Real Ale Rambles
Under the present restrictions, all rambles are cancelled for the foreseeable future.We shall pick up where we left off when we get the all clear.
REAL ALE RAMBLE 293
RIVER AVON 4 miles & 2 pubs
In this case I am surprised that I have never done this walk with a group before. We meet at the SAXON MILL on the A429 road into Warwick at 12 noon. There are signs that say the car park is for customers only, but since we shall no doubt be buying some liquid refreshments we qualify as customers.
At 12.30 we start out past the mill wheel and across the bridges over the two arms of the River Avon. Note that the path between the bridges had been surfaced with stone blocks, rather similar to the paved paths at Hollyberry End. No doubt this was meant for heavier traffic than just pedestrians.
Where the path forks we take the right-hand option across the hill to Manor Farm and then back down to the river side. We then follow the field edge left and go through trees to a footbridge over a tributary stream. From here the path runs between the housing estates in Milverton and the mills on the river. We then walk through t
he streets of Leamington to pass the Guide Dog Training Centre. Under the railway bridge we come to Knightcote Drive on the right, which leads down to the River Leam. I am sure this is an old crossing of the river, from Old Milverton and Guys Cliffe to the south. After all, before taking the waters became fashionable Leamington Priors was little more than a hamlet.
If we go left here we follow Guys Cliffe Road and at the next cross roads we see a pair of grand suburban villas, looking like a pair of mini castles. The nearest to the cross roads is called Tuscany House. Continuing, at the next cross roads we come to the FAT PUG, formerly called the Coventry Arms, a much more sensible name. We can have half an hour’s break here. Almost next door is a shop called ‘Brunch’ where we can buy pasties or sandwiches or cakes or such like.
Continuing along Guys Cliffe Road we pass the tennis club, then schools on either side of the road until we come to an older black and white house with a dragon on the roof. Here our path goes left and we pass Dragon Fields Play Area. The dragon has stood on that roof as long as I can remember, so at least 50 years. It has given its name to the immediate surroundings! We pass under the railway line and reach Old Milverton Road. Slightly right is a gate that leads back into fields. We re-pass Manor Farm and walk up to St James’ church. Through the churchyard we pass the pond and continue downhill to return to SAXON MILL.
REAL ALE RAMBLE 294
RIVER LEAM 5 miles & 2 pubs
Following the flooding in February I have re-scheduled this walk. Hopefully by April the tide will have receded! This is such a good walk that I am surprised I have never done it before. We meet at the NEWBOLD COMYN ARMS in Leamington at 12 noon. At 12.30 we set off towards the left side of the swimming baths and then turn left to follow the river upstream. Passing through a field and the play equipment we descend to the river bank for our first view of the Leam. Then we follow the river through a meadow to a footbridge. We continue to follow the river to the hides which give good views of the Leam Valley Wetlands.
From here we turn north for a while until we come to the path to Offchurch. This takes us through fields to the river again, where two footbridges take us over separate arms of the river. The two river courses suggest that there was a mill here once. Then the path passes through the parkland associated with Offchurch Bury. As we approach Offchurch the valley sides give good views back to the tower blocks at Cubbington, before we emerge onto a road at Offchurch close to the STAG.
After half an hour’s rest and refreshment we retrace our steps as far as Newbold Comyn and then, rather than follow the river again, we strike out through the park back to the NEWBOLD COMYN ARMS.
RIVER ITCHEN Meet at Harvester, Long Itchington
Lost villages - HOPSFORD AND UPPER SMITE Meet at Pheasant, Withybrook
Lost villages - MARSTON Meet at Rose & Crown, Wolston
BOND STREET DISTILLERY, Hinckley
Copies of the walks are available at Beer Gonzo, Earlsdon.
SUNDAY LUNCH WALKS - in conjunction with the Health Development Service of Coventry City Council.
These walks all start at 12 noon. Copies of these walks can be obtained from Beer Gonzo in Earlsdon, or for more details contact moc.liamg@ttekculfg>
Under the present restrictions, all rambles are cancelled for the foreseeable future.We shall pick up where we left off when we get the all clear.
SUNDAY LUNCH WALK 92
POST INDUSTRIAL FOLESHILL ROAD
Note: Canal towpaths, roads and metalled paths
I have decided to do a number of walks through Coventry’s industrial history for the new decade. Perhaps it will fit in with the City of Culture celebrations! I have decided to do a number of walks through Coventry’s industrial history for the new decade. Perhaps it will fit in with the City of Culture celebrations!
We start with the obvious, a walk along the City end of the canal. We meet at the GATEHOUSE in Lower Hill Street at 12 noon and leave at 12.30. From the Gatehouse we cross the Ring Road by the footbridge and then follow the road clockwise as far as the canal basin.
1 CANAL BASIN
Opened on the 10th August 1769, after about fifteen months work in both directions from the start at Longford. On that day two boats brought coal to Coventry from Bedworth. The warehouses were built before 1837, but have been much altered over the years. The tunnels to the left that now house Tin Angel.These vaults were where coal was stored in the dry before sale. We walk past Canal House, which was originally owned by Alderman Clarke, who had a canalside warehouse and owned brickyards and kilns locally. When he died in 1809 the canal company bought the house and it became the residence of canal managers. The last manager bought it on his retirement in 1948, when the canals were nationalised. We cross bridge No1 and turn left to access the towpath. The bridge is so small, without a towpath, to create a secure area in the basin.
2 DRAPERS FIELDS
We now pass the new development on the opposite bank. Previously there was a quadrangle of houses here and a factory owned by the Coventry Cotton Spinning and Weaving Company, which burnt down in 1891. Harry J. Lawson obtained the rights to Daimler patents in the U.K. in 1896 for the purpose of making British motor vehicles on a mass production scale. In April of that year he bought the former Cotton Mills which had been restored by the insurers. This was renamed the ‘Motor Mills’ and continued in Daimler ownership until unfortunately being destroyed by bombing in the last war.
3 ELECTRIC WHARF
Next we come to Electric Wharf, an area that has been regenerated in recent years. The disused Victorian building with round headed windows on the left is the electricity generating station built to supply the Motor Mills, whilst the larger building across the footbridge is the first Coventry power station built in 1895 to supply the community and the rapidly expanding factories such as Daimler, Standard and Coventry Eagle. The massive turbines generated megawatts for local consumption and were fuelled by coal from local pits, shipped in via the canal.
4 COVENTRY CLIMAX
After Electric Wharf we pass a large housing block which is the original Widdrington Road works of Coventry Climax. The top floor is a modern addition. One trade name they used for their fire pumps was ‘Coventry Godiva’ and I can remember that name being emblazoned on the canalside wall.
Next we come to Cash’s Lane Bridge and Cash’s factory. Joseph Cash, a firm believer in the value of cottage industry, had them built in 1857 so that his workers could work in a light airy room above their houses but also have the benefit of power-driven looms. A steam engine in the courtyard worked overhead shafting which ran the length of the top workshops.
We leave the canal at the Foleshill Road bridge opposite Courtauld’s. This concern was founded as long ago as 1794 by George Courtauld and Peter Taylor as a silk, crepe and textile business in Pebmarsh, Essex. In 1904 Courtauld’s acquired the Cross and Bevan patents to the viscose process for manufacturing artificial silk or rayon from dissolved wood pulp. So in that year Samuel Courtauld was looking for a suitable place to start large scale production and chose the Foleshill area because it could provide him with a skilled workforce. He bought this site, which was previously Seaman’s Timber Yard. The Courtauld’s factory grew in following years to the other side of Foleshill Road and into Matlock Road and elsewhere.
8 PRINCE WILLIAM HENRY
At the bridge we find the old Prince William Henry pub, now a builder’s merchant’s premises decorated in garish yellow and blue. This pub is known as early as 1790, and since Prince William Henry lived 1743 – 1805, this seems a likely start date, although there is a possibility that the pub was previously known as the Green Dragon. The building looks like a Warwickshire longhouse farm building converted to a pub, maybe around the middle of the eighteenth century when Foleshill Road was turnpiked and straightened. It makes rather a sad picture today in its clown’s outfit of blue and yellow.
9 CHALLENGE WORKS
Then we walk down the road to the old Challenge cycle works. Challenge started making cycles in 1885 and moved to these premises in 1906 or 1907. The works consisted of this impressive symmetrical red brick office building with sheds behind. Challenge also made motorcycles and a light car from about 1912 to 1915. The founder, Francis Salmon O’Brien died in 1913 and his wife Ada continued with a number of business partners, until about 1940. I remember the premises as a factory making car batteries in my youth. Now it is used for industrial units.
10 BIRD GROVE
Now we walk into George Eliot Road, where we can see Bird Grove, now sadly neglected, but once home of the Bird family. George Eliot, real name May Ann Evans, lived here from 1841 to 1849 following the death of her mother, when the house must have stood amongst rural surroundings. Charles Bird was a wealthy ribbon manufacturer, a political progressive and a philanthropist. Philosophers and thinkers of the day were frequent visitors to the house. It would be good to see Bird Grove restored.
11 SPRINGFIELD BROOK
Virtually opposite Bird Grove a path starts that winds through to Eagle Street. This follows the course of Springfield Brook, and must have been a pleasant streamside walk in George Eliot’s day. Then Springfield Road follows the route of the brook down to Fiveways. The brook continues to enter the Swanswell.
12 RUSSELL STREET
Turning left up Harnall Lane West we soon come to Russell Street North. This was part of an estate of worker’s houses built in 1851 by the Coventry Freehold Land Society and called the ‘Lant Estate’. We should recognise the Coventry Freehold Land Society because that is the body that purchased the land for the original eight streets of Earlsdon. Note the rather ornamental doorways here to what were only worker’s cottages. These estates were built not so much as a charitable act, rather as a means of obtaining the vote for workers by making them property owners.
13 THREE SHUTTLES
We now come to the old Three Shuttles pub at Fiveways. The name reflects the fact that it stood in a weaving area from around 1861. the first licensee, William Edwards, was a loom maker and machinist from Derby, which was also a silk weaving town. The pub closed in 2016, and one sign that it was once a pub is the lantern hanging over the front door.
14 NAUL’S MILL
Now we walk along Harnall Lane, past the chippie (closed on Sundays I am afraid!), across Foleshill Road, along The Moorings and across the canal by the modern footbridge to pass through Electric Wharf. Then up Ellys Road and past the rather grand ‘Ickleford’ on the corner we cross the railway and pass the Army Reserve Centre. Over the Radford Road and along Bridgman Road brings us to the path through Naul’s Mill Park. The pool here was a mill pool for centuries until the mill ceased operation in 1889. In 1909 the area was turned into a recreational park. Radford Brook flows past the pool.
15 ST OSBURG’S CHURCH
From here we turn right into Middleborough Road and left to pass St Osburg’s Church. This was established by William Ullathorne, subsequently the first Catholic Bishop of Birmingham, and built between 1843 and 1845 to the design of Charles Hansom. It is dedicated to Coventry’s very own saint.
From here we cross the footbridge to return to the GATEHOUSE. Sorry there were no pubs or cafes for a mid-walk break, but that’s Bishopsgate Green for you!
SUNDAY LUNCH WALK 93
LEAMINGTON PARKS (3 miles)
Canal towpaths, roads and metalled paths>
Note: Metalled paths through parkland
This illustrates why I survey these walks before hand. The intention was to walk from the Holly Bush through the parks to the Cricketer Arms and back. But when we surveyed the walk the Cricketers was closed. Not permanently, fortunately, but for the owners to do some structural work. So I have substituted one of the park cafes instead.
We meet HOLLY BUSH in Holly Street at 12 noon. This little local pub is hidden in the back streets of Leamington Spa. Possibly the best way to get there is by driving down Willes Road, turning left into Upper Holly Walk, left into Campion Terrace and left again into Holly Street. There is a small car park alongside the pub and on street parking is O.K. here. The reason that I wanted to start a walk here is that it was run by my great grandparents more than a century ago, although not the present building but a previous Holly Bush. There used to be a painting of the Holly Bush in my great grandparent’s day inside the present pub.
At 12.30 we set off down Upper Holly Walk and across Willes Road to enter Jephson Gardens. We can walk alongside the river for a while before passing the Aviary cafe. There are public toilets here in case anyone wants to use them. Then we pass the pool before leaving the Gardens, crossing the Parade and going into the Pump Room Gardens. Here we cross the River Leam by the footbridge and turn right. Next we pass under Adelaide Bridge to enter Victoria Park, where we soon come to SWIRLS Cafe. We can stay here for 30 minutes to enjoy a drink and cakes.
After this we round the end of the park and return past the Cricketers, where we can check whether it has re-opened or not. I shall plan a walk starting here and going through the park to the Aviary cafe for a later date this summer.
We retrace our route through the parks. We can stop at the Pump Room to take the water; it was still available to drink the last time I was here. As I remember it was just as good as all the other spa waters: warm and tasting quite revolting! Must be good for you!
As we cross Jephson Gardens again we can divert through the Glasshouse, a great collection of exotic plants and free too. Leaving the Gardens we walk up Willes Road again and take a short diversion round Lansdowne Crescent, one of those Regency Crescents that Leamington is so well known for. When we get back to the HOLLY Bush you will appreciate that all the white stucco and ornamental ironwork is on the facade of the buildings, at the rear they are quite ordinary early nineteenth century brick houses.
When we get back to the Holly Bush I intend to have a pint in memory of my family associations with the pub and area.
WITH CITY OF CULTURE RUSHING UP ON US, I THOUGHT I WOULD DO SOME INDUSTRIAL HERITAGE WALKS IN FUTURE, STARTING WITH -
NOT THE EARLSDON FESTIVAL Meet at the City Arms at 12 noon
BINLEY Meet at the Crooked Hat, Brandon Road, at 12 noon
TEMPLE BALSALL AGAIN (for Barbara) It’ll be a later meet than usual at the Saracens Head, Balsall Street