Transcript from CYCLING PLUS : CHRISTMAS
Paul Howard explores the
surprisingly traffic-free country lanes around Coventry, home of the
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
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 , 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  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 .
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
 down the curiously named Onley Lane, passing over the M45 as you
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  - 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
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 .
The distance from Leamington to Warwick  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.
- 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
- Terrain: Mostly flat riding, although
it's a little hillier the nearer you get to Royal Leamington Spa
- Grade: Expert-a combination of
traffic and distance, despite the relatively undemanding terrain
OS Landranger 140,151 and 152
- Food and Drink: Barby Village Store takes
some beating if you fancy cakes... otherwise plenty of options on