Swindon’s abundance of nature

Swindon’s abundance of nature

21st June 2017

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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.

 

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Lydiard House & Park: Festival Chronicle

Lydiard House & Park: Festival Chronicle

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Lydiard House & Park: Festival Chronicle

Festival Chronicle screenshot

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.

Lydiard House

Lydiard House

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

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Swindon Town Gardens

Swindon Town Gardens

April 2017

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Swindon Town Gardens

As I’ve mentioned on this blog more than once – Swindon is blessed with some wonderful green spaces.  The Swindon Town Gardens up in Old Town being just one of them.

Read about some more of them here: https://swindonian.me/category/parks-and-open-spaces/

It’s taken me some times to get round to dedicating a post to the town gardens – hey ho. Such is life.

So what can we say about them? Well, according to Parks and Gardens.Org our Town Gardens were ‘were laid out in the late-19th and early-20th centuries on the undulating Okus Field. 

The Gardens were opened in May 1894 by Mr W Reynolds, Chairman of the Board. The northern area was laid out in 1902 and included a maze, a shelter, rustic bridges, and seats, to a design submitted by a Mr A John Gilbert. In the mid-20th century improvements were made to the Gardens, including the creation of a rose garden and bandstand with arena.’ 

All of which is fine if not a little dry.

The Historic England website tells us that the gardens are ‘registered under the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act 1953 within the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens by English Heritage for its special historic interest.’

The Historic England website also tells us that: ‘Along the northern boundary of the rectangular garden is an entrance porch with iron turnstiles and brick pillars that leads to a domed bandstand in Art Deco style, called the Concert Bowl, situated in a valley below. Both the Concert Bowl and entrance were designed by J B L Thompson in 1934(6 (drawings, WRO), and were formally opened by the Mayor of Swindon on 6 May 1936. The Concert Bowl, referred to in Thompson’s drawings (see above) as ‘Bandstand and Arena’, and in Civic News, July 1963, as ‘a concert bowl and shell’, stands 65m south of the north-eastern entrance. It is approached from the south along a lawn at the bottom of the steep grass-banked valley, with mature trees to the north, west, and east….’  So a bit more descriptive then. 

The Great British Gardens website though exhorts us to: ‘Step back in time to this Victorian garden set in an old quarry which used to produce Portland stone.’

None of which though portrays just how loved these gardens are. Indeed there’s a bunch of wonderful Town Gardens artists who are prolific in the art they produce inspired by these wonderful gardens.

You do though get the sense, from all these entries, of the things to see at every turn. The concert bowl here, the aviary there, a sculpture of Peter Pan, a Victory in Europe memorial and of course, the fabulous bandstand. There’s a great picture on Swindon Local Collection’s Flickr page of the bandstand back in the day. 

Of the concert bowl, Geography.org has a nice photo of the bowl and has this to say:  ‘The Bowl is pre-war and is possibly modelled on the rather larger Hollywood Bowl of the 1920s.’  Over on SBC’s website you’ll find this: ‘The Old Town Bowl opened in 1936 and is one of only a handful built in this county. The Bowl was restored in the 1990s and is now a venue for regular summer concerts.’

See also Francis Firth.com about the rose gardens.

On a wander around Swindon Town Gardens earlier this year some of the plaques on the benches caught my eye. I rather suspect there’s more entertainment and intrigue to be found there if you look hard enough.

I first saw the plaque in the first image on Facebook – just as it appears here – with words by my friend Carole Bent.

Plaque on bench in town gardens

I assume the heart-shaped wreath was tied there by a family member. It was still there when I was in the gardens. Lovely words from Carole and lovely words from whom so ever it was that put the plaque on the bench. Wonderfully profound in its way is this next one – which made me smile I have to say.

Stan - Ice cream times plaque on bench

And finally this one is rather lovely because it commemorates Harold – a gardener in Town Gardens for 38 years.  Good work Harold. Good work!

Seat plaque gardener in town gardens

Something that always makes me think of Trumpton and the band concerts – the bandstand. 

 

Below is Peter Pan. Sporting not only his head but some pastilles on his head! I mention this because back in 2011 the statue was beheaded. This BBC News article has the story.

‘The original statue, which had been there since World War I, was stolen in 2004.

It was recovered, restored and put into storage and a fibre glass replica was put in the Town Gardens in November. The 2ft statue sits on a stone cairn.’

See also: http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/wiltshire/hi/people_and_places/newsid_9216000/9216275.stm

And a couple of better shots from Justin Smythe:

 

And the Victory in Europe memorial. Two pics are mine and one is from Justin Smythe. Guess?

There’s some information about the Commemorative VE memorial on this Traces of War.com website.   And also here: http://www.iwm.org.uk_www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/43362

But this is the poem – or extract of  – that is on the stone. It’s from Siegfried Sassoon’s 1919 poem ‘Everyone Sang’:
Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom,
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark-green fields; on–on–and out of sight.

Everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted;
And beauty came like the setting sun:
My heart was shaken with tears; and horror
Drifted away . . . O, but Everyone
Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.

Finally, just because we can, some lovely shots of Town Gardens wildlife from Justin Smythe:

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Queen’s Park Calendar Girl

Queen’s Park Calendar Girl

Sunday 25th September 2016

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Swindon’s own calendar girl supports Queen’s Park

Queen’s Park and the Secret Garden are delightful spots. So how wonderful to discover, thanks to social media, that Debs Donkersley has got a calendar put together featuring her own photographs to raise funds towards its preservation.

What a fab initiative! Well done Debs.

From the Swindon Advertiser: 

“BEAUTIFUL images of one of Swindon’s parks have been turned onto a calendar to help pay for its preservation.

Debs Donkersley took the pictures on her many walks through Queens Park. She regularly posts photos on the park’s Facebook page but decided to create a calendar to boost the funds of the community council that keeps the park blooming.

Priced at £7, it will be on sale from next week with proceeds helping to support the community council’s work in preserving and improving the park … “

English Heritage considers the space to be of historic interest and has listed it as a Grade II site on the national register of parks and gardens.

The calendar will be on sale at Bake ‘n’ Roll in Groundwell Road and at Baristocrats cafe in Commercial Road.

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The Secret Garden needs you!

The Secret Garden needs you!

5th August 2016

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The Secret Garden logo

Why did the mushroom go to the disco? Cos he was a FUNgi…!

Okay! To the point – the wonderful Secret Garden people need your help. 

Contact:

queensparksecretgarden@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/secretgardenswindon/

Telephone (old school I know!): Paul: 07454 736769 or Kathryn: 07976 463314

Secret Garden Vol Ad

Read about Incredible Edible Swindon here: https://swindonian.me/2014/08/31/incredible-edible-swindon/

Queen’s Park and the Secret Garden here: https://swindonian.me/2015/08/01/queens-park-the-secret-garden/

 

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Angel Ridge Play Area

Angel Ridge Play Area

14th May 2016

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Not having got any small children I’m not au fait with the town’s play parks. However, I have a friend with a small daughter and sometimes visit a play park with them- and a few weeks ago we went to the Angel Ridge play park. It’s taken me weeks to get round to posting on it!

The who, the what, the where

You’ll find the Angel Ridge play area on the site of Swindon’s original NHS hospital, Princess Margaret Hospital,  now redeveloped as a residential housing site.

According to Building Construction Design – http://www.buildingconstructiondesign.co.uk/news/angel-ridge-play-area-swindon/‘Swindon Council had the task of creating a challenging and exciting play area that referenced the rich heritage of the site, keeping the local residents on side and also improving links with the surrounding communities. They worked with Timberplay, selecting the best products to suit the site and its heritage.’

As the article goes on to say:Angel Ridge is a linear development, situated along a ridge, hence the name. When embarking on research for the site, Swindon Council Landscape Architect, Andrew Norris found that the bones of an Ichthyosaur (marine dinosaur) were discovered nearby, which then went on to find fame on Blue Peter. This pre-historic relic inspired the use of fossils throughout the site, with hidden replica fossils secreted in the sand area and a giant ammonite heralding the start of the play site. “

One of the key features of the site is the weighty Turning Stone, a huge 5 tonne boulder which even small children can easily rotate. This is personalised with an inscription, a poem by Jane Evans that summed up the overarching themes of the scheme:

“Up here, 

Nudging the sky,

You’re no more

Than a pinprick

On the timeline

Stretched taut

By lynchet and tumulus

And the tremendous

Secrets of the rock

Time out of mind

Under turf and furz”

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