Swindon stuff to do on the cheap
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
The best way to see a town is on foot. Indeed it’s astonishing what you see and a learn about a place if you get of the car. So do exactly that and try some of these things out:
- The West Swindon Sculpture trail: on the face of it looking at sculptures doesn’t sound much of a family activity. Yet following the West Sculpture trail takes you across acres of West Swindon’s green spaces. It traverses play parks and outdoor gyms. It’s a 5-mile walk that can be cycled and is push chair friendly.
Download a map of the trail here. And explore blog posts about the sculptures here: https://swindonian.me/category/artscultureheritage/west-swindon-sculpture-walk-artscultureheritage/
2. Explore the River Ray Parkway walk. I’ve thus far only done half of this week. We started at Moulden Hill and walked across to Mannington. Fabulously green, this walk follows the Route 45 cycle track. If you’re short enough and the water is low – which it was and my companion and myself are – you can walk right under the Great Western Way. The map is downloadable here and is courtesy of Swindon Local Studies.
Old kissing gate along the River Ray Parkway
3. Pack up a picnic and visit one of Swindon’s parks and open spaces. The above two are perfect for a picnic. As too are the following parks. These are only a few of astonishing number of parks, green spaces, walks and cycle paths that Swindon offers. Google is your friend here.
A. Queen’s Park
B. The Lawn – or Lawn if we’re going to be really proper. And I’m not sure I was in the post I link to. Must edit.
C. Town Gardens
D. The GWR Park – or Faringdon Park
E. Coate Water – where you can find quite the best miniature railway I’ve come across.
See also this post about the Coate Water Diving platform
Mention of the Coate Water railway leads to:
4. The Richard Jefferies Museum:
Free to enter, this museum and its gardens are simply a delight. The museum has its own halt for the Coate Water railway. In the summer there’s cream teas in the garden, sometimes with music of some sort, and they put on all sorts of children’s activities. Visit their website (link in heading above) to find out what’s going on.
So you can find out about this particular writer’s life in the museum. You can also see locations where he lived and worked and went to school by following the
5. Richard Jeffereries Old Town Trail. Here’s a downloadable text file of the trail with a map.
Read about the trial here:
Part 1: https://swindonian.me/2015/03/29/richard-jefferies-old-town-walk-part-1/
Part 2: https://swindonian.me/2015/07/07/richard-jefferies-old-town-walk-part-2/
6. For further urban exploration walk around the town in search of the blue plaques in Swindon. Find a map of them all by following the link to my post about them.
Milton Road Baths
7. Try the Explorer’s Guide to New Swindon – get the map produced by Swindon Civic Voice (£2 from the central library) and explore ‘New Swindon.’
8. Go to the Museum and Art gallery in Old Town: they have lots of activities for children in school holidays. Get your #crocselfie taken with the gharial. It’s tradition! Lots of cafe/pub/eating opportunities in Old Town. Combine with a visit to Ton Gardens, Lawn, Richard Jefferies Old Town trial – there’s options!
Blue Plaques in Swindon
There are now a number of blue plaques in Swindon. The most recent being unveiled on June 16th, 2018 on Swindon Civic Day.
The plaque was installed on the exterior of the Health Hydro – aka Milton Road Baths.
Swindon Civic Voice: https://www.swindoncivicvoice.org.uk
Here’s a table from the website of Swindon Heritage showing the blue plaques so far, showing where they are and their date of installation:
- Edith New
- Harold Starr – and John Starr
- Diana Dors
- Sam Allen: ‘Swindon Town manager and football pioneer Sam Allen (the sixth-most longest-serving manager in Football League history), and was unveiled on May 19, 2018, by former Swindon Town footballer John Trollope MBE, and Sam’s granddaughter-in-law, Pat Chapman.
- Milton Road Baths’
- To come – Ralph Bates – excited about this one!
Diana Dors – aka Diana Fluck
The Starr Brothers
Milton Road Baths
Former STFC player, John Trollope MBW and some Allen family members unveiled his plaque, while Tamara Dugdale, Edith New’s great-neice, unveiled hers.
Tom Saward of the Swindon Advertiser put together this map of where to find the blue plaques which he kindly let me use.
There is though another plaque tucked away in Old Town, in Newport Street, which tells its own story. The photo is taken from this Blip photo blog by Maureen Isles: https://www.blipfoto.com/entry/2228808359820132491
‘In 1764 a free school for the working classes was provided in a cottage Newport Street, to educate 20 boys and 5 girls on land owned by the Goddard family, but very soon the number of pupils outgrew the accommodation and a two storey stone-built National School was built on the same site in 1835. Among its pupils in the 1860s was future author, Richard Jefferies, mentioned in my Blip about Jefferies Avenue a few weeks ago.’
11th August 2018
Summer Workshops at Swindon’s Museum and Art Gallery
Doing what it says on the tin – a poster advertising stuff to do with the kids, in the form of summer workshops at Swindon’s museum and art gallery up in Old Town. The activities are sponsored by the friends of Swindon museum and art gallery– an organisation well worth joining.
If you’re the sociable sort then check out Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MuseumandArtGallery and Twitter: https://twitter.com/museumandart
And Instagram too:
10th August 2018
8 Must visit historical sites in Swindon
Central community centre – once the Medical Fund Society Hospital
A quick share of an article by Total Swindon.
The article features 8 must-visit historical sites in Swindon. It’s a nice list and especially so because they’ve included the Railway Village Conservation area including Faringdon (or GWR) park. Which is fab.
The article starts out thus:
‘Swindon has a rich history, especially when you consider how instrumental the town was in the railways. But even if we forget the significance of GWR in Swindon’s history there are still a huge amount of places of historical significance to visit.
If you’ve been living in Swindon all your life, or if you’re just here to visit, there are lots of must-visit destinations in our town. We’ve outlined a few of them below, but we’re only just scratching the surface!’
And indeed they are but it’s a good start to such a list for sure. Nice one Total Swindon!
So on the list they have:
- Lydiard Park
- STEAM museum
- The Designer outlet centre:
Swindon Designer Outlet Village: shopping with a sense of history
Swindon Designer Outlet Village – Revisited
4. The Railway Village
5. The museum and art gallery
6. Old Town – the entire area. Don’t forget Christ church.
7. The Richard Jefferies Museum
8. Swindon and Cricklade Railway
Christ Church Old Towb
The Richard Jefferies museum Coate, Swindon
8th August 2018
Secret Swindon book launch
So. My first book, Secret Swindon, had a gorgeous launch event at Swindon central library on the 28th July. I’ve been meaning to post about it since then but stuff got in the way. Namely some security stuff being done on the blog which was affecting access. So I figured I’d hold on until that was done. And now the lovely Linda Kasmaty has beaten me to it with her super blog on Gardens, Galleries and Walking Around. So I reckon I might as well share that, a few photos and one or two rather lovely reviews and job done.
First up is Linda’s lovely blog post here. She has thoughtfully included a photo of me having a sip of wine so now you’ve all got exactly the right impression of me!
Now for a few photographs:
Secret Swindon in the library shop – Secret Swindon Book Launch
Cutters made by SED developments
biscuits on baking tray
Me, Sam Whittingham and Kris Allen
Me with Mariadele Boccardi – UWE
David Bent, Chris Barry and Pradeep Bhadwari
The Swindon-building shaped biscuits were super scrummy. Baked by Sam Whittingham with cutters created by SED Developments. The cutters are on sale in the library shop in the central library. You can choose from: the Locarno, the town hall, the Mechanics’ Institution and the David Murray John Tower.
What people are saying about the book
Today I saw a review of my book on the blog of the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre. It’s a gorgeous review that tuned in exactly to what I hoped to achieve with the book. Read the full article here. Here’s an extract:
‘ … Angela’s style is witty, snappy and easy to read, weaving information with a conversational tone reminiscent of her origins as a successful blogger.
The content is a lovely mix of old and new on a multitude of topics that goes to the heart of the character of the town. The images reflect the content and complement the text well. …’
Then there was also this fab review on Devizine: https://devizine.com/2018/07/25/angelas-secret-swindon/
‘I thoroughly enjoyed this read, gaining knowledge of many aspects and artistic properties of Swindon I could’ve driven past and only causally pondered their history. From the wonderful mural on the side of the house near Lion Bridge, which I pass, like, but seldom aspire to seek any knowledge of its artist or background, to the thought process of the contemporary architecture which Swindon holds, with all its 1970s futurism; the Meccano-fashioned “Renault” building, or the curvaceous landmark David John Murray tower. All of these popular sites of Swindon are featured and detailed, with fascinating facts you never thought to ask about. And yeah, the Magic Roundabout is covered too!’
And finally some other reviews:
Secret Swindon – https://swindonian.me/secretswindon/ – is for sale in the library shop at Swindon central library.
You can also find it on Amberley Publishing’s Amazon shop as well as on their own website here: https://www.amberley-books.com/secret-swindon.html
13th July 2018
Event: This is our town
Prime Theatre wins major support for new Swindon history play called This is our town.
Prime Theatre has been awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £27,000 for an exciting new performance project based on Swindon’s people & places at the turn of the century.
Made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, the project ‘This is Our Town’ will allow young actors & writers to partner the town’s heritage organisations & create live & digital performances & exhibition.
Supported through the Heritage Lottery Fund, the nine-month project begins with a major production at STEAM museum at the end of July,
’This Is Our Town’, brings to life figures & events from between 1903 & 1913. After this first production, new young writers & historians will be able to join another creative project with digital stories & an exhibition in the autumn.
Celebrating the award, Prime’s Associate Director Emma Barr said: ‘This is a fantastic opportunity for Prime Youth Theatre and any actors, producers, writers, researchers, technicians and directors between the ages of 10-17 to develop skills alongside professionals while learning more about local heritage. In our research we have come across dramatic stories and visionary people, giving us plenty of reasons to be proud of our town.’
Cast member and young writer, Jenna said: ‘I’ve really enjoyed learning more about the history of Swindon. Getting to be involved with both the writing and the performing has been so interesting and so much fun!’
Prime Theatre will support up to 150 young participants from across Swindon to get involved with heritage professionals from Swindon Local Studies archives, Swindon Museum & Art Gallery, STEAM Museum, Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre & Swindon Heritage.
The show features William Morris, editor of the town’s newspaper, then called the “Swindon Advertiser and Wiltshire, Berkshire and Gloucestershire Chronicle”. Other glimpses of history include suffragette Edith New, James ‘Raggy’ Powell the Swindon Councillor and philanthropist and events such as the tram crash of 1906.
Daryll Moody from Swindon Local Studies said: ‘We are proud to be involved in this fantastic project, which will allow Swindonians to step back in time and glimpse life in ‘our town’ a century ago. We always welcome the opportunity to share the treasures of the Local Studies collection with the widest possible audience.’
‘This is Our Town’ will be performed at STEAM museum on Thursday 26 to Saturday 28 July at 7pm with a matinee on Saturday at 2pm. Tickets at £7 are available through the Wyvern ticket office on 01793 524481 and www.swindontheatres.co.uk