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Lawford Heath
 Last updated:
22/11/14

 
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This page is about the area I used to live, Lawford Heath, Rugby, Warwickshire in the United Kingdom.
 

Topics include:

 
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This is a map of the area documented on this page.
 
Click on it for a larger picture - the blue dot shows the location of the old air field buildings and the orange one shows the location of Satellite Media Service.

 

● The Ryelands
 
I moved to The Ryelands in Lawford Heath (Warwickshire, England) in October of around 1989, I was 7 at the time I think, and moved away in 2002 at the age of 20.

It is and was at the time a housing estate on the outskirts of Rugby with approximately fifty houses, originally 2 and 3 bedrooms, a park/playing field, wildlife park and surrounded mostly by fields.

"Lawford Heath--The Ryelands
Previously called The Circle, this was Ministry of Defence Housing for the Airmen and their families based at nearby RAF Church Lawford. The Base closed in the 1960s and part of it developed as an Industrial Estate, the rest is Ling Hall Quarry. These houses remained empty but well maintained for about 15 years until they were bought by Rugby Borough Council."

www.geograph.org.uk/photo/196673

 
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This map illustrates the area as it was before I moved there. Circled in red is the Ryelands.

It was called The Circle before I moved there, presumably because the shape of the road running through the estate closely resembled a circle. I would then presume that calling it a circle wasn't all that accurate so it was changed to The Ryelands. I don't know where this name came from. The spelling of the name then changed a number of years later to Rylands (omitting the e). I believe this was because it was spelt that way on the national database of addresses but the signs at the end of the street were spelt with the e. This would cause an issue for example when trying to order something by telephone or credit card because of a "wrong" spelling. In the end I guess the easiest solution was for the council to change the signs!
 

 

● The Park and Beyond
 
I remember going with my parents to look at the house, but all I can remember was the park and the bushes - I was in the den-building frame-of-mind at the time and Lawford Heath had my imagination running wild! I also remember the old war bunker and its aeroplane on display in the grounds - this site is now Satellite Media Services.

The park at the time consisted of a set of swings, a football pitch with goal "boards" made from old railway sleepers (from the old railway line that used to run close by), two wooden climbing frames made from old telegraph poles, a large mound of mud and a small stone ramp for riding bikes up. In later years actual goal posts were put in front of the boards (I remember climbing and swinging on them as they weren't too firmly in the ground), a slide was added next to the swings and then a "wiggly" climbing frame added later still. The mound was a great place to ride bikes up and down, play with toy vehicles, dig and ride sledged down when we had snow, but it was later shaped and turfed. A number of years later some kids managed to set fire to one of the wooden climbing frames, these were then taken down and the area flattened, then foundations were begun to put in place for a "community hut" and the top soil was added to the back of the turfed mound. The building never materialised and the now larger mound was used to fill in the foundation hole and a tarmac basketball court was erected. It was used occasionally (I whizzed round it on a skateboard every once in a while) but it suffered some of the vandalism that had become more frequent over the years. A assault course-style metal climbing frame was also erected around this time.
 

I built many dens during my childhood. As children we (my brothers, sister and friends) weren't really allowed anywhere other than the park but we would always sneak off into the Back Field, Wildlife Park, or further a field. Some of these dens were on the ground in bushes, up trees or even under the ground. The best time of year building or developing a den was just before bonfire night when a heap of wooden pallets and doors would materialise in the middle of the park. After the event we would collect the nails left over from the blaze. We never meant any harm when den building, but our parents were always concerned, especially with the underground bases. We were often innocently committing such crimes as could be labelled as trespassing, vandalism and even arson - in the colder months of later years we became fond of building dens that had fireplaces. Again, we were just young and exercising our imagination and ingenuity.

During one period of den building and digging we found an old gas mask (see picture to the right), very much corroded but such an exciting thing to find.

 

Looking back at how the park was developed or "councilefied" over the years, its additions would be there to suppress such youthfulness. We were always looking for things to do, if I was ever bored during the summer holidays I would always be told to go and find something to do. That something was supposed to be riding bikes on the park, playing football, or playing on the swings and slide. This would never do for us, we wanted adventure and that's what we created. Nowadays parks have to be safe, meet legislation this, avoid red-tape that. What you end up with is cotton wool-rapped children who most likely lack imagination and ingenuity and probably something else less definable. Playing as we did taught us our limits. Sure we occasionally got a little bruised or grazed, but nothing serious and nothing I would consider doing more damage to ourselves that not being able to play as we did in the first place.

I don't want to get into the whole "children of today" argument, but at this time I never smoked, drank, played with fireworks or threatened anyone with a knife. It wasn't in our nature. I remember one parent of another child who was younger than me, getting cross with me for getting up to no good... her son later grew up to get into far more trouble than me, drink and smoke from an early age.

There used to be (before I moved there) some buildings on the park, possibly garages from what I was told, but all that were left when I moved there were the flat concrete bases. There were possibly dug up or covered over when the basketball court was built. There were also similar concrete foundations in the Back Field and one in the Wildlife Park that were probably once stables as that was what the patch was called.

I can vaguely remember back to when I first move to the Ryelands and the bus shelter was a metal structure, this was taken down and later replaced with a brick hut. This was gradually vandalised - mainly suffering broken roof tiles but this has been mostly patched up now.
 

 

● The War
 
The main part of my interest in the area now is its links to World War II. Lawford Heath had an airfield (the area is apparently and technically classed as Church Lawford).

The runways were mostly still there when I moved to the area but were later dug up and the area is now Ling Hall Quarry - click here for a map I found of the site.

Some of the buildings including the control tower still remain but in an empty and derelict condition. Some of the buildings were/are used for storage by a farmer.

The old hangers sort of remain but became DK Packing which has greatly developed them, if not replaced them. To the left is an old aerial photograph (borrowed from www.dkp.co.uk) of what we always called the industrial estate. If you click on it you can see my labelled version.

I would guess from what I can see in the picture that it was taken around the mid '90s, maybe earlier.

 
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Aerial view of DK packing. Click it for a larger, labelled view where you can see what remains of the old airfield buildings, Satellite Media Services, and my old house!

 

Here are two pictures of the control tower and one of another building at the air field "Navigation Flight". They were taken by myself back in 1998/1999.

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*update* Below is how the control tower looks as of 2013/14. Much of the rail surrounding the top and balcony is missing, the windows are mostly unbricked it seems, and ivy has climbed the walls to the roof. The picture was provided with kind permission from a Dutch photographer, Theo Barten, in May 2014, who had contacted me regarding directions to the site. The site and picture will be featured along with others in a book titled All Along the Control Tower, which should be available in 2015. Further details are available at www.narwal.eu

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Here are a couple more pictures and further technical details: www.controltowers.co.uk/C/Church_Lawford.htm
 

A small structure which we always called "the bomb shelter" was apparently a "pill box". It is next to the Lawford Heath Lane between The Ryelands and The Crescent (another smaller housing estate). It was bricked up at one point but is now open again. There were always childhood stories of it going underground but later filled in with concrete. You can see another picture and more technical details at the following site:

http://timetrail.warwickshire.gov.uk/detail.aspx?monuid=WA3489

 
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This picture was taken by myself back in 1998/1999.

A major and "mystical" structure much talked about during my childhood is/was the Bunker - once known as Area 9.2. This area is now owned and has been greatly developed by Satellite Media Services - the intriguing mound has been flattened but the bunker is still there, with the grounds dotted with large satellite dishes. There was a rumour during my childhood that one of the residents at The Ryelands who's garden backed onto the Back Field, had discovered an entrance to an underground tunnel that led to the bunker - the tunnel apparently had some old hospital beds in. As a child my imagination jumped up a gear or two and I looked all around for such an entrance but sadly had no luck.

There is some additional information on the history of the bunker at the following site. It mentions that the bunker was used for illegal raves but I never heard of this, although there was some talk around the time of it being turned into a night club but due to the lack of (a) fire exit(s) this wasn't possible:

http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/sites/l/lawford_heath

Here are some photographs of the Satellite Media Services facilities. They were taken by myself back in 1998/1999 and at the time the site was being developed with new dishes being installed. Sadly the old structure was torn down and the mound flattened. As far as I'm aware the bunker still remains.
 

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A close-up of the old RAF bunker, used during the Second World War, and which was being renovated at the time of the photograph, and an even larger satellite dish being assemble behind it.
 
Sadly the structure and the mound are no more.
 
Click for a bigger pic A distant shot of the satellite dishes.
 
Click for a bigger pic A "distant" shot of the rear side of the bunker.
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Pictures showing the Satellite Media Service grounds from behind.
 
Click for a bigger pic Close-up of the two main satellite dishes, and a third being built.
 
Click for a bigger pic A "part-scan" of my magazine article mentioned below.

Whilst doing a bit of Googling, I discovered a document which appears to outline planning approvals and objections (raised at a meeting) for developments at the site during 1996 - 2000. The developments include the addition of new satellite dishes as photographed above, pergola walkway, entrance porch, landscaping and wildlife pond (I believe these developments have now been completed). Local residents raised a number of objections/concerns including the release of harmful radiation from such a site, but the Chief Environmental Heath Office "confirmed that the development will result in local residents being exposed to radio frequencies well below the accepted maximum levels of exposure. These exposures have been calculated and confirmed by site testing. Given this evidence the proposed development is not considered to be a health risk to local residents and complies with current guidance." Click here to view/download the document. Pages 28 - 30 contain the related information.

Other reminders of the war history are the numerous craters dotted around the landscape, most of which are now ponds/lakes and as such some are used for fishing.
 

For one of my high school history projects I wrote about the area and shortly after that I sent information and photographs of the area to UFO Magazine after seeing the "Secret Britain" article and I featured in a two page article in the January/February 1999 edition - one of my claims to fame!

www.ufomag.co.uk

Click here for a map of the area on Multimap and I recommend you click on the Aerial button.

 

I have some old maps of the area plus some more photographs that I may add in the future.

 
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Click the picture to see my scan of the UFO Magazine article I featured in back in 1999.

Some stories still crop up about the history of the air field, from people who were stationed at the site. One time during my childhood whilst playing in the old buildings, my friends and I met a gentleman who had been stationed at the air field and he told us that the air strips were rarely used and to pass the time there were motorcycle races round the air field (it is surrounded by a narrow lane) - we found in one of the buildings a sign which could have been used for such a race.

I discovered The Dropzone, a magazine/newsletter by Harrington Aviation Museum, in which Volume 5, Issue 1, February 2007, John Harding mentions his transfer as Leading Observer (Post instructor) of the R.O.C. (Royal Observer Corps) to Lawford Heath in 1953:

"[a] big event in the annual calendar was the annual camp that was always held at an RAF Station in the summer. Each camp was open for a period of five weeks and we could choose which week we wanted to attend. During the 1950s the RAF actually put up low flying jets (Meteors and F86 Sabres) so that we could report and plot them.

In 1953 I was appointed Leading Observer (Post Instructor) after the resignation of Ron Dodson. At that time our post was transferred from Bedford Group to Coventry Group whose HQ was actually located at Lawford Heath near Rugby. Eventually with ever increasing speeds, the plotting became more difficult and in June 1955 it was announced in the House of Commons that the Corps was to undertake a Warning and Monitoring role i.e. the plotting and reporting of nuclear bombs and fallout." Click here to see the whole publication.

The base was known during one period as Area 9.2. Also on the topic of plotting aircraft, at one time the base tracked an unidentified object. This was mentioned in UFO Magazine - I will have to see if I still have that issue.
 

 

 

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