Saturday, 29 May 2010

Sending Myself to Coventry


I have done Northampton bus station a slight injustice.

I admit that I was highly critical of it when I arrived last night, but I have subsequently discovered as I waited this morning for my bus to Rugby that it is, in fact, remarkably well equipped. There are abundant wooden benches to sit on, there is travel information in abundance, it is logically laid out, and is generally clean and litter free. Underneath, there are toilets and a cafe with escalators linking them to the platform waiting areas. I mean, it even has a bus wash.

It's just a pity it looks like the kind of alien abattoir that would be summoned from the imagination of Ridley Scott in one of his darker moods, and is accessed via an underground sewer.

Sorry, Northampton, that's as close to an apology you are going to get. Now, on with the journey!

This morning's driver on the 9.45 Stagecoach service to Rugby helpfully pointed me in the direction of a mega gold saver day thingy which saved me a couple pounds (i.e., at least a pint!), so clutching my ticket and having embraced my new found friend, we set off together into the rain.

Once through the sprawling suburbs of Northampton we were quickly into pleasant, open countryside. This appears to be landed gentry country, too, as the huge sandstone walls and the achingly attractive estate cottages which we kept passing seemed to testify. I thought this bit of the journey might be flat and boring, but it's proving to be anything but.

Picking up where we left off yesterday, we were once more crossing and re-crossing the M1 motorway and the West Coast mainline and the Grand Union and even, at one point, the A5. The whole purpose of the road we now call the A5 when it was built was to link parliament and the Crown with its troublesome colony over there in Ireland. That heroic road builder Thomas Telford did much to improve it and I hope to be catching up with some more of his works a little later in my journey.

Most of the older buildings around here seem to be made from a very bright and friable yellow sandstone which looks scarcely strong enough to bear its own weight. There's quite a bit of thatch, too, and lovely aged Victorian brick and tile, and the lanes joining these hugely attractive hamlets gently roll through the countryside along strips of smooth road fringed with cow parsley and flowering hawthorn. Smashing, despite the rain!

Daventry International Rail Port is passed on the road into Rugby. It's giant white sheds – and I mean absolutely flipping enormous airship-sized sheds – provide a distribution base for dozens of high street stores and supermarkets and I suspect that almost everything you buy in a chain store these days has probably passed through this place at one time or another.

As for Rugby, at which we arrive a few minutes later, well... I don't think it looks its best in the rain. I think we'll leave it there.

The run into Coventry aboard the 86 was every bit as pleasant as the trip up from Northampton, through astonishingly pretty villages of mixed and varied architectural styles. Most of these, I suspect, provide homes not for farm workers and village postmasters but for well-heeled commuters from Coventry, but frankly who could blame them.

Into Coventry, out into the rain and straight into the Coventry Motor Museum, which to my amazement is right in the heart of the city and is absolutely free.

And it's brilliant. I was in there for three hours all told (and, yes, they did have a display of locally-made buses – mainly Maudsleys and Daimlers, as you're asking) and the only reason I wasn't in there longer was because my wife wasn't there to keep holding me back saying "Hey, have you seen this". She'll do this, oh... 80 or 90 times in any one visit, and to be quite honest I've absolutely come to rely on it. So instead, I just went round twice. Well, it's free, isn't it...?

The rain had stopped by the time I visited the stunning Coventry Cathedral which was built almost amidst the ruins of the former cathedral which was destroyed in the appalling blitz of 14 November, 1940. It's a highly atmospheric and moving place which I intend visiting again before I leave.

As for the rest of Coventry city centre... well, it probably doesn't look its best in the rain.

Tomorrow I pass through the centre of England en route to Britain's second city, Birmingham. And I may possibly take a ride on the longest bus route in Britain. Or not!

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