31st August 2017


Meeting a Born again Swindonian

I wrote a blog and I liked it

Hello listeners. Well this is a nice thing. A week or so ago, a new feature writer on the Swindon Advertiser Tweeted out a photo taken on The Lawns. Being a helpful sort of a person – and yes, okay, ‘flog the blog’ is my mantra – I sent her a link to this here blog. The upshot of that being that I offered to show her some of the sights in the town centre area. Yes – I accept that parts of the town are not beautiful. But that doesn’t mean they’re not interesting.

I simply wanted to show someone how great Swindon is. But being a reporter she sniffed a story and it’s below. Ta da! Unbeknownst to me she must have spoken to Gavin Calthrop from Switch on to Swindon.  He said some super good things about me.  I won’t lie to you – it’s rather a pleasant feeling.


But it’s only fair to point a few things out:

What the article doesn’t mention, is that Martha Jane Parry (chair of Swindon Civic Voice) showed me and the smashing reporter Sarah, around the railway village and the health hydro and shared just some of her amazing knowledge about Swindon.

On that note, there’s an almost endless list of people with much more in depth knowledge than I’ve got. Born again Swindonian is a vehicle for giving a shout out and then a ‘but if you want to know more go here’ arrow.

Others in Swindon who can tell you all manner of things about aspects of Swindon’s heritage are, aside from Martha Jane Parry, oh off the top of my head: Graham Carter, Frances Bevan, Martin Parry, Daniel Rose. When I was talking about the West Swindon Sculpture trail I mentioned Roger Ogle because he knows way more about each sculpture than me.

See posts about the West Swindon Sculpture trail here: https://swindonian.me/category/artscultureheritage/west-swindon-sculpture-walk-artscultureheritage/

The DMJ or Brunel Tower in Swindon

Anyway – here’s the article:

‘Swindon is a land of milk and honey, according to born-again Swindonian Angela Atkinson.

It is hard to imagine a more passionate advocate for the town than the newest ambassador for Switch on to Swindon – she is positively evangelical. Not only does Angela love the town as a place to live, she has dedicated her time to researching and celebrating its complex and vibrant history in her blog www.swindonian.me.

If you want to know why broadcaster and writer Jonathan Meades admires the David Murray John tower, or find out where you can encounter nature inside the town, Angela has all the information.

Now with her new role as ambassador going live, she is more determined than ever to shout out about the town and its people — which she says is her favourite place in the world.

“It’s the people of Swindon I want to talk about now,” she says. “We have lots of brilliant art and architecture, but the bottom line is that Swindon has some terrific people.

“Everyone I know that’s an incomer has said that the best thing about the town is the people who live here.”

She is enthusiastic about the contribution of individuals and community groups, because it is the people who create the art, organise the events and generate the ideas and enterprises that have made the town what it is.

And what better person to introduce the Adver’s new feature writer (me) to the glories of the town?

Angela buzzes with enthusiasm as we visit the Victorian Health Hydro in Milton Street, the Railway Village and the time-travelling mural painted at Cambria Bridge to commemorate 175 years since the arrival of the Great Western Railway.

Even better, Angela sees beyond these well-known icons of the town to the hidden places, lost treasures and surprising gems that even people who have lived in the town for years might not yet know.

It is this inside knowledge that makes her such an asset as an ambassador.

“Angela was chosen because she knows a lot of Swindon’s hidden gems and she offers a unique perspective on all the things Swindon has to offer,” says Gavin Calthrop, director of place marketing for Switch on to Swindon.

“And what we really like about her is that she has a lot of integrity, in what she writes about and how she advocates for the place.

“This makes her a great ambassador. Angela has an extensive network. She has huge influence and she is trusted.”

Switch on to Swindon is a campaign launched to highlight the ways in which the town is a great place to live, work and invest.

It aims to show just what Swindon has to offer and to communicate the story of the town to a wider audience.

The Swindon ambassadors are selected because of their knowledge and enthusiasm, so they can be proactive and positive about their town and make a difference by being advocates for Swindon.

Angela is the perfect fit for the job – she has been a proud and hard-working spokeswoman for the town since she started up her blog in May 2013 with a series on Ten Things to Celebrate about Swindon.

Since then she has not looked back, exploring, building up a fanbase and learning more and more about the town she loves so much.

She moved to Swindon early in the 1990s, have grown up in Derbyshire.

“When I left my part of the world to move to this part of the world I left behind an area that was still ravaged from the legacy of the miners’ strike,” she says.

“Coming here truly felt like arriving in the land of milk and honey. Hence, to a large extent, my fondness for and advocacy of Swindon and the decision to create the Swindon blog.”

Angela worked at Swindon Research Councils for about 16 years before taking early retirement in 2009.

She returned to education and studied English at the University of the West of England, and now works in editorial services.

“I want to be involved in the discussions about the direction Switch on to Swindon takes and contribute to the ideas about the future of the town,” she said.

And even if you think you know Swindon well, Angela has discovered many hidden gems to tempt you to reappraise what you think you know about the town.

Her top three recommendations?

“The West Swindon Sculpture Trail!” she says at once. “It was set up in the 80s by the then Thamesdown Council, when the West Swindon developments were built. There was an art fund and each area in West Swindon had some art.

“There is a five-mile circular walk that takes you round the art works. There’s a statue of Diana Dors, and another sculpture that’s based on the nursery rhyme Hey Diddle Diddle. And tucked away by a pond and across from the Asda in West Swindon is a statue called Looking to the Future by Jon Buck.”

You can find the map to this intriguing walk via her website.

Angela’s second hidden gem is Hagbourne Copse, tucked away in Blagrove Industrial Estate, West Swindon. Owned by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, the two-hectare wood has a pond and in spring is bright with bluebells.

“It’s a beautiful place, but really tucked away. It is not somewhere you could chance upon, if you didn’t know it was there,” she said.

And her third ‘hidden Swindon’ recommendation is the Richard Jefferies Walk around Old Town. Jefferies was a Victorian nature writer who lived and worked in the Swindon area and the walk takes you to places that were part of his life.

The Richard Jefferies walk:

Richard Jefferies Old Town walk: Part 1

Richard Jefferies Old Town Walk Part 2


So whether you are new to town, or you have lived here for years – there is always something distinctively Swindon to find out and enjoy.

Read the full story online here via the Swindon Advertiser: http://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/15506370.MONDAY_MATTERS__Meeting_a_born_again_Swindonian/