West Swindon sculpture walk – part 5 – Nexus

West Swindon sculpture walk – part 5 – Nexus

Sculpture of limestone on railway sleepers

Kim at ‘Nexus’ Freshbrook village centre

Limestone sculpture on railway sleepers

A view of ‘Nexus’, sculpture at Freshbrook village centre

Here’s a link to a map of this sculpture trail.

In part 4 of this series my companion and myself visited ‘Hey Diddle Diddle’ which is in The Prinnels, West Swindon. I explained about spending the last twenty years seeing but not really ‘noticing’ that sculpture from the bus and never realising the significance of it – which is a bit shameful when you think of it.  Well I’m sorry to say that my chagrin doesn’t end there. Oh dear me no! The situation with this next one is very similar I’m sorry to say.  Even as my friend and I were reading the ‘bumph’ about this sculpture I still wasn’t making the connection – and ‘connection’ is actually very apposite indeed. It was only as we approached Freshbrook that I realized what we were going to. Doh!

The blurb has this to say about this art work: ‘Nexus 1986. Artist Hideo Furuta. Material: Blue Pennant stone. Project details: Nexus was carved by the artist, using hand-made tools, in public and in situ. The residency was funded by Thamesdown Borough Council and Southern Arts.’

Now, much like glimpsing ‘Hey Diddle Diddle’ several times a week from the bus and it never registering, the same applies here. I walk to Freshbrook several times a week: to the Dr, the pharmacy and to Tesco, and every time I have walked past this thing and never really given it any thought. Well that’s no longer the case. I’m still not sure that I like this piece of art but having read about it and pondered on it some, it’s actually very interesting.

The name of it for a start. The word ‘Nexus’ ( I did actually know this) comes from the Latin of ‘‘a binding together’, from nex- ‘bound’, from the verb nectere . It also has the connotation of meaning  a connection or series of connections linking two or more things: the nexus between industry and political power.• a connected group or series: a nexus of ideas.2 a central or focal point: the nexus of any government in this country is No. 10.

So, to my mind, the ‘meaning’ of this sculpture works on a couple of levels – especially when you consider that it rests on railway sleepers. So in the first instance,  in the macro or the big picture if you will, the railway undoubtedly made it possible for  Swindon to become the town that it is today and links Swindon with the rest of the south-west and with the south-east. But on a micro or more local level, I think what is key, is the fact that Freshbrook village centre is:

a) a focal point for Freshbrook itself being the home of a community centre, a Drs surgery, a dentist, a pharmacy, a supermarket, a hairdresser, a takeaway, a school, a pub and a church – all needs catered for there I think. But also:

b) It’s sort of at the centre of Grange Park, Westlea, Freshbrook itself and, to some degree Toothill – although that has its own village centre – well in so much as it forms a link – a Nexus – between them all – it’s central to them.

Ergo I reckon, the idea of this sculpture is that represents the function of Freshbrook as a pivot for the above. I stress though that this is only my interpretation. It could have been meant as something else entirely. But then isn’t art a bit like literature – we can each get a different meaning from it?

So, there you have it. Like I say, I’m not sure that I’d go so far as to say that I ‘like’ this one, in so much as it doesn’t trigger those indefinable pleasure receptors in me, in the way some of the others on this walk do. But now I’ve studied it and thought about it properly – for the first time in 20 years of looking at it but not ‘seeing’ it – I definitely find it interesting. And maybe that’s the thing with art? I dunno – I’m not Charles Saatchi or Brian Sewell – but maybe the thing with art is just to engage with it and work out what your own responses are..

And I think if there’s a message I want to convey in writing about these sculptures it’s this: right here on your doorstep you have this wonderful entity, this West Swindon Sculpture walk, but don’t just take my word for it all. Get out there, look at them, think about them and even if – like me with this particular one – you don’t necessarily like one or more of them (there are 8 altogether) – just appreciate how very lucky we are to have them. Because I really think we are. Here endeth the lesson!

Anyway, at this point my friend Kim and myself concluded the walk as we’d been out for hours and were ready for dinner. So we had a swift pint in the Windmill and went back to mine for spaghetti bolognaise and a bit too much Chianti. As you do.

As for the rest of the sculptures on the walk, I’ll do a round-up in another post – so keep an eye out for that. Bye for now!

Sunday 27th March 2014

Freshbrook village centre is currently being regenerated and, as part of which, Nexus has also had a revamp. It has some nice new red tarmac round it and some signage. Hurrah!!


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West Swindon sculpture walk – Part 4 – ‘Hey Diddle Diddle’

West Swindon sculpture walk – Part 4 – ‘Hey Diddle Diddle’

Front view of Hey Diddle Diddle sculpture showing the cat and the fiddle

Roadside view showing cat and fiddle

Below is a link a map and some descriptions of the sculptures:

The Sculpture Tour West Swindon

In part 3 of this series I wrote about ‘White Horse Pacified’ a 1987 sculpture by Julie Livesey and created during an international artists exchange between Swindon and Lisbon, Portugal, funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Southern Arts and Wiltshire County council and the then Thamesdown Borough council.

Leaving that sculpture to move onto the next one took Kim and I walked round some bits of what I term ‘proper’ places. By that I mean houses and areas that have clearly been here much longer than all this ‘new’ (70s, 80s 90s) development of Swindon. The walk takes you down Old Shaw Lane and right past Lower Shaw Farm – home of Swindon’s Literature festival amongst other things and close to the Nine Elms pub. It also took us via Shaw Village centre where, as it was a warm sunny evening, we stopped for ice-cream. Yet another reason why this walk took us hours! Of course, should the fancy take you to do this walk during the day-time, The Village Inn at Shaw would make a good stopping point for lunch and/or a pint being approximately on the mid-way point of this walk.

So anyway, suitably refreshed with ice-cream and a sit-down we ventured on to the next sculpture on the list which is ‘Hey Diddle Diddle’ and is described thus: ‘1992 – Artist: Vega Bermejo. Material: Portland Stone. Project details: Commissioned by Thamesdown Borough Council through the Percent for Art Policy and sponsored by Clarke Holmes Ltd. This charming sculpture in a domestic setting depicts the popular nursery rhyme.’

Well, by this time we are getting closer to where I live but I still wasn’t making the connection. Talk about not really ‘seeing’ or knowing what is under your nose. It’s shameful. For twenty years I’ve been passing this thing on the 1A bus home from town and never realized. I’m not going to lie, I’ve had the thought ‘well, fancy having a huge stone cat in your front garden’ and similar – because it is quite literally in a front garden in The Prinnells (between Shaw/Middleaze and Grange Park) Oh dear. Though to be fair, as the bus swings by, the only bit of the sculpture you can see is the cat. But readers, this is so much more then a giant cat. Stop and take the time to examine it and you will see.

As the descriptions says and the name implies, this sculpture is all about the well known nursery rhyme ‘Hey Diddle Diddle the cat and the fiddle…’   The roadside end of it is indeed the cat’s face but it’s only on closer inspection that you can see the fiddle. The other end has the cow’s face on it and the two sides depict the dish and the spoon, the moon and the little dog laughing to see such fun. I rather suspect he was laughing at me for not knowing what was under my nose. And quite right too.

So anyway Kim and I thoroughly examined it and took photographs, of which there are more on the blog’s facebook page.  Like so many of these sculptures it’s in need of a bit of TLC. Just a brush and some warm water would piff it up no end. If it was in my front garden I think I might be doing that. And perhaps encouraging visitors and offering cream teas!  🙂 Though before I get too judgemental I ought to consider that there might be some sort of clause prohibiting that.

As with all the others so far, this is a really interesting and intriguing sculpture. I love the idea of it – representing a nursery rhyme in this sort of setting – as of course nursery rhymes and domesticity go together. But hey – don’t take my word for it – go and see it for yourself.

Next on the list is ‘Nexus’ and this was another surprise. Until then folks…

West Swindon sculpture walk – Part 3 – ‘White Horse Pacified’

West Swindon sculpture walk – Part 3 – ‘White Horse Pacified’

Hello again dear reader,

Welcome to part 3 in a series (I’m not sure how many the series will consist of cos I’m making it up as I go along) about the West Swindon sculpture walk – which you could be forgiven for having no knowledge of. This morning I chatted to someone on the bus about this, and she, a long-time resident of Swindon had no idea that many of these sculptures existed.  Anyway, at the end of part 2 my companion Kim and myself had ‘done’ ‘Diana Dors’ (see part 1) and ‘How the mighty fall’ (see part 2), so now we were off in search of  number 3 on the circuit: ‘White Horse Pacified’.  The route to this one takes you through a part of West Swindon I’d never even heard of, let alone walked through: The Bramptons. Blimey! It was like entering another universe. They have a club. With a swimming pool! It was all a bit Stepford actually. Anyway – as ever I digress.  The bumph describes the sculpture thus:

‘White Horse Pacified 1987. Artist: Julie Livsey. Materials: Steel and concrete. Project details: The sculpture was completed during an international artist exchange between Swindon and Lisbon, Portugal. Funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Southern Arts, Wiltshire County Council and Thamesdown Borough Council. The work is an interpretation of the famous chalk cut white horses surrounding Swindon’. 

Steel and concrete sculpture of large blue and white horse with figure on it

White Horse Pacified 1989 – West Swindon – View from rear

I think this might be my least favourite out of the set. But that might in part be because, like the old canal bridge, it is so in need of some TLC.  It’s graffitied and there’s branches overhanging it and it’s just such a shame. I mean, how can you not be moved by the idea that, back in the 1980s when this side of town was being developed, a person or persons unknown in (the then) Thamesdown council, had the foresight to put this thing together? I think it’s just marvellous but now – they are unnoticed, unsung and unloved. It’s criminal.

Steel and concrete sculpture of horse with figure. view obscured by overhanging branch

White Horse Pacified – almost obscured by foliage

A further point – the friend doing the walk with me lives in Bristol so this was all new to her. So by this point in the proceedings, and not surprisingly, she was voicing the questions I already had in my mind: ‘Why is this not better known?’, Wouldn’t some signage be a good idea?’ and ‘Some labelling on the sculptures themselves could be quite good too’.  As I said earlier – people who’ve been here a long time – or even were born here – have no awareness of this thing as an entity. So what flippin’ chance does anyone else stand? SBC, Swindon and Wiltshire tourism – you are missing a trick!

This thing can be walked, even cycled. It can be pic-nic(ed) There’s pub stops and play parks and out-door gyms along the way. It’s a great with a dog. Yeah – if you just want to romp through it all it can be done in a couple of hours. But hey – you could actually make a whole day of this thing. But nobody knows about it! Well not enough people anyroad!!!

Anyway dear readers, next up is ‘Hey Diddle Diddle”. I’ll leave you to think on that one. Until next time….  Here is a link to a map of this sculpture trail.

May 2 2014

Hurrah! This poor neglected equine sculpture has had a clean up. At last. It’s not perfect cos the top of it hasn’t been done – clearly someone was lacking a ladder. But let’s not gripe too much because it does loook soooo much better. Compare and contrast with how it looked last summer – see photos above. This photo was sent to me by a friend and Twitter follower @swindondriver – Thanks for that.

White Horse Pacified after a clean up.

White Horse Pacified after a clean up.

West Swindon Sculpture walk – Part 2 – How the Mighty Fall

West Swindon Sculpture walk – Part 2 – How the Mighty Fall

‘How the Mighty Fall 1989 – Artist: Tim Sandys-Renton. Material: Cast Aluminium, Cast Iron. Commissioned by Thamesdown Borough Council through the Percent for Art Policy’

In the first post of this series I wrote about the statue of Diana Dors outside the cinema at Shaw Ridge. The next statue my friend and I examined  on the walk was ‘How the Mighty Fall’.  Like all the sculptures on this trail it was installed in the mid-late 1980s when the area was being developed. The blurb describes the sculpture as inviting the observer to transport themselves into the future and view the sculpture as an archeological artefact from the 20th century. Which of course is somewhat the reality for it now … Located as it is, on one of the many superb big green spaces that there are in West Swindon (up behind Shaw Ridge), where it’s quite easy to forget that one is in the middle of a big conurbation, it only needs a bit of imagination to see the artists intention for the sculpture as a relic of a long gone civilization …

I really rather liked this piece of artwork – it’s definitely one of my favourites of the set.  Certainly it brings transport to mind. From the initial approach it looks rather like an aeroplane that has crash-landed. Looked at from behind it reminded me of some sort of carriage type conveyance with the ‘body’ of the carriage in the middle and the wheels either side. From one side there appears to be an impression of a face screaming – the eponymous mighty falling perhaps?  In fact, whatever angle you look at it you see something new and thought provoking. You don’t have to like a piece of art to find it interesting. But I did like this one. A lot.  But hey – don’t take my word for it – go and have a look for yourself and see what you  make of it.

Oh, incidentally, you  might recall in the previous post I said my companion was going to have a crack at interpreting it? Well she got pretty close. In truth I can’t remember exactly what she said – I couldn’t be fagged to take notes – but  I do recall it was on the right lines! Impressive eh?  🙂

So far then, we were pleased to find two on the list still in existence. Well actually – ‘Looking to the Future’ near the West Swindon Centre definitely is (though in need of a bit of TLC), as I wrote about that in a separate blog post written before I tackled this walk.  But how many more of them did we find and, more to the point perhaps given the passage of time since they were installed, what sort of condition did we find them in?

Diana Dors, as can we seen in part 1 of this series and in the ‘ten things I like about Swindon No 4 – Diana Dors’ post’, is in fairly decent condition – apart, of course, from the chewing gum bogey! And the sculpture featured here is in decent enough nick for its age. As for the rest? Well watch this space!

sculpture, aluminium and cast iron

How the Mighty Fall – 1989

impression of foot print on sculpture

How the mighty Fall – 1989

The map and literature we used can be found on t’internet here: http://www.visitwiltshire.co.uk/xsdbimgs/The%20Sculpture%20Tour%20West%20Swindon.pdf

back view of sculpture

How the Mighty Fall – 1989

West Swindon sculpture walk – Part 1 – Diana Dors

West Swindon sculpture walk – Part 1 – Diana Dors

Public art in Swindon: Diana Dors

Right then, hands up. Who knew there was such an entity as the West Swindon sculpture walk? No? Me neither. I only discovered it when rooting about the interweb for info for this blog. In the course of my research I came across this information and map of the trail.  How interesting I thought. And how cool it would be to do the walk and see how many of them still exist and write about it.

As this is a long walk with a lot of material I’ll break it up into digestible chunks – so here we have part 1.

So a visit from a fellow student and a warm sunny day provided the perfect opportunity/excuse to give it a go. According to the blurb about the walk, the five miles it covers should be completed in two hours at a leisurely pace. Ha! We were at it for nearly four hours and we still didn’t get them all done! But perhaps that’s because we took time out to slide down slides; try out the outdoor gym behind Shaw Ridge; chat to people along the way; stop for ice-cream at Shaw Village centre; get a bit lost, and have a beer at The Windmill, Freshbrook … all of which could just have had something to do with our failure to complete the route. Oops.

Anyway, as I can only just about find my home from the town centre I put my friend, Kim, in charge of the map and appointed myself curator of the ‘blurb’. First on the schedule is the statue of Diana Dors at Shaw Ridge leisure complex – see blog post about her sculpture.

The walk description has this to stay on this sculpture:

Diana Dors – Film Star 1991. Artist: John Clinch. Material: Bronze. 

'Legend' on Diana Dors statue

‘Legend’ on Diana Dors statue

‘Project Details: Commissioned by Thamesdown Borough Council through the Percent for Art Policy, funded by Carter Commercial Developments. The sculpture is a flamboyant tribute to one of Swindon’s most famous and glamorous residents’.

Obviously I’d seen this one before but Kim spent some time studying and discussing it. We decided that it’s clearly fitting that she is immortalized outside a cinema. It’s fitting also that it’s larger than life – as she most certainly was. We also liked that the ‘legend’ (see picture) on the statue had been made to appear that her name was in lights – as indeed they had been.  But we weren’t sure that it was particularly flattering of her – something of a caricature.  And it’s really a pity that someone has stuck chewing gum under one of her nostrils which gives the effect of a giant bogey hanging there – deliberate I dare say! On the whole though, a cool thing that Britain’s answer to Marilyn Monroe has been remembered and recorded.

Close up face of diana dors statue

Diana Dors close up showing chewing gum ‘bogey’. 🙁

So, having duly digested Diana Dors we went off in search of sculpture no 2 on the walk.

Kim on outdoor gym.

Kim on outdoor gym.

As we were wending our way to the next one Kim decided that she would have a crack at interpreting it to see how close she got to the legend on the blurb. Close by were a play park and the outdoor gym so those things distracted us for a good ten minutes or so. Eventually tiring of the pleasures (????) of the gym equipment we finally moved on to study statue no 2 on the walk. But that dear reader is another story for another day.

NB: Diana Dors has an alter ego as Lola Vavoom in the stupendously surreal parallel universe created by the author Jasper Fforde in his Thursday Next novels.  In his 7 Wonders of Swindon she is W0nder No 5.



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