The Midlands

Posted by on 7, Aug 2023 in 2023 - Cathedrals, Europe, Tilly the Tandem, UK, Western Europe

The Midlands
Lunch with Jane & John
The Old Coventry Cathedral….
… and the New
Lost count of how many of these we’ve passed….
Fortunately, not too many of these…

We left the south behind and headed inland toward Birmingham on and off the Worcester & Birmingham canal trying to avoid the muddy grass sections.

We had arranged to meet John and Jane – fellow Tandemers and their new Tandem Carmen, a bright red recumbent, their old one having suffered a cracked frame shortly after Tilly did.

Naturally we were late, in our defense, we are always late! The canal tow path was slow going in many places but we did eventually arrive – though they had cycled down to meet us having given up waiting at our prearranged spot. Oops.

Carmen is electric, and not kitted out for touring so despite them going slowly they left us for dead on the hills and took us on some unkindly steep ones too, which we walked!

We did managed to all arrive at our lunch spot together though and had a great time with them before continuing on toward the delights of Birmingham.

We must be honest we weren’t looking forward to Birmingham. We’ve been a few times and it’s alway seemed a concrete jungle and souless place so our cycle in through gorgeous park after gorgeous park was quite a shock and pleasant surprise. They were fabulous, lots of space, plants, children’s zones, cafes and had an almost Victorian feel to them. Brilliant.

The city centre itself wasn’t quite so brilliant! The cathedral was built in a square surrounded by Georgian houses and must have looked very impressive in its day. That day wasn’t today. The scaffolding around it didn’t help and one of the main features of the cathedral – its stained glass windows – were covered in tarpaulins.

It no longer sits in a square and is surrounded by new buildings, some of which seem to have been designed by the architects who build Hitler’s Atlantik wall bunkers…. Carbuncles as our King would say.

We checked in to our Premier inn and Tilly had her own bicycle rack in the basement. Lovely.

The staff had been fab, but the next morning Mrs Jobsworth the manager was on duty and despite us using the lift with the staff yesterday when we left Tilly, we weren’t allowed into it today. Tilly, apparently, shouldn’t be in the area with the bicycle racks next to a sign saying Hotel Reception this way in an area plastered with Premier Inn signs, as it didn’t belong to them and we weren’t allowed in it. So she made us walk all the way round the building to go in the back entrance in the rain, to get to Tilly and meet the staff member who’d used the lift.

We then had to cycle Tilly back round the building to the hotel entrance to collect our bags. And as fate would have it the road out from the bicycle rack was closed and fenced off as a huge crane was being set up. The road in the other direction was about 10 flights of stairs. So we cycled up to the crane and waited and one of the security guys (who has now presumably had his private parts turned into earnings by Mrs Nobhead for allowing us through yet another area we shouldn’t have been in) let us through.

We got back to the foyer and Mrs NH then said she’d help us with our panniers and Linda politely said no, albeit somewhat more aggressively than this and with the famous Gt Yarmouth girl stare that makes Paddingtons hard stare look like a smile.

Anyway, off we set and down came the rain. We followed the Grand Union out of the city and a depressing ride that was too. The water had a thin film in many many places, perhaps oil? And ran through a run down industrial area. The path started well and deteriorated and we hardly saw a boat on any of it. Not as popular as the more picturesque Worcesters etc.

I’d read about the ride and didn’t tell Linda that people had said it was easy to get mugged along the path and people had pushed cyclists in for a laugh. I got the Gt Yarmouth look when I did tell her, when we were safely well clear.

I think forums are often littered with useless and unhelpful comments. No one had said they had been pushed in or mugged, just the usual “I’ve heard” stuff. It’s like those online questions you get on Booking.com “Does the hotel have Air con?” And some one replies “I don’t know”. Why do they do that? Do they spend their entire life thinking every question on the internet is directed personally at them?

Anyway, we got through ok and then ran into HS2 works. This had a brand new cycle path diversion which we duly followed for 3km to find it ended at the road we wanted to go down in a dead end where the new bypass was being built. We could have thrown a stone at the road from the plastic barrier and in Europe we’d have been ushered through to get on our way. But Mrs Jobsworths husband was on duty and we had to turn round and cycle back to the main road instead. To be fair to the guy he’d probably have been sacked if he’d let us through so he had no choice really but it was soooo annoying.

We joined the main road and the thick red line that everyone then saw on Google maps Traffic stretching half way across the centre of England was caused by us and our flag placed horizontal out while on the diverted busy road, but it worked a treat and we eventually branched off to a back road to head into Coventry.

Everyone is aware of the Air raid on Coventry and we expected to cycle into another concrete jungle, but somehow we arrived on a street lines with ancient beamed shops and pubs. Lovely. We arrived at the cathedral and went in to have a gander.

It’s a stark contrast to any other we’ve been in and may be a marmite cathedral. Linda loved it, I wasn’t so taken. The glass is fantastic and it’s an impressive building and the little chapel housing an audio tribute to the million Indians who served in the first world war was incredible.

The ruins of the old Cathedral stand opposite, and are more a large church size. The walls are almost all in tact and the tower remains almost undamaged, but the rest is gone.

My son, who is a bit left politically of me, always says, never trust a policeman. We should have listened to him. The next day, we set off for Leicester adjusting our route to only cycle on the canals when they are marked as the main official cycle routes, not just cycle paths. We’d decided that we’d had enough of all this slipping around in the mud in July and would take to the road for the muddy bits.

But we got accosted by a retired policeman (it’s the only profession that alway seems to want to tell you I’m a retired Policeman without you even enquiring) and had a great chat with him and he assured us the path was fabulous and fine for a tandem all the way to Nuneaton. I don’t know if he was one of the Birmingham Six officers but he certainly had no evidence to support this statement as it was the usual mud bath and we ended up walking to a bridge and getting off and on to the road and vowing in future, to take more notice of my son’s opinions…

Our adventures for the day were not over though. Nuneaton seems to have bought all the Cycle Traps that everyone is now removing as they discrimate against various groups, and installed them around the town.

We had a great chat and loaded Tilly back up and then set off again. We reached our turn off point on the canal for a coffee and found our precious flag was missing, so, about turn and back down the path looking for it.

We stopped at one of these which was completely impassable by Tilly loaded or unloaded and decided next time we’d leave the kitchen sink behind and bring a portable angle grinder instead and a couple walked up behind and offered to help us lift Tilly over the Trap.

We eventually ran into a young man who was mad as a hatter and was using it to hold the bushes back for us. We stopped and told him about our lost flag and he immediately gave it back to us joyfully and asked about our tour.

He was so happy and enthusiastic and his comment of ‘You’re f***** mad’ were said as a complement with a huge grin on his face. By the time we got Tilly turned round without either of us falling in or losing Tilly over the edge he was ahead of us and stood to the side as we passed and high fived us repeating his, quite probably most accurate succinct description of us anyone has ever said!

We rolled up for coffee and parked Tilly out side the coffee shop and sat down at a table where we could keep an eye on her whislt enjoying a tea cake and cuppa. The two ladies in the window seat then came over and said they would keep an eye on Tilly for us, and when they left they asked if we wanted their table. Lovely ladies.

Refreshed, we then picked up a few old railway lines and had a great cycle into Leicester arriving on a superb old railway that deposited you right in the centre. Brilliant and well done Leicester.

The Cathedral was closed for the year so we didn’t get to see inside but we did get our stamp from the shop and got warned by a workman outside not to leave our bike there as it would get nicked. Anyone trying to steal Tilly with the panniers on is likely to end up in A&E and then sue us after it falls on them and breaks their legs, but we thanked him anyway.

We really liked Leicester, it’s a small city with a nice centre and lots of good looking bars and restaurants, which you can cycle to!

We had a day off in Leicester and stayed at The Brooklyn hotel, a New York themed hotel which was quirky and fun and at the end of a couple of fabulous cycle paths. Leicester have done a great job with their cycle network, some of the best we’ve encountered in the country we think and the Dutch would be proud of much of it. Indeed, cycling out of the city, the paths wound their way through lakes and rivers and you could actually have been in Holland.

From Leicester we headed north to Derby and another post reformation cathedral that again was a bit large church size.

It was being prepared for a candlelit Fleetwood Mac Concert. We liked it had a good wander round and then cursed the person who had stolen our Speedo whilst we were inside only to eventually find it in my front bag, fortunately just before setting of to a bike shop to buy a replacement … senior moment…!

The cycle on to Lichfield started well with a nice railway track and had a fun bit where the dual carriageway was closed for resurfacing but the cycle lane open so we could watch them laying the tarmac – isn’t that a wonderful smell? I love it! Much to Linda’s disgust.

But by the time we arrived having slogged into a strong wind for much of the day (again) I was exhausted. Seriously exhausted. And it was a quite flat, short cycle. Very odd.

The cathedral there was gorgeous and another proper old cathedral. It’s a bit Wells like from the front – very ornate and has a lovely inside. The town itself was heaving and there weren’t any rooms available anywhere for anything like a reasonable price so we cycled on 7km uphill to an Airbnb.

I adjusted Tilly’s rear brake when we got there as one of the cylinders wasn’t moving back into the housing properly and discovered we’d been cycling with a brake on! Fortunately.. not on a lot.

We ate early and got tucked up early, but the night wasn’t going to be a good one….

2 Comments

  1. Loving the speedo senior moment !!

  2. It was lovely to meet up with you, sorry about the hills 😉

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