It's getting rather late in the year now and my aim is to fill in any remaining gaps in my exploration coverage for 2011. One such hole was Coventry, so on Friday 9th December off I trooped to the city of Godiva...
STARTERS: Feeling in an energetic mood, I arrived at Coventry Station at 9:19 and embarked on a gradual stroll through the City Centre and out towards Gosford Green. Initial photo targets included Station Square and the distinct round features of the Indoor Market, whilst Earl Street was busy with students heading for the many prominent University buildings. Gosford Street offered an interesting find (more about that later), and then Far Gosford Street had a mixture of shopping architecture culminating in a Christmas tree opposite Lloyds Bank.
GOSFORD GREEN: I've now arrived at Gosford Green, a neat area of open space at the busy junction of Binley Road, Walsgrave Road and Sky Blue Way. I enjoy getting some shots of the leafless trees, the bare branches reaching hungrily out into the bright wintry sunlight. Further along Walsgrave Road is the community of Stoke where a landmark Carnegie branch library sits on the corner of Kingsway - I love old library buildings like this!
HIGHFIELD ROAD: Buoyed by my discoveries so far, I now pick up the trail of the old Coventry City FC ground by venturing into parts of Hillfields. It had been a few years since the club had moved to the Ricoh Arena and I knew the old site had been redeveloped, but I was still interested to see if there was any legacy of one of the historic homes of Midlands football. Approaching along Swan Lane I can see the new housing that now occupies the spot, but my efforts are rewarded when Thackhall Street leads me to Signet Square, at the heart of which is a playing field that ensures local youngsters can still play football where Sky Blues legends did in years gone by. The rest of the immediate area comprises a lot of terraced housing and you can imagine the rooftops echoing to goal celebrations past. I continue my local investigations and turn up some pub photos including the Binley Oak and Brewer & Baker followed by the Old Ball Hotel back on the main Walsgrave Road.
WALSGRAVE HOSPITAL: Time for a bus ride and the 27 is on hand to weave its way to Walsgrave Hospital via Stoke Hill and Belgrave Road. The last time I visited the hospital (back in 2004) it was a bit of a dump with monotonous ugly department blocks that were all too depressing. Fast forward a few years and the place has been transformed into a modern health complex that looks seriously impressive. Even better (for me at least), the hospital comes complete with its own bus interchange located by the main entrance, a cracking little photography location where a variety of National Express Coventry and Travel de Courcey routes drop by.
BINLEY WOODS and BRANDON: One of those routes was the 3 which provided a handy quick connection down to the Morrisons at Binley so that I could tiptoe into Warwickshire for a while. Binley Woods has featured in explorations before now thanks to the hunt for Hyacinth Bucket's bungalow, but today I was searching for the local library as I'd heard the branch was being threatened with closure due to Warwickshire County Council's need to make cutbacks. True to form I wandered off in the wrong direction, struggling to locate the library although I did find the shops on Woodlands Road and the village green with war memorial on Craven Avenue. Before I knew it I'd crossed into Brandon, which came with the bonus discovery of the Coventry Stadium, home to greyhound and speedway races - my second sporting location of the day. Back in Binley Woods I eventually do find the library on Monks Road (mission completed!) before adding in photos of the Roseycombe pub and the village hall.
WHITEFRIARS: Retracing my steps back to Morrisons, the 86 bus arrives on cue for my link back to Gosford Green. My next stroll then takes me past the Gulson Hospital to find the remains of Whitefriars, historic fragments of friary now incongruously sited next to concrete flyovers and grotty underpasses (that's 1960's town planning for you). The monastic theme continues as I reckon I've earned myself a pint, hence it's back to my earlier Gosford Street discovery: Whitefriars Olde Alehouse. In previous blogs I've praised the Olde Windmill on Spon Street in Coventry as an example of a pub with a bit of the medieval about it, and here we have another contender. There's plenty of olde worlde charm to be found inside (beams, roof supports, wonky walls and dark pannelling) but what impressed me most was the warm welcome and the wide range of real ales. I'm spoilt for choice until I spot the XXXmas Ale from Byatt's, a winter pint from a new Coventry brewery - perfect!
CHEYLESMORE: The pub was so cosy and friendly it was very hard to leave, and I time my exit just right to rush headlong into a vicious hailstorm. I nearly abandoned the outing there and then but the skies cleared and I was free to continue to the day's final port of call. Cheylesmore is a large Coventry suburb that features some elegant 1930's shopping parades either side of Daventry Road, not to mention the open spaces around Quinton Pool where the Canada geese seem to be stalking me. Further photo potential comes from the Social Club and the Baptist Church, great to put some markers down and add to my local knowledge. Tour completed, it's getting on for 3pm so I make my way back to Coventry Station and catch my train home, reflecting on a special day that followed in the worthy footsteps of my other classic Coventry adventures.