Archive | June 2013

Cakes Heaven: sweet treats to die for

Cakes heaven sign

Cakes heaven sign

Coffee shops and eating places are bit like buses it seems. You know how it is – you wait months and months and months for a new cafe/coffee shop/restaurant and then several turn up at once. Today’s turn-up is Cakes Heaven in Market Street – opposite the tented market. To be fair, it’s not, by all accounts, all that new – it’s just that I’ve managed not to notice it until recently.

Now I don’t personally have much of a sweet tooth – the cappuccino slice I sampled today was more than sweet enough for my palette and very light and fluffy it was too. But if you marvel at meringue, go crazy for coconut, cherish choux pastry and have an all-round passion for patisserie then this is the coffee shop for you. All the cakes are homemade and are available to eat in or to take away and to order. They also do party and wedding cakes to order. Check out their Facebook pages for pictures:

https://www.facebook.com/cakes.heavenskcz

https://www.facebook.com/cakesheaven.swindon

Chatting to another customer it seems they also do savoury meals and snacks of the Slovak variety so something to try another time for sure.  And moreover – it’s all very, very reasonably priced:  a decent Lavazza coffee for a mere £1! The homemade cappuccino slice I enjoyed was, I think, only £0.80.  At prices like that, the sweet-toothed amongst you can get lost in a cake-based paradise on a regular basis.

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Extra, extra: read all about it! Swindon Heritage magazine

I fully intended to get a copy of the SWINDON HERITAGE magazine (A quarterly magazine celebrating the rich and proud heritage of Swindon. A not-for-profit social enterprise) when it was launched earlier this year but somehow or other failed to do so. So, as today I was in the central library, I managed to remember to buy a copy of the second edition.

I’m not going to lie, I was somewhat excited to see that the front cover features Diana Dors, whose statue I have recently blogged about here and again here. Inside the magazine there is a 10 page feature on ‘Our Diana: The life and times of a movie star’ which I can’t wait to settle down to read. And what a co-incidence eh? 🙂

Front cover of Swindon Heritage magazine featuring Diana Dors

Front cover of Swindon Heritage magazine featuring Diana Dors

At £4.99 it’s not much more expensive (if at all????) than most glossy women’s magazines and has a lot less advertising and much more substance. And I wouldn’t say either, that you had to be a die-hard local history nut to find it interesting. I’m a born again Swindonian and have found plenty in it to be of interest but for readers that have long-standing connections with the town there must be many more resonances in its pages. So don’t be shy – give it a try!

Find ’em on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SwindonHeritage  and there’s also a website still under construction but worth bookmarking for future reference.

Kiln Park: a hidden gem that reminds of Swindon past

Tree with tiles round - West Swindon

Tree with tiles round – West Swindon

28th September 2014: Old post updated

It’s interesting how, since starting this blog, I’ve begun noticing things more. Apropos the subject of this post it’s less a case of noticing and more a case of paying some actual attention.

I live in West Swindon and regularly walk to the West Swindon Centre, my route to which traverses an area of open ground that forms a sort of ‘no-man’s land’ between the villages of Grange Park, Westlea and Freshbrook. On this area there sits a tree – I’m almost sure it used to be circled by a bench but if memory serves me correctly on that then it’s long gone now.

However, what does still circle the tree are clay tiles. Clearly I’ve noticed both the tree and the tiles before but haven’t, until now, really given any thought about the message they bear:

Kiln Park  150 AD – 1989 with patterned tiles in between the tiles with text on them. I assume the tiles were installed in 1989…

But it’s only this year that I’ve managed to discover the history behind these tiles; back in the day when the Romans were stamping around this area there was a large Roman pottery industry in West Swindon. Certainly the ground here is all clay. I eventually got rid of my lawn because it either was so dry and hard that it had cracks like the San Andreas Fault running through it – or it was like Flanders.

Wikipedia tells us that there was a Roman town called Durocornovium (and don’t you think that sounds like a cough mixture?) to the east of Swindon from the 1st to the 4th centuries located in present day Wanborough. It is probable then that Swindon first began life as a settlement linked to a military encampment in the early days of the Roman occupation. The place that is now Swindon was on the junction of two Roman roads, one leading south from Cirencester towards Marlborough and the other south eastwards to Silchester ( Ermin Street). Evidence exists to show that Swindon’s quarries were in use at this time to produce stone for villas and clay from the Whitehill region (now West Swindon) was used to produce Whitehill Ware pottery. 

All of which is really rather fab and interesting is it not? An example of the seemingly small things that, at face value, appear insignificant but yet have history and stories behind them. For my money such things are the salt and pepper, the seasoning that adds flavour and colour to where one lives. And Swindon, as with any town up and down the land I’m sure, is full of small things like these tiles that are not, on the surface very interesting, but dig a little and nuggets of golden history and interesting stories lie beneath them. It’s just a pity that, like so many little gems in Swindon, they are now looking a tad unloved. Along with the canal bridge and most of the public art. Swindon has a fine history of installing lots of wonderful things but seems never to have a strategy in place for what happens afterwards. A bit like the invasion of Iraq.

#swindon #wiltshire #swindonblog #swindon blog #thingstodoinswindon #thingstoseeinswindon #whattodoinswindon #swindonia #swindoniablog #hiddenswindon #swindonian #art #swindonpast

A random piece of public art?

Walking home from Toothill village centre today, my eye was caught by the art/structure? in the photographs. It’s odd really as I’ve walked this route many times but have never spotted it before. It is just tucked away between houses. Amazing.

Anyway – does anyone out there know anything about it? There was no plaque of any kind to say what it was about, meant to represent etc. That said, with the exception of ‘Diana Dors’ up at Shaw Ridge the same is true of all the sculptures/public artworks I’ve so far blogged about. So if anyone has any information on it, I’d love to hear. I just find it really intriguing to come across these things.

While on this topic of public art in Swindon – there must be more than I know about. I’m in the process of writing about the artworks on the West Swindon sculpture walk. I know about the Wish Hounds at Croft Walk, the much-missed (by me at any rate) Blondinis. Then there’s the Jubilee Clock, that water feature in the town centre (not sure about that one to be honest …), the light sculpture thing by Villett Street car park – does that still illuminate by the way? And isn’t there a ram up in Od Town and a metal cow at the hospital. But what am I missing? Is there more public art in Swindon? I clearly don’t get to all parts of town so if there’s more out there I’d love to hear about it. If you can send me a picture so much the better!

Public art/sculpture Toothill

Public art/sculpture Toothill

Different view of Toothill artefact!
Different view of Toothill artefact!

Ten things to celebrate about Swindon No 4: The sculptures. D: ‘The Great Blondinis’

Public art in Swindon: The Great Blondinis

I really, really miss The Great Blondinis. A sculpture/statue of them used to reside in Wharf Green and I loved it. It was bright and colourful and didn’t half brighten up a dull day – and goodness only knows we get enough of those! I get that Wharf Green needed rejuvenating and, after initial cynicism, really love the big screen – I’ve enjoyed several fabulous evenings down there watching live streaming of opera and ballet – fantastic! How cool is it to have that facility in Swindon? But did we have to lose the Great Blondinis? 😦

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, the Gteat Blondinis were an acrobatic troupe who performed at circuses in Swindon in the 1920s. I’m sure though they were known beyond this area. I’m not from Swindon and I’m certain I’d heard of them before coming here. Or I could  be thinking of Charles Blondin, the first tightrope walker to  cross Niagra Falls? Hmmm. Anyway… The sculptor who created them was also responsible for Diana Dors at Shaw Ridge. The sculpture rather than the actress, clearly.

I did know that the sculpture had been saved but I didn’t know where it now was. Thanks to a certain non-tax paying search engine I do now. A quick furtle on the internet found Duncan and Mandy’s website which reveals that the restored Blondinis now reside in St Mark’s park in the Ferndale/Gorse Hill area.  The colour photograph of the acrobats is courtesy of their website – a veritable mine of information about Swindon actually.

So whilst it’s great to see them all cleaned up I’m still sad I don’t get to see them anymore.

sculpture of acrobats

The Great Blondinis

A black and white picture of the statue being unveiled back in 1987 can be seen here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/swindonlocal/6672481469/

And more pictures here: http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=great%20blondinis

#swindon #wiltshire #swindonblog  #swindon blog #thingstodoinswindon #thingstoseeinswindon #whattodoinswindon #swindonia #swindoniablog #hiddenswindon #swindonian #swiondonia #art #artists #publicartswindon #cycling #walking #sculpture #heritage #swindonpast  #thegreatblondinis

West Swindon Sculpture walk – Part 2 – How the Mighty Fall

‘How the Mighty Fall 1989 – Artist: Tim Sandys-Renton. Material: Cast Aluminium, Cast Iron. Commissioned by Thamesdown Borough Council through the Percent for Art Policy’

In the first post of this series I wrote about the statue of Diana Dors outside the cinema at Shaw Ridge. The next statue my friend and I examined  on the walk was ‘How the Mighty Fall’.  Like all the sculptures on this trail it was installed in the mid-late 1980s when the area was being developed. The blurb describes the sculpture as inviting the observer to transport themselves into the future and view the sculpture as an archeological artefact from the 20th century. Which of course is somewhat the reality for it now … Located as it is, on one of the many superb big green spaces that there are in West Swindon (up behind Shaw Ridge), where it’s quite easy to forget that one is in the middle of a big conurbation, it only needs a bit of imagination to see the artists intention for the sculpture as a relic of a long gone civilization …

I really rather liked this piece of artwork – it’s definitely one of my favourites of the set.  Certainly it brings transport to mind. From the initial approach it looks rather like an aeroplane that has crash-landed. Looked at from behind it reminded me of some sort of carriage type conveyance with the ‘body’ of the carriage in the middle and the wheels either side. From one side there appears to be an impression of a face screaming – the eponymous mighty falling perhaps?  In fact, whatever angle you look at it you see something new and thought provoking. You don’t have to like a piece of art to find it interesting. But I did like this one. A lot.  But hey – don’t take my word for it – go and have a look for yourself and see what you  make of it.

Oh, incidentally, you  might recall in the previous post I said my companion was going to have a crack at interpreting it? Well she got pretty close. In truth I can’t remember exactly what she said – I couldn’t be fagged to take notes – but  I do recall it was on the right lines! Impressive eh?  🙂

So far then, we were pleased to find two on the list still in existence. Well actually – ‘Looking to the Future’ near the West Swindon Centre definitely is (though in need of a bit of TLC), as I wrote about that in a separate blog post written before I tackled this walk.  But how many more of them did we find and, more to the point perhaps given the passage of time since they were installed, what sort of condition did we find them in?

Diana Dors, as can we seen in part 1 of this series and in the ‘ten things I like about Swindon No 4 – Diana Dors’ post’, is in fairly decent condition – apart, of course, from the chewing gum bogey! And the sculpture featured here is in decent enough nick for its age. As for the rest? Well watch this space!

sculpture, aluminium and cast iron

How the Mighty Fall – 1989

impression of foot print on sculpture

How the mighty Fall – 1989

The map and literature we used can be found on t’internet here: http://www.visitwiltshire.co.uk/xsdbimgs/The%20Sculpture%20Tour%20West%20Swindon.pdf

back view of sculpture

How the Mighty Fall – 1989

The Learning Ambassadors

To paraphrase Michael Caine, not a lot of people know this, but Swindon has a team of learning ambassadors whose role it is to offer advice and guidance to people wanting to get back into learning: ‘Swindon Borough Council’s Learning Ambassadors play a vital role in helping to identify need, engage and support learners. The success of our widening participation programme has been largely due to the Learning Ambassadors learning groups, which have facilitated significant improvements in participation.’ 

The learning ambassadors have the ubiquitous Facebook page – so why not stop by and say hello – even give them a ‘like’: https://www.facebook.com/LearningAmbassadorsSbc

More information about community and family learning can be found on Swindon Borough Council’s website but to give a flavour:

Adult Community and Family Learning promotes and delivers:

  • Personal and Community Development Learning
  • Neighbourhood Learning in Deprived Communities
  • Wider Family Learning
  • Family Language, Literacy and Numeracy

We do this by drawing on the expertise, experience and knowledge of a range of partners to deliver our Adult Community and Family Learning provision – aimed at meeting the needs of adults and families in Swindon.

There is now a facility to enrol online: http://www.webenrol.com/swindon/

I’d love a Babycham! – Once upon a Vintage

Back in the day, even before Liebfraumilch and Piersporter were considered to be the drink of choice for the sophisticate, there was Babycham – launched in 1953 and originally marketed as ‘the genuine Champagne perry’ this was ‘the’ drink for many.

Babycham glasses and fawn.

I’d love a Babycham!

Okay then,’what?’ I hear you cry, ‘does this have to do with Swindon?’ Well nothing directly except that I bought these the other day in the vintage shop – Once Upon a Vintage  – on Faringdon Road. I spotted them in the window and just couldn’t resist this blast from the past.

‘Once upon a Vintage’ is a veritable treasure trove of all things retro – so if that floats your boat then pop in and have a good rummage.

Personally speaking, I enjoy but yet am dismayed by vintage shops –  the latter by finding that your childhood and even teenage/young adult references are now ‘vintage’. Eeek. As if the mirror weren’t enough of a reminder of the passing years ……

https://www.facebook.com/Thevintagestory

West Swindon localities drop-ins

If you live in West Swindon, you may or may not be aware of the drops in run by the SBC localities team, Gail Light and Paula Harrison.

They are at Toothill Community Centre on Tuesdays 10.30am to 12.30  – there’s a health walk from 10am. Additionally there’s one at West Swindon Library, in the Link Centre on Fridays between 10.00 and 12.00 and in Starbucks at the De Vere Village on Shaw Ridge on Thursdays 12.00-1.30pm – booking required for that.

Information on West Swindon localities team.

West Swindon localities team.

All contact information is on the leaflet shown here.  So why not pop in for a coffee and a chat? They are waiting to hear your thoughts on what’s important in West Swindon.

THE2Wins – cafe niceness

I’m talking about ‘THE2WINS’ – a coffee shop and snack bar in Rodbourne, situated little more than a spit from the front entrance of the Outlet Village. Business card for THE2WINS

A Portuguese chap, to whom I give English lessons, told me about it. So today, having cause to go to the Outlet Village, I had an ideal opportunity to pop in. I didn’t have much time, so opted to just have my usual black coffee and a Portuguese sponge cake both of which were lovely and very reasonably priced at under £3 for both.

The decor of the cafe is contemporary, comfortable and squeaky clean. Sara, the proprietor, is a pleasant and friendly lady, the coffee and cakes are good and it’s only a couple of yards from the Outlet Village. What’s not to like?   🙂

I’m not often in that area of town but the next time I am, I will definitely go in again. It’s good to know there’s somewhere close to the Outlet Village where there’s good coffee, cakes and hot snacks other than Costa lotta. If you go to the Outlet Centre regularly then why not give it a try? It’s the briefest of detours from the front area and, I think, worth the little extra effort.

Update – 12th August 2013

Since initially writing this post I’ve been back here a few times and have discovered they also do some scrummy homemade rolls stuffed with chorizo. Nom, nom, nom. Reasons to be cheerful….

Update – 14th November 2014 – For the first time in ages I’ve been to The 2Wins and enjoyed the lovely bread roll they do stuffed with chorizo and a can of that soft drink I can never pronounce and that is  the only soft drink I can tolerate – I’m not generally a fan of pop!  So just a few pics to freshen up this post.

The owners of the cafe now also have a little supermarket selling Portguese goodies just two doors down.

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