These woodlands run alongside the Kenilworth Road from the centre of Coventry to its modern boundary, providing a magnificent entrance into our historic city. The beauty of the route has long been appreciated. 19th Century guidebooks describe the avenue of oaks and the view of Coventry's spires. Now part of a Conservation Area, designated in 1968, the woodlands are preserved for the enjoyment of future generations.
The woodlands include Wainbody Wood, a mixed woodland of 70 acres and Stivichall Common, 45 acres of deciduous trees on former common land. Connecting these woods is the Kenilworth Road Spinney - a narrow belt of trees lining the road on both sides for nearly two miles.
There are many opportunities for pleasant walks through the interesting woods which are rich in history as well as wildlife.
Commons remained unenclosed for part of the year and could be used by ordinary people. They included Michaelmas lands (arable fields), Lammas lands (meadows) and Wastelands. The wastes were open all year round as pasture for plough-oxen and other animals of the villagers.
Traces of the original three rows of oaks planted in the 18th Century can still be seen on the Common. Lime, recognisable by its heart-shaped leaves and reddish buds, produces flowers which attract bees with their nectar and is used to make a pleasant tea (the tea-bush is a related plant). Other trees to be seen are beech, silver birch, sycamore, a few rowans, hornbeam and Lombardy poplar.
Hawthorn was thought to be supernaturally powerful against evil - the white flowers (May blossom) were used in May Day celebrations. The berries ripen in October and are eaten by many birds such as thrushes, robins and chaffinches.
Shrubs present include holly, elder, crab apple and planted rhododendron bushes.
There is a deep depression on the corner of Beechwood Avenue and Kenilworth Road (locally known as the Devil's Dungeon) which is the remains of an old stone pit. An interesting garden wall made of old gravestones bounds one portion of the Common. Flowers on the Common include willowherb, bluebells and lesser celandine - a small plant with long-stalked heart-shaped leaves and star-like yellow flowers in spring.
Canley Ford was the old road to Allesley and leads down to the old ford. The trees bordering it are mainly oak and near the Hearsall Golf Course is a hollow oak with wooden blocks nailed inside for climbing. Hawthorn and thick patches of young elm dominate the shrub layer. Many large elms once grew on the Common but none remain - many were removed in 1975/6, as they were victims of Dutch Elm disease. Elm has an oval-shaped leaf with a toothed edge, pointed tip, uneven base and rough surface.
A local group called the Friends of Canley Ford was formed in 1993. They have been responsible for the care and management of two meadows at the lower end of Canley Ford, carrying out tree planting and wild flora management.
The largest oak on the Common is along here (girth 15'10'') and nearby is an old milestone. Nearby is a large plane tree, at least 170 years old. It is easily recognised by its dappled bark, which is formed as segments of olive-brown bark flake away, revealing a creamy-white patch beneath. Bark shedding helps the tree breathe in smoky atmospheres. It has sycamore-like leaves and round 'bobbles' which dangle from long stalks and are made up of clusters of tiny green flowers from which seeds develop.
The bridge was built in 1842 to take the new Coventry to Leamington railway. The railway company met with opposition from landowners, including Lord Leigh and Mr A F Gregory, who considered it unnecessary. The Gregory coat of arms is on both sides - the one on the memorial side includes the arms of his wife. Near the bridge is an old animal pound, first recorded in 1663.
The Stivichall hamlet was bought by the Council in 1929 for preservation and includes a smithy, several cottages and other listed buildings.
These spinneys border the road from the city boundary to Kenpas Highway.
Burnt Post (now the name of the nearby pub) is where the footpath from Earlsdon Avenue ends on the Kenilworth Road. It was previously called Bourne Post and is thought to refer to a post marking the spot where a small brook ran across the road.
Gibbet Hill at the junction of Kenilworth and Stoneleigh Roads gets its name from an incident in 1765. A farmer and his two friends, returning from Coventry market, were attacked by three armed men and robbed and left senseless - the farmer later managed to reach a house but died there of his injuries. The main clue (a piece of pistol) led to the arrest of two soldiers and a weaver. They were tried, convicted and hanged and their corpses suspended in chains on the spot of the murder. Lord Leigh ordered trees to be planted around the site of the gallows. The gibbets were not removed until 1810 and for years afterwards, the superstition remained that the chains could be heard rattling, especially during stormy weather.