The Veteran’s Hub Swindon

The Veteran’s Hub Swindon

February 2021

The Veteran's Hub Swindon - screenshot from webite

The veteran’s hub Swindon exists to do what is says in the title of this post. How needed support for veterans is can’t be underestimated. For it’s severely lacking in places where it should exist. At Swindon’s veteran’s hub they understand that. They know all to well the support that veterans need – and how big a difference the smallest amount of support can and does make.

Founded in 2019, the people behind the hub are determined to have a positive effect on their community.

Co-operation and collaboration

To achieve their aims the veteran’s hub works in partnership with a number of organisations – strength in numbers and all that eh? Amongst the people the hub works with are:

1. Swindon Borough Council
2. Walking with the Wounded
3. The NHS TILS service – that’s the transition, intervention and liaison mental health service …

… to name but three.

Suicide rate amongst veterans

Should you be wondering why this support is necessary then take a look at this piece on the BBC news website that talks about the suicide crisis for British veterans. ‘Military charities say they are not coping with the increased demand for mental health support.’ It seems that, according to campaigners, 2019 saw 58 veterans take their own lives. Further, this 2020 piece from The Week reports on the surge in suicides by UK veterans of the Afghan war. In it they report that: ‘More than 70 former and serving personnel took their lives in 2018 and at least 50 suicides occurred last year. Fourteen former and serving personnel are thought to have taken their own lives in the past two months alone.’ Why? Well, Research suggests that delayed-onset post-traumatic stress disorder can arrive a decade or more after the event in question.

It’s clear that, somehow or other, and this is not the place to go into that, veterans are simply not getting the support they need. And that’s where the veteran’s hub Swindon comes in.

the veterans hub swindon

They have wonderful long terms for Swindon’s veterans and if you want to know more about what they get up to then follow the hub’s Facebook page here and their YouTube channel here.

Here’s a short piece of Graham Stobbs training for his kayak challenge:

How you can support them

On the website here you’ll find two ways to support the veteran’s hub Swindon.

Veterans hub mug

One way to support them is to buy one of these cheery mugs from which to enjoy your brew. Happily it co-ordinates with my kitchen perfectly!

Only £6 – a bargain!

Or – why not set up a direct debit for a monthly subscription to the hub? A mere £3 a month from you is riches beyond measure to them.

supporting the veterans at Christmas - Christmas goodies

Steve Fulcher supports Independent PCC Candidate

Steve Fulcher supports Independent PCC Candidate

February 2021

Former Detective Superintendent Steve Fulcher supports independent candidate standing for role of Wiltshire Police & Crime Commissioner

Steve Fulcher supports Independent PCC Candidate
Former Detective Superintendent Steve Fulcher is best known as the man who left the Wiltshire Police force over the investigation into killer, Christopher Halliwell. Why do I mention this? Because Fulcher is supporting ex-detective Mike Rees in his bid to become Wiltshire’s next P&C commissioner.

Steve said: “Mike and I worked together during my years in Wiltshire. I knew him to be an officer of real passion, dedication and integrity. He was a very talented and innovative detective and a great leader of teams.”

“On hearing he was willing to stand as an independent PCC candidate, I was very encouraged and willing to lend my backing. Fulfilling the office of PCC is a significant commitment as policing faces challenges in both national and local arenas.

“Mike has spent his life serving the people of Wiltshire. He’s determined to ensure the police service is the best it can be. One in which he and the community can take pride. His willingness to sacrifice his own interests and commit himself to serving in this way is commendable. 

“Mike has a wide network of policing, management and leadership expertise he can call on. With this he’ll examine and develop the fundamentals of an effective police service. He has inexhaustible energy and vast experience. Besides that, he knows what to prioritise within various constraints.

Steve Fulcher supports Independent PCC Candidate - Mike Rees and Steve Fulcher
Mike Rees, independant candidate for Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner supported by Steve Fulcher. Photographs taken by Barbara Leatham Photography on January 28th 2021 in Salisbury Wiltshire. Photos taken outside Salisbury Cathedral, Market Square, The Council House Salisbury.

Steve Fulcher – supports Independent PCC Candidate

Steve Fulcher left Wiltshire Police in 2014. His resignation followed his becoming subject to an investigation over decisions he made when questioning Swindon killer Christopher Halliwell. Haliwell abducted and murdered Sian O’Callaghan. Halliwell also admitted to the killing of Becky Godden. He offered to show Steve where he’d buried her body. Halliwell is currently serving a full-life sentence for the murder of the two women. Steve stands by the decisions he made in the fast-moving situation of a high-pressure murder case. Mike has always supported Steve around making a moral choice in an extraordinary situation. 

Mike said: “I’m pleased and grateful to have Steve’s support. I’m relishing the prospect of working with him again in the policing arena. Steve has genuine concern for people. And that’s whether they’re staff or members of the public or crime victims. I know like me, he’s passionate about delivering a quality service to the public.

“Being an independent candidate means I don’t follow a political party line. For me it’s all about the task and getting what needs doing done, in best way possible. Steve and I have knowledge of what officers and staff face daily.”

Steve, who joined the police aged 21, ascended through the ranks to detective superintendent in 2007. That’s the highest rank for a hands-on police officer. His service yielded him three crown court recommendations and one chief constable’s commendation.

Following his 2014 resignation, Steve worked across the world. First as an adviser to the south Australia CIB – the National Australian Criminal Investigation Bureau.

He’s served as a consultant project manager in Libya and worked on reforming the Somali national police force. 

Catching a Serial Killer

2017 saw the publication of Steve’s book Catching a Serial Killer.

This best seller allowed Steve to tell the story of the Halliwell case in his own words. Two years later, ‘A Confession’, a six-part ITV drama starring Martin Freeman aired on TV. Steve was an executive co-producer.

Steve holds a Masters’ degree from Cambridge University in Criminology. He’s led over 50 major and serious crime cases and critical incidents. Many being high profile, high risk, time-critical and involved managing organisational reputation.

Mike spent 30 years within Wiltshire police and he retire d in 2014 as a Detective Inspector. Mike went on to set up his own business. 

Where to find out more:

To find out more about Mike and Steve/or to follow them go to: or

Twitter or @MikeRees_PCCW or go to Mike’s website

Greendown Copse in Grange Park

Greendown Copse in Grange Park

February 2021

I think it was during the first pandemic lockdown last March, that I came across Greendown Copse in Grange Park. Limited by lockdown to my neighbourhood I took to wandering around hitherto unexplored parts of my neighbourhood. And that’s how I came upon this delightful little treasure tucked away amidst 1980s suburbia.

Greendown Copse in Grange Park - signage looking worn down and weather worn

I knew, from signs left in the copse, that a community group looked after it. But beyond that – nothing. Roger Ogle connected me with someone in the group so what follows came from that source.

Lot No 2

With the proximity of the copse to Lydiard Park, it’s no surprise to learn that the copse, like the housing that surrounds it, once formed part of the Lydiard estate. In 1943 this patch of land went to auction as Lot 2 (they think) as part of the sale of the Lydiard Park estates – including the park itself.

Related topic: The Great Forest of Braydon:

Diversity and biodiversity

The group managing the copse tell me that they found native English bluebells in the copse, hidden in the undergrowth. This matters because our native bluebell is losing ground to the Spanish variety introduced by the Victorians as a garden plant. They’ve also removed some of the non-native, invasive garden plants that probably landed in the copse via garden waste. In particular the variegated archangel has got a hold and is proving a challenge.

The volunteer group – open to any interested residents – began working with the borough in 2014 and are now working with the Parish council.

The photos below are from the group that take such wonderful care of the copse. Big thanks to them for supplying the information for this blog and the photographs.

Path through Greendown Copse

Greendown Copse Bird Observations

greendown copse bird observations

Greendown Copse, hedgerow and walk are part of the Community Asset designation linked with Lydiard Park. This ran out last September and the community is still awaiting confirmation of its renewal.

Swindon’s Young on Literary Success Quest

Swindon’s Young on Literary Success Quest

February 2021


Swindon’s Young on Literary Success Quest
Young people from Swindon are part way through writing and illustrating their first book. It’s an interactive fantasy adventure, and they need your support to get it published.

Young aspiring writers and artists in Swindon have, throughout the pressures of lockdown and homeschooling, come together to write an illustrated, interactive fantasy novel.

Tomb Raider writer, Rhianna Pratchett has backed the project. But they need your help to get over the final hurdle.

Leading the project, A Moral Paradox, is community arts and education company, Digital Writes.

Thus far the Arts Council England have funded the project. But the young people’s enthusiasm has led them to create a work of epic proportions. And that will need an four months and £3,000 to complete.

Swindon's Young on Literary Success Quest - digital mock-up of A Moral Paradox

Keith P. Phillips, one of the authors on Puffin’s Fighting Fantasy series, is tutoring on the Digital Writes project.
Said Keith: “We’ve been running workshops in storytelling, creative writing, and illustration over Zoom. And also sharing work through Discord. The students have produced some amazing work. As good as anything from the series. They so deserve to get published.”

Youthful ambition – Swindon’s Young on Literary Success Quest

Some of the young people have ambitions to become writers or artists and feel thrilled to be working with professionals. They’re also very excited at the prospect of seeing their work in print.

Lauren, a participant on the project, said: “We already write and draw things, but nothing comes out of it. It would be cool to see our book in the library and see other people enjoying what we’ve made. Without this we wouldn’t have had a  chance to be part of producing a full sized book.”

The extra funding will allow Digital Writes to continue offering workshops. They’ll also be able to invite more young people to take part in creative collaboration.

To pledge your support for this project, please go to:

They’ll then collate the work into a final product of a gamebook. First popular in the 1980s and 1990s, these have had something of a resurgence lately, with titles by Charlie Higson and Rhianna Pratchett.

Swindon visual artist, Keira Georgeson, is also tutoring on the project. Said Keira: “Our young writers and artists are proper authors writing a proper book. We want them to feel the excitement of going into a public library and seeing their book on the shelf. But we’re eager to invite everyone to join. All you need is your imagination and a love of fantasy.”

Lydiard Park Academy

One of the teachers supporting the project is Ms Urquhart from Lydiard Park Academy. She said: “Our students have had a brilliant experience. They’ve grown in creative confidence and developed their social and communication skills. They’ve also gained a wealth of cutting-edge technical expertise. Please support this latest fantastic creation!”

The final work is set for publication in print format. It will be available to buy through Amazon and borrowed from secondary school and public libraries. As a text-based interactive game in app form, it will be available for download from all the usual video game app stores.

Get involved

To get involved and secure your place on this unique programme, type “immersive authorship” into your favourite search engine. Or look for Digital Writes on social media. 

To pledge your support for this project, please go to:

paradox-stand-off-by-lauren-1 - Swindon's Young on Literary Success Quest
Paradox stand-off by Lauren

Fighting social media stereotypes of ageing

Fighting social media stereotypes of ageing

11 February 2020

Swindonians called upon to help lead the fight-back against social media stereotypes of ageing

Fighting social media stereotypes of ageing
Members of the public from Swindon and Wiltshire are being asked to post their own photos of everyday life. Why? To help challenge negative stereotypes of ageing and biased social media algorithms. All as part of the town’s online Festival of Tomorrow.

The initiative marks the launch of an on-going research project between:
The Centre for Digital Citizens
* UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and …
* … Swindon’s Festival of Tomorrow. 

Aims of the projectFighting social media stereotypes of ageing

The project aims to gather data to:
*Help explore the concept of ‘Ageless Citizen’ and …
* … the relationship between technology and bias/stereotypes around age.

Search engines and stock photo libraries often use positive or negative depictions of people in later life. And these images bear no resemblance to reality.

These images help to spread and perpetuate harmful stereotypes of ageing and older age. The reality is that digital technologies often replicate and magnify existing prejudices and biases within society. It’s called: ‘algorithmic bias’.

Fighting social media stereotypes of ageing - people drinking coffee
Image courtesy of Centre for Ageing Better, under CC0 licence to Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0

Brain child

The project is the brain-child of a group of researchers from the Centre for Digital Citizens based at Newcastle University and Northumbria University. Dan Lambton-Howard, researcher at Open Lab, Newcastle University said:
‘We want to challenge algorithmic biases to create a more diverse and authentic representation of ageing and later life. That way we can fight back against the algorithms!

We want people from Swindon and Wiltshire to help us fight back against search-engine bias and stereotypes of ageing. And we want them to do it by creating and sharing more realistic images of growing up and growing older on social media!”

Rod Hebden, Director of the Festival of Tomorrow said “No-one likes misrepresentation. So we want as many people as possible to take part in the project. They can do by sharing a photo of growing up or growing older that fits one of the following titles:

  • This is my everyday
  • Don’t underestimate me
  • A shared passion

Send us your photos by posting them on social media with #FestivalOfTomorrow.

To help search engines understand your image we also want you to tag your image with three words that best describe it.”

FOT Facebook image
FOT Facebook image

The Festival of Tomorrow

Visitors to the free online Festival of Tomorrow on the 19 and 20 February will be able find out more about the project. They’ll also enjoy a varied programme of talks and shows. Further, a virtual planetarium and exploring an amazing range of exhibitors showcase the latest science and research. That ranges from the future of space travel to the UK’s leading role in the fight against coronavirus.

Register for your free place now at

The Festival of Tomorrow is a collaboration between STEAM museum and Swindon-based consultancy, New Elements.

It’s made possible by the support of principal partner, UK Research and Innovation and major partners Business West and Bravedog.

See also:

Flexible Maths Kit Supporting Homeschooling

Flexible Maths Kit Supporting Homeschooling


A bit of an odd one this one, in that the subject, Tony Campbell, is in Northampton not Swindon. But with so many parents battling with home-schooling I thought this piece on a flexible maths kits supporting homeschooling might be of interest.

Introducing Flexitable by Tony Campbell – A Flexible Maths Kit Supporting Homeschooling

Twenty years ago, Tony Campbell developed a maths toolkit. He’s now adapted that kit, used by special needs education professional nationwide, for home-schooling.

Flexible Maths Kit Supporting Homeschooling - Tony Campbell and Flexitable

You can order the new “Maths Home Schooling Kit” online. It contains flexible tables that allow primary school children up to year 7 to grasp the basics of addition, subtraction, multiplication and fractions. Like many parents and grandparents, Tony, felt concerned about the effect of the closure of schools on children’s education.

Flexitable in use
The flexitable in use

Home school challenges

“I’m seeing the challenges of home-schooling for parents and children – even with my own grandchildren. My grown-up daughter, Jemma, is dyslexic. She had great struggles at school and also suffered with dyscalculia – number blindness. It occurred to me that my product could help parents and children throughout the UK and overseas.” 

Spotting the potential

Tony, who spent his working life in sales and marketing, spotted the potential of Flexitables over 20 years ago. He it as an easy to use classroom learning and hands-on maths manipulative product. They can help children learn multiplication/division, fractions, square roots, addition/subtraction, decimals and percentages.

His patent attorney introduced Tony to the prototype. At the time he was working on behalf of a non-teaching assistant who had produced a rudimentary version but had no idea how to take it to market. 

Tony said: “There was and still is nothing else like it on the market and I encouraged the female inventor to proceed with her patent applications. But having obtained patents in both the UK and USA she opted to sell them to me as she’d decided to join the prison service and teach maths there. I then took over the domestic and export marketing of Flexitables. They’re now sold here and in:

*Canada and the US

Target market

Aimed in the first instance at the mainstream schools’ market, Tony found SENCOs (Special Educational Needs Coordinators) started to take an interest in Flexitables. The found the grids particularly helpful to pupils with dyslexia, dyscalculia, ADHD and autism. They’re designed to be manipulated so they help with hand/eye/brain co-ordination.

Pupils who have difficulty tracking i.e. following their eyes across a line of information also find the horizontal and vertical channels mostt helpful in getting the correct answer.

Both of Tony’s children, Jemma and her twin brother, Jeremy, have children. But none of them show signs of any learning difficulties. In fact, Tony’s grandson, Jack (14) even taught maths GCSE last year to his mother, Jemma, when she was 44 and he was 13. And with his help she passed! So there you go -the Flexible Maths Kit Supporting Homeschooling

To find out more visit

See more on Flexitable here: