The Country Park
I live in a village called Ruddington, part of the borough of Rushcliffe in Nottinghamshire.
The village itself dates back to Saxon times, though a recent excavation on the perimeter found stone arrowheads dating back to 1500 BC. Looking at certain members of some of the older families of the village, I can well believe they have been here that long. Two spring to mind immediately. They both have beards, long straggly hair and the wife of one of them has a fur coat.
Close by the arrowheads they found the remains of a Roman villa. Try as I might, I have yet to discover any of their distant relatives. No orgies have been reported in my lifetime.
Such is the gossipy nature of the village, that if as much as a threesome had been planned, the entire village would have heard of it before number three had taken his coat off. A full-blown orgy would have seen a horde of Ruddintonians peering through windows long before the participants got as far as second helpings.
Ruddington is home to the famous Framework and Knitters Museum. I have to shamefully admit that this is a place I have never visited. Maybe it’s the thought of those dark old satanic mills that puts me off, maybe it’s the anger I would surely feel when I saw the conditions those poor Victorian wretches had to work in. But mainly I think it’s because I would be bored rigid. Cotton and wool, whilst worthy commodities, do not do a lot for me.
The museum is situated just beyond the church in the centre of the red brick village. Ruddington may sound as if it is named after the colour of its soil, or the brickwork on show; but it is actually named after a Saxon called Rudda. The name Ruddington means “the homestead’ or ‘ton’ of the Ruddingas (Rudda’s people).
I believe an ex-village hairdresser is a direct descendent of Rudda. I’m sure she used an axe as a hair cutting tool, there is no way you could make it look that rough, using scissors.
Later the Danes arrived. They settled an area of the village called Easthorpe. I don’t know whether the customary pillaging took place, but there still seems to be plenty of their ancestors abroad on a Saturday night. Especially around Easthorpe Street; a thoroughfare that boasts 3 pubs and leads to the epicentre of village life: the chip shop.
By the time of the Doomsday book, Ruddington had managed to achieve a population of 250. They’ve been at it like rabbits since then apparently. The population now stands around 6,500.
Carry on past the museum and White Horse pub, veer right, head down Asher Lane and on the outskirts of the village, you will find the Rushcliffe Country Park.
The park is an area of land set aside for wildlife, family picnics, dog walkers, joggers, the occasional gypsy caravan and lovers. The latter being in such abundant supply that it wouldn’t be a total surprise to find the village population up around 10,000 ere long.
The park is built on the site of an old wartime munitions factory and storage centre. The vast sprawl of workshops and underground bunkers has long gone. Though some of the older gentlemen of the village claim to know where tons of armaments are still buried. ‘You wouldn’t get me up there walking around those fields’, is an often-heard warning, handed out freely over a dark pint and a game of dominoes in one of the seven public houses the village hosts.
My dogs love the country park. It’s the only place they would choose to go without me.
Only bits of it remain unexplored by them, a dozen or so fenced off little copse’s, the kid’s playground and the lake, (where they have to be kept on a leash)
The rest of the park is accessible to them and they access it with relish. Throughout the summer they charge about in the tall grass, instinctively flushing out birds, they cover every inch of ground. At times only their ears are visible as they bounce around in the fields. We regularly think they’ve gone AWOL, but suddenly a head appears on the horizon, we breathe a sigh of relief, and off we go again.
Their favourite place of all is that fabled, magical place of dog lore, Gibbie’s Wood.
We used to take them into Gibbie’s Wood a lot, but as they are developing the area, we’ve kept away for a while. My girls love it in there; they revel in the shadows, the smells, the crunch of old leaves under paw, the twisting paths and the sounds of birds and other creatures going about their business. There is a small pond where frogs and newts dwell, rabbit droppings are everywhere. It is doggy heaven and when (hopefully many years in the future) my dogs succumb to age or illness; I am going to enquire if a plot can be found for them somewhere in the wood. Failing that I’ll sprinkle their ashes in there.
Dotted round the park are a series of benches, some the usual park bench seat, many of them donated by relatives of the deceased, who had a favourite spot. Some are hand carved from fallen trees and have animals shaped into the design. There are squirrels, beavers, a crocodile and even a snake. My dogs won’t go anywhere near that, though they have never seen a live one.
The country park consists of a series of ‘walks’. Depending on fitness or mood, you could do the red walk, the blue walk, the yellow walk, or, if you’re feeling really energetic, the green walk. The latter would take a fit person and fitter dog, about an hour and fifteen minutes to complete. It takes you around the perimeter of the park, past fields of tall grass, a marsh, a wooded area, an open plain and finally, (Maisie’s delight), the rabbit fields at the back of the park keeper’s house.
I don’t know how many rabbits and hares call that place home, but it must number in the thousands. Maisie goes mad on those grasslands, she’s never managed to catch anything, they are all too quick for her and she wouldn’t know what to do with one if she did manage the impossible.
One evening she came flying out of the bushes chasing a hare; it zigzagged crazily across the field with Maisie in hot pursuit, tail up, ears a-flap, doing what she was bred to do. Then suddenly the hare changed the rules, swivelled round and ran toward Maisie, who screeched to a juddering halt. Franticly, she turned about face and fled back the way she had come, eventually reaching safety behind me, tail between her legs, as she peered through mine, to see if her terrible pursuer had gone.
Molly is a people dog. She loves to sniff the places they have been. Her nose takes her on trails along the main paths and often off into the fields. She is better than a condom at times. I’m sure Molly has single-pawedly, kept the Ruddington population explosion from becoming a problem. She finds young (and old) couples who mistakenly think they are above discovery as they enjoy the long, hot summer evenings without the burden of their clothes. I don’t know what it feels like to have a cold wet nose on your bare behind, but it seems to make people want to shout.