Coventry WayIt was quite a shock to realise that I last completed this event 11 years ago! Where does the time go… I nearly didn’t do it Sunday as I had succumbed to yet another cold, this time accompanied by a bad cough, and had been feeling really poorly right up until Friday.

It’s frustrating- I seem to have picked up one thing after another recently- colds, tummy bugs, the lot! I am usually such a healthy bod so this is really quite worrying. I am due to have some blood tests taken next week (mainly to shut Mum up!) so we will see if there’s anything untoward going on or if it is just work stress and the result of constantly pushing myself when I am not feeling great…

Nearly everyone I knew spent the week telling me not to do this event, that it would be madness to attempt to walk 40 miles after being unwell, and that voice in my head joined in as well, whispering things like ’you haven’t done 40 miles in one day for years’ and ’look at all this rain- it will be well muddy’. I very nearly didn’t go…

But I am sick of entering events and then wimping out, plus I had arranged to meet Sue there and didn’t want to let her down, so I set the alarm for 3:30am (!!) on Sunday morning and drove, bleary eyed, to the start at Meriden, a village just outside Coventry.

The Coventry Way is a 40 mile route created by local Cyril Bean, which traces a huge circle around the town using footpaths, bridleways and country roads. Although it can be walked any time, theLDWA style challenge event is held each April where entrants have the opportunity to walk the entire thing in one day. You start when you choose and as all walkers and runners have to finish by 9pm; Sue and I had decided to set off at 5:30am to give us more time.

After some difficulty in organising myself (everything seemed to have fallen either in or under the car) we grabbed a quick cuppa and set off across muddy fields lit by our head torches. The shapes of other walkers and runners glided past us to disappear into the inky blackness, and I was quite cheered when Sue informed me that most of the stiles had been taken out along the route and replaced by kissing gates.

Tower House

Tower House

Entrants are sent a proper printed booklet of the route but it is amazingly difficult to look at instructions with a head torch! Eventually the dark was replaced by a lighter grey and quite suddenly it was daylight. Torches stowed away, we continued through fields and tracks to pick up the Kenilworth- Berkswell Greenway, a disused railway which made for an easy stretch of walking before checkpoint one. I must say, the catering was excellent- plenty of variety on offer, plus salty snacks such as crisps and Doritos, just the thing to replenish salt levels.

Coventry Way
It was sunny and warm as we set off again, through a golf course and alongside the busy A46 to bypass Stoneleigh and then onto the second checkpoint at Bubbenhall where we stowed a couple of rolls away for later. It was at this point that I realised that my drinks bottle had lost the ability to close up so I risked losing all my water when I bent over or laid my rucksack down!

We set off over more field- the terrain is not demanding, it is gently rolling fields and farmland although we did encounter plenty of mud, in places quite slippery and glutinous.

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At Ryton-on-Dunsmore there is an interesting walk through a brightly painted subway under and then along the A45 before more fields (I would describe them all individually but they all kind of blur into one!!) taking us to a path around a high metal fence I remembered from the last time I did this event. We were pleased to reach checkpoint three and hot drinks at around the half way point at Wolston. I found a pot of cold rice pudding- bliss!

Wolston

Wolston

Wolston is a pretty village with a stream and old tudor- style houses- we didn’t have time to linger sadly as we pressed on towards Bretford and a long muddy track to Brinklow. There is a Norman Motte and Bailey at Brinklow, which we walked through before reaching checkpoint four- it is unusual in that the castle enclosure with its high banked earthen walls can still be seen.

Brinklow Castle

Brinklow Castle

After Brinklow there is a stretch along the Oxford canal, which was, erm, rather slippery in places and I had visions of ending up in the canal. My body was holding up quite well although my feet were starting to feel a little tired. It really does help having a friend to walk with and chat too though as it does take your mind off your misery somewhat!

We left the canal for more fields and a golf course, passing through the tiny villages of Ansty and the curiously named Barnacle, to reach checkpoint five which was in someone’s front garden at Bedworth. It was getting more difficult to heave the body up and move on, but move we did, passing a water tower and negotiating a new looking housing estate before entering open countryside once more.

Lovely little stone bridge...

Lovely little stone bridge…

As we approached checkpoint six near a farm, we passed a group of youths, one of which held out a plastic cup, shouting offerings of ‘popcorn chicken’, egged on by his mates. I shut him up by saying, in a pleasant manner, ‘no thanks- we’re vegetarians!’

We felt as though we were on the home straight now, walking through fields with tired legs and over the M6 for the final time. As we reached the final checkpoint at Corley Moor Stuart, organiser of the Ponton Plod passed us, he must have set off later as he is a fast walker. It started to rain, but not heavily enough to make me get out my waterproof jacket- I don’t like walking in it unless I really need to! I was acutely aware that I had several blisters where my wet socks had repeatedly rubbed against my wet feet, but couldn’t be bothered to stop and examine them.

It's a horse. With a moustache

It’s a horse. With a moustache

The last part of the route is quite pleasant, as it skirts woodland before dropping down through another little wood to the road into Meriden, but I had had enough by this point and just wanted to finish! We put a bit of a spurt on and just finished in daylight- in a time of 14 hours 43 minutes, sadly nearly an hour longer than last time! I do think there was more mud though, and I felt a little guilty for slowing Sue up as she can do these walks a lot faster than I can- she is doing the LDWA Hundred next month, she must be mad!!

We replenished our energy levels with a jacket potato and cake before driving home- as I reached the M42 it started to pour and I was quite glad it had held off for us… my legs and feet were aching but other than that I didn’t feel too bad, although getting into the bath with blistered feet was another ordeal altogether!

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