15th A Coventry Way Challenge Commentary

15 April 2012

The 2012 event was to be a special event, taking place only days after the death of Cyril Bean. Cyril painstakingly devised the 40 mile route and without Cyril’s foresight and determination we would not have held this year the 15th A Coventry Way Challenge, enjoyed by so many. This is such a legacy for us to make use of and we must be thankful to Cyril for it. It was good to see Iris, Nicky, Paul with Ella and Nina come along and join in the celebration.

With a limit of 250 and an eventual start list of 311 this year, I can only recommend that you enter straight away for 2013 when the entries open in September.

For the past 366 days Bob Carey and his team have been working towards the successful day along A Coventry Way. Bob is supported by John Green and the work put in by Peter Page on the route book and on the website is invaluable. You will have seen both flitting about throughout the day. Peter will have taken some wonderful photographs to add to our collection. The Challenge takes a lot of had work to put on, and so it is very pleasing to see so many enjoy their day out in the countryside around Coventry. The only blemish in the proceedings being the incidents with the cattle a little beyond Wolston. Read below just one account by Mike Langrish of his experiences at Marston Mill. Read also the letter received from Brian Gregory.

Lawrence and Caroline welcomed us all back to the Queens Head where we could take up residence for the day in their marquee. On the Saturday John Green, Bob C and Roger Brown had been putting up the smaller tent and generally getting things ready. Meanwhile over in Earlsdon Anne Wade was putting the final touches to the refreshments for each checkpoint and also to the meal for the finishers. Anne’s Mum and Dad, Maud and David were assisting – Maud having made her celebrated date-slice for you lucky participants. Role of honour for those making filled rolls – Chris Hollings + wife (cp. 1); Bill and Tina Eve (cp. 2); Greta Greenall and Sue Hallett (cp. 3); Debbie and Aimee Morse (cp. 3); John and Anne Aylmer (cp. 3); Maureen Chapman (cp. 5); Vron Nicholas (cp. 6); Bernard Roebuck (finish).

So early on Sunday morning saw Bob Carey open registration some time well before 5am, with Roger Brown parking the cars that were beginning to appear up the drive out of the darkness, Bill Eve was to join in the parking. It was cold.

A little later in the sunshine Ulli Ull and Miranda Aston opened up the Kenilworth checkpoint. Those arriving here commenting on how pleasant the lead into Kenilworth now was. The new foot/cycle bridge put in by ‘Sustrans’ over the Coventry Road now extended the dismantled railway route into Kenilworth Common and alongside Finham Brook to checkpoint 1.

Tina and Bill Eve were back at the village hall in Bubbenhall this year looking after check point 2, having been ousted by the ‘dog people’ in 2011. Despite us booking the hall, the dogs were there again. However we are grateful to the villagers and Bev Goddard in particular for letting us make use of the hall.

Suzanne Humphries was on hand to assist Tim & Bob Brandon at Wolston Leisure and Community Centre where participants were now almost half way round. Here they had the opportunity to sit down and make a hot drink. Chairman Derek of the Centre made us most welcome and is ‘on’ for next year. I heard Suzanne say that she is considering completing the full 40 in 2013.

As news came in of the incidents at Marston Mill, Jo Carey was quickly dispatched to send participants another way to avoid the cattle. Thank you Jo. Several were attacked by the cattle – causing black and blue bruises and one broken collar bone. One commented that had the cattle have horns it would have been a lot worse. In the 4 days following the Challenge Bob C has been investigating the incidents and helping the Health & Safely Executive with their enquiries.

Now moving on to Brinklow where this year, without Frank Tonkinson (Golden Wedding Anniversary trip with wife), the Breakfast Club stalwarts were lead by Doug Shelton with the support of Terry Lewins and Dave Lewis. Terry thought the efforts of everybody concerned was very praiseworthy and he said that he had met some really lovely people. Here the villagers were more than helpful with Sylvia Cree providing tea, coffee and toilets as usual to the marshals. Thanks are also due to those at Crook House who provided access to a water supply throughout the day.

For those taking part for the first time, the impromptu water stop put on by Mick & Marie at Ansty was a blessing, after the stretch along the Oxford canal. As was that of Irene Rogers who had set up her surprise refreshment stall in the village of Barnacle.

At the Bedworth home of Maureen & Jim Chapman a welcome to all in their front garden. Here assisted by Sue Bicknell. Now with 10 miles to go, the checkpoints come thick, if not fast.

At Breach Oak Lane were Vron and Ken Nicholas tending to people’s needs and offering encouragement to all who now had under 7 miles to go.

The final checkpoint at Corley Moor where, David Burrin and family were assisted by Mary Hewison and also, for their first Challenge, by Pam & Paul Cavendish. It is sad to report the death of Judith’s mum, Barbara who had been a stalwart at the Windmill Lane checkpoint when the Challenge was in its infancy. Pam and Paul had recently organised the 50 mile Coventry Pilgrimage.

Meanwhile back at Meriden things were starting to get busy. Bob C was to be joined by John & Anne Aylmer, Rob Rainsley, Sheila Dunn, Bill Eve and Roger Brown who helped with the time keeping, certificates, badges and T-shirts in particular to those who had not taken part before and could now wear it with pride.
David & Maud had also taken up residence in the marquee to be assisted by Debbie Morse who had spent the morning driving the Henrys relay team around the route. Here the feast can begin as the finishers relax and enjoy a bite whilst cheering in those still arriving.

Mention must be made of Martin Townend who completed his 10th Challenge, a little behind Mark Swift (now on 12). Martin was presented with a special T-shirt.
Martin writes “From the early days when you could spend hours without seeing anybody, there is now always somebody in front, behind or walking alongside. Many walkers coming from far and wide, all commenting on how well this is organised including route, maps, food etc., etc. – even a great pub at the finish. Many others also saying never never again – but they seem to keep coming back – a bit like us really. So, what’s our next target incentive?  We noticed Bob B was sporting a natty little CW baseball cap, possibly the sort of thing that someone, who, may just improbably, complete 15ACWs, who knows, stranger things have happened.”
I have to say to Martin, Mark (and others) that the ACW baseball cap kicks in at 20 years. We have in mind a sprig of broccoli for the 15.

I was said to have a strange look on my face upon entering the pub. This was because I had just heard the church clock strike eleven, it was Sunday and would Dave Burrin get served. But yes, I got my pint and as I did so I overheard Lawrence say to Bob Carey that he was going to take part next year. Yes! A perfect end to a busy weekend.

On behalf of those taking part a big thank you to Bob Carey and everyone involved in the 15th A Coventry Way – Cyril’s Round.

The Battle of Marston Mill

The Battle of Marston Mill shares many similarities with the better known Battle of Marston Moor, as both had decisive consequences for the defeated parties. The battle of Marston MOOR was fought on 2nd of July 1644 between the Parliamentarian forces led by the Earl of Leven, and the Royalist forces led by Prince Rupert of the Rhine. The Royalists were utterly routed by the Parliamentarians, resulting in a major turning point in the English Civil War.

The Battle of Marston Mill was fought on 15th April 2012 between a small group of innocent walkers led on this brief occasion by Mike Langrish, and an overwhelming force of cows led by a particularly determined female. The walkers were routed and chased from the battlefield after a brief skirmish.

The elderly Mike Langrish is a veteran of many successful challenges in the English Lake District, but on this occasion his ambitions exceeded his abilities and he suffered a severe beating resulting in many bruises and wounds to mind and body. At the head of his small “army”, he made a tactical error by foolishly advancing on the opposition before assessing their true strength and abilities. After a short battle his force were driven from the battlefield with their “leader” licking his wounds.

The arrival of reinforcements to the walkers “army” failed to defeat the opposition, leading to further serious injuries to one campaigner. This required a truce to be called allowing the injured to be evacuated by Air Ambulance from the battlefield, leaving the victors pawing the ground and snorting their defiance.

The lesson to be learnt here must be to have a healthy respect for large cows, especially when accompanied by their frisky young children.

Mike Langrish.
(Scarred and bruised, but very pleased to escape without serious injury).

Letter from Brian Gregory

On Sunday I took part in the “Coventry Way Challenge” and I simply feel that I had to write to drop you a short note to say how much I enjoyed the event. I hadn’t taken part in it before but was encouraged to enter by a friend of mine who had already sent in his application form. He then found that he couldn’t come along after all. So, left on my own and with some anxiety and trepidation I arrived on the cold and frosted field at 5.45am to find it already a bustle of activity. I joined the queue for registration, slowly getting closer to the tent and the tables, but also getting colder because of the inactivity. I was keen to complete the formalities and get off on the walk and join all the others leaving the field.

Patience prevailed, and then it was my turn. Suddenly things seemed to warm up as an energetic friendly man received, documented and clocked me off with a pleasant smile and wave of good luck. I wasn’t a MISTER somebody, I was Brian to him as if we’d been friends for life. Indeed everyone else was referred to by Christian name too.

On the way round, at each checkpoint it remained “Brian”!. Now, is this a “Coventry Way” policy or perhaps the sheer friendliness of everyone in this pleasant part of the country? It felt good.

Now without doubt this was one of the best organised and friendliest events that I have participated in, right from the beginning to the end. The reception at every check point was supportive, understanding, helpful, encouraging and hospitable, with the food available laid out like a banquet to temp the most delicate of appetites. A lot of thought, care and consideration had obviously gone into the provision of the refreshments, each table laid with appealing and enticing fare.

At the end as I closed in on the finish, mounting the steps to the field, a whistle was blown alerting everyone to the fact that another walker had completed the event. I was met by a round of supportive clapping from those present making me feel like an Olympic athlete, and I was able to raise a gallop from my tired legs as the aches and pains magically fell away. And yes. I thought, “these people understand and they care, and appreciate the effort”.

My experience throughout was a memorable one, sufficient to draw me back next year and to recommend the event to everyone.

Two factors really encourage me to write:-
Please let all the volunteers who gave up so much of their time to make the Challenge such a pleasurable event. Without you there is no event. We simply roll up, do the walk and head off home. Job done!! That’s the easy part. Your efforts are over such a longer period of time; before, during and long after we’ve gone home. One can only speculate upon the time, meetings, negotiations, organisation etc that has to take place to make for a successful trouble free event; and then the poor Check point volunteers who have to stand for hours, even into the night until the last man’s home. Your efforts deserve recognition too. We go away with a badge and a certificate. You all deserve a medal!!

The route description booklet was minutely detailed; every field, every stile, gate, bridge, hedge lane, even tree was mentioned. I’m sure that even the great man himself, A.W. Wainwright would have been impressed. It was the most comprehensive and detailed route description that I’ve ever held in my hand. A word of praise to whoever was responsible.

Mind you, I still managed to get lost as I foolishly followed a couple of hikers for miles, confident that they were on the “Challenge”. Never mind the book, these guys new where they were going and I was on their tail UNTIL they suddenly disappeared into a pub. They were just out for a Sunday walk!! Panic. Where was I? I’d been gently drawn off route. Out with the OS map, a quick referral back to “the book”, left me retracing my steps sheepishly to a point of recognition, cursing myself for the time that I’d lost. I’ll never do that again; but of course I will. We never learn do we?

So there; your efforts are appreciated and understood also, and thank you.

Brian (number 78)

I had a good friend once who asked me how he could get fit. I told him that he’d have to start walking, doing 10 miles a day, every day. He obviously accepted my advice because I haven’t seen him since. No-one knows where he is, he’s simply disappeared. Mind you, he was a bit simple as well as being overweight.

Bob Brandon