The North Oxford canal skirts the top of Rugby and its outlying villages, creating a natural boundary to the town for about 5 miles. There are several places to moor but nothing special. The towpath quickly became a muddy skate park after the rain. However the official Rugby moorings at Brownsover had rings for 20 or so boats and access onto the “Black Path”. The Black Path got its name because it was originally a cinder track built so the workers could get to work over the extensive rail tracks. It’s now a well maintained tarmac route 20 minutes walk into the centre of town.
Closer to the visitor moorings is a selection of retail parks with a big Tesco, Cineworld, several other very useful big stores. But our shopping now is focused on getting the essentials unless it’s at an event like the Rugby Food festival.
By the time we’d done the rounds and tasted the samples we felt like we’d been on a truely international gourmet tour and gained several pounds.
And whilst we were exploring Rugby we took the town walking tour and were amazed to see just how many interesting things have happened in Rugby. As always we thoroughly recomend taking walking tours, this one is free and runs twice a week from the library.
The most obvious claim to fame is that Rugby is where rugby originates from. Of course there were many variations of ‘football’ but in 1823 William Webb Ellis went down in the history books as being the first man to run with the ball. There are statues and commemorative plaques throughout the town.
But all are diminished by Rugby school itself which dominates and enhances the town. It started in 1567 to serve the needs of the poor boys within 10 miles of the Rugby. Times have changed!
Rugby’s literary heritage is also celebrated throughout the town with ‘comfy’ sofa’s and piles of books to read scattered around the many parks however they’re all made out of concrete so not so inviting after all.
But Rugby isn’t all about games and leisure, there was a strong industrial and engineering presence in the locality. Notably it’s where Sir Frank Whittle worked on the prototype of the jet engine in the 1930’s. Before the townsfolk objected to the noise. And Rolls Royce is not that far away at Antsy.
The midlands rail network built up significant depots and workshops here but despite Rugby being where the countries radio time signal was transmitted with the iconic radio masts (now demolished) the trains always had a reputation for not running on time.
My personal favourite of Rugbys productivity is that Mr Kipling had a bakery here. This roundabout has floral cupcakes adorning it in memory of an accident some years ago when the delivery lorry had an accident and tipped over spilling cake everywhere.
Sadly my account of Rugby seems to be in the past tense as all the large companies are no longer here. Warehousing and distribution centres now dominate the outskirts with manufacturing units being demolished in favour of housing estates. Thankfully the town centre seems to have retained enough independence to make it still a pleasant place to wander around.