A blog by LARA HAWORTH + LUCY HAYHOE
We walk circuits and circuits around the city, looking for signs of a national park. It is -1 degrees C, the sun glares with no bite: a distant, angry planet. We take 5-minute warmth breaks in the Belgrade Theatre toilets. We look out for signs of the natural, banging our hands together, seeing limestone cliffs in the scaly exteriors of student accommodations. We shake our heads, move on. We stop at the Tourist Information Office by the Cathedral, another warmth shelter. We flip through leaflets for car museums, hiding amongst real tourists, who ask questions like “Can you call us a hotel? £50 a night?” and “when is the train station?” Each time, they tear us off a map of the city from a big pad.
Wildness feels around the edges of the city, with hands. The concrete glitters like hardcore diamonds under the ice. We follow the river out of the back of Spon End. It ends in slush and thick mud and dead household objects, and disappears. Buddleia are suddenly everywhere, bobbing their heads above boarded off wastelands, sticking out the sides of pubs and car parks.
Slowly, a route emerges.
A natural history walking tour of Coventry.
Out of City Arcadia, round to the Belgrade Plaza wasteland, up in the glass lift to the top floor of the multi-storey carpark, which seems to float in cold cloud. This will be our hub, our visitor centre, panoramic outlook, nature wintered to brown all around the ring road. Across the plains to the north we can bring in deep time, somehow, we’re not quite sure how. Down again, round to the cathedral past some Old Red Sandstone, Lady Godiva’s news, the BBC, a noodle shop. Over and across the excavations, to the cathedral, then out again, across the big square, to Primark and the underground cavern, then round the back of KFC to the exposed metre of river. We pick our way through some construction work to its edge, flowing fast, healthily, through a brick culvert. A man drilling stops. “You didn’t know there was a river here, did you.”