20th June 2018
Discovering the River Ray Parkway
Every once in a while, as Jess Robinson describes below, she and I go a-wandering round odd/random/interesting bits of Swindon. Some time ago now we went checking out some of the town’s roundabouts – more interesting than it sounds. Read about that EXPOTITION here. And part two of that adventure here – in round and round we go again.
We’ve also done the Richard Jefferies Old Town Trail. I’ll link to that at the bottom. This time though it was the River Ray Parkway trail we decided to explore.
I’ve always known that Swindon, and West Swindon is green. Very. But doing this walk demonstrated it even more.
So here we go: discovering the River Ray Parkway:’
‘Continuing our occasional series, “Jess and Angela wander interesting parts of Swindon”, we ventured out on a sunny day to discover what the River Ray Parkway was all about.
If you live or have wandered in the south-west/south-east parts of Swindon you may have come across the odd dark green metal signpost, some of them still contain actual signage – as in the image below.
This one is at the Kingshill end of the canal towpath. It reads:
Coate Water Country Park
Lydiard Country Park
Old Town Rail Path
NB: The direction in which they point isn’t reliable. Many of them have been turned around by mischief makers.
They’re labelled,where they’re readable: River Ray Parkway.
The River Ray Parkway is a green walking and cycling route, introduced in 1991 as part of the Great Western Community Forest scheme, it ran for 8 miles from Coate Water to Moulden Hill.
It was expanded from the original effort to create the Swindon Old Town Rail Path, developed with the help of Sustrans, then a small Bristol group formed to create better walking and cycling routes.
Today the route is mostly maintained as National Cycle Network route 45, started by Sustrans with a National Lottery grant in 1995.
We started out at the Moulden Hill end, and wandered along the route of NCN45, looking for the first sign. The purpose built NCN signs are quite obvious in the landscape …
National Cycle Network 45 sign
The sign shows a person and bicycle icon, with the letters “45” underneath.
The direction shown reads:
Swindon Station 3
But the green Parkway signs tend to blend into the trees so it took a while to find one.
After leaving the roads we walked through a long leafy corridor, spotting our first Parkway sign as we were almost at Shaw Forest Park (Shaw Tip on the River Ray Parkway map!).
The route from here follows the edge of the Shaw Forest Park (pop in for a wander across the hill), past the Swindon Lagoons which have signs describing the habitat readable through the fence.
Continuing south east, we catch up with a tributary of the actual River Ray, and follow it underneath the Great Western Way dual carriageway, around the giant Mannington Rec sports ground + park and into Bridgemead retail park.
For PDF of map go here: River Ray Parkway trail map
From the map, you will notice that the River Ray Parkway follows two routes from Wootton Bassett Road to Rivermead, we followed the eastern route.
The western route follows the western tributary of the River Ray, via Westlea Park and alongside Westlea Primary school. It follows the current NCN route 45, and the Western Flyer, a newer route created recently to provide a cycling-commuter route into the town centre.
(See also: The Western Flyer)
We ended up this first half of the route with a cuppa at John Lewis, which is on the western part of the route.
On the embedded map you can see our route, follow the green markers from the north west corner (darker green marker), clicking on the markers will show images of the signs we found. The blue markers are the signs on the western route, as found by Jess the previous week.
The Richard Jefferies Old Town Trail