Real Ale Rambles
REAL ALE RAMBLE 300 Saturday 28 August
FINBURGH 4 miles & 2 pubs
This time we meet at the OAK in Baginton at 12 noon. At 12.30 we set off walking through Baginton village towards the church. At the church we turn left down the path that is signposted to Stoneleigh. We pass the last cottages in Baginton, cross a stream by a footbridge and enter fields. After four fields we come to the sewage works, which we have to walk around. At the top of the hill above is the site of the ancient settlement of Finburgh
FINBURGH King Henry I gave Finburgh to William the Falconer for being the King’s falconer. The manor and lands were later bought by William Bromley. The medieval house and hamlet have gone now, but are recalled by a barn called ‘Finbury’, and field names such as Great Finbury, Middle Finbury and Far Finbury. Another clue to the past is that the Ordnance Survey map marks a gospel oak on the site.
We continue through fields to the crossing of the River Sowe at the site of the old mill at Stoneleigh. Then we can walk through the village to see if the CLUB is open. If not we can just have a rest there before retracing our steps to the OAK again.
REAL ALE RAMBLE 301 Saturday 18 September
BAGOTS’ CASTLE 3 miles & 2 pubs
Well, I have lived all my considerably long life in Coventry and have never been here until recently. Such a beautiful spot and I have only just found it! Better late than never I guess. We meet at 12 noon at the OLD MILL at Baginton and set off at 12.30 up Mill Hill. At the junction with Bosworth Drive there is a track called Hall Drive. This takes us uphill to the church of St John the Baptist. We walk through the churchyard and then turn right to the entrance to Bagots’ Castle. Entrance is free during the Heritage weekends, so that will be OK, although you may wish to purchase some goats’ food, or pop and crisps for the picnic area.
From the entrance the first thing to look out for is the Bagot goats on the right. These goats inhabited the park at Blithfield Hall in Staffordshire, the Bagots’ main residence, reputedly brought back from the Holy land by one of the crusading Bagots. When much of the park disappeared under Blithfield Reservoir the goats were taken by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust and a small herd came to Baginton as the castle here was built by a member of the Bagot family. This is where you can feed the goats.
Further on the right there is a gate leading into the goat field. Here there are the lumps and bumps representing the site of the old village of Baginton which lay between the castle and church. Mesolithic artefacts and the remains of an Anglo Saxon sunken-floored house have been found here, so Baginton possibly had a longer history than Coventry.
Next we come to the castle itself, which wasn’t a castle as we know it, but a fortified tower house, of the type best known from the Scottish border country. There may have been a motte and bailey here before, but the present ruins represent a castle built from 1381 to 1397 by Sir William Bagot. The castle did not have an internal water supply and the walls are not very substantial, so it is best to think of it as a statement of Bagot’s power rather than anything intended to withstand a siege. It is best seen as a part of the process whereby, in an increasingly peaceful England, castles were being abandoned in favour of manor houses.
As one of the Staffordshire Bagots Sir William gained entry to the powerful in Warwickshire through the sponsorship of Thomas, Earl of Warwick. William Bagot was a formidable character variously described as a ‘thug’, a ‘troublemaker’ and a ‘supreme optimist who exerted a fatal attraction over a succession of Lords’. Amongst his misdemeanours he led an armed group into Coventry! In the 1390’s he developed a close association with Richard II, who stayed at Bagot’s Castle before the famous tournament at Coventry in 1398. Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk and Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Hereford, were to meet at Gosford Green in September of that year to resolve their disagreements by mortal combat. This was prevented by Richard II and both men were exiled.
William Bagot died in 1407 and his wife continued to live in the castle until 1417. Occupation continued until the end of the fifteenth century, but by 1530 the building was a ruin.
From the castle we cross a picnic lawn and come to the foundations of the two-storey gazebo, built at the beginning of the twentieth century with stone robbed from the castle ruins. After this we can visit the teddy bears’ picnic before descending the slope to the banks of the River Sowe. This is a particularly attractive stretch of the river, especially when the water weed is in flower. We follow the river downstream until we have to turn back to the area that was used by Alvis to test tanks in the 1930’s and during the Second World War. After this we climb the hill back towards the entrance and walk around the old fishponds which were created to supply food to the castle.
Once we have finished walking round the castle site we continue through the back streets of the village to reach the OAK for half an hours’ rest. Then we walk through the village green and back down Mill Hill, past the Lunt Roman Fort to return to the OLD MILL.
REAL ALE RAMBLE 302 Saturday October 16
WARWICK 2 miles & 5 pubs
Sharon and I recently stayed overnight in Warwick, after a champagne and fish and chips night at the Warwick Arms Hotel. So, after the event we had a stroll round the town and I was struck by how much the drinking had changed there since the last time I had a session in the town. A word of caution – this crawl includes a couple of gin bars, so its not likely to be a cheap day out! Of course, you can avoid the gin bars if wished.
As there are five venues to visit, I don't think it would be reasonable to expect anyone to drive, plus there is the problem of finding a parking space in Warwick. Perhaps the best option on public transport is the X18 bus which leaves from stop BY3 in New Union Street at 11.14 arriving at Warwick castle at 11.56. Less than 45 minutes by bus is pretty good! If you catch a train you have to change at Leamington Spa. The 10.40 train from Coventry will get you to Warwick at 11.31. The other interesting alternative I found on tinternet was the 11.18 train from Coventry which gets to Leamington at 11.37, then leave the station and catch the 11.47 X18 which stops opposite. This is the bus that gets to Warwick castle at 11.56. Or perhaps someone will volunteer to drive!
However we get there, we meet at WARWICK REAL ALE, which as an off licence in Smith Street, at noon. Although it is an off license, there are two tables and a couple of stools where you can drink your beer. Not a separate back room as in Beer Gonzo, but an little space. Its crazy, bit just my kind of place. Here we can have half an hour’s beer and chat before setting off.
We walk past Eastgate and right into The Butts. A little way along, on the left, a path starts that leads through the churchyard of St Mary’s. Anyone with a cultural bent can visit the church and the Beauchamp Chapel; others can continue into Old Square for the OLD COFFEE TAVERN, a new licence in an old building, with a pleasant little garden at the rear.
After this we head for the Market Place with its selection of drinking places. I shall be heading for a gin bar called ‘THE SQUARE’, which is next door to Wetherspoons, as I have never been there before. Others may prefer Wetherspoons, or to go direct to the Old Post Office.. From the Market Place we take Market Street and Friars Street to reach the alleyway that leads to the OLD POST OFFICE micropub.
Leaving the Old Post Office we pass under Westgate and walk to Swan Street where we find ‘THAT GIN & COCKTAIL BAR’, where they do a large gin and tonic with lemon and peppercorns for £ 8. See what I mean about prices!
From here we continue walking through town back to WARWICK REAL ALE.
Meets for these walk are always 12 noon for a 12.30 start. 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>
SUNDAY LUNCH WALK99 Sunday 1st August
RADFORD AERODROME 3 miles
Continuing with the industrial history theme we now have a walk around Radford Aerodrome. We meet at the PILOT on the corner of Burnaby Road and Catesby Road at 12 noon. This is one of those giant inter war pubs. It opened in 1937 and still has some nice period details. No real ale though!
At 12.30 we set off eastwards along Rollason Road and just before the end take a path between houses into Blackwatch Recreation Ground. These facilities were connected with the industry on the opposite side of Burnaby Road, which started before WW1 as White and Poppe’s engine factory. During WW1 it was greatly extended as a munitions factory for filling artillery shells. The women that did this job became stained yellow by the explosive and so were nicknamed ‘canaries’ and were encouraged to keep fit by taking up outdoor sports, such as football. The factory later passed to Jaguar and Dunlop.
Having crossed the old sports ground we come to Blackwatch Road. Turning left we come to the start of the Black Pad. This was an old route from Scotchill to Lockhurst Lane, which formed the northern boundary of the aerodrome. On the right here is Coventrians rugby ground. On the left once ran the railway branch to the munitions factories: it was the only way to safely transport thousands, maybe even millions, of shells.
Over the Coventry to N
uneaton railway line we come to Endermere Road. We go right and pass a building that looks as though it might be old enough to be contemporary with the aerodrome. Then along Kingfield Road past the Matterson’s site we turn into Marion Road and pass under the railway line. Here on the left we have Joseph Cash Primary School and on the right an open field, which shows what Radford Aerodrome would have looked like: the hedge at the other end is more recent.
Radford aerodrome was operated by the Daimler Motor Company from 1915/16 for air testing the BE2c, RE8, DH10 and Bristol F2b fighters they produced. Later the War Office took over the aerodrome and it was used for testing aircraft produced by Daimler, Standard, Humber, Siddeley-Deasey, Vulcan Motor Engineering and even Wolseley Motors of Birmingham. It is regarded as the first ‘proper’ aerodrome in Coventry.
This was the site of the first flight of the Siskin fighter. The Siddeley Deasey SR2 Siskin was designed to meet RAF requirements for a single seat fighter and first flew in 1919. In that year Siddeley Deasey merged with Armstrong Whitworth. The Dragonfly engine used in the Siskin proved to be underpowered and unreliable and was replaced with a Siddeley Deasey design, the Jaguar engine, which was a great improvement. The Siskin became the first all-metal RAF fighter and the first deliveries of the improved aircraft commenced in 1924, by which time Armstrong Whitworth were using the Whitley factory and airfield. The Siskin equipped 13 squadrons and was a front line fighter until being replaced in 1932. Meanwhile Radford aerodrome had closed and by 1923 was being covered by council housing.
After the school we pass a football pitch on the left. This is the southerly extreme of the airfield. There is only one entrance and exit to the field, so we’ll carry on. We return to Blackwatch Road and turn left into Capmartin Road. Where the road turns right to return to Jubilee crescent we go left into Chorley Way. Here we are entering the site of the old Daimler site, which occupied a large area between the railway line, Radford and the aerodrome.
The Great Horseless Carriage Company had been established in converted cotton mills between Sandy Lane and the canal in 1896. The cotton mills were renamed the Motor Mills and, as the company was building German Daimler cars under licence, the name was changed to Daimler. Shortly before WW1 Daimler moved to a new factory at the junction of Ludgate Road and Sandy Lane. After a merger in 1960 the factory became Jaguar’s engine plant, and remained so until closure in the mid 1990’s.
Following Chorley Way we come to the grassy square that is Daimler Green itself. Here we turn right and walk along Anley Way to Cheveral Road, at the shops on the corner of Villa Road. Here there is an ethnic grocer’s, and a pet shop for Sharon to check out. Then we soon come to Jubilee Crescent, so named to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of King George V in 1935. There are lots of shops here; one that took my eye was an Afro-Caribbean grocer’s. From here it is a short distance back to the PILOT.
SUNDAY LUNCH WALK100 Sunday 5th September
WEBSTERS BRICKWORKS & THE ADMIRALTY 3 miles
Continuing with the industrial history theme, this month we meet at the Signal Box on Meto Lakha Close, just off Phoenix Way overlooking Stoney Stanton Road, at 12.00 noon. At 12.30 we set off along the canal towards the city centre. After Navigation Bridge the route is shared with Phoenix way on our left. This was previously the route of the Coventry loop railway line and on the far side of this stood Paradise Farm, which gave its name to the area called Paradise.
We continue to follow the canal and as it meanders the giant Admiralty works looms over the opposite bank. Then we continue as far as Prince William Henry Bridge on the Foleshill Road. Here on the bend there is a straight section of bank which formed Prince William Henry Wharf, which was owned by the pub of that name.
Next we walk along Foleshill Road past the old Courtaulds site.
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.
Here the old factory site is being developed with housing. Shortridge Drive takes us to Websters Park, once the site of Websters Brickworks.
The subsoil in the Coventry area is frequently clay and the spoil thrown up by local collieries was used to make bricks. Here there was no mining but a clay pit was used for brickmaking. As long ago as the eighteenth century there was a road called Brick Kiln Lane, which later became Broad Lane. Over time the clay pit grew into a huge hole in the ground which has now been filled in and turned into a park. I believe there is still a pool there, but it is hidden by woodland and fencing to prevent anyone falling in.
The Wilkins family had long been brickmakers and builders in Coventry and in 1851 Benjamin Wilkins moved to Foleshill. In 1866 he was a ‘bricklayer, Brick Kiln Lane’. By the 1870’s he was operating the brick works there. In 1888 Henry Webster married his daughter Lucy Ann Wilkins. Henry Webster was a butcher and so in 1891 he was listed as a ‘master butcher and brickmaker’, rather an unusual description! By 1896 Webster had become sole proprietor but during the twentieth century the brickworks went through a number of hands before in the Second World war being commandeered by the Admiralty. Production does not seem to have resumed after this and today it is an urban park.
From the park we cross Stoney Stanton Road and take two roads named after prominent nineteenth century politicians, Peel Street and Cobden Street. Now we come to the end wall of the Admiralty works on Red Lane. We can take a diversion along Smith Street, which runs the whole length of the buildings.
Various businesses were established on the site from the late 1890’s. By 1902 this had become the ordnance factory, known locally as ‘The Admiralty’ and in 1905 a group of shipbuilders created the ‘Coventry Ordnance Works Ltd’. The huge workshop was erected in 1906, at the time the largest roofed building in Europe, to manufacture gun barrels from 15-inch 50 ton naval guns to 4.5 inch Howitzer field guns. The naval guns were the largest in the world at the time. The factory was put on a care and maintenance basis in 1927, but was recommissioned in 1936 and continued to make big naval guns until the late 1960’s. I remember seeing the big guns from the top deck of the bus in Swan Lane as a youngster. In 1969 the works was sold to Albion Motors and today I believe it is split into units.
At the end of Smith Street we come to a cobbled area that is crossed by railway tracks. This is almost all that is left of Foleshill Railway.
Foleshill Railway opened in 1901 to serve Websters brickworks from a junction off the Coventry to Nuneaton line near Kingfield Road. In 1905 it was extended to serve the new Courtaulds factory and the ordnance works. It crosses Stoney Stanton Road on the level and was used to transport the heavy gun barrels. In 1914 the railway was extended across the canal to join the Coventry loop line, now Phoenix Way, to create a through route. The last users of the railway were Courtaulds and the final train, which were always steam, ran on the 8th April 1972. The 0-4-0 Peckett loco ‘Rocket’ which ran on the line is now at Tyseley Museum.
Retracing our steps along Smith Street, roughly half way along, we pass Chillibite Punjabi restaurant. This was the Golden Horse pub which opened in 1904, around the time of the creation of the ordnance works, by Charrington & Co, the brewers, and closed in 2012. Then we turn right into Red Lane and follow the road towards the Phoenix way roundabout. Just before the roundabout we take a path that runs parallel to the canal. This was the original approach to Paradise Farm. Paradise was not an uncommon name for agricultural land, reflecting the fertility of particular areas, or it could be used sarcastically for poor land. The building of the canal cut this approach off from the farm, leaving to fields on the west of the canal detached from it. To reach them the farmer had to go north to Navigation Bridge or south to Red Lane Bridge. The obvious option was taken and the fields were sold to developers to make the Paradise housing estate. The name of the streets and the Adam and Eve pub reflect the name of the farm
From here it is a short walk back to the Signal Box.
Sunday 3rd October Coal Mining around Hawkesbury and Bedworth
Meet at the Greyhound, Sutton Stop
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