If you aren’t familiar with Walsgrave Hospital, there are some things you should know about it. It’s formally known as University Hospital Coventry, as it is a popular training location for many of the student nurses and doctors who study at both Warwick and Coventry University. It is the site where, 37 years ago in September 1985, I was born. Regrettably, as I type this, it is the location my Dad is stationed due to complications from COVID-19. Most relevant to this blog, it is also the spot of one of the UK’s most desirable street transitions.
The entrance to Walsgrave Hospital is a grand parade that stretches from the Coventry suburb of Walsgrave, and leads all the way up to the hospital entrance, and A&E wing. The road leading up to the entrance has a handful of roundabouts that lead off to variation sub-buildings and car parks, which makes driving in and out of the hospital really easy.
Every time I visit I am greeted by an old friend at the first roundabout on the drive into the hospital – a giant, blue, cereal bowl shaped fountain. If you park up, cross the road and climb up into this fountain you will find a crusty, green, remarkable transition. It’s easily the best spot in Coventry, and perhaps one of the best street transitions in the country.
I mentioned that I’ve been visiting my Dad in hospital – and without going into detail it’s been an incredibly tough time. Seeing this crusty old concrete oddity sticking out of a roundabout has raised a smile at a time when smiles are hard to come by. I saw pictures of Lucas Healey, Joxa, Ryan Price and others skating it over the past few weeks and honestly it’s reminded me that life does indeed go on. Hospitals aren’t the nicest places, and having this reminder of the good times in your life greet you on arrival to a place often associated with tough moments softens the blow somewhat.
Walsgrave is, quite honestly, a dream spot for many of us. The transition is easy to skate, but the deadly drop on the other side of the coping makes any trick instantly amazing, and the fountain’s wide, circular shape means it can be tackled by anyone who knows how to skate a quarter – mini ramp skaters can go back and forth, bowl skaters can cruise in circles like surfers, and street skaters can often barge straight onto their board, get a quick trick and come away feeling like Tony Trujillo. It’s a spot with endless stoke, and if it was in a skatepark I would skate it forever.
As a street spot, it is infamous for being a bust and attracting a lot of negative attention from the drivers passing by. Its distance from the actual hospital building usually grants you at least 20 minutes skating, whilst security walk down from the building to kick you off. If you get lucky they won’t notice until you’ve been there for about 45 minutes. If you’re unlucky, nosy passers by will tip security off to your antics before you’ve even had a chance to warm up. It’s worth it though: there’s no other spot like it in the city and the transition is more fun than any legitimate quarter pipe at any of the city’s skateparks.
Morbid once told me that he had been inspired by Walsgrave when talking to Canvas about the spine at Leamington. Whilst it isn’t exactly the same, it’s the closest I have come to skating something like Walsgrave in a skatepark. It doesn’t have the same risk of danger and illicit undertones as skating a giant blue fountain on display for half of Coventry, but I can understand and appreciate the comparison. More quarter pipes need to be built like the fountain at Walsgrave, and I’m surprised no one else has tried to replicate the spot in other skateparks.
I’ve filmed a fair share of tricks at this fountain over the years – seeing the likes of Jim The Skin, Gaz Taylor, Joxa, Daryl Nobbs, Stan Byrne and even a young Lucas Healey skate the fountain has produced great footage, and I never get tired of seeing visitors skate there. People have travelled from all over the country to skate this concrete oddity: it’s appeared on the covers and pages of skateboard magazines, it’s cropped up in some of the biggest videos our country has to offer, and the big names who have ridden on it’s rough, green surface are like a who’s who of British Skateboarding.
It’s incredibly weird to think that a place that marks my entrance into this world is the location skateboarders from around the country plan to travel to. 37 years ago I was born early on a mid-September’s morning, and as I lay in a cot during my first day on this planet, Jim The Skin was probably Smith Grinding concrete coping merely metres away. If that’s the case, no wonder I found myself becoming a skateboarder. If more newborn babies knew what lay in that fountain they would be getting on a skateboard the minute they could walk.
Non-skaters don’t get it. There are people who have driven hours just to skate this fountain (and nothing else). Its allure is hard to describe. Its appeal seems nonsensical to anyone who doesn’t skate. Over Christmas last year, the hospital placed giant Christmas trees in it, rendering it impossible to skate – and many genuinely thought that the spot was done for good. Even still, with the work that appears to be going on around the fountain, it might be on borrowed time.
In an ideal world, Coventry City Council would take this fountain, stick it on the back of a lorry, bring it to the Memorial Park and plonk it down next to the skatepark. It’s too good a skate spot to let it die out. We don’t live in an ideal world, however – so, for now, I implore you to travel to Coventry, and check out this rare, obscure, outdated bit of brutalist architecture, and skate the best street transition my home city has to offer.