Rugby’s importance lies in its geographical position. A mere 9 miles to the NNW lies High Cross, an historical cross-roads of England, very close to the intersection of the Fosse Way and Watling Street, Roman routes which followed much earlier British ways. Later canal and railway paralleled the A5 (Watling Street) as far as Rugby before turning to the West. This sharp bend opened up routes to the north. The modern development of motorways has the M1 passing slightly to the east of Rugby, and, just to the north, the M6 and A14 connect with the M1 at Catthorpe Junction. none of which sounds very promising for a day on the bike, but Mark Jacobson was pleasantly surprised.
My wander on this bright sunny Sunday took me through the Cross in Hand to Magna Park, once I’d left the environs of my home town. Most of the warehousing was closed, although some poor souls were at work this Bank Holiday weekend. Cycling slowly through Magna Park can be a delight as the landscaping is really good, with even some wooded areas alongside the Lutterworth edges of this massive site; no need to wonder why it was named 'Magna’.
I had several routes from there through to Yelvertoft: the A5 directly to Gibbet Hill (only sensible if virtually no traffic), through to Lutterworth via Bitteswell or the A4303 cycle path, both leading directly from the Park, and then either through Swinford or Catthorpe by various lanes, avoiding most traffic. On entering Crick, beyond Yelvertoft, immediately by the A428 bypass is a newish cycle path which leads alongside a recent extension of DIRFT. On reaching the oldest part of DIRFT the cycle path is in fact the original footpath, narrow and with a very poor surface, only just of use if the traffic is heavy, but most of the time the roadway can be used, provided you are comfortable with roundabouts and HGV’s. One roundabout is below the M1, with fast-moving traffic descending the slip roads.
Midland's Plains DIRFTer
Magna Park is a 500 acre logistic centre located at the Cross in Hand junction of the A5, in Leicestershire. Created by a collaboration between the Church of England and Asda in 1988 it's built on the site of the former RAF Bitteswell. A pioneer of large distribution centres in the UK, it has good landscaping cloaking the massive warehouses, many up to 440 yards in length. Some of the tree require a lot more growth before the taller buildings are hidden! These taller buildings have horizontal graduated coloured bands of colour, so that, visually, the paler tone is lost in the clouds. In 2008 it was the largest distribution centre in Europe.
Coming to a newer section of DIRFT there is a beautifully wide well-made cycle path separated from the road by trees and a ditch. However, this suddenly comes to a concrete blockage which has resided there for a number of years. You have to retrace to the Sainsbury roundabout and join the road to continue towards Rugby. After about a quarter of a mile the county boundary is crossed and now you have the newest cycle path, beautifully made: this mile section took over two years to construct from the initial ground works, so I hope it will last. It links Houlton with Moors Lane, a back way into Hillmorton and on to the Rugby centre. However, I first turned off into the start of the Houlton estate for a coffee stop at the Tuning Fork.
The origin of the Houlton residential development is on the Rugby Radio Station site, from which the very first transatlantic voice transmission was sent in 1927, to the receiver in Houlton, Maine, USA, and hence the naming of the site and cafe! “6,200 Homes will be created in the verdant Warwickshire countryside with new schools and an excellent location. Set within 1,200 acres of beautiful open space." This was an unspoiled greenfield site, classified as brownfield because of its former use. The tall aerials have been removed and the few buildings demolished.
The Tuning Fork cafe is close to the A428 Crick Road and easily accessible by bicycle, while the rest of the site lies behind the boarded fencing, building in progress. Still, there is a housing shortage, so new homes must go somewhere.
Let's hope the cycling infrastructure is a bot more coherent.
MARK WORE THE NUMBER ONE IN THE BRITISH BROMPRIX AND DID HE NOT JUST LOOK THE PART!
DIRFT is the Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal, a rail-road freight transfer terminal with the associated warehousing estate in Northamptonshire. The facility is located at the junctions between the M1 motorway, A5 and A428 roads, 4 miles east of Rugby and 6 miles north of Daventry. It has a rail connection from the Northampton loop of the West Coast Main Line. The original development of approximately 300 acres was built during the 1990s. A further 130 acres received planning consent in 2005, and was designed to have all facilities rail connected – the first occupier of DIRFT2 was Tesco, whose distribution centre reached completion in late 2011. An additional extension, also rail connected, is now underway, reaching the Warwickshire boundary alongside the new Rugby residential development of Houlton. The older zones are not so well camouflaged as in Magna Park and the buildings are less well disguised.