20th June 2018
Discovering the River Ray Parkway
Every once in a while, as Jess Robinson describes below, she and I go a-wandering round odd/random/interesting bits of Swindon. Some time ago now we went checking out some of the town’s roundabouts – more interesting than it sounds. Read about that EXPOTITION here. And part two of that adventure here – in round and round we go again. We’ve also done the Richard Jefferies Old Town Trail. I’ll link to that at the bottom. This time though it was the River Ray Parkway trail we decided to explore. I’ve always known that Swindon, and West Swindon is green. Very. But doing this walk demonstrated it even more.So here we go: discovering the River Ray Parkway:’
‘Continuing our occasional series, “Jess and Angela wander interesting parts of Swindon”, we ventured out on a sunny day to discover what the River Ray Parkway was all about.
If you live or have wandered in the south-west/south-east parts of Swindon you may have come across the odd dark green metal signpost, some of them still contain actual signage – as in the image below. This one is at the Kingshill end of the canal towpath. It reads:
Coate Water Country Park
Lydiard Country Park
Old Town Rail Path
They’re labelled,where they’re readable: River Ray Parkway.
stump of river ray parkway sign
The Parkway is a green walking and cycling route, introduced in 1991 as part of the Great Western Community Forest scheme, it ran for 8 miles from Coate Water to Moulden Hill. It was expanded from the original effort to create the Swindon Old Town Rail Path, developed with the help of Sustrans, then a small Bristol group formed to create better walking and cycling routes. Today the route is mostly maintained as National Cycle Network route 45, started by Sustrans with a National Lottery grant in 1995.
We started out at the Moulden Hill end, and wandered along the route of NCN45, looking for the first sign. The purpose built NCN signs are quite obvious in the landscape …
National Cycle Network 45 sign
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
But the green Parkway signs tend to blend into the trees, it took a while to find one. After leaving the roads we walked through a long leafy corridor, spotting our first Parkway sign as we were almost at Shaw Forest Park (Shaw Tip on the River Ray Parkway map!). The route from here follows the edge of the Shaw Forest Park (pop in for a wander across the hill), past the Swindon Lagoons which have signs describing the habitat readable through the fence. Continuing south east, we catch up with a tributary of the actual River Ray, and follow it underneath the Great Western Way dual carriageway, around the giant Mannington Rec sports ground + park and into Bridgemead retail park.
River Ray Brochure (map side)
Brochure copy scan courtesy of Swindon Local Studies,
For PDF of map go here: River Ray Parkway trail map
From the map, you will notice that the River Ray Parkway follows two routes from Wootton Bassett Road to Rivermead, we followed the eastern route. The western route follows the western tributary of the River Ray, via Westlea Park and alongside Westlea Primary school, it follows the current NCN route 45, and the Western Flyer, a newer route created recently to provide a cycling-commuter route into the town centre.
(See also: The Western Flyer)
We ended up this first half of the route with a cuppa at John Lewis, which is on the western part of the route. On the embedded map you can see our route, follow the green markers from the north west corner (darker green marker), clicking on the markers will show images of the signs we found. The blue markers are the signs on the western route, as found by Jess the previous week.
Old kissing gate along the River Ray Parkway
The Richard Jefferies Old Town Trail
Richard Jefferies Old Town walk part one
Richard Jefferies Old Town walk part two
3rd September 2017
Why I love Old Town
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.
Looking towards Christ Church
The Lawn at dusk
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
12rh August 2017
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.
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.
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.
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!
12th July 2017
With the Switch on to Swindon initiative in mind I’ve been asking friends and clients of AA Editorial Services to write guest blogs for me sharing their Swindon stories. This time we have Sandra Trusty who is owner of the Fab Gift Boutique, an event/wedding venue stylist and personalised gift shop.
I think it’s fair to say that some people pitch up in Swindon because it turns out to be the only place for miles around where they can afford to buy. This, I think, was the case for Sandra. But don’t quote me on that!
As she describes, she came up against the prejudices about Swindon with which we’re so familiar. But! Sandra has been out and about getting to know Swindon.
She’s discovered Nordic walking on The Lawns – who knew?! Sandra is also a big fan of Fenella Elms’ flow pot. I can’t lie – it gives me the eebie geebies. *Shudders* Though I can appreciate its technical brilliance. You can see the flow pot below in the rather fab image she did for the recent Civic Day ‘I care about where I live campaign’ run by Swindon Civic Voice.
I’m rather fond of that Swindon Jubilee clock too I have to say.
Thanks Sandra for your delightful account of discovering Swindon. It’s just the sort of thing we Born again Swindonians love to hear!
Carol Aplin, Pink&Green Skincare: Nature on my doorstep – Swindon’s abundance of nature
Jo Rigden, 4Points Leisure: https://swindonian.me/2017/06/29/dragon-boat-racing/ – the charity dragon boat racing event on Coate Water
Tim Perkins, Wild Goose Gear: http://swindonian.me/2017/05/29/kings-farm-wood-walk/ – a walk near Wroughton
‘We moved to Swindon back in 2014. We had lots of comments about why were moving here, there is nothing in Swindon except the Swindon Outlet Centre, so what were we going to do with ourselves. How wrong were these detractors!
We settled in and went through the painful renovation process. Oh the dust and dirt and many many trips to the local DIY shops. One consequence of being a frequent visitor to any establishment is that they get to know you. Because of this we were able to get help with a multitude of issues we faced in our new job as “excited fixer-uppers” Thankfully it’s over now and we can now get time to explore Swindon and its localities.
I love Yoga and have found a fab class located in the Dojo Café. The class is run by Eunice, a really caring teacher who can make my joints and limbs think and do wonderful things
At the launch of one of the Swindon Open Studios I discovered the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery and was transfixed when I saw the display cabinet containing a piece by Fenella Elms. I could stand and stare at her flow pot for hours, following the ebb and flow of the lines and images and forms the pot creates. My imagination runs riot as I stand and explore the forms of this pot. It’s totally beautiful and I’m so glad the Swindon museum and art gallery has acquired it. Pop along to the museum and have a look. See if it floats your boat.
I’m amazed that I can just walk into someone’s garden and find street art. And this is in fact what you can do. In West Swindon, part of the West Swindon Sculpture Trail, there’s a front garden with a stone carving of ‘Hey Diddle Diddle” on show. You can drive or walk past and admire it. I’m told you can go right into the garden to get a closer look. I haven’t done that yet, but one day!
The countryside in and around Swindon is amazing. I love driving around and not being surrounded by concrete. I drove from Swindon to Pewsey recently and discovered some fabulous countryside out there. We’ve also discovered the Cotswold water park and took a long leisurely Sunday afternoon walk along the towpath and getting sort of lost.
There’s some excitement in not knowing where you are going to end up. Then finding your way and joining the dots to link one place to another and realizing you weren’t lost after all. I hope I never become de-sensitised to the beauty around me.
Talking of the outdoors and countryside, I’ve also discovered that Swindon has a Nordic Walking group that meets on a Saturday morning and also twice in the week. I first heard about this sort of walking exercise about 10 years ago but only just had the opportunity to take it up. I’ve met some lovely people in the group and discovered The Lawns – a fabulous green space right in the middle of Swindon. It has hills and valleys and lakes, woodlands and wildlife right here in the middle of town. So I Nordic walk up and down and around on a Saturday morning and then retire with the rest of the group for a very restorative coffee/tea/hot chocolate. We sit outside a coffee shop at the top of Wood Street in Old Town, enjoying our drinks and spend the next five minutes putting the world to rights.
It’s a great way to start a Saturday and leaves me energised for the rest of the day. The people I’ve met have been open and welcoming and have amazed and delighted me with their kindness and generosity. From my neighbours who welcomed us to the area to total strangers. There was the lady who bought a teddy for a little girl in the queue behind her and the young man who gave me his phone charger because he had just bought a new phone – I needed a charger and he had one spare.
I have lots more to discover about Swindon and am looking forward to it.’
Here’s some super pictures from Sandra of her yoga class and her comrades in the Nordic walking:
The website for Nordic walking UK: https://nordicwalking.co.uk
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.
NATURE ON MY DOORSTEP
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.
Lydiard House & Park: Festival Chronicle
Hello listeners. If it’s May then that means only one thing: The Swindon Festival of Literature! Now in its 24th year would you believe?! Well I would because I’ve been attending it pretty much since its birth. Oh my gosh – that’s a scary thought.
Anyway, this here is by way of a share of the first of my musings for Festival Chronicles featuring Lydiard House.
Yesterday I went to a talk at Lydiard House Conference Centre. It was delivered by Sarah Finch-Crisp one of the trustees of the Lydiard Park Heritage Trust and was a whistle stop history of Lydiard House and its park – and some of the people who lived there.
So with no further ado I give you:
From Aristocratic playground to American Hospital and Beyond – Lydiard House
See also: http://lydiardhouse.blogspot.co.uk