Hall & Woodhouse at Wichelstowe

Hall & Woodhouse at Wichelstowe

May 2019
Hall and Woodhouse at Wichelstowe

Well listeners – what follows here is a guest blog from Jonathan Broom of Joined Up Letters – a chap I recently met at Swindon Business Village.

Like me, he’s on a mission to celebrate Swindon and to demonstrate that the place is not deserving of the negative perceptions of Swindon. Y’know the ones – they come Swindon’s way with monotonous regularity.

Here’s a brief bio bite about him:

‘A recent change in circumstances has caused travel writer and lifestyle journalist Jonathan Broom to relocate from East Anglia (Norfolk, to be precise) to the west of England – where he likes much of what he sees. Swindon he feels has been given a bad rap; so he’s on a bit of a mission: to play some small part in redeeming the town’s undeservedly poor reputation.

Clear-eyed and far from uncritical – but keen (as perhaps only an incomer can be) to celebrate all that’s best about ‘Pig Hill’.

Just don’t get him started on The Canaries – aka Norwich City Football Club, or you’ll never hear the end of it.’

A recent visit to the new (ish) Hall and Woodhouse pub/restaurant over at Wichelstowe, in south Swindon, prompted him to hit the keyboard – and you’ll find it below.

I have to say, his piece did make me smile at times. I enjoyed a brief interlude of wanting to, being able to, enjoy going out and enjoying child-free time. Now, as a great-aunty and a grandma I’m firmly back in family-friendly territory at times. And, although I have a taste for the kitsch and therefore rather like the interior of H&W, I do take his point about the decor – it is a tad busy. Anyway – read on – see what you think …

Fine dining – or a dog’s dinner? Wichelstowe eateries provide food for thought

At the heart of the recently-opened Hall & Woodhouse bar-restaurant on the north bank of the Wilts & Berks Canal, in the as-yet-mostly-unbuilt ‘Canalside’ area of Wichelstowe, South Swindon, sits a barge.

We’ll get to the inside later, but from the outside, its prow pointing proudly to the north, it looks like nothing so much as one of those RNLI collection boxes you used to see in pubs and sub-post offices. You half-expect a celestial hand to emerge from the clouds, clutching a giant 10p piece which, when dropped through a slot in the pub’s roof, will cause the narrowboat to shoot forth, launching itself into the car park.

But sadly the barge is high and dry, and going nowhere. Could the same fate ultimately lie in store for this new venue?

Not for the time being, certainly. Shortly after it opened, my partner and I called in at Hall & Woodhouse for a drink. Like many, we’d watched it going up; weekly shopping trips to Waitrose, on the canal’s south bank, kept us up to speed with progress. So we were curious to see the finished article.

As was most of the rest of Swindon it seemed, that Saturday afternoon the joint was rammed. No matter – we found a space at the bar, ordered a couple of beers, and I struck up a conversation with the barman that went something like this:

Me: “Congratulations – you must be delighted! Place is heaving…”

Barman: “Thanks. We haven’t stopped for a minute – but hey. Wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Me: “I know it’s early days, but word is the food here’s great…”

Barman: “Yeah – better than the bloody Bayberry.” This with something between a smile and a sneer. A snile? A smeer?

Me: “That so? Apples and oranges, surely?”

Barman (smeer now more of a snarl. Smarl. Whatever): “Yeah – we’re gonna wipe the floor with that dump. We’re great, the Bayberry’s rubbish. Fact.”

As I say, something like that.

As we leaned against another bit of bar – the seating all very much taken – I pondered the barman’s words. I couldn’t – and still can’t – see the comparison. But since he insisted on making one, I thought: let’s give him a hand.

Built to slake the thirst and fill the tummies of the denizens of the then newly-built East Wichel, the Bayberry boasts all the atmosphere and olde-worlde charm of an airport departure lounge: nondescript pine furniture atop a swirly maroon carpet, in a pub that’s probably too big for the constituency it was built to serve.

As you enter, leading away to your left towards the far-distant loos is arrayed a mixture of benches, booths and traditional table-and-chair configurations; some or all of which, depending on the time of day, are apparently the playground of choice for a kind-of rolling parent-and-toddler group. Personally, my window of tolerance for little ones clanged shut when my own ones were no longer little, but then I’m not a very nice or tolerant person. For the Bayberry, I guess it’s a customer base of sorts – though I can’t imagine a very lucrative one.

Immediately ahead and to the right is a lounge-y drinking-and-eating area, while beyond a rather half-hearted partition lies a more restaurant-like zone. Parking is ample, and there is a small garden, though no pretty planting, nor views to speak of.

Not exactly a place of pilgrimage, then. And yet…and yet… and yet… the Bayberry has found what H&W hasn’t: a niche.

As well as being child-friendly, it has earned a place in its community. Short on character it may be; but the pub is not trying to be anything it isn’t. The staff are smiley and welcoming, the range of drinks is as extensive as you’d expect, the beer is well kept and reasonably priced. And while I don’t suppose the good folks of East Wichel love the Bayberry – it’s not been there long enough to love – I’ll wager they’d rather have it there than not.

And then there’s the food – and this is where mine host at Hall & Woodhouse got it wrong. The food at the Bayberry is not haute cuisine, not ‘fayn dayning’, because it doesn’t have to be. What it is, is decent, and cheap. H&W might be on a mission to take pub gastronomy to a new level, and good luck with that; but the Bayberry is where Wichelstowers, South Swindonites and Wroughtonistas go to feed their faces when they can’t be bothered to cook. A couple dining at the Bayberry can get on the outside of dinner and drinks, and walk away with change from £20.

Which won’t get you far at Hall & Woodhouse. But this is not – or not only – about price. It’s just as much about a venue attempting to forge an identity. A new venue. A parvenu venue. (Sorry.) (NB: parvenu: upstart, social climber etc.)

And, at first glance, failing. Propping up my bit of bar that Saturday, eyes smarting slightly from the frantically overdecorated interior of this brave new boozer, I donned my Wayfarers and looked about me.

Lordy – if ever somewhere is trying too hard, this is surely it. It’s as though the board of H&W have hired an interior design company, said “fill your boots,” and the designers have done just that. Nowhere, but nowhere, have they held back. According to H&W’s own website, this venue is “designed around the Woodhouse family and their interests and passions” – in which case, the clan’s interests and passions are eclectic, eccentric, extensive and in no way suited to being confined to a space such as this. The place is a migraine-inducing riot.

Then there’s that barge, the middle and stern-end of which invade H&W’s interior.

The side is cut away in a manner which brings to mind a Haynes Motoring Manual. But instead of the inner workings of a 1978 Ford Granada, observers can instead feast their eyes on Hall & Woodhouse’s ‘party space’, a pub-within-a-pub with (worryingly) its own beer taps and optics. In here H&W patrons can host their own 21st-birthday celebrations, wedding receptions, wakes, bar mitzvahs and so on.

No problem with that – but when I host a party, I prefer to do so without onlookers peering in through my windows. Which perhaps says more about me and my soirees than I would wish. But partying for an audience? Not for me.

And then there’s the food. I’ve not eaten at H&W, but my partner has, following that first visit. Her verdict? Fine, but not great. Not as great as it wants to be, anyway – and not great enough to justify the slightly-too-high prices. To be clear, nothing is a rip-off; but everything is a couple of quid more than it should be.

And it’s all ever-so-slightly desperate. Hall & Woodhouse have apparently spent £5m on this place – but it fronts onto a canal that, unless and until it gets renovated, is currently just a long pond, leading nowhere. Mooring posts await pleasure craft that can’t get there, never mind tie up.

Meanwhile, of the 4,000 Canalside homes for which H&W is supposed to be a centrepiece, there is little sign as yet. Diggers are digging, certainly; but surely that whole project must be in some doubt (or at least undergoing revision) now that both Honda and BMW are packing their bags and leaving town. So there it sits in splendid isolation, surrounded by unsightly earthworks and stockpiled building materials.

At the moment, the shiny new H&W remains busy, and tables for dinner are booked weeks or months ahead. I hope it stays that way – and that the dust is allowed to settle, that the canal gets redug, that the promised new homes get constructed, and that Hall & Woodhouse matures into the kind of convivial yet upmarket pub-cum-eatery that Swindon deserves. A destination gastropub, drawing punters from the locale (once it’s built) but also from further afield – by road, or waterway. But whatever happens, H&W and its people need to relax.

And stop worrying about competition where it doesn’t exist.



Sing Something Swindon: a round up of some of Swindon’s choirs

Sing Something Swindon: a round up of some of Swindon’s choirs

Sing Something Swindon: a round up of some of Swindon's choirs

A lovely guest blog post focusing on Swindon’s singing opportunities

Thanks to Jo Garton for this lovely guest blog post focusing on Swindon’s singing opportunities. Which are many and various. This is your note – sing it! Swindon’s lungs are bursting with singing opportunities.

Sing Something Swindon

The Big Sing Thing - Swindon's choirs

The Big Sing Thing 

Swindon is a city of choirs. Well – ok, it’s a town, but it feels like a city to many of us.

There have been many health and psychology studies which show that singing is good for your health. this easy form of self-expression helps maintain sound (pun intended) mental health. Swindon is the place to be if you want to sing, because thousands of people sing here every week and not just in the shower!

Of course, we have a history of singing here; the Mechanics Institute had a resident opera company, which famously made Swindon theplace to be in the UK if you fancied a bit of Russian opera! If you want to know more about that then I suggest you read Secret Swindon by Angela Atkinson, in which she tells more about that.

Mlada:programme of Swindon Musical Society

Mlada:programme of Swindon Musical Society

Nowadays we have highbrow, lowbrow and everything in between.

Probably Swindon’s longest established choir is the Swindon Male Voice Choir, founded in 1919. They meet weekly in Gorse Hill and have about fifty members. Over the years they have toured internationally and won many competitions and Eisteddfods.

The Swindon Choral Society is another long-established choir. It has roots right back to the 1920s. They also tour internationally with a repertoire that includes Requiems of Brahms and Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius. The choral society has 110 singers and they meet in Freshbrook.

The indomitable Sheila Harrod started the well-known Kentwood Choir in 1964. 

 Like many of the choirs in Swindon they have raised a lot of money for charity – over the fifty-three years of their existence over £1 million. Their president is the internationally renown jazz singer Dame Cleo Laine. Their thirty-five women members have sung on national television and abroad.

Newer kids on the blog are The Magnificent AK47s formed in 2008They meet in Ashton Keynes, but many of their members are from Swindon, some are not even members of the Spooner family! They have enjoyed success at the Derry International Choral Festival and the Cork International Festival. The AK47s are an all male choir who, for reasons not entirely clear, sing quite a lot about beards!

Swindon Community Choir started in 2000 as the Scratch Choir but over the years have changed their name. They favour a ‘natural voice technique’ which believes that singing is everyone’s birthright. They meet in the Central Community Centre in the railway village (what was the medical fund society hospital) on a Monday evening. This is a mixed choir, which welcomes new members without an audition. They have a wide ranging taste, singing folk, pop and international songs.

Running for twenty-five years and also raising money for good causes is the Thamesdown Ladies choir. The choir has around fifty members and a wide-ranging repertoire.

Finally, the BigSingThing has been running for seven years and meets in West Swindon on a Monday evening. Roughly ninety men and women sing each week. They perform concerts locally and have raised over £10,000 for charity. BigSing claims to be Swindon’s friendliest choir and sings  pop songs old and new as well as some songs from musicals.

If you want to sing in Swindon there is plenty of choice!

 Links:

Swindon Male Voice Choir: https://www.swindonmalevoicechoir.co.uk

Swindon Choral Society: http://swindonchoral.org.uk/scs/main.php

The Kentwood Choir: http://www.kentwoodshowchoir.org

The Magnificent AK47s: http://www.themagnificentak47.com

Swindon Community Choir: http://www.swindon.singtastic.co.uk

Thamesdown Ladies Choir: http://www.thamesdownladieschoir.co.uk

The Big Sing Thing: https://www.bigsingthing.org.uk

 

 

Latest Swindon Ramblings

I’m always looking for new and interesting angles to share when out and about in Swindon.

The Greek Olive Refreshed

I’ve got a very soft spot for the Greek Olive restaurant on Faringdon Road. I struggle to believe that four years have passed since I first wrote about the place on the blog here. Swindon’s Greek Olive is a popular place and with good reason. The people are lovely, the food is consistent and the portions are large. And who doesn’t like a large portion?! 😉 It’s a charming taste of Greece in the heart of Swindon.

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Finding self and community in Swindon

Finding self and community in Swindon

14th November 2017

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Over the last few weeks and months I’ve shared on here experiences of, and reflections about, Swindon from friends and clients.
They’re all under the Switch on to Swindon category on this blog: https://swindonian.me/category/switch-on-to-swindon/

This one comes from Catherine Attewell who wears another hat as Catherine Jay jewellery. You can see her Etsy shop here and her Facebook presence here: https://www.facebook.com/catherinejayuk/

Catherine makes lovely jewellery, which to some extent she can tailor to you – your wrist size, the type of fastener you prefer – that sort of thing. Her contact details are on her Facebook page – link above.  These plaited bracelets are among my faves of her work:

plaited bracelets

Anyway, like so, so many people, Catherine pitched up in Swindon for economic reasons.

Finding self and community in Swindon – and a business to boot!

Like so many others before and after me, I came to Swindon for economic reasons.

At the end of 2000 I left my home town of Northampton to relocate to Swindon as my partner had got a promotion here.

There was some trepidation in this move as I can’t say Swindon as a town had received great recommendations from colleagues. Indeed, they were pretty negative about it.

I remember the first time I took a wander in the town centre and felt that I definitely didn’t want to move here. Yet somehow when the job offer came in and I found myself saying “yes”. Within a month or two we were selecting a new home on the Taw Hill estate. This was in the days before the opening of the Orbital Centre and the Thamesdown Avenue road.

In the main those days revolved around my workplace.  I made friends, including some native Swindonians all of whom proved welcoming and friendly.

After a while we moved to Devizes for a couple of years. But then found that we were travelling back to Swindon so much for shopping and socialising that it made sense to return. After doing the rounds of showhomes we plumped for a house in Haydon End.  We were the first people on the building site to move in.

We had children and it was when they were small that I became more aware of my need for local community. So I joined a baby and mum music group at Bath Methodist Church in Old Town.

A positive recollection I have of Swindon’s people revolves around an incident in Boswell’s café with my baby girl. She was sick, not only all over the floor but all over herself as well.  Not being the most organised of mums I hadn’t got a change of clothes for her. To cut a long story short a fellow diner disappeared and returned with a new top for my baby. She refused payment from me. What a wonderful act of random kindness that was.

Park Life

Lydiard Park is a fantastic place to go with children.  I have loads of happy memories of times there. In particular, my daughter’s 1st birthday when a group of us mums and my mum had a wonderful afternoon playing with the kids on in front of house.

Around this time, the friend I’d met at the music club asked me to be God Mother to her little boy.  Being asked was such an honour. Although I did feel a little coy about the fact that outside of Midnight Services, I hadn’t been to church in years. The Christening was at St Saviour’s in Old Town.  It’s s a beautiful church with an interesting history to it.

John Betjeman, once said of it:
“I would sooner be on my knees within the wooden walls of St Saviour’s than leaning elegantly forward in a cushioned pew in an Oxford college Chapel.”

This event proved to be turning point for me. I felt something spiritual – or at least felt I’d come home. I knew then that I wanted the church to be part of my life.

Twist and turns

Life took a further twist when I left my banking career in 2013. I’d worked for the company for seventeen years. But now, with two small children, I craved a meaningful way of life with a more equal work/life balance.

I felt a drive to do something more meaningful to me – that meant something creative.

So, setting sail on a journey I didn’t fully understand I launched my Catherine Jay jewellery business.

Swindon in business

The great thing about being in Swindon is the community of like-minded businesses women I’ve been able to connect with.

I’m a regular attender at ‘Ladies who Latte’ – a free and supportive networking group. The friendships formed at this and other groups have been invaluable.

In 2013, life took another turn with the unexpected death of my mum.

Around this time, getting to St Saviour’s to worship proved too much with two small children and I’d decided on a move to St John’s in Haydon End. The homegroup and Sunday school were super welcoming and gave much-needed succour at a difficult time.

Rock café

What I like about St John’s is its community involvement. It offers practical services such as the rock café on Fridays and a pram club on Mondays. There’s a craft club to that I run together with another lady.

For me the church is more than a building and a place of worship. It’s a community and it’s important that it’s open to people.

Back to my business: Catherine Jay Jewellery

https://www.facebook.com/catherinejayuk/?fref=ts 

Catherine Jay logo

I have over the last few years developed my passion for beaded jewellery.  I’m still in the process of working out which way to take my business, but one regular feature of my calendar is a jewellery evening at Stanton House Hotel held in November.  I have a collection of jewellery for sale, but the evening is as much about being social as it is about shopping.

Here’s a few snaps from last year’s event.

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Swindon Symphony Orchestra

Swindon Symphony Orchestra

31st October 2017

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Swindon Symphony Orchestra

Swindon Symphony logo

Yes listeners. We DO have our very own symphony orchestra! Who knew?! Not me until relatively recently. Yet it’s been here for twenty-eight years!  We also have people performing chamber music recitals in Swindon too. Who knew that?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: WHAT are people looking for when they say there’s nothing to do, nowhere to go, nothing to see and no culture in Swindon? Aside from big West End plays and musicals – and get real this is a town not a city – what is out there that’s not here? I truly don’t understand it.

Anyway, in the words of Nicki Kinton, orchestra member and owner of NK Credit Consultancy, here’s the lowdown on Swindon Symphony Orchestra:

‘Did you know Swindon has it’s very own Symphony Orchestra? Described by the organisers of Swindon175 last year as “Swindon’s best kept secret”, the orchestra has been performing in the town for twenty-eight years!

Swindon Symphony Orchestra

A brief History

The Swindon Symphony Orchestra performs two concerts each year, with members who are talented musicians from Swindon and surrounding areas. They play because of their shared love of music, their desire to be something bigger than just a lone person practising at home and because they want to do some good for local and national charities whilst providing entertainment for people in and around Swindon.

This is how it all began . . .

The orchestra was the brain-child of late, enthusiastic local musician John Birkin. His original plan was simply to bring high-quality musicians together for a one-off concert at the Wyvern Theatre in 1989, to raise funds for what was then the Wiltshire Youth Orchestra.  However, the music-making was so popular, with audience and musicians alike, that John was persuaded to continue running the orchestra. The initial concert had been a huge undertaking, organised solely by John, so a committee of willing volunteers was formed to spread the workload, and that is how the orchestra still functions today.

 Despite its roots reaching back to the 1980s, there have been surprisingly few conductors of the orchestra over the years. Malcolm, our current conductor, has done much to increase the range of music and composers that the orchestra tackles, helping to increase and retain membership in addition to stretching the abilities of the orchestral members and occasionally filling the hearts of the players with fear owing to the sheer number of notes on the page!

Our Concerts

There have been many memorable concerts over the years (very often because the previous concert venue, a church, was so cold!). On one occasion a brave, local conductor Jonathan Trim had to be enlisted to conduct the orchestra with only a few hours’ notice on the day of the concert without prior sight of the programme, as Malcolm had put his back out.  One sell-out occasion was a concert at Bath Road Methodist Church when the orchestra performed Peter and the Wolf with the very entertaining and greatly missed Jonny Morris, of Animal Magic fame. On the basis that ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’ the orchestra invited him along, cheekily adding that it had no money to pay him a fee but hoped he would perform anyway as the concert was to raise money for charity. Sometimes, being cheeky pays off!

Concerto soloists are often regular members of the orchestra, with flute, clarinet, bassoon, horn, cello and violin works performed in recent years. Other recent guest instrumentalists have added trumpet, oboe and piano works into the mix.

The orchestra’s repertoire not only includes the standard classical and romantic composers like Mozart, Beethoven, Dvorak, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov and Shostakovich, but also lesser known works by Suk, Rautavaara, Khachaturian, Reinecke, Horowitz, Arutiunian and Kodaly.

 In Autumn 2016 the Orchestra were proud to performed to a sell-out audience in the Great Western Hall at STEAM, Museum of the Great Western Railway, as part of the Swindon 175 celebrations, with the very talented soloist, Daniel Lebhart, delighting us with his skilful performance of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2.

Swindon Symphony orchestra playing at STEAM

Daniel Lebhardt_2128 ©Calyx Picture Agency
Daniel Lebhardt at STEAM Museum for the Swindon 175 concert playing Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 2

Although he is no longer with us, hopefully John Birkin would have been proud of the progress and development made by the Swindon Symphony Orchestra, and the orchestra members are grateful for his insight and unrelenting hard work in founding the Orchestra all those years ago.

Our next concert
Our next concert is this coming Sunday, 5th November 2017, 7:30pm at St Joseph’s Catholic College where you will be able to hear two of our members, Nikki Young (viola) and Ruth Foxman (clarinet) play Bruch’s Double Concerto for Viola and Clarinet. Other works in the programme are Johann Strauss Jr’s Die Fledermaus Overture, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Serenade No. 2, Sibelius’s Finlandia Op. 26. and Shostakovich’s – Symphony No 9.

Concert poster Swindon Symphony orchestra

Join the orchestra or follow us

We are always very interested to hear from musicians who would like to play with the orchestra, especially advanced string and brass players.

If you would like enquire about playing with us, or keep up to date with the orchestra, including concert dates, you can use the ‘Contact Us’ page on our website www.swindonsymphonyorchetra.org.uk and you can follow us on Twitter @SwindonSymph and Facebook facebook.com/swindonsymphonyorchestra.

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‘Why I love Old Town’

‘Why I love Old Town’

3rd September 2017

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Why I love Old Town

Hello listeners

Gosh, September is here and autumn is now fast approaching. So here’s a nice opportunity to share a few lines and photographs from Odile Motte that are a perfect evocation of long, sultry summer evenings from earlier this year. Particularly on days like today when it’s raining cats and dogs out there.

Odile is French, but has been in the UK for many years now. She runs the Brunel Language Centre in Swindon  and lives in Old Town – right by where the cattle market used to be. And yes, I’m still confused as to why we have a ram but no ham!  A ram as well as a ham at least surely??

‘It is 9 pm on Sunday. Such a lovely warm evening, following a lovely warm sunny day. Far too nice to be inside. Time for a walk around Old Town.

Two minutes from  my front door and I am in The Lawn. So pleasant and quiet at this time of night. The birds are still singing. The outline of North Swindon and Stratton in the distance on one side, the silhouette of Christ Church standing peacefully on the other side as night falls.

Walking back I enjoyed the contrast of Wood Street where drinkers also enjoy the warm weather or the band playing in one of the pubs.

I came across a few groups of people along the way and not a single one of them was speaking English. This is Swindon, welcoming and multinational, Swindon.’

Here’s a few photos that Odile took when enjoying her walks around Old Town and The Lawn.

See also:

https://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/getoutside/local/the-lawn-swindon – The Lawn

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1018057  – Holy Rood

http://www.swindonweb.com/index.asp?m=8&s=116&ss=320  – History of Old Town, Swindon Web

http://www.christchurchswindon.co.uk – Christ Church, Swindon

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7 reasons to be switched on to Swindon

7 reasons to be switched on to Swindon

12rh August 2017

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7 Reasons to Switch on to Swindon

Hello listeners. Here we are in August already. Aargh! Where is the year going to?

Anyway – here we are with another guest post celebrating our lovely town. This time from Julie Nicholls. Julie lives in Old Walcot and runs two businesses: Body Mind Coaching: http://body-mind-coaching.co.uk and Bilingual Babies: https://www.facebook.com/J.K.Nicholls.BilingualBabies/?fref=ts

What I love about this post is that Julie has picked a range of aspects that go a long way to highlighting what is so great about this place. And who knew that Swindon is a brilliant place to home educate your children?

So here’s Julie’s 7 reasons to be switched on to  Swindon:

‘I didn’t choose Swindon as a place to live. Rather, I chose my ‘husband to be’ and this is where he lived.

When it came to be time for me to settle in England (which I had wanted to do since I was a child) after an 8-month long distance relationship –  and it was long distance back then.The Internet didn’t exist and it took a week for mail to reach Switzerland. So Swindon is where it happened to be.

I was told Swindon was the fastest-growing town in England if not Europe. And though that didn’t appeal to me much, what was welcome was it’s proximity to places I needed to travel to: Blackpool, Belgium and later on Brighton and Devon.

Though I did not choose Swindon as such, I’m happy to call it home – something I never felt in my native Belgium. To be honest I can’t think of anywhere else I could live that gives me what I need in my life right now in the way that Swindon does.

Julie outside the Nuffield Gym

Country lover enjoying town life

I’m not keen on cities. I much prefer being out in the countryside. But as I prefer getting around on my pushbike I don’t want to live out in the middle of nowhere either.  Swindon enables me to do just that. I can cycle to most of the places I want to go. The town centre, Old Town, to my gym in Greenbridge, as well as the green spaces which I will expand on later.  All this is done mostly off the main roads, even if the cycle tracks are not as well signposted as I’d  like. This is a good test of my navigation skills and I always get home though sometimes not the way I was expecting!

1. Swindon: Brilliant business support

When I came to Swindon in 1993 and I could finally start my business, Body Mind Coaching, two things were important then and still are.

Fist was the support I got for my business. It started with Great Western Enterprise and the Chamber of Commerce. This support continued with a whole host of networking groups, especially one I joined more recently, despite knowing about it for almost 10 years: Business Village. In addition  there’s been lots of mostly free business training along the way.

2. Swindon: a green town

I mentioned above that one of the great things about Swindon is access to green spaces. So evening walks around The Lawns and cycling to Coate Water are things we do regularly.

3. Swindon an accepting town

Thinking about it now, I realise that although I was a foreigner, (and still get asked where my accent is from) I have felt accepted by the people, even if I might be considered a little strange. This was something I hadn’t felt growing up in Belgium as I was considered a foreigner there for being British.

4. Swindon: a town with lots happening

It’s been wonderful to find groups in Swindon that support my interests outside of work:

– A choir,

-Full moon Relaxation and other activities at Lower Shaw Farm which I discovered through a lovely health food store Pulse

-The death café, which born again Swindonian had mentioned before and which meets every second Tuesday of the month. The death cafe is run by Sue Holden, a civil celebrant and grief recovery specialist.  

-And to keep in touch with my French, the Anglo-french club de Swindon, the French  Language meet up where Francophiles meet up in Rudi’s bar every other Thursday night for conversations. Then there’s the occasional French film at the arts centre organised by the Swindon film Society for the best in world cinema.

5. Swindon: a great place to raise your family

Swindon has also proved to be a wonderful place to bring up our son.

Thanks to a friend I discovered storytime at many of the libraries, though Central library was the favourite. I got to learn and share some English nursery rhymes with my son as well some stories and other activities. Unbeknown to me at the time, this turned out to be the start my second business, Bilingual Babies ~ Bébés Bilingues.

We make lots of use of all the different play areas and green spaces scattered around the town.  The one in Eastern Avenue in Old Walcot and Cambria Bridge along the canal track in town were regular haunts when my son was little. Now that he is able to cycle, Coate water, Lydiard Park, and Angel Ridge are among his favourites.

https://swindonian.me/category/parks-and-open-spaces/

https://swindonian.me/category/walks-and-cycle-paths/

6. Swindon: great home education network

Last year, we began to consider whether to home educate or not. We were told by a parent in one of the groups that Swindon is one of the best places to home educate as there are loads of activity groups going on where children can socialise and learn all kinds of things depending on their interests. A year on, this has proved to be a great decision and we’re so grateful that Swindon home education has so much to offer.

7. Swindon: offers wide ranging education opportunities

It’s easy to offer a wide education thanks to:

– Art: the museum and art gallery in Old Town which regularly changes its exhibits. And we are looking forward to Swindon Open Studios in September having much enjoyed the Marlborough one this July.

-History and architecture: its railway heritage at the steam Museum and a wonderful tour around the railway village during Heritage weekend.

-Music: Concerts in the Town Gardens and Queen’s park events.

See also: 

The Mechanics’ Institute Trust: https://mechanics-trust.org.uk

Swindon Civic Voice: http://www.swindoncivicvoice.org.uk

Finally: A child’s perspective

On this note, from a child’s perspective, I’ve been told to mention that Swindon is one of the best places to be, because the Swindon buses have names and my son is very pleased that the new company has kept that going.’  Good work Thamesdown Transport: you’ve got a fan! 

Bus King William IV - switch on to swindon

 

 

 

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