About Liddington Hill Swindon One of many splendid things about Swindon is the great number of parks and open spaceswe enjoy. Both in and around the town. And Liddington Hill is a mere one of those areas of great natural beauty that envelope and caress the town near and below it.
On this walk you can discover Shipley Bottom – ooh er missus. That, it seems, is a fine example of an enclosed coombe or short valley described by writer and poet Edward Thomas (1878-1917) as ‘walled on every side by down and sky,’
The walk follows a route used by a somewhat forgotten poet, Charles Hamilton Sorley (1895-1915). Sorley studied at Marlborough College from 1908 to 1913. His experience on the downs inspired such poems as Barbary Castle.
On Liddington Hill you’ll find a memorial to two famous sons of Swindon: Richard Jefferies (1848-1887) and Alfred Williams (1877-1930). They both wrote about the hill. Well I say that – but as far as I know, all that remains is the triangulation pillar used to replace a dedication plaque to Alfred Williams. American soldiers during WWII used that plaque for target practice and damaged it. It’s now on display in the Richard Jefferies’ museum at Coate.1940 saw a replacement plaque installed but that got removed by persons unknown, never to be seen again.
The plaque now at the Richard Jefferies Museum
The self-taught Williams described Swindon railway life and Wiltshire villages. See my book Secret Swindon for more about him and Richard Jefferies. Scholars of Jefferies believe his wanderings across the downs of Wiltshire inspired his rapport with the natural world. That was something he expressed in The Story of My Heart – his autobiography.
The two views that we see here, looking down on Swindon from Liddington Hill, are a wee bit changed from when Williams and Jefferies’ day.
Alfred Williams’ poem: Liddington Hill
On this Poetry Atlas websitethere’s a poem written by Williams’ about this beloved Liddington Hill. Here’s the first stanza:
The friendship of a hill I know Above the rising down, Where the balmy souther breezes blow But a mile or two from town; The budded broom and heather Are wedded on its breast, And I love to wander thither When the sun is in the west.
Liddington Hill as a Starfish Site
There’s a relatively intact control bunker for a co-located Starfish and Quick Light (QL) site at Liddington Hill overlooking Swindon.
The bunker lies at the edge of the small copse on the eastern summit of the hill, Liddington Clump. You can see those trees from the M4 motorway.
Starfish sites were large-scale night-time decoys created during the Blitz to simulate burning British cities. The intention of them was diverting German bombers from their intended targets so they’d drop their cargo over the countryside. You can read more about Starfish sites here.
Such a thing is a link of wildlife habitat – as a rule native vegetation. It joins two or more larger areas of similar wildlife habitat. These corridors are critical for the maintenance of ecological processes – including allowing animals to move from one place to another. And to allow viable populations to continue.
Wildlife corridors are critical for the maintenance of ecological processes, including allowing for the movement of animals and the continuation of viable populations. And Swindon has the great, good fortune to be particularly blessed in all things nature and wildlife. I’m thinking not only of wildlife corridors such as this but of the wildlife lagoons over to the west, Hagbourne Copse and many, many more green spaces besides. All of them important for biodiversity. Indeed a chap from Wiltshire Wildlife once commented to me how underestimated Swindon is – in general but in particular for its astonishing amount of green spaces and wildlife habitat.
About Marlborough Lane wildlife corridor
Though not too welll-known, Marlborough Lane comprises one of Swindon’s longest-standing natural wildlife corridors. It stretches from the Great Copse, along Marlborough Lane to willow trees on the embankment. Over 200 mature trees along its length provide an essential foraging route for bats, birds and bees.
The corridor also forms a vital barrier between the large car park belonging to the Marriott Hotel and all who either live on the lane or travel along it to the Croft sports centre, school and playgroup.
The tree line lies on the Marriott’s land. But it’s the residents of the lane that have planted the long laurel hedge along the mid-section and the shrubs and flowering plants on the end of the lane.
The embankment once had a life as the old railway line. A few years ago an initiative started by residents Adrian and Andrea Downing led to the planting of sixty trees with Cllrs, residents and the Croft School’s first intake of pupils.
The embankment is bedecked too with a host of daffodils sufficient to inspire Wordsworth himself. Or his sister, Dorothea. But I digress. Swindon Borough Council gave the bulbs towards an early spring clean by Old Town Residents Association (OTRA). Many got involved in planting them including the Scouts. OTRA created the flower bed on the embankment and maintain it to this day.
One of the movers and shakers behind this particular wildlife corridor is Marlborough Lane resident, Carole Bent. Her motivation for highlighting the importance of this particular tree line began around ten years ago.
Said Carole: ‘like many, I’ve had a lifelong love of nature. It inspired my first small (in physical size) book Wisdom of the Catfish in which I mention learnings from our natural world – including those close to home. Earlier this year the British Naturalist Society asked me to write an article highlighting the Great Copse and the wildlife corridor.’
NB – see the link above for a downloadable PDF about the Great Copse.
At the start of Covid-19 we saw a dramatic reduction in traffic and an increase in people’s appreciation of nature and their environment in general. And that made me think how great it would be to use this period to help people take a fresh look at the natural environment. Both close to their home and on their way to the Croft.’
A chat with Croft School
‘A conversation with Elaine Murphy, head of Croft School, and her husband reinforced my thoughts about seeing the area as a mini nature reserve and a place worth looking after. ‘
Thus Carole approached Swindon artist Marilyn Trew (someone slowly mapping Swindon) to create an artwork. Said Carole: ‘I love the way that her work engages people with nature & felt that a visual interpretation would be positive – including for the young children who go to the school, playgroup & all ages at the sports centre. I knew this would be something uplifting for them to see when they returned to school in September.
‘A group of neighbours met in our garden & we shared our knowledge of the wildlife and plants with her. Marilyn has kindly gifted this to our community, including access to a black and white version for children of all ages to colour in! Marilyn & I intend to visit the school at a time to suit the head teacher.
We hope to have full sizes signs also made & will follow this up with Parish & SBC Councillors. The effect of nature on our wellbeing is well-recorded and seems more important now than ever.’
If you’d like to download the black and white version of Marilyn’s map to colour in yourself there’s a link below.
Marilyn has long held an interest in all aspects of nature. She now manages 3 art groups in Swindon and exhibits her work around Swindon and its environs. Currently Marilyn is concentrating her efforts on nature and heritage charities.
Jubilee Lake Nature Reserve RWB – Royal Wotton Bassett
Here’s a smashing guest post from Lis Mcdermot about Jubilee Lake Nature Reserve Royal Wotton Bassett. Until recently I had no idea about this place. And, as you’ll see, it took Lis a while to realise it too!
We had lived in Royal Wootton Bassett for eleven years before we realised there was a lake!
In 1940 the Town Council purchased Wootton Bassett Lake. But it wasn’t until 37 years later, in 1977 that it became Jubilee Lake Park, renamed to mark Queen Elizabeth ll’s Silver Jubilee.
2007 saw the lake area designated as a Local Nature Reserve. It is a beautiful, small area of ancient woodlands and meadows, located north east of the town, a little over a mile from the High Street.
After parking in the lake car park you can choose to either walk though a little copse or walk down the tarmac road. The latter being a much easier option for anyone pushing either pushchairs, or wheelchairs.
Taking the road
The road though has quite a steep incline as you near the lake, which can make it hard work on the way back up to the car park. The copse has a little stream that runs down through the middle. In spring months it’s with blue bells and wild garlic; a wonderful aroma.
f you choose to take the road you’ll pass the large children’s’ play area, and Jubilee Tea Rooms where you can stop for tea and cakes, or ice cream on extra hot days.
The park has plenty of activities for children including quiz leaflets. You can colllect these from either the Lake Tea Rooms, or the Town Council Office on the High Street. There are also public toilets in this area.
Seasons in the sun – or maybe the snow
If you visit the lake often during the year, you can watch the seasons change. During the spring it’s lovely to watch the family of geese swimming with their newly hatched chicks.
n the summer the meadow beside the lake is the perfect spot to sit and read, or simply enjoy the sunshine with the family. Later in the year, the trees look magnificent dressed in the Autumnal colours. The area is very quiet, and it’s easy to forget that you are on the edge of a small town.
There is also a thriving Angling Club and you often see fisherman sitting in quite contemplation around the edge of the lake with the rods. NB: You need a license for fishing.
The walk around the lake is not that long. So, if you’re walking there for exercise, a mere one walk around never feels quite enough. It’s a somewhat small lake, as lakes go after all. Yet it’s a beautiful area, and well worth visiting.
At present during the Corona Virus pandemic, there is one-way system in place, to ensure people are able to self-distance more with ease.
For more information about the Angling Club, please contact Terry Strange on 01793 346730.
Swindon celebrates Beat the Street success as the town’s Beat the Street challenge 2019 ends with a massive total of 252,157 miles.
More than 25,979 people signed up and walked, cycled and ran during the six-week challenge which took place from 25 September to 6 November.
This year, the game expanded, with more Beat Boxes around the town, new locations and more leader boards.
There are winners from across the 16 leaderboards, with Haydonleigh Primary School travelling the furthest distance throughout the game. Their 964 members walked, ran and cycled a total of 14,467 miles.
Celebration Event as Swindon Celebrates Beat the Street Success
Everyone who took part in this year’s Beat the Street game will attend a celebration event at Lydiard Park on Saturday, 16 November from 12pm to 3pm. The event will feature presentations and a ‘Have a Go’ activities.
Intelligent Healthand the National Lottery, on behalf of Sport Englandand Swindon Borough Council, delivered Beat the Street to our town. The intention of the game is increasing levels of walking and cycling in Swindon.
Speaking about the success of the initiative Stuart Arthur, local co-ordinator for Beat the Street said: “It has been another fantastic game and we’ve loved hearing stories from people while we were out and about.
Participants tell us that:
They love playing Beat the Street and getting fitter
Families are spending more time together
They’ve discovered new parts of Swindon
It brings communities together
“Although the game has finished, we will continue to work with local groups, schools and residents to encourage people to maintain those lifestyle changes that they have made during the game.”
Taking place until 6 November, the game has once more transformed the town into a giant game. One where residents are rewarded with points and prizes for walking, cycling or scooting around their community, tapping Beat Boxes along the way.
Way more than 500 miles
Residents have already travelled an incredible 217,000 miles so far in the competition. However, with a mere one week left, players are encouraged to push themselves even harder to see how far Swindon can go and if players can beat last year’s record-breaking total of 313,353 miles.
Schools, community groups and workplaces are battling it out for the chance to win prizes of up to £200 in vouchers for books, sports or fitness equipment.
The team currently topping the total points leaderboard is Haydonleigh Primary School.Their 956 team members have travelled more than 12,000 miles so far.
However, everything could change at the top of the 16 leaderboards as this week’s theme is ‘Go Celebrate’ and every Beat Box in the game will be giving out double points until 6 November.
Additionally, all Beat Boxes will give out triple points on the final day until the game ends at 7pm.
The winners will be announced shortly after the competition ends.
Councillor Brian Ford, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Adults and Health, said: “We’re already seeing the top schools and teams in Beat the Street going the extra mile as we enter the final part of the competition. With the chance to score double and triple points during the final week, all teams have the chance to climb the leaderboards and take home one of the top prizes.
“It would also be a bonus if we could beat our record-breaking total from last year. So let’s get out there and get tapping!”
The GWR Park, in the centre of Swindon’s award-winning GWR Railway Village conservation areabegan life in 1844 as a cricket ground. In that year, the GWR bought land from Lt.Col.Vilett, a local landowner. That land, to the west of the new Railway Village, between Faringdon Road and St Mark’s Church became first a cricket ground and later the GWR Park – known also to some as The Plantation or Victoria Park.
Aside from cricket, the park played – and still does play – a big role in the social life of the the railway village residents and wider Swindon. As such it occupies a special place in Swindon’s history.
The Children’s Fete is Swindon’s oldest summer event – dating back to 1866. Organised by the Mechanics’ Institution, it ran until 1939 (except during the Great War) and was only halted by the outbreak of WWII. In 2003, the Mechanic’s Institution Trustrevived the tradition and have run it most year’s since.
The Trust maintains the tradition of providing a free piece of cake to all the children attending. Thus, the event has once again become a popular and recognisable part of Swindon’s social calendar.
Sadly, the ornamental, formal gardens, along with the cricket pavilion, the bandstand and glasshouses are long gone. There’s a lovely archive photo of the park here on the Historic England website.
What makes this park stand out is what you can see from it. As you walk around the park you can see several of Swindon’s land marks. There’s the water tower and UTC, St Mark’s Church of course. Then there’s Park House and – towering over everything, the David Murray John Tower. Not forgetting the view up to Radnor Street cemetery.
And besides all that, and despite the fact that the glasshouses and ornamental gardens are long on, it’s a lovely park. As soon as you’re a few steps inside it the traffic noise of Faringdon Road recedes and it’s all tranquil greenery.
This article from Swindon Web. ‘Faringdon Park was also the venue for one of cricketing most unusual moments, when in 1870 the great W.G.Grace (world renowned as one of the greatest players ever to pick up a bat and ball) was dismissed for a duck in both innings when playing for Bedminster against the New Swindon side.’ And that’s not cricket!!