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The delights of being sent to Coventry!

In his latest blog, Robin Richards embarks on a Blue Badge Tourist Guide course in the historic city of Coventry, in the English Midlands.

Lucifer_statue_-_Copy.JPGSir Jacob Epstein’s sculpture of St Michael and Lucifer at Coventry Cathedral

When I joined Janet Redler Travel & Tourism, I was offered the opportunity for extra training as a Blue Badge Tourist Guide. Initially I was both excited and anxious about what this would involve, but I knew that this was a chance too great to pass up. I accepted and now my summer, and indeed this next year, are going to be both memorable and exhausting! At the end of it, I hope to achieve the renowned and well respected Blue Badge qualification.

Between being accepted for the interview and being offered the position on the course, I was intrigued with what lay ahead – the induction week was going to be held in Coventry. I knew very little about this city apart from the famous saying of being sent there! I later found out that this saying had a few beginnings – the most probable being the fact that during the English Civil War, Royalist troops who were captured were taken to Coventry to be punished. Thankfully, we have moved on since then, and I was being sent to Coventry for very different reasons!

Coventry_Transport_Museum_-_Copy.JPGCoventry Transport Museum

The training course was being held in the Coventry Transport Museum and, although I didn’t get much time to explore the exhibitions, I soon discovered the significant role that Coventry has played in the history of transport development. Two of its most famous sons – James Starley who invented the penny-farthing, the forerunner of the modern bicycle, and Sir Frank Whittle, who masterminded the way we travel the globe with his invention of the turbojet engine – were both from Coventry.

Sir_Frank_Whittle_-_Copy.JPGStatue of Sir Frank Whittle

I also manage to get a taste of what this city has to offer and why it was successful in winning the bid for the UK City of Culture 2021. There is a unique sense of adaptation and reconciliation running through the heart of the city, and its history and ingenuity are the foundations. Being heavily bombed during World War Two, Coventry became a template for what a future Britain should look like. Post war town planning meant that even today people enjoy its architecturally ‘Jetson’ like shopping centre and a road policy where cars and pedestrians share the same space! It all works surprisingly well and the old is blended with the new.

The sacrifice paid by the people of Coventry is always present, a reminder of what they went through, but also that there’s always a chance for peace. The spirit of reconciliation is evident throughout the city, and none more moving than the statue named ‘Reconciliation’ located in the ruins of what was the 14th century Gothic part of St. Michael’s Cathedral. An identical sculpture has been placed on behalf of the people of Coventry in the Peace Garden of Hiroshima, Japan.

reconciliation.JPG'Reconciliation' at Coventry Cathedral

Coventry is perhaps most famous for the legend of Lady Godiva, an 11th Century English noblewoman who reputedly rode naked through the streets of Coventry in a protest against taxation, and ‘Peeping Tom’ who was struck dead for watching her. So, whether you’re a history buff or a technology enthusiast (or even a trainee guide!), Coventry offers something for everyone, and pardon the pun, but you don’t have to be a ‘Peeping Tom’ to see this!

It’s hard to capture the true sense of Coventry without paying it a visit, it’s so different to anywhere I’ve visited in the UK. Beginning with its history and always looking ahead to the future, then add into the mix great art, technological achievement and prowess – the people, and their enduring strength and character are ready to welcome us all. I was surprised but left in no doubt why this great place is going to be the UK City of Culture 2021.

One more thing - make sure you try a Coventry God cake… it’s a local secret best served with a nice hot cup of tea!

If you or your group would like to enjoy a visit to Coventry as part of a tour of England or the UK, please do contact our friendly team today.

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