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Coventry Loop

Transcript from CYCLING PLUS : CHRISTMAS 2005 pp28-29

Paul Howard explores the surprisingly traffic-free country lanes around Coventry, home of the car

Given the anti-cycling campaign currently being waged by that 'guru' of petrol heads Jeremy Clarkson, Coventry, the home of the motorcar, might not seem the most appropriate starting point for an appealing cycle route.

Map - click to open bigger version in separate window
Map - click to open bigger version in separate window

Indeed, when you consider that the potential for antipathy towards those on two wheels inspired by its car-manufacturing heritage pales in comparison with a city-centre road layout seemingly designed at the whim of schoolboys dreaming of being racing drivers, you might think it positively unwise.

Yet this would be wrong, for a start before Coventry built cars it built bikes.  It would also overlook the fact that Coventry, for all the aspersions cast on the architecture and aesthetics of its rebuilt heart, is surrounded by pleasant countryside and near-deserted lanes (deserted by cars and Jeremy Clarkson, that is).  Not far from being perfect cycling territory.

The first thing, then, after admiring its attempts to blend old and new, is to extricate yourself from Coventry, where this route starts.  The best way to do so (whether you've arrived by train or parked in one of the innumerable car parks) is to first pay a visit to the Tourist Information Centre on Priory Row [1], not far from the old and new cathedrals, and obtain the free Coventry cycle map and guide.  This will allow you to plan a route east through the suburbs (the best one probably being along the cycle lanes on Binley Road) towards the B4027 to Brinklow.

Just over a mile after you've passed under the A46, and even less distance after you've gone by the entrance to Coombe Abbey Country Park [2] with its Cistercian Abbey now turned into a hotel and gardens designed by Capability Brown, turn left into Coombe Fields Road and into the countryside.  The next right takes you into Peter Hall Lane - whether named after the theatre director or the town planner is uncertain - and you then need to go straight over the next crossroads on to Smeaton Lane.

After another mile or so this brings you to the day's first encounter with the Oxford Canal, a watery theme that will be repeated with a pleasant frequency throughout the ride.  After crossing the canal, turn right and then right again on to the B4027 (signposted, slightly disconcertingly, to Coventry) and head for the village of Brinklow.

A left on to Ell Lane, followed shortly by a right and then another left brings you on to a pleasant lane that you'll soon discover runs through woods parallel to the canal.  After crossing the canal twice more (and going over the railway for good measure) turn right at the T junction, then take a left at the next and follow signs into Rugby [3].

The name of the town gives away its claim to fame, and after the opportunity for a brief exploration of the unassuming town centre, the ride goes past the school made famous by William Webb Ellis (and recently reaffirmed in the consciousness of millions by Messrs Johnson and Wilkinson) on route to the attractive village of Barby [4] down the curiously named Onley Lane, passing over the M45 as you ride.

Actually, Barby is not a village of stunning beauty, although it is very pleasant.  Its real attraction comes in the cake supply available at the village store - enough to satisfy the appetite of even the most voracious cyclist.

From Barby head south and take the first right.  Shortly after crossing the Oxford Canal once more [5] - the tow path by this bridge may offer the best picnic stop on the route so far - cross the A45, then turn left and right toward Sawbridge.  The lanes for the next dozen-or-so miles reveal just how rural this corner of Warwickshire is, with arable land predominating and sheep and horses filling in the gaps.

At Sawbridge turn left then next right.  Avoid following this lane all the way to the A426 by turning left to Broadwell and then left again.  Turn right just before the main road and then cross straight over it.

Go straight over another crossroad before a right turn at a T-junction brings you to the A423.  Turn right on to it then take the second road on the left, after about 100 yards or so.

You should now be at the village of Long Itchington.  Your next target is Offchurch, shortly after which there is the opportunity for those with bikes suited to riding off road to follow the Sustrans National Route 41 along the old railway into Royal Leamington Spa.

For those with road-only bikes continue to Radford Semele and turn right on to the main road.  If you haven't already eaten your cakes from Barby, the banks of the river Leam as you enter the town provide a fine place for a stop [6].

The distance from Leamington to Warwick [7] and its famous castle (fascinating, no doubt, but pricey) is only a couple of miles, although you may get slowed up because the roads can be busy.

After Warwick, the final leg of the ride is back north towards Coventry, via Leek Wootton and Kenilworth (which has a castle of its own) on the relatively quiet old road which runs roughly parallel to the A46.  Head north through Kenilworth in the direction of Westwood Heath on Crackley Lane, which dissects the angle created by the A452 (on your left) and the A429.

Turn right on to Westwood Heath Road (by now you're on the outskirts of Coventry) and you're back within the compass of the Coventry cycle map and guide, which will help you negotiate the three or four miles back into the city centre.  A Mecca for cars, maybe but Coventry isn't bad for cyclists either.

THE ROUTE

  • Starting Point: Coventry Tourist Information Centre
  • Distance: 58 miles
  • Type of route: A circular ride combining pleasant, near-deserted country lanes with towns and cities that require confidence on a bike in traffic.  The mileage means that it takes a full day of riding
  • Terrain: Mostly flat riding, although it's a little hillier the nearer you get to Royal Leamington Spa and Warwick
  • Grade: Expert-a combination of traffic and distance, despite the relatively undemanding terrain
  • Maps: OS Landranger 140,151 and 152
  • Food and Drink: Barby Village Store takes some beating if you fancy cakes... otherwise plenty of options on the ride

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