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~~~Coventry War Memorial Park.~~~
The War memorial park is situated just outside Coventry city Centre, and is a wonderful wide open space, in the middle of the urban sprawl. At roughly 121 acres in size, it really is a wonderful place to escape to; spend a day with the kids here; it's excellent for dog walking and even a quick break during your lunch hour if you work in the city.
The park was opened in July 1921 as a tribute to the 2,587 people of Coventry who died fighting in the First World War. Coventry Council bought the land from the Lords of the Manor, when it was just a grassed area that once formed Styvechale common, and was part farmland and part woodland.
Over the following years, various facilities have been developed including the War Memorial, which was erected in 1927. The Memorial is around 90 feet high, and is the most prominent feature of the park. After a public appeal among the local people raised £5,000, a huge sum in the 1920's, a competition was set up for a design for the War Memorial. It was consequently won by an architect called Mr. Ticker, and was built by a Mr. Gray who built many more buildings of this nature, and housing, in and around the local area.
Built in Portland stone, it is silvery grey in colour, and seems very majestic during the day. At twilight though, this building is floodlit, from the base, and seems to glow with a silvery light. It has just undergone a major facelift (details further on in this review), and the stones have been cleaned and repaired, and all essential work undertaken, to make sure it stands as testament to the bravery of all soldiers, not just ones killed in the First World War.
Inside the Memorial is a room called the Chamber of Silence. Rather movingly, this is only open on the anniversary of Remembrance Sunday, to enable the public to view the 'Roll of the Fallen', books listing all of the Coventry men who were killed in the two World Wars and even as recently as the Gulf War. I can't find out anywhere if the Afghanistan War fallen are included in the tributes, but I look forward to finding out, when I pay my respects in November. I shall update this review accordingly.
During the latter 1920's and 30's more additions were made, and the landscaped gardens, tea rooms, pavilions and sports areas, were created. During this period the park became the location for the Coventry Carnival Gala Day, which still survives today as the Godiva Festival.
~~~Restoration and Refurbishment~~~
In more recent history, work started in August 2010 on a multi-million pound refurbishment project for the park, involving about 30 different projects taking place around the park over a ten month period.]The work has being funded by a £2.8 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and the Big Lottery Fund, together with extra money from Coventry City Council. This has enabled most of the facilities that were built nearly ninety years ago, be restored, for use by further generations of Coventrians, and visitors alike.
In addition the many plans I've seen accomplished, there should have been a vandalised shelter converted into a plant sales shop, and an artist who should be based in the park to capture the different seasons. As yet, I haven't seen evidence of either, that's not to say they are not there, just that I haven't seen them.
~~~The Park Today~~~
A perimeter path lies just inside the park's boundaries, and makes for a lovely walk with a dog, or a smooth bike ride for the kids. The parks amenities include football pitches, bowling greens, tennis courts, a water play section, a brand new children's adventure play area, an aviary for small birds, and a skate board area, but it mainly comprises large open green areas with many trees and shrubs. Underneath each tree, is a plaque celebrating the life of a fallen solider, and the role they played in the war effort. It can be quite moving and humbling to read these, and a reminder, how fragile life it, and that we should all get along.
In the centre of this huge, wide open park, is the subject of every child's dreams. A further grant of £50,000 (on top of the £4 million already given) was awarded in February this year, to create a new under-8s play area in the park. Now, very nearly completed, there are several zones to this area: a toddler's playground, and an over 3 or 4's adventure area, with climbing frames, monkey swings, and all sorts of fun playground items; all brand new and (looks to be) made from sustainable wood, a huge improvement to the dated metal frames that were there before. Another update safety wise, is the new addition of sandy flooring, this will hopefully prevent a good few accidents from happening, as being a softer surface to fall onto. It's also great fun for sandcastles, and makes a great alternative to a day out at the seaside, especially in conjunction with the wet play area.
The Water Park is cordoned off during school time, but is open every day during the Whitsun and the extended summer holidays. There is fencing surrounding it, and one way in and out so you can be sure your kids are safe while in there. The water is treated frequently, and tested to make sure it's safe from diseases and bacteria such as Legionnaires Disease. The children are admitted one by one, after disinfecting their feet, and then they are set free to go wild in the water jets, sprays and fountains. The kids love this and their little faces light up, but even the most diehard kids come out shivering and with blue lips after playing in here for its one hour session, even in the hottest temperatures of the midday sun. The water is then treated, and the process begins again. The half an hour or so in between sessions is the perfect time for them to dry off, have something to eat and get ready to go again. Oh to be a child again.
The cafe on site provides sandwiches and snacks, drinks and ices at reasonable prices. I can't give an exact price list, because during the summer, we tend to take a picnic, and buy an ice cream of the van that's parked close to the play area. We usually make use of the cafe more in the winter, when we can grab a cuppa to warm up before heading home. Seating is available both inside and outside the cafe.
Benches are rather scarce in the park; there are seats but generally only by the playground area, and nine times out of ten, already occupied. There are ample, wide open, green spaces, so I like to take a picnic blanket and make use of that.
Despite the huge site of the park, the only toilet facilities I've found are in the cafe block and around the back. They are not the nicest or the freshest toilets to go in, and when the kids have been playing in the water park area, they can get quite slippery underfoot, so beware. They are also a lack of them, three cubicles in the ladies, but I can't testify for the men's. The massive queues outside on a hot, sunny day when the park is busy, means they should have utilised some of the the funding and supplied more, or better, facilities here in the first instance.
~~~Getting Here and Parking~~~
I don't actually live within the city, so I'm not sure of the local bus services. I do know however, that the Coventry Train Station is within a ten minute walking distance of the park boundary, and vice versa. The main car park is a large tarmacked area with access from Kenilworth Road, and contains free parking for more than 400 cars. A Park and Ride Scheme also operates between this car park and Coventry city centre. There are also two much smaller car parks on Coat of Arms Bridge Road on the southern side of the park, and another small car park near the northern end of Leamington Road. These have both been recently resurfaced, and more car parking places added.
In my opinion, the Memorial Park still stands as wonderful testament to those brave souls who lost their lives fighting for King (or Queen) and Country. The fact that has not been built upon for housing and the like, proves to me how much esteem these people are still held in. I make a twenty five mile round journey to visit this park, at least twice a month, despite the rising petrol costs. Why? Because it's worth it, it's a wonderful park, with lots to enjoy for all ages. Bowling for the pensioners, playgrounds for the little ones, and everyone in between are catered for here.
My family love it here, and I recommend taking a visit whatever the time of year - in spring, and summer the flower beds are always a sight to behold, and come autumn, the changing of the colours of the leaves, make it even more lovely. In winter, it's made even more enjoyable when it's cold and frosty and you can have a hot chocolate and a cake in the cafe, before heading home. The only blot on the landscape is the toilet facilities but I can (just) forgive it that. A family friendly day out that's free. :o)
Many thanks for reading my review. I do hope it has been of some use to you.
This review is also posted on Ciao, with photos.