Hello lovely listeners. On the heels of Secret Swindon, I’m now in full flow with research and writing for my second book from Amberley Books, Swindon in 50 Buildings. It’s come as no surprise at all to me that there’s a cornucopia of potentials for this book. For every building I’ve put on the list, I could quite easily have selected several more. So I’ve had to make choices. And it’s been tough I tell ya! There’s no shortage of interesting material in Swindon as we all know.
For instance, I’m definitely featuring Swindon’s County Ground in the book. After all – a tale of any town or city couldn’t call itself complete without mentioning the town’s sporting life. A natural complement to that listing then is theCounty Ground Hotel. But do I have room for it? No I do not. For now it’s on the reserve bench – and in this blog.
The Swindon County Ground Hotel is a mere few yards from the stadium of the home team – Swindon Town football club. Hence its name. It’s a popular watering hole for fans whenever Swindon Town are playing at home. And, according the website, a down-to-earth ‘local’ when they are not.
Curiously, for a watering hole associated with a football ground, the pub has strong associations with pugilism. ‘In fact, the pub’s favourite sport in modern times has been boxing, having been equipped with a gymnasium and former licensee Pete Neal a well-known former boxer. Who knew? Well not I!
A bit of County Ground Hotel History
Taken from the pub’s website:
‘Regulars in the County Ground Hotel celebrated a special anniversary on 2nd November, 1997 when this grand old pub notched up a century of service to Swindon drinkers.
Commemorating its opening year is a terracotta plaque on side of the building. The plaque include a portrait of Queen Victoria who happened to be celebrating her Diamond Jubilee that year.
Arkell’s bought the land from C Williams the year before and had a ready-made licence thanks to the demise of a pub in Highworth. The Rampant Cat was closed by a relieved James Arkell – son of John Arkell – who lived nearby at Redlands and was annoyed by the rowdy behaviour of some of the regulars. So the County Ground got the licence and one of the town’s landmarks was born.
Outwardly, The County Ground Hotel is largely unchanged from how it looked a hundred years ago, though alterations and extensions in 1921 and 1954 mean that it is not wholly Victorian.’
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.
‘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:
Well! Here’s a how-do-you do listeners! A post in the ‘This sporting life’ section of the blog. And, even more bizarrely, written by moi. Who’d a thunk it?
I put that category on the blog because I wanted Born again Swindonian to represent all aspects of Swindon life and culture and so forth. Even if a thing is not MY thing I wanted it represented on the blog. The problem with anything sport related being – I HATE sport. So unless I can manage to get a guest blog post it doesn’t happen.
So how come I’m sat here tapping on my MacBook writing about a sporting event?! Good question. The short answer to which is that the opportunity came along for a Business Village jolly to see the Swindon Wildcats and I thought to myself: ‘Why not?’
Sally Price who does marketing and PR type stuff for the team comes to Business Village and kindly offered to organise us a visit. How cool. Did you see what I did there? 😉 I’ll try to keep the skating/ice related puns to a minimum. Or we’ll be skating on thin ice …
When I texted my daughter to give her this information, back came the reply ‘It’s called a puck Mother’. Bloody cheek. I do know somethings! And surely knowing that the slippery rubber thing the players chase round the ice is called a puck counts as general knowledge? Doh! I’m not sure how she thinks I’ve got to the age I have.
So anyway, chopsy daughters aside, a happy band of us Business Village networkers met up at the Link Centre last week (I think) to enjoy the corporate viewing lounge and the stands too and soak up some Wildcats action.
Two of our party are seasoned ice-hockey fans and Wildcats supporters. So they offered some explanations as to what was going on. Though for the most part I decided not to bother trying to take that in and to just enjoy the action and the friendly atmosphere. Ergo there’s not much point me trying to say anything about the game as I don’t actually have a clue. *embarrassed face*
It was good to see families there – albeit it finishes rather late. It was way past my bed time! The hot dogs were disgusting (as indeed is only right and proper), there was a drum (loved the drum) and some good natured chanting and stamping when goals were scored. In short all you need for a good evening or Saturday afternoon.
So, I’ll say this much: it was all great fun and I would go again – if only for the ice maintenance team cabaret. Those guys should be on TV. So I reckon this ought to be a fixture in the BV extra curricular calendar.
Here we are at the end of the match – sadly Swindon lost – on the red carpet with the entire team. Get us!
Business Village and the Swindon Wildcats
Hugest thanks to Sally for organising it for us. We all had a fab evening.
See their promo video on YouTube – A Day in the Skates
Now Mark Twain famously referred to golf as a ‘good walk spoiled’. I’m not entirely in disagreement I won’t lie. Golf is in fact surrounded by quips and quotes and here’s a couple more of my faves:
“Hockey is a sport for white men. Basketball is a sport for black men. Golf is a sport for white men dressed like black pimps.” Tiger Woods. And if you hark back to the way golfers dressed in the 1970s in particular you can see exactly what he meant.
Now this golf related blog is a guest post from Lee who I ‘know’ from Twitter. I’m delighted to have it because I do like to cover as many aspects of Swindon life on this blog as I can and golf is surely one of them?
I gotta say that I hesitate to refer to golf as a ‘sport’ – surely any game where you can progress in a motorised cart, and that can be played by overweight middle-aged men with cigars in their mouths, can’t reasonably be called a sport? But, for the sake of argument, I’ve categorised this post as ‘This Sporting Life’. Reluctantly.
Lee takes an interest in sport. He’s written previously on here about Swindon Town Football Club for a start. So thanks to Lee for being my roving (coughs) sports correspondent and sending me these lines and the photographs. Lee also takes a keen interest in history and that’s reflected in his musings.
Among his photographs is one of Swindon’s own golfing success story: David Howell. Now I hail from Worksop – home of another very successful golfer: Lee Westwood – his mother used to be my chiropodist. She was always full of stories of ‘R Lee’. Time was I had a partner that was a keen golfer – I used to threaten to get a T-shirt printed with ‘David who? on one side and ‘I HEART Lee’ on the other. But I thought we might have been blackballed or whatever it is.
Anyway – with no further ado – Lee’s words:
“I love golf but to be fair I’m not that good at playing – not exactly a natural you might say.
In the Swindon area we are spoilt for golf courses. There’s Ogbourne, Marlborough, Bowood and the lovely Wrag Barn at Highworth. Then of course there’s Brinkworth and South Carney. The 9-hole course in Highworth presents quite a challenge but the courses at Moredon and Coate are 3-par and friendlier.
All these courses have their histories but none so much as the jewel in Swindon’s Broome Manor Golf Complex.
Here there are hidden acres of woodland not far from the ancient villages of Hodson and Coate – it really is a golfer’s paradise. Will it remain so with the plans currently afoot for a 50 room hotel at the complex?
Many good players have paced the fairways at Broome Manor – or Broome as it’s referred to.
A well-known name in the golfing world is that of Swindon born David Howell. Continuing to shine, David fine-tuned his game at Broome Manor. A six times winner in Europe he still is in the worlds top 130….with power to add hopefully when he returns from injury. David’s achievements with the niblick have been recognised at the club with an annual Pro-Am in his name. Here he is action. Oh and it’s in the rough … ! 😉
The driving range at Broome was opened by none other than Ian Woosnam – and to throw in a bit of history, the Old Broome Farmhouse still stands – a remnant of the 1000 year old manor.’
The train now standing … is the Locomotive Broome Manor built in Swindon in 1938
‘In filthy condition ex GWR 1938 built 7805 Broome Manor is parked at the back of Tyseley shed.
Although the back of Tyseley this and a parallel line extended to the main Warwick Rd in Birmingham affording a view of several locomotives that were in steam without the need to trespass. The shed had two turntables and these overflow lines were an extension from them. 7805 had certainly visited the coal drop before being stabled here.’
Says Lee: ‘This is a negative that I found in an old envelope, I think it was given to me in around 1969.’
Now to round this off, and despite not being a huge golf fan, I can take pleasure in a novelty song. And here we have Bing Crosby and Bob Hope from 1957 and ‘Straight down the Middle’. They wish. As the man says: Fore!
Hurrah! At last dear listeners – a new guest post and one in the sadly-ignored ‘This Sporting Life’ section of Born again Swindonian. I’ve put the section on the blog because it should be represented even though I have no interest or inclination to sport myself. So hooray for Stratton Juniors!
And thanks to Paul Sunridge for sending me the information and some super photos of their players. All of ’em stars I have no doubt!
And any fans of Speedway or any other Swindon sports clubs listening – get in touch!
Founded in 1992, Stratton Juniors Football Club has grown from just one team and a handful of players to 15 teams from Under 6s to Under 16s with almost 200 children in the local community playing structured grassroots football.
In 2010 the club achieved the FA Charter Standard status which is awarded to football clubs who provide a high quality football experience. FA Charter Standard clubs are proven to be well run, sustainable, and importantly place child protection, quality coaching and safety as paramount. The aspirations of the Stratton Juniors committee do not stop there, with plans to take the club to the next level by achieving the prestigious FA Charter Standard ‘Development’ status.
After a number of years of playing at various venues around Stratton including local schools, the club has this season moved all of its teams to Meadowcroft playing fields run by Stratton Parish Council. The club and council have been working in partnership for some time and are both committed to a long term future together. We are currently fund raising for a defibrillator at Meadowcroft, hopefully supported by a council grant which will provide life-saving equipment accessible by the whole community. We are also holding a charity race night on 15th April at the County Ground Legends Lounge for the same cause.
On the pitch, Stratton Juniors goes from strength to strength.
Committed to playing the game in the “right” way, the emphasis of coaching is about development and enjoyment. The development primarily focuses on the technical side of the game, which is delivered in a structured but fun way.
“To me it was never about what I accomplished on the football field, it was about the way I played the game.”Jerry Rice
Working with parents, the club ensures that match days are a pressure free environment and the emphasis is on development and not winning. But by playing with a smile and focusing on technical ability the results naturally come good. Testament to this approach is the number of boys that, year after year, are selected by various football league academies, who we hope we have helped develop.
Under 16 Squad Photo 2015-16
Stratton Juniors Under 7s
Stratton Juniors only exists through the dedication of volunteer coaches and committee members and to help the club meet its aspiration of charter development status, funding is critical.
The club has sponsorship opportunities for a number of age groups and if you would be interested in sponsoring a team please contact Paul Surridge at email@example.com or call 07587 003990.
Here’s a guest post from Thomas Little – thank you Thomas. It’s an interesting consideration on the value of sport generally and also the diversity of sporting facilities and activities Swindonian’s can enjoy. For the moment anyway.
Thomas’ comment about the successful sports people with Swindon origins is interesting. David Howell I know of but not anyone else – well apart from Don Rogers and Harry Fleming of course. There’s material there for further research and blog posts I feel.
Sport in Swindon
“On a beautiful sunny day like today it’s hard for many to resist the urge to pull on a pair of boots, get the golf clubs in the back of the car or check the strings on the tennis racket and just get out there and take part in a sport. With a winter that wasn’t cold but certainly had its fair share of rain, there’s something almost primordial about the connection between sport and summer time and the residents of Swindon certainly have plenty of choices.
As a town Swindon has a proud sporting tradition with Swindon Town F.C.,Supermarine Rugby Club and a whole host of other local sporting teams, as well as being the home of a number of successful professional sports men and women involved in football, golf, boxing and more.
With venues across the town to cater to almost any sporting desire there really is no reason not to get involved. One of the greatest sporting assets that the town has is the breadth of sports facilities on offer across the borough, whether its football, golf, cricket tennis or even something a little more subdued like bowls then there are a number of local clubs who would be happy for you to get involved. However if you want to try your hand at something a little more energetic or you’re a bit of an adrenaline seeker then fear not! Swindon has a number of public skate parks, an indoor rock climbing wall, and, if you can travel a little further afield to the South Cerney Water Park, you can take part in jet skiing, cable water skiing and much much more.
With all of the choices on offer there is however something that we need to be mindful of which is the recent announcement by the local authority of plans to lease a number of public leisure facilities and playing fields.
The facilities concerned are the golf courses at Broome Manor, Highworth and Moredon and six leisure centres; Croft Sports Centre, Delta Tennis Centre, Dorcan Recreation Complex, Haydon Centre, Healthy Hydro and the Link Centre. The proposal does not include Highworth Recreation Centre at this point but may do so in the future.
The proposals for the leases themselves are for 99 years with a change of usage clause inset after 3 years. Whilst I understand it is not the intention of this blog to become mired in the politics of local government policy, I have highlighted this issue simply as a means of showing how important it is for people to make use of their local sports facilities. How many people have great memories linked with a local playing field, or with the local football pitch or tennis courts at this time of year? Especially when we have just seen the end of the football league and the FA Cup has been played. Now we have Wimbledon just around the corner, and the World Cup starts in a little over a month.
So let’s not forget how much a simple patch of grass, a net strung between two posts, or a public pool can have a positive effect not just on health but on our memories and our wellbeing. Get out there and enjoy sport, support your local communities and most importantly have a bit of fun!”