Posts Tagged ‘Eagle Rec’

Imaginary Dogs

April 29, 2015

My dogs are away from home at the moment – they are in France with Andrew and Bella.

triangulated dogs
Le chezeau – newly mown grass and three dogs,

dogs with a plan
where they make their doggy plans,

red oak in spring 2
– and enjoy the spring.

Here in Leamington, meanwhile, I knock on busy people’s doors and interrupt their daily lives to ask them to think about politics.  They are remarkably polite (on the whole) considering we catch them when they’ve just got in tired from work; or they’re trying to cook a meal; or get the kids’ homework done.

I still join my dog-walk in the mornings though: wouldn’t be without the lively conversations and the fresh air on the Eagle.  “Where’s your dogs?” they say.
“Oh, I’m walking imaginary dogs,” – I’m bored with truths.  I have to walk imaginary dogs.  This morning we were talking about a bloke we have all met on the canal path at some time or other.  Big bloke. Tattoos. Scary-looking mastiff-type dog, with a blank white face, always held tight on a short chain lead.  They’re OK though – the bloke is friendly and chatty.  He’s worked in ‘security’ (meaning he’s a bouncer) and he’s a medium, and a ghost-hunter.  He does tours of haunted houses for the public, and he can ask ghosts to leave with a quick prayer.  (Sounds a bit like his day job, only gentler.)  He is utterly, utterly sincere.

I find that I might be walking ghost dogs.
“Yesterday,” I tell my friends, “I was actually walking Morgan.”
“But she ran off, ” says Tim.
Morgan the rescue greyhound, was always in search of a bin-related snack, and had to be chased through the back alleys over and over again.  She could rip open a black bag in no time flat – you’d be amazed how many people throw out chicken carcasses still with loads of meat on them!  She went back to it day after day.  It wasn’t a great thing to do – she had to spread the rubbish fairly widely sometimes, to get to the best bits.  And she knew those little back alleys so well – she could scoot round a corner and be gone in a flash.  She was a younger person’s dog, and excellent exercise – I doubt I could sustain the pace these days.

CNV00020– a slightly skulking manner –

Of course, she too grew old, and didn’t sustain the pace either.


So often when we talk about dogs, the conversation veers towards death.  I am grateful to them for that.

Tomorrow I think I’ll walk Patch.

Birdwatching on the Rec

January 26, 2014

Never underestimate the common sparrow – she is a beautiful bird, and very clever –

Isn't she cute?

Isn’t she cute?

We walk around the Rec with our dogs nearly every day (holidays and times when it is too full of people excepted), and have done now since we had our first rescue dog.  (Morgan, a greyhound from the Dogs’ Trust, who came to us in 1997.)

Dog walking is an all-weather sport, but luckily so is bird watching.  I’m good at seeing birds – but my other half is really excellent at identifying them.  Birdwatching seems to be something that crosses all the traditional barriers of class, race, age and gender – so it’s ideal for our eclectic Eagle Rec.  Sadly I seem to be handicapped by my nationality: I grew up in a different country.  I really struggle to ID those SBBs (small brown birds) so the attached list is very much thanks to my husband and to other people who love to watch the birds on the Rec: Linda, Fergus, Tim are just a few. No doubt there are many others who watch the crows raise their broods, and startle when an unusual sea bird is blown in on a gale.

Here’s Andrew’s list:

Song Thrush
Mistle Thrush
Blue tit
Great tit
Long-tailed tit
Green Finch
Pied Wagtail
House Sparrow
Wood Pigeon
London Pigeon
Collared Dove
Sparrow Hawk
Carrion Crow
Common Gull

(That’s 26 species of bird resident or regular in season on the Rec).
You would expect to see (and hear) in summer, the Green Woodpecker; the Willow Warbler and the Garden Warbler.  Has anyone seen them here?
also spotted (rarely):

We are just waiting for the Red Kites to arrive in a year or so, as they move gradually northwards.

Last autumn we were mesmerised by the huge flocks of starlings – the murmurations – that rose up every evening for a week or more, spectacularly turning and wheeling to avoid the sparrow hawk.


The Eagle Recreation Ground

January 5, 2014

“ A tiny slice of the Rec”

Word has it that the Council is planning to build housing on the edge of the Rec in Old Town: the Eagle Rec, near the Rangemaster factory.

On paper, this looks sensible: people need homes and we need to build.

On the ground, however, we fear that this development will demolish a lovely mixed stand of birches, limes and other trees, which form a fundamental part of the amenities of the Rec.  The limes in particular are fine trees.

One of the footpaths onto the Rec runs between Rangemaster and the little Victorian terrace houses of Eagle street

One of the footpaths onto the Rec runs between Rangemaster and the little Victorian terrace houses of Eagle street.  See how the trees welcome the passerby!


They are beautiful: everyone who walks a dog; who jogs the circuit or plays a ball game; who sinks an illicit can of beer, benefits from these trees.  People with little or no garden can enjoy the changing seasons, and surprisingly many people watch the bird life.

Silver birches in winter

Silver birches in winter

Children play in and around them in the summer – as a kind of extension of the playground nearby. 

Even in winter they provide a screen.

Even in winter they provide a screen.


Visually, they provide the idea of a boundary, separating the recreations of the Rec from the workaday world of the town.  They raise our eyes upwards.  Even so, it’s a safe, open space – nobody is skulking there, or up to no good.  They would be seen.


Clouds in a winter dusk

Clouds and trees in a winter dusk, tall blocks of flats between them, and Rangemaster to the right

Build by all means, but devise a way of keeping the trees as well.  How hard can it be?


Walking the Eagle

September 28, 2010

It’s only a short walk from our house to the Eagle Recreation Ground, where the dogs can run freely. We go there nearly every day, via a short quiet street of new-ish development, past the flats and through a clanking metal kissing gate, onto a canal path, then over the footbridge, past the ugliest building in Leamington (and possibly the whole of the Midlands, for its size), and onto the green, littered spaces of the Eagle. 

Today: the canal path.  It passes under a railway bridge and a footbridge.  For years men in grey suits came from time to time, and looked earnestly at the railway bridge from underneath.  They made notes on their clipboards.  There came a time (am I remembering this correctly?) when they wore bright yellow hard hats: the uniform of the engineer.  The bridge was being watched.  You could hear the drivers throttling down, and crossing the bridge on dead slow – another sign of mistrust. 

Passenger trains were on their run-in to Leamington station, but some were massive freight trains that took ages to cross.  Those huge blank-sided freight cars that look as if they are secretly transporting nuclear waste rumbled heavily past in endless lines, or else there were flat-beds filled with cars, or the long chains of exotically-named containers (orange Hapag Lloyd, grey Maersk,), bringing a whiff of the ocean deep into our Midlands. 

 I felt well justified in running through under the bridge if a train was coming, and found myself thinking in newspaper headlines (‘Freak Bridge Collapse’ or ‘Dog Walker Killed’).  A train that fell through the bridge would drop a carriage, slanting down, jagged and awkward.  It was always a plunging carriage that my mind’s eye offered, never a locomotive.  And of course it would be the gruesome deaths and the injuries to the passengers that would be reported, not the dead dogs underneath.  We would be small fry to them.  

the Tay Bridge disaster -

Primitive gothic  images of  rail disasters flickered in my mind.

Superstitiously – that primitive belief in sympathetic magic – I tried not to think these thoughts, in case they brought bad luck and actually made the bridge collapse.  Then my son started to be afraid of trains: he was lying awake at night, listening for them, and it turned out that he actually knew the timetable – knew when to expect them.  Goodness knows how long that had been going on for.  How long does it take a nine-year old to detect these things?  So I had to start to conceal my fear – maybe I had created his.  Long afterwards, out at the stables where I rode, my horse started to refuse to go under the railway bridge there.  One day I tried to make him go underneath it while a train was crossing, and he bolted with me.    A complex and humiliating experience – matter for another day. 

Then the day came when workmen arrived, tearing up the Eagle to make a road, ripping out the fine lime tree that stood by the railway line, cutting through the pleasant bank of silver birches that gave the Rec its sense of privacy and enclosure. 

 I chatted to workmen – they were busy but friendly.  The bridge was being replaced – they needed the road the bring through the biggest crane in (somewhere – the world? The Northern hemisphere?  The UK?)  Anyway, it was going to be enormous. 

monster crane

The change could only happen on Christmas day as that’s the one day of the year when the line could feasibly be closed.  They would work all night and in twenty-four hours it would be running again.  It felt like something from myth – a heroic feat of co-ordination and planning, of skill and machinery and sheer manpower.  And on Christmas Day, too, that central mythic moment of the turning year.  Would the crows or the odd late rat speak to them as they worked? 

“That’ll be good overtime” I said, not wanting them to claim too much martyrdom.  “Quadruple?”

“Oh, more than that,” they happily replied. 

“But what about all the destruction?  This damn road?”  I was starting to feel more accepted – courageous.

“That’ll all be put back, good as new.  That’s part of the contract.” 

“You can’t put that tree back – they take fifty years to get to that height.”  It had been at least ten feet around the base, and the stump had a raw desperate look that made me feel sad and angry, both at once.

They weren’t embarrassed – something else could grow there.

It was exciting then: to have this inside information.  I planned to go out late on Christmas Eve and then early Christmas morning.  Such a marvel of engineering doesn’t often happen locally.

Late, in the dark and cold, all that very still evening, their arc lights made the scene brilliant.  It wasn’t even very noisy.  The canal path was roped off, and so they were working in the distance, tiny yellow figures clambering about on their coldly-lit stage, and the crane moving infinitely slowly through its parabolas of lifting and lowering.  Dismantling was taking a very long time. 

Xmas Eve demolition

slow demolition

Christmas being what it is, I didn’t actually get up quite in time to see the climactic moment when there was a gap – when the bridge was down and nothing at all could cross it.  It must have happened around five in the morning, I guess.  By the time I was there again, great dark green pieces of metal were being tenderly swung into place, and already it was anticipating completion.

lowering gently - seen through wire mesh

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