5th May 2014 – Hagbourne Copse, West Swindon
I’m lost for words. Well okay, that’s never going to actually happen but the expression gives an indication of my surprise at finding out about this delight tucked away behind a busy main road, an industrial estate and the Holiday Inn Express. Well, I’ve only lived here the twenty years so how could I possibly be expected to know eh? Even worse, the copse is only 15 minutes walk from my home in Grange Park.
Once more, as with several other instances that have triggered blog posts, it was social media that alerted me to its existence – in this instance a photograph of a friend of mine in the aforesaid copse. Then, as is so often the case, no sooner had I seen that, then photographs of the same copse appeared on Instagram. So clearly I thought, in the manner of Winnie the Pooh, an EXPOTITION was in order. This I accomplished today – see the picture gallery lower down.
And what a charming little spot it is. Tranquil isn’t quite the word with the busy road just beyond it, but a haven of nature it most certainly is. Currently carpeted with a bevy of beautiful Bluebells, this little piece of ancient woodland is an absolute delight and makes for a lovely little stroll.
I grew up in Derbyshire and close to my home there was an appropriately called Bluebell Wood which, as children, we frequently visited at Bluebell time. More years than I care to remember have passed by since I last saw Bluebells like this. Just stunning.
As ever, and unsurprisingly, Swindon Web have a nice article about the copse and some lovely photographs – as you can no doubt tell I’m no David Bailey. As they say:
“Bluebell woods are a predominantly British phenomenon as three-quarters of the world’s bluebells are found in these islands.
They occur all over Britain, but whereas most people head for the countryside to enjoy this once-a-year spectacle, Swindon folk don’t need to travel so far… The vast majority of bluebell woods are relics from ancient woodlands, often dating back to the 17th century – and Hagbourne Copse is no exception.”
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To take a break from studying I’ve been lately been having a wander around Grange Park, where I live, and Freshbrook which is close by. And because I was wandering for its own sake, just to get some fresh air, stretch my legs and have a break from my screen, rather than purposefully traversing from A to B, I took the time to take a few snaps round and about. Round where I live it is so very, very green and leafy. Lots of foot/cycle paths bordered with hedgerows, copses and dotted with open spaces and childrens’ play parks. It is not an unpleasant place to live for sure.
On some of my wanderings I went down Tallis Walk which opens out onto Kiln Park, once the site of a Roman brickworks I believe. I also went around Freshbrook, the village centre there being the home of ‘Nexus’ – a recently revamped bit of public art on the West Swindon Sculpture trail.
The Ramblers society have some information on walking in Swindon.
Here’s a map of the walk I broadly followed when I took these pictures.
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Public art bench on South Marston cycle path. Pic taken by Jess Robinson
I just love social media! One of my Twitter and blog followers sent me this photo,which is great, as being a non-driver and bogged down in studies I don’t get to all four corners of our town. What you are looking at is a new(ish) piece of public art that is also a handy bench: a perfect marriage of form and function indeed! But not just any old bench. This here is a Portrait Bench. So now, not only do I know about this lovely bench, I also know about the concept of portrait benches and a little bit more about Swindon’s history. And it started with a Tweet!
About the Portrait Benches and Sustrans: “The Portrait Bench is a new and unique national collection of local portraits. The figures are inspired and chosen for their individual contribution to the life of the community. Creating portraits is an old custom – honouring individuals for their philanthropy, political prowess or acts of heroism, and most commonly for the love of family members. All major public spaces are graced by statues or portraits of eminent individuals and family photos are treasured across the world. Each Portrait Bench is a collection of three distinctive, life-size local figures cut from sheet steel and installed by a simple bench, inviting you to sit or step up into the space and become a part of the portrait group. The features of each character have been simplified while retaining their essential characteristics. The characters reflect those things that are important to the community; each is inspired by the local heritage, culture and aspirations of the area; some we’ll know and some we won’t…together they will represent around 230 characters chosen by thousands of people from across the UK”
The three figures you see here are representatives of some aspects of Swindon’s rich heritage. The chap with a barrel on his shoulder is representing Arkell’s Brewery, established in 1843 and still going strong. The man in the centre serves as a homage to Swindon’s rich railway heritage, glimpses of which you can see in a couple of my other posts, A Tiny Tour around the town and the one on the Outlet Centre. The third figure, as you can no doubt tell is a WWII airman, in tribute to the part that Swindon played in producing the Spitfire – arguably the nation’s most famous aircraft. The factory that contributed to the Spitfire production was located in South Marston, hence the fitting inclusion of an airman on this portrait bench. If you want to know more about all of that then Swindon Web have a fab article about it all and read here to learn more about the figures used in this particular portrait bench. Isn’t it a really neat idea?
The creation of this portrait bench and the cycle path on which it is located is part of the Sustrans Connect2 project, funded by the Big Lottery Fund: “Sustrans’ Connect2 project has transformed everyday travel for communities across the UK by helping them to choose healthier, cleaner and cheaper journeys. The project has created new bridges and crossings that overcome busy roads, rivers and railways, and link to networks of walking and cycling routes, making it easier for millions of people to walk and cycle for everyday journeys to shops, work, schools and to each other.” Read more about it here: http://www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/project/sustrans-connect2 …
Swindon Travel choices have some information on it on their website. Finally why don’t you check out this video about it from Swindon Web TV on the opening of this fabulous Sustrans South Marston cycle path, adding to the great cycling network in and around Swindon.
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Not long back it was Swindon the Driving Utopia, now it is cycling haven as Claire Fleming, of Swindon Bicycle User Group and Swindon Borough Council travel plan officer explains here:
Cycling in my city: Swindon | Latest News | Cycling Weekly. In the article, in Cycling Weekly, she explains: “I spent 18 years in Nottingham, which has a good reputation for cycling, but when I moved to Swindon in 2008 I was pleasantly surprised at how much network there is already on the ground, and how well it is being integrated into new development as Swindon grows. Swindon received £4million from the Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF) in 2011 and has set up a project called Swindon Travel Choices.” For the rest of the article in Cycling Weekly follow the link above
Swindon is really not a bad place to be when you want to get off the sofa and get out there. There are a multitude of walks and cycle routes. Many of them taking less than an hour and an awful lot of that is on level ground for those of you not inclined to inclines. Should you fancy an organized walk there’s the Rambers society or the Health Walks: ‘Swindon Health Walks are weekly group walks that encourage the use of our local parks and open spaces. Usually they last 40 – 60 minutes with refreshments offered at the end.’
If you want a walk – or cycle ride for that matter – with an added cultural element then Swindon is blessed with fantastic public art, so check out the West Swindon Sculpture trail or the Old Town railway path where the haunting wheel sculptures are.
The Swindon BUG website does of course have a whole host of information on cycle routes with downloadable maps and links to other cycling sites such as Sustrans. Personally I prefer to keep my feet on terra firma but if cycling is your thing then Swindon affords many opportunities.
A further exciting development in the world of cycling and walking is ‘Marking Time on the Western Flyer’. From Total Swindon: “an exciting arts project being delivered by Swindon Borough Council’s Create studios in its 30th anniversary year. Funded by Swindon Travel Choices and led by artist Scott Farlow, the project is part of the new enhancements to the Western Flyer cycle and pedestrian route,which runs from Shepard Street underpass in the town centre to Mead Way in West Swindon …” There’s a Facebook page for the project so check it out there too.
See also Swindon’s Recycles project located in Booth House on Fleming Way which “provides a meeting place and resource centre for people that share our enthusiasm for all things related to cycling. Drop in for all kinds of information, help and advice; from local cycle routes, clubs and the benefits of cycling to organised events. And, naturally, recycles can professionally repair or service your bicycles at competitive rates or sell you a quality refurbished model ready to go”
Driving Utopia and now cycling…Down up pedal, down up down…
» Cycle leaders to get on their bikes to help community.
“Cyclists in Swindon are taking part in a national campaign to get even more people on to two wheels.
Swindon Borough Council is hosting British Cycling Ride Leader training later this month with the aim of inspiring the local community to take up cycling.
It comes after the Council launched its Tri-Active project during the summer which aims to increase participation in running, swimming and cycling among residents in Park North, Park South, Pinehurst, Penhill, Walcot and Broadgreen….”
Well, you learn something new every day don’t you? And it’s amazing what you can discover in the Twittersphere. Until some interactions on Twitter yesterday I had no idea of the existence of Swindon Travel Choices. Well, actually that’s not strictly true – I had seen persons on the bus wearing polo-shirts emblazoned with the company name but I assumed it referred to a bucket holiday-shop. Not so.
Swindon Travel Choices is a project to support the regeneration of Swindon Town Centre by promoting different travel choices to the people who work in the town centre and live in the borough.
So whether you walk, cycle, drive, use the bus or possibly even if you jet-pack from place to place, Swindon Travel choices is the site to go to. There’s maps and journey planners and all manner of useful stuff on the website – best thing to do is go and have a look. For instance in the ‘walking’ section of the site you can download a copy of a magazine or request a copy to be sent to you in the post. The current issue has a feature on the West Swindon sculpture tour about which I’ve been banging on ad nauseum. Hurrah! It’s lovely to see that featured.
So, dust down your walking shoes or dig out your cycle clips and visit this site for all sorts of inspiration.
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