroughfare has improved greatly since my last visit when it was a jumble of old bricks and mud.
At the end of the bridleway, a path was followed along the edges of a large field before emerging on the outskirts of Brinklow.
Instead of head straight through the village, the route, temporarily, leaves Brinklow before turning back with a climb to a Norman Motte and Bailey.
Approaching the mound, I was talking with a runner who was taking a walking break. As we started the final climb, I pulled ahead but she caught me on the way down. “You’re a proper walker,” she stated, “you left me behind on that hill!”.
We wished each other all the best and I never saw her again.
Checkpoint four (23 miles) was in the scout hut in Brinklow after which the route passed a couple of busy football pitches before hitting countryside again.
A mile or so later, The Coventry Canal was joined for a couple of miles. In the past this towpath has been very muddy but, today, was in a good condition.
The M6 motorway passed overhead and the canal was left, for now, descending from Hopeford Aquaduct to follow a track then paths to cross the canal at Ansty.
Just before entering Ansty we had to cross a newly ploughed field. I remember having to do this on previous outings.
I have a theory that the land owner hates walkers and digs up this field at the beginning of April on purpose.
Leaving Ansty, I passed a chap I’d spoken to ages ago on the Greenway. He was running the course but admitted that he’d be struggling later. It was later; and he was struggling!
The Coventry Canal was re-joined for a short stretch, going under the M69.
Hollyhurst Lakes fishing pools were passed then another visit paid to the Coventry Canal but only fleetingly as it was crossed en route to Exhall.
A busy road was crossed before coming upon checkpoint five in the front garden of a private house. More goodies were grabbed and I continued past the local landmark water tower and through the houses before going under the Bedworth bypass.
I was quizzed by a couple of elderly gents asking if I was on an organised walk or something. I explained that it was a forty mile walk around Coventry.
“In one day?” he inquired.
“Oh yeah!” I replied, “and only eight miles to go!”
A newish housing estate where all the roads seem to be named after plants was navigated. Emerging from Daffodil Drive, I turned right heading towards Astley along a pavement-less road.
Leaving the roads for now, a number of fields were crossed before Corley Ash and then after a bit of a swamp, Corley Moor.
From Corely Moor, Windmill Lane was followed passing the eponymous windmill, sans sails, to the final checkpoint with only three miles to go.
Reaching a green lane, I made a slight navigation error before regaining the correct line through a a wood called Meriden Shafts.
Hitting the tarmac at Eaves Green, I knew that I only had about half a mile to go.
About ten hours after leaving The Queens Head, I was back. A crowd of drinkers outside said pub gave a rousing cheer as I strode past and into the marque that marked the end.
I gave my number and the time was entered into the laptop. I asked if I could stop now and was told yes. I stopped.
After regaining my composure, aided by a few glasses of Coke I fished out my tenner and bought a fetching green technical tee. I heard someone calling out my name and after acknowledging was presented with my certificate showing a time of 10:07.
My times for all challenges are …
As I was leaving the finishing marque, a guy I had seen a few times during the day accosted me. He said to his other half, “I’ve got to shake this bloke’s hand,” he explained, “he walks fast – he’s relentless!” I shook his hand with a “Thanks – see you next year?”.
All in all, a good day’s walk. I had been on the waiting list until Tuesday so had not properly trained for this and with a faster time than any other outing (apart from 2017 which was partly run) I was well happy.