Spring Gardens

In the days of steam, when trains were still slow enough, many a traveller on the way to London to build a fortune or North Berwick to build a sandcastle would delight in the sight of the pigeons gamely racing against the engine as it slowly accelerated away from Edinburgh. By the time the train reached Spring Gardens, just at the end of Milton Street, the plucky birds would finally be matched for pace and whip round in a sharp turn for Waverley, ready to catch the next one.

That's why, out of the kind of generosity only an old-fashioned industry can afford, the British Railways Board decided to build a loft here for pigeons who had metaphorically as well as literally reached the end of the line. It's a huge overhead structure, running right across the street. Pigeons live in it to this very day, cooing in a unison which warps in and out like some strange machine, and having a go at the windscreens of private cars passing underneath out of an atavistic solidarity with their benefactor.

So if you're strolling this way on a rainy day, under the old line and along Abbeyhill, watch your step because pigeon turd and rainwater mix to form a truly remarkable lubricant, far better than anything Fidel Castrol's ever come up with, and entirely biodegradable!

As a matter of fact, that's not the only reason you should watch it if you're heading that way...

Alternatively, you can slip up Abbey Lane to see what's there, or dander further along Spring Gardens.

Recently, the motorists have been trying to get their own back on the pigeons by crashing into the wall and dislodging them. This tends not to be terribly efficient. More crafty motorists leave hubcaps lying in the middle of the road beneath the bridge. The pigeons mistake the hubcaps for satellite dishes and swoop down, unconstrained in their enthusiasm at the prospect of umpteen-channel entertainment, only to be find themselves flattened by the fiends.