It’s slightly odd living back in the city where I grew up. Some things haven’t changed, but others have, and I certainly don’t know much about entertaining small children here, though I’m learning. We won’t be here for long, so it’s not worth putting down lots of roots in terms of what I get up to with the boys in the week. One trip that I was planning to do on a day when we had nothing else on is a tour of the city centre – a part of the city that has changed quite a bit since I last lived here full time over 10 years ago. It’s still not perfect, there are city centres that I would far rather walk around, but it has come on since the days that I can remember visiting town.
The first real attraction that we came to when entering the centre from the direction in which we walked from Granny and Grandad’s house was Broadgate, which features the famous Lady Godiva clock and Lady Godiva statue. For anyone not familiar with the legend of Lady Godiva, she was the wife of Leofric, Earl of Mercia, and she rode naked on a horse around Coventry in protest against the unfairly high taxes that her husband was charging the town’s people. It is also said that a man named Tom watched her as she rode around, hence the name ‘peeping Tom’. When Broadgate was redeveloped after the Second World War (much of Coventry was destroyed in Blitz bombings), a clock was built – every hour on the hour it chimes and Lady Godiva rides out whilst Peeping Tom watches from above. Andrew absolutely loves watching this clock, and luckily this day we walked past it twice, both times near the turn of the hour, so we could stand and watch the show. Here’s a video of the clock in action, and in the pictures below Andrew is showing me what Peeping Tom did. As well as the clock there is a large statue of Lady Godiva overlooking the city centre precinct of shops.
After we’d hung around waiting for and watching the clock, and Andrew had run around the black squares that are part of the design on the paving, we headed down the hill to the Transport Museum to warm up! This is a place that I just about remember visiting as a child, but it has been done up since I last went and is well worth a visit. There is no entrance fee (though anyone is welcome to donate towards its upkeep), and what you get for your (lack of) money is amazing. There are vehicles from across the centuries and across the world. It starts with bikes and horse drawn carriages, goes onto old motor cars, buses and trucks, and ends up with some very modern vehicles, not forgetting Thrust and Thrust 2, cars which broke the world land speed record. Both my boys were in their element, and would happily spend all day pottering around this fantastic museum. There are various activities and interactive displays for little ones, and the whole place is set up brilliantly for families as well as transport enthusiasts to get lots out of it.
The museum also provided us with an hour of shelter from the cold day. Of course no eating or drinking is allowed inside though, so we had a quick pit stop outside when we left for a drink and biscuit. There is a large square outside the museum with a bench running around the outside where you can have a red plaque made with your name on if donate some money to the attraction. Towering above this square is the ‘Whittle Arch’ – a memorial (shaped like a double aeroplane wing) to Sir Frank Whittle, RAF engineer officer who was born in Coventry. I tried to explain to Andrew that this was a bit like an aeroplane wing, but he wasn’t too sure! On the side of the museum, there is a large screen, and as we walked past it was showing a film about some young people doing a dance class, so we stopped and did a few moves ourselves for a minute or two.
Our next destination was Coventry Cathedral, and to get to that we walked up through a very old area of the city where you can see the remains of the old priory. Well, we couldn’t actually go into the building that now houses the excavated undercroft that day, but we stopped by the fountain (far left picture below) that was built fairly recently as part of the opening up of this historic site and behind which are some more ruins of the old priory. Then, as we walked up the road towards the entrance of the cathedral, Andrew spotted these mini fountains on the other side of the road, so we had to go and investigate. Unfortunately he didn’t have his wellies on as it wasn’t a wet day, otherwise he would have loved to jump in the water that was just spraying back down onto the pavement. This water feature is right outside one of the main buildings of Coventry University, which has an amazing view overlooking the cathedral – or should I say cathedralS…
As I said above, much of Coventry was destroyed in bombing raids in World War 2, because traditionally it is a city of heavy industry, particularly cars, and the factories were used to manufacture weapons in the war. During one night of the Blitz, the old cathedral, St Michael’s church, which looked remarkably similar to a factory from the air, was hit by incendiary bombs and burned to ruins. The outer walls and the spire survived, and this ruin is now a symbol of peace and reconciliation through the work of the Cross of Nails charity administered at the cathedral – a cross made from three large nails was found in the rubble the day after the bombing. Then in the 1960s, a modern cathedral was built right next to the old ruin, attached via a giant canopy between them. We didn’t go in to the new cathedral this time, that’s a whole trip on its own, but I showed the boys various features from the outside, such as the etchings on the windows above the main entrance (top centre picture below) – several years of school trips to this attraction taught me many interesting facts about its design. We did, however, have a walk around the ruins, where I tried to explain to Andrew why there was no roof – quite deep stuff for a just turned 3 year old! He was fascinated with looking up at the spire, and I told him that one day we could climb up it when we’re with more grown-ups. Although there isn’t as much detail as in the new building, I pointed out a few items in the ruins, including the cross on the altar that is made from two charred wooden beams from the roof of the old cathedral.
Once we’d finished here, we carried on walking through the centre and had a brief look down at the shopping precinct. Andrew pointed out what he could see from this vantage point, and by this time Joel had just about fallen asleep. I’d been in touch with Grandad who works in town, and he was looking forward to coming out of his office and meeting us for lunch. And where better to meet him than back at the clock where we had started – we were just in time to watch it strike 12 noon.
We thoroughly enjoyed our walk around the sights of Coventry, and we’ll definitely be returning another time to the Transport museum for more vehicle fun.
This week I’m linking up again with the fantastic Country Kids linky over at Coombe Mill’s blog, because we had some outdoor fun in the city.