Swindon’s Famous Duck Race: It’s Quackers!

Swindon’s Famous Duck Race: It’s Quackers!

24th April 2018


Swindon’s Famous Duck Race: It’s Quackers!

Swindon Old Town Rotary

Right then listeners! I’ve been trying to get something written on here about the Old Town Rotary (one of them) and their world famous, in Swindon, duck race for I don’t know how long! And as the time is drawing near for this quackers event I thought I’d best get on with it.

Here’s the when and where part:

Bank Holiday Monday May 28th 2018

at Westcott Recreation Ground (opposite ‘The Runner’ pub)

Wootton Bassett Road, Swindon

supported by

Nationwide Building Society


McArthur Glen Outlet Village

featuring the Blue Cross Fun Dog Show

Swindon's Famous Duck Race


Find the Duck Race on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/SwindonsFamousDuckRace/photos/?ref=page_internal

Public Duck Sales

Please note you will be able to get your duck tickets for this year’s race from us at Asda Saturday 31 March,10am to 4pm, The Co-Op Old Town 14 April 10am to 4pm, GWH 25 April 9am to 3pm;

Christchurch Beer Festival 11, 6pm to 10pm & 12 May

10.30am to 4.30pm GWH 9 to 3pm; Co-Op Old Town 19 May 10am to 4pm

It’s a fun day out, all in a great cause – and you never know – your duck might win!

 And now to Swindon Old Town Rotary


‘The Rotary Club of Swindon Old Town meets every Wednesday morning to share breakfast with likeminded friends before work.

We meet on Wednesday mornings at Hotel 20 (formerly the Kings) in Wood Street SN1 4AB for breakfast. In just over an hour a week, you’ll have the opportunity to meet other professionals who want to offer their service in the community, share ideas for fundraising, hear great speakers and get connected with the local community.  Together we can do so much more.  For more details contact us at  Swindonoldtownrotary@mail.com


Now a bit about the Rotary Club in general: You might not be aware bit the Rotary Club is an international, global organisation of:

‘1.2 million neighbors, friends, leaders, and problem-solvers who see a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change – across the globe, in our communities, and in ourselves.’

The Rotary movement began in 1905 in Chicago when Paul Harris, a Chicago attorney, formed the Rotary Club of Chicago on the 23rd February. Rotary’s name came from the group’s early practice of rotating meetings among the offices of its members.  Who knew? Not me.

The Rotary International Logo



Pop-up Business school comes to Swindon

Pop-up Business school comes to Swindon

11th April 2018


Pop-up Business school comes to Swindon

Free places are on offer for business masterclasses

If you’ve ever thought about setting up your own business this information is for you.

The PopUp Business School in Wiltshire will be at:

Emery Gate Shopping Centre, Chippenham from 16-27 April

The Brunel Shopping Centre in Swindon from 30 April to 11 May 2018.

For more information and to book a place see www.popupbusinessschool.co.uk/wiltshire

Pop-up Business school comes to Swindon


See the YouTube video: https://youtu.be/R2Qo23u9UOA

Wiltshire Council is setting new entrepreneurs on the road to success by backing pop-up business schools in the county.

Ambitious go-getters are signing up for the free two-week courses in Chippenham and Swindon, which are run by experts in launching small firms.

Emerging entrepreneurs can learn tried-and-tested tips and tricks for establishing a business, with a wide range of sessions including:

  • Finding and pitching ideas
  • Marketing, selling and pricing
  • The web and social media
  • Law
  • Negotiating and networking
  • Money

Baroness Scott of Bybrook, OBE, Leader of Wiltshire Council said: “This is a brilliant opportunity for the job creators of tomorrow to get their business off to a flying start. We are delighted to support these enterprising courses.”

Henry Nicholson from PopUp Business School said: “We help people start small businesses and to make money doing what they love. We’ll show you how to start without spending any money, make a great website for free, and get you to your first sale. ‘30% of the people who come on our course start their business before the end of the workshop and 27% make their first sale.’

Wiltshire Council and Swindon Borough Council have worked together to bring the business school to the county.

The initiative is part of the £1.2m EU-funded SME Growth project which is already helping 416 businesses across the county to grow.

The project offers 12 hours of free business support and help from a network of experienced advisers.

If you have a business with fewer than 250 employees and would like to know more about how to receive support please visit:  www.theenterprisenetwork.co.uk/smeg or call 01264 848311.



Nail your smear with Honestly Ombre

Nail your smear with Honestly Ombre

24th January 2018


Nail your smear with Honestly Ombre

A Swindon-based beauty business is encouraging women to get themselves a smear test by offering a free manicure in her treatment room in Old Town, Swindon.

From Jessica’s ‘About Us’: 

‘I’m Jessica, the Creative Director and Author of Honestly Ombré, a vegan lifestyle blog. Honestly Ombré aims to inspire its readers in all aspects of life, including product reviews, life experience, occasional advice and vegan health and wellbeing.

In May 2017 I launched my company Honestly Ombre Holistic Therapy. I offer a range of relaxing and pampering body & beauty treatments, all of which are vegan and cruelty free. If you would like more information, you can find out more here or click the ‘Holistic’ link at the top of the page.’

Jessica is highlighting the importance of getting your smear test with her campaign #NailYourSmear

Beauty therapy company gives free manicures to encourage smear tests

nail your smear with honestly ombre

‘Honestly Ombré, a local beauty therapy company, is promoting a #NailYourSmear campaign to encourage women to have – or at least book – smear tests by the end of March 2018.

The Swindon based business is offering completely free manicures to those going for check-ups.

Smear test screening has fallen to an all time low with only 62% of women attending a screening in 2017. Yet in the UK, cervical cancer affects 3,000 women every year and is the biggest killer of women under the age of 35.

Honestly Ombré’s Founder Jessica Wallbridge had precancerous cells removed that were identified during a smear test.

“I have personal experience of precancerous cells being identified and removed at a young age that were picked up during a routine test. If I had waited much longer to get a test I might not have been so fortunate.’

“By offering a simple incentive such as free manicures, I want to encourage others to get checked. There is no limit to the campaign. If I end up doing 100 free manicures, it will be worth it, knowing that I might have saved somebody’s life.

“Almost 1,000 women in the UK die from cervical cancer every year. This is tragic given that the disease is treatable and the prospect of a complete cure is good if it’s diagnosed at an early stage. If I can contribute in some way to making the smear test experience a positive one, I’ll count the campaign a success!”

Honestly Ombré is encouraging other businesses to become involved in the campaign by using the #NailYourSmear hashtag to raise awareness and by creating their own campaigns to help increase smear test screening attendance. The campaign began on the 2nd February and will run until the 31st March 2018.

Jessica adds, “The feedback on social media so far has been amazing, and I’ve had lots of women contact me, sharing their experiences.

“I want to break down the perceived social stigma regarding smear tests that can often make women feel embarrassed or avoid going for these critical check ups.

“We need it to be normal for women to talk about their smear tests, and if I can encourage just a handful of women get past the hurdle of booking or going for their test, then I’ll be pleased.’

About Cervical Cancer and Screening

Cervical cancer often has no symptoms in its early stages.Yet smear tests can detect cell changes at a very early stage, and this is crucial for early treatment to reduce the risk of cervical cancer developing.

The NHS offers a cervical screening programme to all women from the age of 25, and recommends women are checked every 3 years between the age of 25 and 49, and every 5 years between the ages of 50 to 64.

nail your smear with honestly hombre

About Honestly Ombré

Honestly Ombré is a vegan and cruelty free beauty and holistic therapy company based in Old Town, Swindon.


If you’d like to know more about the #NailYourSmear campaign, or Honestly Ombré, email honestlyombre@gmail.com or visit www.honestlyombre.com/holistic’

Find Jessica on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/honestlyombreblog/  and Twitter: https://twitter.com/honestlyombre



Switch on to Swindon stories: a round up

Switch on to Swindon stories: a round up

7th January 2018


Switch on to Swindon stories: a round up

Switch on to Swindon logo - switch on to swindon stories

If you’ve been paying attention at all listeners, you’ll have noticed that, over the last few months I’ve shared stories from friends and clients that I felt fitted with the notion of Switch on to Swindon. I had every intention of doling a round-up at the back end of last year but never got round to it. So, seeing this article from the Swindon Advertiser on social media kicked me into action. Just about a whole year has gone by since the SOT campaign launched. Yikes! Happy anniversary SOT! Pop the corks!

2017 has been a busy old year for me. With personal, blogging and business stuff via AA Editorial Services. The high point for me came late in the year with a contact, via this blog, from a  Glocs based publishing house. The upshot of all that being I now have a commission to write a book about Swindon. Double yikes!

Anyway, simply so they’re all in one place, and starting with my own (and why not?!) are some SOT stories. Some of them, like myself, are SOT ambassadors. But all of them have positive things to say about our fabulous town.

Here then is my own SOT story: https://swindonian.me/2017/04/11/my-switch-on-to-swindon-story/

Next up is my friend Catherine Attewell – she who makes the pretty jewellery: – https://www.facebook.com/catherinejayuk/ -she writes about finding a sense of self and community in Swindon: https://swindonian.me/2017/11/15/finding-self-and-community-in-swindon/

Odile Motte, owner of the Brunel Language Centre, wrote about what she likes about Old Town – or Old Swindon as it should properly be called: https://swindonian.me/2017/09/03/old-town/

Julie Nicholls who is the fabulous Body Mind Coaching did a great Seven Reasons to be Switched on to Swindon.

Shirley Hensher, aka the Change Agent, wrote this on LinkedIn after an SOT ambassador event. She kindly let me share it on the blog: https://swindonian.me/2017/04/06/switch-on-to-swindon-ambassador-event/

Sandra Trusty, a relative newcomer to Swindon, and owner of the Fab Gift Boutique gave a me a lovely piece about discovering Swindon: https://swindonian.me/2017/07/15/discovering-swindon/

It came as no surprise that Carol Aplin of Pink&Green Organic skincare (it’s gorgeous stuff) did a piece about the abundance of nature around these parts. 

Likewise the subject matter of Reshma Field, aka Ishbel’s Wardrobe, was similarly predictable with her piece on Swindon Shopping and Seven reasons with it’s rather good!

Jo Rigden, being 4Points Leisure, opted for a post on the Dragon Boat Racing at Coate Water. 

And we return to nature once more with Tim Perkins, of TMP Planning  and his post about Kings Wood Walk. 

And finally a couple from the Switch on to Swindon website. David Bent – because he’s a friend and I can. But also because I like what he says. Below is the strapline from his SOT story. I like that because it is. Swindon IS surprising and has so much going on. He’s not wrong!

David Bent SOT story - Switch on to Swindon stories

And this one from Nicky Pasquier. Nicky has done – does do – such a lot of sharing of SOT ambassador stories, mine included, that I wanted to return the favour: http://switchontoswindon.com/greatplace/nicky-pasquier/  And I thought this was a fab sentiment too:

NIcky Pasquier SOT story




Finding self and community in Swindon

Finding self and community in Swindon

14th November 2017


Over the last few weeks and months I’ve shared on here experiences of, and reflections about, Swindon from friends and clients.
They’re all under the Switch on to Swindon category on this blog: https://swindonian.me/category/switch-on-to-swindon/

This one comes from Catherine Attewell who wears another hat as Catherine Jay jewellery. You can see her Etsy shop here and her Facebook presence here: https://www.facebook.com/catherinejayuk/

Catherine makes lovely jewellery, which to some extent she can tailor to you – your wrist size, the type of fastener you prefer – that sort of thing. Her contact details are on her Facebook page – link above.  These plaited bracelets are among my faves of her work:

plaited bracelets

Anyway, like so, so many people, Catherine pitched up in Swindon for economic reasons.

Finding self and community in Swindon – and a business to boot!

Like so many others before and after me, I came to Swindon for economic reasons.

At the end of 2000 I left my home town of Northampton to relocate to Swindon as my partner had got a promotion here.

There was some trepidation in this move as I can’t say Swindon as a town had received great recommendations from colleagues. Indeed, they were pretty negative about it.

I remember the first time I took a wander in the town centre and felt that I definitely didn’t want to move here. Yet somehow when the job offer came in and I found myself saying “yes”. Within a month or two we were selecting a new home on the Taw Hill estate. This was in the days before the opening of the Orbital Centre and the Thamesdown Avenue road.

In the main those days revolved around my workplace.  I made friends, including some native Swindonians all of whom proved welcoming and friendly.

After a while we moved to Devizes for a couple of years. But then found that we were travelling back to Swindon so much for shopping and socialising that it made sense to return. After doing the rounds of showhomes we plumped for a house in Haydon End.  We were the first people on the building site to move in.

We had children and it was when they were small that I became more aware of my need for local community. So I joined a baby and mum music group at Bath Methodist Church in Old Town.

A positive recollection I have of Swindon’s people revolves around an incident in Boswell’s café with my baby girl. She was sick, not only all over the floor but all over herself as well.  Not being the most organised of mums I hadn’t got a change of clothes for her. To cut a long story short a fellow diner disappeared and returned with a new top for my baby. She refused payment from me. What a wonderful act of random kindness that was.

Park Life

Lydiard Park is a fantastic place to go with children.  I have loads of happy memories of times there. In particular, my daughter’s 1st birthday when a group of us mums and my mum had a wonderful afternoon playing with the kids on in front of house.

Around this time, the friend I’d met at the music club asked me to be God Mother to her little boy.  Being asked was such an honour. Although I did feel a little coy about the fact that outside of Midnight Services, I hadn’t been to church in years. The Christening was at St Saviour’s in Old Town.  It’s s a beautiful church with an interesting history to it.

John Betjeman, once said of it:
“I would sooner be on my knees within the wooden walls of St Saviour’s than leaning elegantly forward in a cushioned pew in an Oxford college Chapel.”

This event proved to be turning point for me. I felt something spiritual – or at least felt I’d come home. I knew then that I wanted the church to be part of my life.

Twist and turns

Life took a further twist when I left my banking career in 2013. I’d worked for the company for seventeen years. But now, with two small children, I craved a meaningful way of life with a more equal work/life balance.

I felt a drive to do something more meaningful to me – that meant something creative.

So, setting sail on a journey I didn’t fully understand I launched my Catherine Jay jewellery business.

Swindon in business

The great thing about being in Swindon is the community of like-minded businesses women I’ve been able to connect with.

I’m a regular attender at ‘Ladies who Latte’ – a free and supportive networking group. The friendships formed at this and other groups have been invaluable.

In 2013, life took another turn with the unexpected death of my mum.

Around this time, getting to St Saviour’s to worship proved too much with two small children and I’d decided on a move to St John’s in Haydon End. The homegroup and Sunday school were super welcoming and gave much-needed succour at a difficult time.

Rock café

What I like about St John’s is its community involvement. It offers practical services such as the rock café on Fridays and a pram club on Mondays. There’s a craft club to that I run together with another lady.

For me the church is more than a building and a place of worship. It’s a community and it’s important that it’s open to people.

Back to my business: Catherine Jay Jewellery


Catherine Jay logo

I have over the last few years developed my passion for beaded jewellery.  I’m still in the process of working out which way to take my business, but one regular feature of my calendar is a jewellery evening at Stanton House Hotel held in November.  I have a collection of jewellery for sale, but the evening is as much about being social as it is about shopping.

Here’s a few snaps from last year’s event.





The Thistle Express in Swindon

The Thistle Express in Swindon

12th November 2017


The Thistle Express Swindon

Thistle Express Swindon

About a month ago I posted this blog about the launch of the Thistle Express on Fleming Way in Swindon: https://swindonian.me/2017/10/04/thistle-express-swindon-launches/

But I’ve now had a chance to spend a night there so can share my impressions of the Thistle Express Swindon with you. And they are favourable!

I think the thing that impressed me most – or at least impressed me a great deal – was the free Wi-Fi. Now before you shrug your shoulders and say ‘Oh, big deal, free Wi-Fi is everywhere now’ let me clarify. This is free Wi-Fi that you can connect your device straight to. No need to register. No need to have to give your name, DOB, marital status, bra size and inside leg measurement. And even then every single time you want to use it you have to log on and accept terms and conditions. GWR, Southwest trains and Thamesdown Transport take note.

I’ve only experienced easy access Wi-Fi like this sur le continent so well done Thistle! Market research told them that people wanted this and they’ve listened.

Now – my room.

It had everything you could need: iron and ironing board, TV, safe, plenty of storage, a desk/dressing table – you get the idea. There was lots of versatile lighting and – lots of easy to access sockets. I’ve stayed in hotels where there’s been a dearth of sockets and what there was has been well hidden. So good work there. One wee niggle: I was disappointed there was no kettle and hospitality tray in the room. I do love a coffee before I do ANYTHING. Still, I guess if you’re that desperate for a cuppa you could chuck on a robe, get in the lift and grab one from the hot drink station near reception and in the eating area.

That quibble aside my room was what you’d expect: smart, modern, comfortable. The bed was super comfortable and dressed with only one cushion. Hurrah! I’m not a fan of this trend for piling the bed up with tons of cushions. Where do you put the blasted things when it’s sleep time? On the floor probably – where outside shoes have been. Yuk.

I didn’t actually have the best night’s sleep but that was to do with too much red wine that evening and no reflection on the room or comfort of the bed!

Downstairs: eating area and bar area

Like an nellie I forgot to take some pictures downstairs. But there’s plenty on the Thistle Express Swindon website or on the other post.

What there is downstairs is ample long/counter with sockets space for plugging in your devices. You don’t have to be a guest to go in for breakfast or coffee. The breakfast is included in your rate if you’re a guest. If you’re coming in off the street it’s round £9 including tea/coffee – a decent deal I reckon. And a coffee is £1.50.

Pleasingly it’s neither Starmucks nor Costa Lotta and it’s okay. I take my coffee black and find it hard to get a reasonable black Americano. This was. I’m not talking Brazilian beans crushed between a maiden’s thighs here – but a drinkable coffee (I had two so it can’t be that bad) at a sensible price point. I’ll definitely bear this place in mind next time I need a meeting with a client where we need Wi-Fi and a coffee that doesn’t require a small mortgage.  It’s comfortable enough and it does the job.

The Bottomless Breakfast

I didn’t plan this trip at all well. The night I stayed I’d been out for dinner and eaten a mound of antipasto and pasta. Ergo I wasn’t hungry enough the next morning to take full advantage of the breakfast. I did though have some scrambled eggs and they were rather tasty actually. Suffice it to say there’s cereals, fruit and yoghurt and pastries. Water and juice and all the coffee and tea you can drink. You serve yourself with that from the drink station.

So all things considered I’d recommend this place for business accommodation and for a casual business meeting. I won’t lie – it’s nice to have an alternative to the Jury’s Inn. Not that there’s anything wrong with that place. Far from it – it’s comfy and nice. But it’s the ubiquitous Costa coffee. I’m fed up with it.

And this place has easy-peasy Wi-Fi. And it’s dead handy for Debenhams!  That’s a big thumbs up from me!