mental health, Walking, wellbeing, Writing

Roy’s Ramble – Week 8

2021 arrived and I decided to take on a huge challenge. Walk from Lands End to John O’Groats (LEJOG). This is Week 8.

DAYS 50-56

DAY 50
(19th Feb 2021)

Woke up early (well, earlier than usual). The engineer for my broken laptop is due to arrive between 8am and 6pm. You may remember that I requested 3-5pm as I’m due to be out but beggars can’t be choosers. I received a text over breakfast to say he’d be here between 1pm and 6pm so that narrowed things a little. As it was he arrived before 1pm. You couldn’t write it, could you? Well, you could. I just did, but you know what I mean.

It was a bit of a rush around morning as I need to back up the laptop and also do the final prep for youth club. We’re taking them for a walk today, which is great because not only does it allow them chance to meet up, but for me to get my steps in too.

It was a lovely walk, if a little muddy, but it was great to be able to support these young people to engage with nature on their doorstep, and we had hot chocolate and cake en route.

Back at home, the engineer has been and seems to have fixed the laptop so I should be able to continue to work. Thank goodness. The stress has eased. A few bits of admin are completed but on the whole I feel lost. All of my big projects this week have really revolved around youth club and I haven’t now got anything planned for a few days with them. It reminds me of the stress of going on camp, the euphoria of reaching the end of it successfully, then standing in the house with a feeling of ‘what the heck was that?’ and immediately missing it. It’s a bit like the wheel of grief. There’s a sense of loss.

By the evening I’m back at the youth club. You can’t keep me away. I return some resources, dispose of some items, and then grab a chip supper.

The miles today have really started to progress me forward on the route. For a long time as we passed through the lower counties, which are all very long, it felt as if progress was slow, but now we’re heading up at a great speed. The Bicester Golf Club and Spa is on the right hand side. I’ve been here once. It was mum’s big birthday and we’d gifted her a spa experience. She said she probably wouldn’t be long. She likes a spa but I think it can feel a bit of a long, drawn out process sometimes. Upon ‘collection time’, I had to sit and wait in the bar as she’d decided she’d not shriveled up enough in the hot tub or bubble pool over the past few hours that she’d returned to the incubator for a little longer. After a long orange juice overlooking the trim golf course in the empty lounge area with a load of names peering over me from the boards on the wall, she finally emerged ‘well done’. Pleasant enough place though and I’d considered going myself but lockdown struck soon after.

I follow the M40 until it joins the A43 at Ardley. There’s quite a few villages in the area, and Bicester itself is being very populated and expanding at a vast rate. I wonder where all of the wildlife goes? It obviously gets pushed out of its home to somewhere, but I don’t know where. So sad to think a digger starts up and some poor fox is forced to flee, perhaps leaving it’s family behind.

At the next junction, Baynards Green, we’re going to kick off in a north-westerly direction. It seems odd, but for good reason. We’re going to see another part of the country. It beats going straight up. Remember, we’re here for the ride and to see the sights along the way, so we’re heading towards Shakespeare land it looks like. Off the motorway and A-road and we’re back to country lanes. This is more like it. The quieter pace of things. We pass Souldern and on to Aynho. It used to have a defensive wall circling the village. Presumably this was a wall that wasn’t forthright. There is a long history here, not only from the Anglo-Saxon times, but in terms of links back to Oxford. Wikipedia explains it better than I do:- ‘Late in the 12th century Roger and Alice FitzRichard founded the Hospital of Saints James and John…to care for the poor, the sick and the infirm. Their son Robert FitzRoger and subsequent benefactors increased the endowments of the hospital but in the 15th century it declined. In 1483 the 16th Earl of Arundel granted the hospital’s advowsen and patronage to William Waynfelete, Bishop of Winchester. In 1458 Waynflete had founded Magdalen College, Oxford (we visited there a few days ago) and in 1485 he granted the hospital to the college. At some time thereafter the hospital seems to have become a private house.’ (Wikipedia)

It’s here, in Aynho, that I bed down for the night at the Cartwright Hotel. It’s a traditional sort of country hotel and each room has been individually designed. Looks lovely. On the dinner table tonight, something better than my chip supper (although it was very nice) – soup with fresh bread, a fillet steak with chips, salad, and onion rings, and for dessert, sticky toffee pudding, with caramel sauce and honeycomb ice cream.

DAY 51
(20th Feb 2021)

It’s Saturday and the weekend is finally here. Having managed to get a bit more tidying done around here, it feels easier to work. It’s always the way. Even a little bit of tidying really can make the world of difference. Suddenly the floor begins to emerge, the desk peeks out from under the paperwork, and you realise that those things you’ve held onto for a year now probably won’t get used so may as well go. The result is not only being more productive, but a greater sense of calm. There are so many ways to clean. Whether that’s a massive blitz or doing it one step at a time and simply picking one thing up each time you walk into a room. It will take longer but it is progress.

Thankfully, the hotel I stayed in overnight didn’t require me to get too messy. I’m continuing to walk today and if I manage about eight miles then I have less than 700 to go to reach the end.

Let’s be honest. I’m not going to be travelling through a village without being nosy and seeing if they have a village hall. We’ve been through all of this previously. Aynho looks to have quite a good one, with a main hall (nicely polished wood floor), and a kitchen and committee room. It looks a really interesting building with a lot of history from the outside but unfortunately, I can’t find anyone around to ask anymore about it and can’t see anything on their website either.

In stark contrast, sitting proudly behind the hall is Aynho Park. It’s a Grade I 17th century country house which can be hired out and has it’s own shop too. The views over the Cherwell valley are glorious. Rolling fields as far as the eye can see. Best of all, despite a grey start to the day, the sun is slowly peaking through now. Makes the world of difference. We should always appreciate the small things that bring a smile to the face. I have to work today, only briefly, as due to the laptop issues the other day, I’ve had to rearrange a client, but other than that, the day is my own, so I can catch up on steps, and also on lots of writing projects. I love it when you don’t plan for a day/weekend of rest but suddenly one creeps up on you. It’s a great feeling.

In a change to proceedings, one of my cancelled clients from Thursday (due to the laptop) is now going to happen today. That puts the step count up. After that I’m out and about again, including a nice little evening stroll, and few steps up and down the stairs. An easier day generally but still did enough to clock up the miles. I now have less than 700 to go.

Aynho leads over the train line to Adderbury, a long, winding village, with the Oxford Canal on one of its boundary lines. For a village this small, there are three places of worship, one Church of England, another Methodist, and a final Roman Catholic.

Bodicote is the next village and this then leads to Banbury, a large market town on the uppermost part of Oxfordshire before the county changes once more. Banbury does a lot of trade and has a lot of industries. Despite this, there are places of interest such as Banbury Cross that signal this was once a place of Christian pilgrimage. You may remember the nursery rhyme ‘Ride a Cock-Horse to Banbury Cross’. We turn left onto the Warwick Road. This is a familiar road, one I’ve travelled many times. It heads in the general direction of Horley village and the Scout campsite. This is a really lovely site with a long winding track to get to the large field perched on the side of an old railway embankment. I’ve camped here many times including when it was the centenary of Scouting and I wrote and produced the opening and closing ceremonies. I remember providing the PA service too for the weekend, of which the majority of the time I was sat in the trailer as the wind and rain blew across the field (and some of the time I was dancing in it). Although a little off the route, I quite fancy stopping the night here, so that’s precisely what I do. Tent up, hot chocolate on (and I put a spoonful of Lotus Biscoff spread in tonight), and a few pages of reading before bed.

DAY 52
(21st Feb 2021)
Wroxton Abbey (c) wikipedia
Ratley (c) Wikipedia. The pub is that building on the right.
Upton House (c) Wikipedia

I woke up feeling really refreshed and laid there for a while. There is something enjoyable about pulling the curtains back, sitting up in bed and reading a book, even if the book isn’t the best one you’ve read. A few pages in I decide to do some writing. I’m getting ahead and drafting a blog article that will be released at the end of the year – yes, that long away. It’s one of those that will develop over the 12 months though so I need to start now before everything I’ve already started forgetting gets forgotten.

I was back up the youth club by lunchtime. We’re in a position where there’s things at home that need to go up there and things that have made their way up there that belong at home. We did try to get into the tip but the queue was unbelievable. I suppose with little else to occupy the mind people are clearing out.

A few other driving around jobs occurred before we head home and for a short pre-dinner walk. We’ve agreed to walk again later. On the route we’ve left the Scout campsite and returned to the main part of the route. We pass through Wroxton, a small village to the west of Drayton. Two notable sights here. One being the Abbey, a Jacobean house with fine features such as a minstrel’s gallery, chapel, and library. Today it is the property of Trinity College in Oxford.

The second interest point is the Oxfordshire Ironstone Railway which used to exist here, providing a direct link from the quarry on the edge of the village, linking it to Banbury. The railway line, now non existent, is evident particularly around the campsite I stayed at last night, and as with many disused lines, from above on Google Earth it is still possible to see where the tracks would have been thanks to planting of trees and hedgerows where they once stood. I find it interesting scanning the areas and trying to figure out where the history once was.

It’s a really lovely area around here and I’ve used it several times to train groups for their Duke of Edinburgh expeditions. It’s quite ideal as there’s almost a ring road around the villages and you can park up and be back supporting them within minutes if they get lost. Best of all, in the tiny village of Ratley is one of the best pubs I’ve visited. Ratley is one of those small and long villages again and the pub is at the end of it. It’s tricky to park at and I would go so far as to say it’s a walkers haven. Amble across the fields and stop there. The food each time has been sublime and the welcome second to none. I love the village too. There’s something homely about it.

Ratley sits next to Edgehill. There’s a National Trust site here. Upton House and Gardens is another large country house and estate, which sweeps down from its prominent position on the edge of the Oxfordshire and Warwickshire border. That’s right. We’re now heading into our next county. It was once in the hands of the Danvers family, which sounds like something straight out of Downton Abbey. Before the National Trust took possession of the property, an auction of 1083 lots (the same number of miles I have to travel on this journey) went up for sale. It’s clearly an omen.

A few more steps around the house before bedtime (I’ve had some exciting ideas tonight and spoken to some friends I’ve not spoken to for a while so things are a bit buzzing), I settle make my bed in a place called the Vale of the Red Horse. I know the Vale of the White Horse, as that’s near where I live, but this one’s a new one on me, lying between Edgehill and Stour, with the battle of Edgehill being fought in the area in 1642. In the same way that the Vale of the White Horse is known for the large horse cut into the hillside, showing the white chalk underneath (which incidentally gets re-chalked regularly by some keen volunteers), the red horse was the same, but it was red clay that showed through. The red horse though wasn’t a stayer. It got cut into different locations and eventually must have become so fed up that it made a bolt for it and it finally disappeared in the early 1900’s. I thought I’d be stopping in a field again, but I’ve found a pleasant little B&B overlooking the fields called Hogwood Farm Bungalow which looks like it might have a spare bed. At the very least I can sleep in the patch of ground next to the pig-sty. It’s quite funny because from above you can actually see the pigs on the map. Pigs remind me of my grandmother. Not that she was one, please don’t think it, but she loved them. A lot. Quite a few years ago, a small ornamental piggy of no value whatsoever about the size of my pinkie nail was gifted to her from myself. Not long before she passed away, or it may be after she passed away, that piggy has returned to me and now sits underneath my computer monitor watching over my work. It’s strange isn’t it how something so small and completely insignificant to anybody else can mean so much to others? I remember a course I tutored on one wonderful lady always came with a small teddy (I forget what animal exactly) and it turned out that this was a great comforter and went everywhere as a mascot. Another person I know always has a teddy that goes on expeditions, sitting in the rucksack, peering out over the countryside as they walk. These small acts can make a huge difference in our lives and act almost like a form of grounding us to the present moment when we need them too. Many a time mid-anxiety crisis, if I’m at home, I will have squeezed the life out of a teddy. Perhaps for some it takes them back to their childhood. Whatever it does, I say, if that sort of a comforter works for you, let it, ride with it, and never ever let anybody laugh or get under your skin if they want to make fun of it. They clearly are either jealous or don’t understand how much of a saviour that can be for you and need educating. Maybe one day they’ll be open-minded enough to listen and understand.

Anyway, time’s ticking on and I’ve a few pages left of this blasted book which I’m struggling to get through. I’m not one to give up on a book, but this one came close many times. I can still here those pigs! Goodnight.

Meeting William Mankelow
DAY 53
(22nd Feb 2021)
New aliens arrive in Headington
Colour changing sculpture
Colour changing sculpture
Colour changing sculpture
University lit up for LGBTQ month
The ugliest church in Warwickshire apparently (c) Warwickshire County Council

Woke up still in the pig farm. In reality I didn’t get to sleep until nearly two. It took a while to drift off, but as I did there was a lot of noise outside. I could have taken a guess that it was the pigs, but it wasn’t. Scared at the prospect that we had burglars I leapt out of bed like something from Twas the Night Before Christmas, although less the nightcap, and flung the curtains open to see what all the banging and voices were. No, not burglars, but the neighbours doing something at gone 1am. Couldn’t hear clearly but it sounded like planning some redevelopment of the garden. Who knows? Either way, I know it made me feel ill for a while, had got my anxiety up, and I struggled then to sleep. At least I haven’t many clients today so I can take a slower pace and try to recover.

I don’t know about you, but lack of sleep or an altered sleep pattern can really throw the body out sometimes. I’ve felt a bit out of sorts today as a result. I’ve managed to get things done, but not as much as I would have expected and in no real sense of order either. Aside from around the house, it was an evening walk again. We went out towards the Cowley Road as my friend has to come in for an appointment and needed to know if the car park was still operational behind Tesco. It is. We then head up Morrell Avenue and through to the Brookes campus shop. They’ve lit up one of the buildings to celebrate LGBTQ+ month, and there’s a piece of artwork there too of trees that change colour. Quite beautiful at night.

My miles today have taken me past the Redwings Horse Sanctuary. This is the UK’s largest horse sanctuary and again, something really on the doorstep (it’s an hour’s drive) that I didn’t know about. They give horses and their variants a sanctuary when they’ve been abandoned or neglected and try to rehabilitate them so they can live out the remainder of their lives as happy horses.

Up the road is Pillerton Priors, a small parish of less than 300 people, and despite being a very small settlement, it’s still recorded in the Doomsday Book. We’re back to rolling fields which is lovely, but it’s to be expected as we cut across the top of the Cotswolds, and plant ourselves well within Warwickshire.

Ettington, the next village, is more substantial in size, with five times the occupancy. There used to be two Ettington’s, a lower one and an upper one, but one was demolished and now the village remains a singular not a plural version. As is popular around here, it too has a Manor House, and this one has been transformed into a grand hotel, retaining the village name. There were also three churches at one stage, and part of the train line too. For a small place, it was extremely busy. In fact, one of its claims to fame was having ‘the ugliest church in Warwickshire’. Oh!

And so I continue to follow the Banbury Road until I reach Stratford-Upon-Avon. Again, slightly off the standard route, but we’re going scenic and finding places of interest along the way where I’m permitted rest at the Rosebird Community Hall which appears to be a new building in the area. Very nice.

DAY 54
(23rd Feb 2021)
A cat en route
A sea of purple flowers that don’t show up well on my camera
These are the purple flowers
And yellow ones
And white ones
In case your nose is running just rub it on this tree
An uprooted tree
Shakespeare’s gaff (c) Pixabay

The day started well. Awoke refreshed and you know those days when you know you’ve had nice dreams but can’t remember them but feel good anyway? It’s been like that. I decide to watch the sun and birds in the garden for a bit before getting dressed. There’s some rather over-excited great tits this morning, although not as lively as the one in the park during my afternoon walk – he was clearly trying to big his part up in the bird chorus, noisy fellow.

As it was so lovely this morning, I felt a walk would be good to start the day. The day had other plans which resulted in needing to be at home. It was fine. I managed to rush around within the walls and get a load of steps done, but I was somewhat disappointed to not enjoy the morning sun more. Perhaps I need to start waking up at 5.30am. Now there would be a miracle. I’m told it’s good for you by friends that do it.

Nevertheless I find that despite being in Oxford, I wake in Stratford-Upon-Avon, which is a clever trick if one can pull it off. I cross the River Avon. Now, there are a few of these in England so this one is often known as Shakespeare’s Avon, which isn’t surprising since the gent of many a wife lived here. This version of the flowing water starts in Northamptonshire and crosses five other counties before dwindling in the Cotswolds and joining the River Severn. It connects to the canal in Stratford and as we all know by now, I do love a canal walk, or ride. It wasn’t always navigable and it’s thanks to many man hours from volunteers that locks and weirs were installed to make it so. It appears that there’s a stretch near Warwick Castle, not far from here, which, if there wasn’t as much opposition as there is, would be opened and thus a connection to the Grand Union Canal could be formed. Let’s hope one day this happens as that would be some journey.

I mentioned Shakespeare and he was born and died in Stratford. His grave is in the Holy Trinity Church which sits on the banks of the River Avon. I take a few back alleys here until I reach a maze of terraced houses, just off of one of the national cycle routes. The national cycle network is a series of interlinked paths and trails across the UK allowing wheeled explorers to enjoy what our country has to offer in reasonable safety. The reason for taking these roads is so that I can enjoy the splendour of the church, built in 1210.

Next to the church is The Dell Open Air Theatre, which on all accounts is theatre in it’s simplest form. A basic stage and a tent or two to change in. Other than that, you’re sat in the middle of a field watching the performers. It reminds me of when I did front of house for Creation Theatre in Oxford who always find some of the most interesting and exciting places and spaces to perform in. Adjacent is Hall’s Croft, a building once owned by Shakespeare’s daughter.

As we head around the corner, we’re met with the impressive Shakespeare’s Schoolroom. The striking yet familiar sight of the white panels in between the black timbers is synonymous with the era. At the end of the road, we’re due to turn right, however, we’re not going to. We’re peeling off to the left to visit the bard himself, or at least his birthplace.

It’s here that I’m really confused. As a child I visited Shakespeare’s birthplace and my memory is that it was in the middle of the countryside. Turns out it was in the town centre. Admittedly in his day the Nutcracker Christmas Shop next door probably didn’t exist, nor the Barclays and Costa on the next corner, but it’s strange how we hold these memories that are sometimes factually inaccurate. I wonder if there are placed you’ve been where you remember vividly what it looked like only to return some years later or find it online and realise it’s nothing like it should be, or you remember.

Shakespeare was famous for two things really. His theatre work and his wives. Handy then that Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss decided in 2017 to premiere a pop musical, Six, based on the wives of the man. There’s some punchy tunes and we’re reminded through them of the Divorced, Beheaded, Died rhyme. Shakespeare lives on in the heart of Stratford. To his name he had 38 plays and over 150 poems, but today, one of the great theatrical masterpieces is the Royal Shakespeare Company, who have been behind some of the major successful musicals in the West End, such as Matilda, as well as still offering their namesakes works.

We’re taking the road north east out of Stratford now towards Warwick and Royal Leamington Spa although I suspect I’ll have to stop before then. And I do. Bedtime rolls around and although I could pitch the tent in a field at the side of the busy Stratford Road, a dual carriageway, I pull myself on that extra half a mile and then have a choice between a Holiday Inn Express or a Hilton. I’m not snobby, well OK, I can be when it comes to hotels. Which one should I go for? Yes, why not? There might not be a chance of a bit of luxury again on the route, eh? Crisp white linen sheets, and if I’m not mistaken, a free cookie from reception on arrival. Does this suggest I may have stayed in a Hilton before? Yes, and it was a lovely experience, but with its price, only reserved for special occasions. Highlight today. Speaking to another Relax Kids coach for a while before bedtime. I love sharing ideas and resources. Goodnight.

DAY 55
(24th Feb 2021)
Warwick Castle (c) Pixabay

Life’s catching up with me, folks. I’m doing too much, and I’ve felt it today. Due to an ongoing home project, we have today spent three hours solidly rushing around the house after breakfast without stopping. We then had to dash out, and oh, it was manic. I had youth club in the evening, and I’ll be honest with you, there was absolutely no feasible way of getting in enough steps. I’ve hardly seen daylight. Not properly. Yes, through glass, but to me, you need to be able to step outside the door to really enjoy it to its full extent, and I didn’t walk in nature and that makes me a bit sad as I do try each day to do that. It’s been full on for the past few days but today has felt like the peak of things, and my body is really tense when I’m writing this (10pm if you’re interested).

It actually feels a bit like I did the morning of my anxiety diagnosis. Tingling and tight. When I reflect on that day, which I’ve done many times over the years, I often wonder how many signs and symptoms were leaping out at me going ‘yoo-hoo, you there. Excuse me chap but if you don’t listen we’re going to throw you to the floor in order that you have no choice’. Those moments of feeling fed up and got at over the smallest thing and trying to shrug it off, getting angry at the children I was supporting (having a MUCH shorter fuse than I’ve EVER had before or since) and taking so much paracetamol as soon as a headache started to appear when actually I probably just needed sleep and to rest. I ended up rattling as I walked. It’s crazy really.

I know full well what I was doing, again easier to recognise on reflection, but I was trying to help too many in my usual kind way without focusing on myself. I was studying for my degree, I was working all hours, volunteering for everything, and doing everything I could to support children and young people because that’s my life, my passion, and that’s what’s happening again. I often feel a bit of a fraud when I say to people what I do, but it’s often easier to coach others and give advice than to take it, isn’t it? We really should listen to ourselves and our bodies. If we all did that, we’d probably find all our lives would be so much better.

I’ve rambled a lot there. I told you I’m good at that. Let’s see then. What’s happening with the route if I’ve not been able to walk much? Well, surprisingly, I’ve managed four miles, which is about half of what I need to achieve. Yes it’s not great, but you know something. It’s actually something. That four miles proves I’ve not had a day of saying I’m going to sit and do nothing. Each step has put me one step towards being in the right place.

I woke up from that Hilton hotel (oh yes I chose the Hilton over the Holiday Inn Express) and had a slow breakfast. Last year in fact in that inbetween of the two lockdowns when we were allowed to travel I managed a holiday and stayed in a Hilton. It really was a special experience. Now and then you need to treat yourself if you can. I think if you can afford to pay a few pound more for your hotel even once or twice in life, it feels like a gift, a bit of luxury, and who doesn’t like to feel good? Let’s hope we get back to this sort of thing soon.

I follow the Warwick Bypass officially but I’m going to head into Warwick. I’ve never spent a lot of time here, the main attraction being Warwick Castle, which I have been to. There is a reason for going into the town. Two years before I was diagnosed, as a Scout Leader I took a group of teens on a canal boat holiday. I wanted to break off and mention this because it was the first time I can ever remember experiencing ‘cabin fever’, something many of us have now. A canal boat holiday (for a week) seemed a great idea, and actually it worked really well, however, the issue was that we hadn’t planned enough ‘free time’ in. Being stuck for five days on a canal boat with teens is tough going. Now I don’t want to bash them because they were a good bunch and I know some may read this (oh yes they’re all adults now don’t you know?!) but being confined with no let up is hard. On one occasion we allowed them to go to the nearby park when we’d moored, but half an hour after they left, we went to check and see if they were OK. There really was no need. This cabin fever peaked towards the end of the week, but if it taught us anything I suppose it’s how even in the most difficult of circumstances people can pull together. We left the boat and still managed to continue Scouting together for the next few years. If you’re in that situation at the moment, drifting along, feeling locked in, getting cabin fever, don’t despair. Keep your hand on the tiller, let the water rush past, and moor up every so often, leaving the thoughts on the boat, whilst you enjoy the park.

As part of that trip we visited Warwick Castle. It was a hot day, and typically to add to everything we went on a day when some twonk decided to set off the fire alarms. Mass evacuation was swift. If I go again one note, never walk from Leamington Spa. It’s further than you think. Close to an hour there and back.

For those not in the know, Warwick Castle was built by William the Conqueror, or at least he had the idea. I expect a few slaves were drafted in to get their hands dirty. It sits on the edge of the River Avon, and whilst originally created in wood, today it is a stone castle, having been rebuilt in the 12th Century. Under normal circumstances the castle would be open for tours, displays, and a tour around the dungeon.

As I don’t think I’m going to be able to walk much more tonight and need to focus on self-care, I’m going to switch off, read a book (I’m on The Glass House by Eve Chase) and see what tomorrow brings. Hopefully I’ll be feeling more with it. I’m lucky to be put up for the night in Old Milverton Village Hall.

Danny’s Story
DAY 56
(25th Feb 2021)
Stoneleigh Abbey (c) Wikipedia
Lunt Roman For (c) Wikipedia
Coventry Cathedral (c) Pixabay

Woke up feeling quite refreshed. At Christmas I bought myself a weighted blanket, in part to see what the hype was, to see if it might help me, but also to potentially recommend to others. I find my good but last night I changed it’s position on the bed and what a great night’s sleep.

I did a fitness video this morning to get about 3,000 steps in and then spent some time sorting some admin and emailing clients. After this I needed to pop out to the bank but that was a car journey. Having returned home and ran a class, a quick dinner, and then to an evening walk. Not many people I suppose can lay claim to carrying a box of lego when they go for an evening stroll, but I can. I was dropping it off at one of my helper’s houses from youth club in order that she can sort it into bags ready to distribute for our online session next week.

It was quite a long walk and ‘fresh’ as they say. We put the world to rights as we talk – one of the best times to do it, and back at home I catch up on a few bits of admin before bedtime.

In terms of my route, I’m continuing in a north-easterly direction and soon reach Stoneleigh Abbey perched on the edge of Coventry. It was originally a monastic house built in 1154 and has seen Queen Victoria and Jane Austen stay here. Today it can be hired out as a wedding venue and has large grounds to suit your needs.

I’m following the A46, passing by garden centres and industrial estates. On the right is the Lunt Roman Fort and Bagot’s Castle, dating back to 60AD and the 11th century respectively. Bagot’s Castle is now only remains but still a visitor attraction for the area. The fort, perhaps slightly more impressive in appearance mainly because it has been partially rebuilt so you get a true feel for what it would have been like to be around in those times.

We’re moving into Coventry now, the first city since Oxford. Warwick feels like it is a city when you mention it, probably due to the fact that we relate it to the castle, but actually, it’s only a town, or perhaps to be more precise, a ‘district’. Cities as a rule tend to have better facilities in terms living conditions, and have a Royal Charter. It’s normal for them to have a cathedral at the heart of them. Coventry of course is famed for its cathedral. This is in part because it has two. They stand side by side and the original was severely damaged in the second world war. This resulted in a new one being built and it is highly modern as they go.

Coventry is today seen as one of the most important cities in our country, and I’m ashamed to say, I cannot ever remember visiting, so it’s on the list of places to go when we’re finally allowed out. In 2021 it holds the title of UK City of Culture. I wonder how the lockdown will affect that? The title has been used since 2011 but was originally inspired by the success in 2008 of Liverpool being the European Capital of Culture. It brought great benefits to the area and it’s hoped that by designating different areas of the country with this title annually, it will bring improvements to their area. Let’s hope some good can come for Coventry this year.

I mentioned the war above. I do like to read about the second world war, particularly the home front, and Coventry had it’s own ‘blitz’ as it were, and saw more than 4,000 homes destroyed. This was epic for a city this size. Hundreds of people were killed, with many thousands more seriously injured, however they pulled through. It has always been something of an industrial city, and today it has a vast array of manufacturers from motor vehicles to agricultural machinery, through to aerospace components. A far cry from it once being known for ribbon-making.

Coventry University have kindly put me up for the night in one of their rooms. Well, with all this pandemic stuff going on, most of the students are at home studying online, and those that are here aren’t in the same halls so it’s peaceful at least.

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