January 2020

About Liddington Hill Swindon
One of many splendid things about Swindon is the great number of parks and open spaces we enjoy. Both in and around the town. And Liddington Hill is a mere one of those areas of great natural beauty that envelope and caress the town near and below it.

about liddington hill - looking at Liddington clump

A literary circular walk

Liddington Hill circular walk
4.5 miles β€“ allow at least 2.5hours
Terrain: No stiles, can get muddy, one steep descent

The national trials website details a lovely Liddington Hill literary circular walk.

On this walk you can discover Shipley Bottom – ooh er missus. That, it seems, is a fine example of an enclosed coombe or short valley described by writer and poet Edward Thomas (1878-1917) as ‘walled on every side by down and sky,’

The walk follows a route used by a somewhat forgotten poet, Charles Hamilton Sorley (1895-1915). Sorley studied at Marlborough College from 1908 to 1913. His experience on the downs inspired such poems as Barbary Castle.

On Liddington Hill you’ll find a memorial to two famous sons of Swindon:  Richard Jefferies (1848-1887) and Alfred Williams (1877-1930). They both wrote about the hill. Well I say that – but as far as I know, all that remains is the triangulation pillar used to replace a dedication plaque to Alfred Williams. American soldiers during WWII used that plaque for target practice and damaged it. It’s now on display in the Richard Jefferies’ museum at Coate. 1940 saw a replacement plaque installed but that got removed by persons unknown, never to be seen again.

The plaque now at the Richard Jefferies Museum

The plaque now at the Richard Jefferies Museum
See the bullet holes!

The self-taught Williams described Swindon railway life and Wiltshire villages. See my book Secret Swindon for more about him and Richard Jefferies. Scholars of Jefferies believe his wanderings across the downs of Wiltshire inspired his rapport with the natural world. That was something he expressed in The Story of My Heart – his autobiography.

The two views that we see here, looking down on Swindon from Liddington Hill, are a wee bit changed from when Williams and Jefferies’ day.

Alfred Williams’ poem: Liddington Hill

On this Poetry Atlas website there’s a poem written by Williams’ about this beloved Liddington Hill. Here’s the first stanza:

The friendship of a hill I know
Above the rising down,
Where the balmy souther breezes blow
But a mile or two from town;
The budded broom and heather
Are wedded on its breast,
And I love to wander thither
When the sun is in the west.

Alfred Williams

Liddington Hill as a Starfish Site

There’s a relatively intact control bunker for a co-located Starfish and Quick Light (QL) site at Liddington Hill overlooking Swindon.

The bunker lies at the edge of the small copse on the eastern summit of the hill, Liddington Clump. You can see those trees from the M4 motorway.

control bunker on liddington hill
Control bunker for a co-located Starfish and Quick Light (QL) site at Liddington Hill

Starfish sites were large-scale night-time decoys created during the Blitz to simulate burning British cities. The intention of them was diverting German bombers from their intended targets so they’d drop their cargo over the countryside. You can read more about Starfish sites here.

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