Free-wheeling through the countryside, the wind in your hair, sun on your face, your thoughts a million miles from impending deadlines and last night’s hangover. Though your legs may ache and your cheeks perspire, cycling has long been seen as a pastime, excellent for both mind and body. Here at Warwick, we are blessed with surroundings which beg to be explored by bicycle, whether it is the bumpy trails behind Westwood Business Park, the looming turrets of Warwick Castle, or the expanses of yellow when rapeseed (horrible name, enchanting colour), blossoms near Hill Wootton in summer.
My friends have long tired of the occasions when I have forced them to study maps and photos, and so I turn to you, the Boar readership, in a desperate plea that you beg, steal or borrow a working bicycle and explore the world which lies just beyond your bus-route. Here are my top picks of all that Warwickshire has to offer the student cyclist.
Running from Burton Green to Balsall Common, this cycle path, on an old railway route, is flat, straight, and alarmingly peaceful. It was recently expanded with a bridge over Coventry Road in Kenilworth, meaning that you are less likely to encounter the dog-walkers and Sunday strollers with whom the Greenway is so popular. There are plans to construct another cycle path connecting the Greenway to campus and through to Coventry in 2012, making it more accessible than ever to the Warwick student.
Access from Coventry Road in Kenilworth, or from Burton Green (just beyond Westwood Heath, the village down the road from The Varsity).
War Memorial Park
By far the best green area in Coventry, this park is home to endless games of football and the occasional festival. It also enjoys a liberal criss-cross of paths, many of which I have yet to personally negotiate. There is a very charming café where one can sit down, read a book, drink a coffee and occasionally look up to follow the epic tennis games which seemingly unfold before you.
If you are cycling from campus, do NOT go via Gibbet Hill, but rather cycle down towards Cannon Park, then take De Montford Way. Signs will point you towards the ‘City Centre’; follow these to end up on Kenilworth Road. Then bear left, and cycle straight into Coventry, looking out for War Memorial Park on your right.
This town proclaimed itself for centuries as the Heart of England, a title which it unfortunately misses out on by a good few miles. Meriden is itself slightly underwhelming, having lost the character of its glory days before the wars. The roads that lead into it, however, are exceptional. When you have enjoyed a photo next to the Cyclists’ Memorial, take one of the numerous country lanes which lead towards Millisons Wood (another wonderful name) and Allesley, and you will soon find yourself in the relative comfort of Coventry.
Approach Meriden via Berkswell and the delightfully-named Four Oaks (it’s really a glorified crossroad, although it now boasts at least nine fully-grown trees).
If these have inspired you adventurous side, here are some other cycling routes that may occupy your free time further;
– Cycling between campus and Leamington via Stoneleigh is popular amongst those who make the commute on two wheels, and for a reason. A glimpse of Stoneleigh Deer Park is one treat offered on this route.
– For the ambitious cyclist, visiting Dicken’s Heath, just below Solihull, is a fine day’s cycling. Built in 1997, it looks a little like a film set, albeit a rather charming one.
– The canal in Leamington. From drunks dragging barges to solitary fisherman, you never know what you’ll see.
One final note: always leave enough time to get back before it gets dark. Cycling at night when you’re tired is a drag even for the most enthusiastic of cyclists. Always carry a mobile phone, or at least change for a pay-phone, as well as some form of hydration (an apple is a good combination of fructose and water).
Believe it or not, Warwickshire locals are often impressed by your journeys, and free sausage rolls in remote pubs are not unheard of.
Finally, enjoy yourself, whether you are on your own or with a mob of fellow explorers. Be aware, though: the ten minute tootle can easily transform into a five hour trek…