Dragon Boat Racing at Coate Water

Dragon Boat Racing at Coate Water


Dragon Boat Racing at Coate Water

Hello readers. Here’s another guest post from a friend of my alter ego, AA Editorial Services. It’s written by Jo who is one half of 4Points Leisure. They’re a super, family run Swindon-based business mad for camping, glamping and festivals. I KNOW – there’s no accounting for some folk eh?! 😉

Jo mentioned that they were going to the dragon boat racing at Coate Water so I said a guest post about would be fab. So here it is!  http://www.swindondragonboat.org.uk   And there’s even a British Dragon Boat Racing Association.  Of course there is!

I have to say it sounds like super fun. And gambling with ice-creams surely gives it an edge?  And I’d no idea it had such a rich history. Interesting stuff. Thanks Jo for this – fascinating.

Dragon Boat Racing

Dragon Boat Racing was entirely new to our family, you can call us very sheltered! We saw the event advertised in Swindon, so we thought we’d pop along. This was part of our tech free Sundays – all in the name really! Every Sunday we now endeavour to find something to do that doesn’t involve tech.  Dragon Boat Racing achieved this small aim!

First a lil history

As you would imagine, it is Chinese in origins, what with the dragons and all, and dates back more than 2000 years. Superstitious Chinese villagers celebrated the 5th day of the 5th lunar month of the Chinese calendar, by racing. Racing was seen to avert misfortune and encourage the rains, which were needed for prosperity.

The Dragon, in China is traditionally a symbol of water, ruling the rivers, seas and clouds. In the 19th century European nations such as Britain and France used military power to control territory and economic privileges, in China. Of course they saw Dragon boat racing as corruptive, leading to gambling and fighting. They sought to suppress it, but dragon boat racing continued to be widely practiced.

Reformers looked to grow Dragon Boat racing, with a view to making it a national sport, and real progress was made from the 1920s to 50s. Then communism hit, and the government decided it represented old feudal customs and banned it in the early 1960s.

Dragon Boat Racing Today

Around 1976, British controlled Hong Kong, began to develop dragon boat racing as a sport. Used primarily to encourage tourism, over the next 10 years, other locations around the world began holding specific festivals in the Hong Kong style.

As the races grew in popularity, several national associations developed, and in 1991 the International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF)was established in Hong Kong.  The IDBF has since published by-laws, rules & regulations with full technical specifications for the sport, which is now practiced in over 60 countries worldwide.

Dragon boat racing is one of the world’s fastest growing water sports, and is used extensively as a way of raising funds for charity organisations in the UK. Hence the Rotary Club of Swindon Phoenix Dragon Boat Racing Day held in June each year.

Dragon Boat Racing in Swindon

This one day charity event is now in its fifth year, held at Coate Water Country Park in Swindon, the day involves 15 teams. Every team has 16 members paddling and 1 drummer – ehh drumming! The team choose a charity to sponsor, having raised £25 to enter the race.

The first heats involve two teams against one another, and so they race through three heats until the finals. The winner receives a very funky dragon trophy. However we felt that the trophy was just a sideline to the fun and mayhem of the day.

Once the team are in the narrow boat (they’re about 12m long) and settled, it’s down to the co-ordination of paddling. The better co-ordinated you are with each other the faster you’ll go. You would think that was obvious, but when there are 16 of you, and in some cases the drummer thinks he’s Dave Grohl, you get the picture.

As the team Disney Wannabees (dressed as Disney characters) demonstrated. We were treated to the Mad Hatter drumming, and Alice in Wonderland with a beard rowing.  We could be scarred for life!!

2 dragon boats and a dinghy people paddling a dragon boat - 2 dragon boat racing

How do they race?

Both boats row to the end of the lake, nearest the diving platform (long since closed). They turn, as best they can without hitting one another, to face the finish line. As we say, always a good start.

Our starter chap, is balancing in a dingy, which is anchored by a sledgehammer! When he’s happy both boats are facing the right direction, and are level, he’ll sound the horn and off they go.

Paddling like the clappers, drumming like Iron Maiden, steering down the lake towards the chequered flag, the teams are massively competitive.  Racing started at 10am and the finals were held at 3.30. It’s a good full day out if you find a team you want to follow from start to end, or even if you just pitch up with a picnic.

We as a sad  gambling family (such bad examples, I know) made it more interesting by betting ice creams on either the green or red dragon boat would win, and hubcap and I currently owe darling daughter several ice creams! Mmmm…

To give you a further feel for the day, here’s a YouTube video made by Richard Symonds, of the 2014 Swindon Dragon Boat Race.

What else is going on?

The Rotary Club of Swindon Phoenix, had opened up the other side of the lake (the side with the miniature railway and play park) to additional entertainment.  Here they had several charity stalls, tombolas, obligatory tea cup ride and several food outlets, including Arkells Beer wagon (perhaps not at 11am?!). We felt for them in the mizzly rain, after the previous scorcher of a weekend. Yet there were plenty of people about – we even queued for the hook a duck.

Having spent most of our coppers, we headed to the Coate Water Miniature Railway, which I had never, in my 20 years here, ridden. Head over to Born Again Swindonians’ blog about Coate Water here to find out more about this beautiful railway. (She’s right – it IS fabulous.) 


Coate Water miniature railway

As a day out, Dragon Boat Racing in Swindon is a great event, and you could definitely make a day of it.

As a seafaring family, it introduced us to another water sport. So who knows, 4 Points Leisure may yet take to the waves. Until next time, have fun whatever you’re upto #getoutside.


Swindon’s abundance of nature

Swindon’s abundance of nature

21st June 2017


Hello listeners. Continuing with my series of guest posts from friends and AA Editorial Services clients we have this one from Carol Aplin of Pink&Green skincare.

Carol lives in the Kingshill area so often walks and cycles along the canal enjoying the nature to be found there. And in her garden too.

If you’ve not yet taken a trip on Dragonfly down the Wilts & Berks canal put it on your list. It’s a delightful way to pass some time.


It’s wonderful.  I can be sitting in my conservatory and what should appear but a fox taking a little stroll round my garden.  I see it often.  Where I live, the side of the hill is a woodland.  I am visited by all manner of wildlife.  Sometimes deer can be seen wondering along the roads.  They are quite at home.  At dusk, it is not uncommon to enjoy a badger nuzzling the ground in search of bugs.  (Luckily it hasn’t decided to dig any big holes in my garden.)

Blue tits, long-tailed tits, coal tits, goldfinches, bull finches, firecrests are among an array of feathered visitors.

For exercise, I love going for a cycle.  I’ve never been keen though on tackling busy roads.  Here in Swindon the cycle path network comes to the rescue.  I can potter along the canal and up on to the railway cutting.  My mother lives in Wroughton so I often cycle over to see her.  I’ve worked out that by the time I get my car out and drive there, it’s no quicker than pedal power.

It’s a great opportunity to see more of nature.  Herons, woodpeckers, swans, water voles.  You can even take a leisurely trip in a canal boat if you fancy.

As I leave my house on my bike, I immediately turn down one of the little lanes that run to the canal.  From there it’s very easy to get on to the old railway cutting towards Old Town.  I branch off and head for Wichelstowe if I’m visiting my mum.  Sometimes though, I’ll continue right through to where the old cattle market used to be and head out to Coate Water.  The whole journey doesn’t touch a major road.

I can also do the same in the other direction.  I can get to Waitrose by using the canal.  It’s a very pleasurable way of getting the groceries.

Nature really is on my doorstep.

The first guest post in this series from Tim Perkins of TMP Planning and Wild Goose Gear is here: https://swindonian.me/2017/05/29/kings-farm-wood-walk/

Read about the Wilts and Berks canal and the delightful Dragonfly in this post.



King’s Wood Walk

King’s Wood Walk

28th May 2017


King’s Farm Wood Walk

With the Switch-on to Swindon initiative kicking off this year I thought it would be good to get some perspectives on Swindon from some other people instead of only mine.

Read my Switch on to Swindon story here: https://swindonian.me/2017/04/11/my-switch-on-to-swindon-story/

I’ve met loads of people when business networking in my AA Editorial Services hat.  Some of them have become clients and/or friends. So I decided to ask them what their favourite things in and around Swindon are.

First up we’ve got Tim Perkins. Being a sucker for punishment Tim has not one but two businesses. I mean really? Why WOULD you?!

One of them is TMP planning – and you can find out more about that by clicking the hyperlink.

The other is Wild Goose Gear and that one concerns itself with all things outdoorsy! ‘We love outdoor exercise and will find any excuse to be out about exploring the countryside on foot, by bike or in the water. From walking the dog, to hiking, running, cycling and open water swimming there are many ways to enjoy the outdoors.’

Wild Goose Gear on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wildgoosegear/?fref=ts

Their newly formed blog:  https://wildgoosegear.wordpress.com

and their Ebay shop: http://stores.ebay.co.uk/wildgoosegear/

So it’s not surprising then that Tim has chosen to talk about the countryside around Swindon. TBH this blog is meant to be concerned with stuff INSIDE Swindon (that comes under SBC) but I’ll stretch the point. Wroughton is close enough for government work.  So now over to Tim:

‘One of the great things about Swindon is the fantastic countryside right on the door step of the town.  Unless you live nearby you may not know about Kings Farm Wood in Wroughton. Yet it’s a fine example of a walk that’s close to the town and easy to access.

Woodpeckers and Wildflowers on the edge of Wroughton in King’s Wood Walk

Signage Kings Wood Walk

Kings Farm Wood is the most accessible of a series of linked nature reserves. They include Clouts Wood, Markham Banks and the Diocese Meadows on the southern edge of Wroughton. They’e all managed by the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and include contrasting landscapes of meadows, combes and woodland on slopes leading up towards the Marlborough Downs.

Here’s a brief description of the Kings Farm Wood walks which can also be extended to take in the other areas I mentioned.

  1. Start From the Ellendune Centre in Wroughton (by Tesco). There’s a large free car park here if you are driving. Walk out past the library and the War Memorial and turn left.

In a few yards you’ll reach traffic light where you go straight across (past the Co-op on your right). Keep straight on for a few hundred yards until you get to the end of this road. There you’ll see a street sign for Nursery Close pointing right. Follow this road for a few yards and you take a tarmacked footpath on your left between hedges.

pathway Kings Wood Walk

  1. At the end of this cross a road (Badgers Brook) and a small stream and go through the metal gate where you’ll see the information boards for Kings Farm Wood on your right.
  2. Now there are three waymarked routes shown on the board on the left. These are well signposted and easy to follow:

Yellow (0.6 miles) – This is out and back route on a good quality gravel track which is suitable for pushchairs and mobility scooter.

pathway Kings Wood Walk

Red (0.6 miles) – Again this is a short route on more undulating paths.

Blue (1 mile) – The longest route takes you along the gravel path to a metal gate into a field. If you have a dog, note that there may be cattle in this field so keep your dog on a lead.

Across the field you then turn left up a fairly steep slope to the top of the bank and back along a path with some fantastic views of Swindon through meadows and young planted woodland. Weather permitting you will see the distinctive white Nationwide HQ, Christchurch in Old Town and a glimpse of the top of the Murray John Tower Follow the waymarks and you will eventually come back down the hill to the start.

The view from Kings Wood Walk

These three walks are all short and the yellow one in particular is very accessible.

For the more adventurous the walks can easily be extended as there are a network of paths in this area. These link the four areas of Clouts Wood, Diocese Meadows and Markham Banks which can all be explored on a longer walk.  

To get to Clouts Wood simply go through the gate at the end of the gravel path straight across the field and then through the gate opposite. There are several options of paths to the left up the hill and when you get to the top you simply turn right to reach Clouts Wood. If in doubt climb until you reach the fence that marks the boundary with the Science Museum land (old RAF Wroughton) and turn right.

Here’s a link to the Wiltshire Wildlife  leaflet  of this whole area, where it’s located and how to get there Clouts Wood including Kings Farm Wood, Diocese Meadows and Markham Banks


Dying Matters Awareness Week

Dying Matters Awareness Week

3rd May 2017


Dying Matters Awareness Week

8th May to 14th May

This blog will be the death of me listeners it really will 😉

Okay. I’ll stop with the puns and introduce this guest post from Sue Holden. Sue is a civil celebrant and grief recovery specialist. Together with Reshma Field who is Swindon Will Writing, she runs a regular death cafe in Swindon. Links to their websites are at the bottom of this post.

Here Sue writes about dying matters awareness week – a nationwide thing doing what it says on the tin.  It makes sense. As Benjamin Franklin apparently said: ‘In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.’

Dying Matters Awareness Week

Stone cross - dying matters awareness week

Does dying matter? Of course, it does.

Then why don’t we talk about it? We plan and discuss other major life events. It doesn’t have to be morbid and it won’t not happen just because you don’t talk about it!

From 8th May to 14th May, events are taking place all over the country with the intention of helping people become more comfortable about planning and talking about death and dying.

Dying Matters is a coalition led by the National Council for Palliative Care. It’s function is to support the implementation of the Department of Health’s ‘End of Life Care’ strategy. To make a ‘good death’ the norm and this year’s theme is ‘What Can You Do?’

Death Cafes make you a ‘legitimate weirdo’ so there will be hundreds running up and down the country for us all to be ‘weird’ together. There’ll also be other events looking at and discussing death and dying.

But who says we are weird? Is it not time to take back responsibility for ourselves instead of leaving it to our children? Make decisions about your end of life care, for how and where you wish to die, for your funeral and funeral ceremony. Have the last laugh. Have the last word! Make every aspect of your life personal and memorable.

About 500,000 people die every year and 70 percent of people would like to die at home, yet 50 percent of people die in hospital. Due to advancements in medicine in hospitals and hospices we can keep people alive for longer, but at what quality?

Many people live to an old age and life expectancy is increasing. This means that many people don’t experience the death of a family member or close friend until they are mid-life themselves.

There used to be some certainties with diseases and accidents but modern medicines have blurred the lines. Society as a whole has never been less exposed to death. As a result, we’ve become afraid of what we don’t know, can’t see and haven’t experienced. Fear of the unknown means that people sometimes avoid those who are ill and dying and feel unable to support them. It also means that if relatives of a loved one don’t know a persons’ preferences, they may make decisions about care that the dying person doesn’t want. When the inevitable happens, those who are left behind often have to make decisions in a hurry when they’re emotionally distraught and least able to make them. It can also be comforting to those near death to know that their passing will not add any extra stress and pain if their final wishes are known and will be carried out.

Terrorism and wars bring death closer to us, so we cannot go on ignoring it. In some cultures, and countries death through fights, stabbings, gun crime, famine, disease etc. can be ‘normal’. Does this make it easier to talk about? Yes, it can do. Grief can be a catalyst to talk. We don’t know when we’re going to die. When we’re young we think it will be never!

Yet, we often live better when we know and accept that we’re going to die and embrace our mortality. Be present, enjoy what you do, experiment, have no regrets.

Start to talk about death and dying before grief becomes your catalyst by checking in at an event near you.

Boat funeral - dying matters awareness week

In Swindon, Sue Holden will be running her regular Death Cafe at the Village Hotel (de Vere) at Shaw Leisure Park SN5 7DW on Tuesday 9th May from 7.00pm to 8.30pm. Admission is FREE.

The Prospect Hospice will also be running similar events throughout the week. Find out more about that here: http://www.prospect-hospice.net/Events/dying-matters-awareness-week.aspx

In Trowbridge, at the Town Hall, people can pop in and ‘Ask the Undertaker’, join a Death Café for coffee and cakes, watch a couple of films and find out about writing a will, powers of attorney, planning your funeral, writing your ceremony and many other interesting subjects.

If you would like further information about events in Swindon and Wiltshire please contact Sue on 07941273589 or via email: susan.cfc.holden@gmail.com


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Reshma Field and Swindon Will Writing:

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Bohemian Rhapsody at Bohemian Balcony

Bohemian Rhapsody at Bohemian Balcony

17th December 2016


Hello listeners, what we have here is a guest post from Richard Cox of Ridgeway Editorial – based in Swindon. I was unable to attend this event so Richard agreed to do a write up on my behalf. Thanks Richard. I can’t be everywhere – my name’s not Dolly – so this is fab.

So welcome to the Bohemian Balcony!

A new home for Swindon’s artistic evolution


Swindon has always found ways to adapt, regenerate and recreate itself. That’s what industrious people do: they make ideas a reality.

Across the town, groups and individuals are making their voices heard in new, refreshing ways. And in one of our historically significant community hubs, The Palladium (http://www.rodbournehistory.org/?cat=23), a new creative hub aims to provide a space for artistic freedom in the community. It’s called The Bohemian Balcony.

Based on Jennings Street near the Outlet Village, The Palladium used to be a 750-seater, single-screen cinema. It attracted film lovers from the late 1920s to about 1960. But since then, the only full house within its walls has been at bingo nights: you know, eyes down … take a chance.

That’s exactly what the founder of The Bohemian Balcony, Dan Rivers (32), is doing. He’s taking a chance to bring his ambition of ten-years to fruition.  For almost his entire adult life, Dan’s been searching for the right opportunity to bring Swindon’s excellent creative practitioners into the spotlight. In 2016, that moment arrived.

Taking time to talk after the venue’s first Creative Collective event–a networking and collaboration forum– Dan explained the thinking that led him to reopen The Palladium’s doors to the public.

“There wasn’t a big moment,” Dan reflects. “I just realised that I could achieve anything and that you only failed if you didn’t try.

“There’s no motive other than creating a space that I can share with everyone and say, let’s evolve the arts in Swindon.”

And that evolution is already underway. The evening’s Creative Collective comprised two halves: the first was an opportunity to discover the new space and mingle; the second aired the work of a local screen-writer, Alex Secker, and Bristol-based comedian, James Micic.

Alex’s script for a short art film, read aloud by volunteers, explored the emotional attachments we all make with our homes. Set at a property viewing, the story follows just two characters: the owner and the viewer. It’s an everyday scene; however, it’s clear from the off that the viewer has a history with the property, and problems arise when things are not as they used to be. Watch this space.

James’ act was a testament to the hard work stand-ups put in to find the comedy sweet spot. His energetic style of delivery tied together a string of carefully-crafted witticisms, with audience participation playing a key role. And even if one or two punchlines fall to the cutting room floor, that’s the evolution of art. Both Alex and James received positive feedback from the audience.

“This place is not for egos and self-indulgence; that’s left at the door,” Dan shares as the evening comes to an end. “The ethos here is just to have the bravery to give it a try, no matter what.

“My hope is that I reach more and more people. My dream is that this place will be buzzing every single night with people, with events, activities …. 2016 is the time that we sparked something, and 2017 is about shining that light on it.”

The next event to be held at The Bohemian Balcony is with the Experimental Drawing Hub, from 12 to 3pm on Saturday 17th December.

The open-enquiry session will be led by local artists Beverley Greig and Paul Exton. It’s a great opportunity for anyone to explore their artistic expression in a friendly environment.

Tickets are £5 with all the takings going toward The Bohemian Balcony. For more information and to book your place, please visit https://thelittleboxoffice.com/bohemianbalcony.

About Bohemian Balcony:

‘A special place where artists grow and a space for imaginations to freely flow’

LAUNCHING IN JANUARY 2017: Based in the former Swindon Palladium Cinema, the Bohemian Balcony is an alternative arts venue for creativity, experimentation, training and production. We will provide a unique space and creative platform for artists, practitioners and students to freely express, develop their art, collaborate and bring their imaginative work to life.

The Bohemian Balcony will be an active, buzzing hub of creativity where multi-artists can train, develop and practice their art. A network and ensemble of performers, directors, scriptwriters, filmmakers, photographers, musicians, designers and artists all under one roof to not only keep the arts alive in our community but also to take our practice into a new generation and allow our practitioners of the future to emerge.’

The Bohemian Balcony

The Palladium
Jennings Street, Rodbourne

Telephone: 01793 264 050
Email: director@bohemianbalcony.com
Website: http://www.bohemianbalcony.com/

The Palladium

The Palladium: http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/48331

‘Located in Jennings Street, off Rodbourne Road, Swindon, Wilshire. The Palladium Cinema was opened around 1928/1929. It was built and operated by Even Swindon Cinema Ltd. and had 750 seats at its opening. It was equipped with a RCA sound system.

The Palladium Cinema was closed by 1962 and was converted into a bingo club.’

See also: http://www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/news/10820779.Last_tango_in_Swindon___/


No Surprises Living in Devizes: Swindon is _________

No Surprises Living in Devizes: Swindon is _________

10th October 2016


Magic roundabout mosaic

Magic roundabout mosaic

Hello Listeners

Basically what we have here is a share of an article posted and distributed by my good friend Index Wiltshire: http://indexwiltshire.co.uk

Index Wiltshire logo

It’s penned by Darren Morrow who writes about Devizes for Index Wiltshire in a regular column called ‘No surprises living in Devizes’.

I’m a bit of a fan of Darren’s writing. He’s very droll I must say and does make me giggle.

So I enjoyed his latest offering about Swindon a lot. Yeah it’s TIC. Yes it’s very wry and a little bit mocking. But it’s ultimately an affectionate homage to Swindon.

He has some kind words to say about STEAM museum:

‘… Shopping is its magnetism, but I was massively impressed with Steam; a fantastic interactive museum of the town’s heritage. My son loved the customary displays maybe more than the Lego exhibits, and what impressed me was the ex-railway-worker curator’s first-hand knowledge about the trains. It’s a far cry from the tiny railway museum of yore. Here’s a town which constantly tries to improve, and all it gets is slammed by outsiders for it…’

And this:

‘People from other towns should snatch a leaf out of Swindonians book of pride, and also support its big bro, visit the attractions rather than nipping into Greenbridge Retail “Park” for a new laptop and buggering off again.

So I declare; people of Swindon do not be convinced by the nation’s stigma against you. Never wallow in your town, hoping for escape or else supplying the critics with ammo by causing wrongdoing and upset for your fellow Swindonians. Stand proud, warble “Cos we want to” loudly from the highest pig hill and use the Swindon Exclamation Mark in boundless excess!!!!!!’ 

And if you want to know what all the exclamation marks are in aid of – well read the rest of it!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thanks Darren. It makes a pleasant change!

No Surprises Living in Devizes: Swindon is _________