I had an interesting varied time last week researching ahead of some of my upcoming walks and talks. A lot of my offerings will involve the history of the Coventry Canal and associated industries. I spent some time on Monday talking to Sukhi and Sab at the Sinclair Tea Rooms on the canal basin planning for launching local history cafes there from January.
On Tuesday I had an invite via Peter of the Coventry Society to listen to some architecture students' presentations regarding historical buildings in Coventry. A couple of weeks previously whilst volunteering at the Priory Visitors Centre (site of Coventry's first Cathedral and associated Benedictine Priory destroyed in the reformation under Henry VIII) I had discussed some of the site's history in a short interview with a group of Coventry University students. My input was a small part of their extensive research including previous visits to the site and an exploration of numerous sources. Their final product was an impressive presentation including a physical model of the buildings and discussion of how the history, use and environment of the building had influenced its architecture. All of the presentations of the day included discussions on changing uses of historic buildings and sustainability which was refreshing to hear.
The theme of sustainability and evolving use of local buildings and structures is one that I have a particular interest in and recurs around the use of canal side buildings (e.g the Electric Wharf regeneration using recycled materials from the site and maintaining the character of the industrial heritage whilst adapting to new uses.)
On Wednesday I paid a visit to the City Archives office for some research on the coal fields of Wyken, their rail links to the canal and subsequent uses of those sites. I learnt that the access shaft to the Craven Colliery (between Henley Road (towards the Woodway Lane end) and the River Sowe had become a dumping place for domestic waste in the 1930s following the closure of the colliery after the general strike of 1926. The sixty yard deep shaft was transformed into landfill - years ahead of the later landfill site just to the south of the river accessed via Wyken Croft (now resculpted and managed as a nature park). Other documents bundled into the archive I was looking at outlined permissions given for the dumping of household and industrial waste at other sites previously used in the extraction industries (e.g. shaft of Alexandria Colliery just to the north of the Craven site and the use of the quarry (Stony Stanton Rd / Leicester Causeway area) as a dump for industrial waste. I have been getting the impression that there could be quite a toxic cocktail below the surface of our city - whilst we continue to churn out waste at an increasing pace.
Alternatives to landfill are obviously necessary and small steps locally are helping to address this. An early part of my daily routine is to visit the Coventry Freegle website - https://trashnothing.com/ where goods of all descriptions are donated freely rather than going to landfill. Friday saw my stint as a volunteer at the Real Junk Food Project which saves good food which would otherwise go to landfill being directed instead into nutritious, tasty meals at the Pay as You Feel Cafe. You may find this every Friday at Foleshill Baptist Church Hall Broad Street - you will find good company, an affordable meal and play your part in reducing the dumping of perfectly good produce. Details at: http://www.therealjunkfoodprojectcoventry.org/