Archive | October 2013

West Swindon sculpture tour – a guide-book entry

As with my  guide-book entry for the Magic Roundabout, (uni coursework) this is an attempt at the same for the West Swindon Sculpture tour, something I’ve written about from a personal viewpoint. However this piece is an attempt to write about the sculpture trail from the viewpoint of a dispassionate observer writing about this entity as if for a guide book. And why not? Is that such a fanciful idea?

Here is a link to a map of the sculpture trail.

Take the sculpture challenge: follow the map and go in search of the sculptures

If one thinks of Swindon at all, most likely to come to mind are the Designer Outlet village, the STEAM museum and, perhaps, Lydiard House and Park. Somewhat surprisingly though this sometimes un-prepossessing town possesses a rich cultural landscape liberally scattered with public art – in particular in the West Swindon development. This extensive and surprisingly green suburban area links the town with the M4 and comprises several distinct ‘villages’, several of which feature a ‘village centre’. Intriguingly punctuating this conurbation is a fascinatingly diverse collection of sculptures that comprise the West Swindon Sculpture trail. Installed between 1982 and 1992 these sculptures are unexplained and mostly unnoticed by the locals. They are also rather neglected but no less interesting for that encompassing as they do a gamut of subject matter ranging from realism to abstract with a film star and a nursery rhyme in the mix.

A circular walk, approximately five miles long, will take you around all seven of them. The terrain is largely flat so is therefore family friendly and suitable for those not inclined to inclines. Swindon is astonishingly rich in parks and green spaces and the trail traverses some of them. There are children’s play parks and an outdoor gym en route giving plenty of added interest and making it dog-friendly and picnic-suitable. And it would add a new element to a bike ride too.

A good starting point for the trail is the West Swindon Centre: home to a supermarket, a coffee and fast-food chain and the Link Centre – a sports centre housing an ice-rink, swimming pool and sports hall. It additionally offers a café and a play area for tots. There is ample free parking here and the centre is additionally well served by buses from the town centre making the start of this trail easily accessible.

Appropriately located outside a multiplex cinema on Shaw Ridge leisure park (across the road from the West Swindon Centre) the first sculpture encountered is a flamboyant bronze portrait of the late film star Diana Dors, a daughter of Swindon. Unveiled by David Putnam this piece is a larger-than-life homage to the woman billed as Britain’s answer to Marilyn Monroe. Also home to a bowling alley, a De Vere Village hotel, two Indian restaurants and a pizza restaurant this leisure complex also offers ample free parking.

A few minutes walk up a slight incline from the cinema brings you to the Shaw Ridge open space. Take a few paces more and you reach number two on the trail ‘How the Mighty Fall’ (1989). This cast iron and cast aluminium sculpture was envisioned by its creator to be imagined as an archeological artefact from the 20th Century requiring viewers to transport themselves into the future. A future that is now our reality. Here too you will find the outdoor gym and a children’s playpark.

A walk along the ridge and across the somewhat Stepford-like Bramptons housing estate and you arrive at the third sculpture on the trail: ‘White Horse Pacified’ (1987). Created in conjunction with the Portguese Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation this large blue and white work is an interpretation of the chalk-cut white horses surrounding Swindon.

The walk to the fourth sculpture ‘Hey Diddle Diddle’ (1982), passes through Shaw Village Centre which marks an approximate half-way point. Here you can stop for an ice-cream or even a meal in the Village Inn. This is a chain pub so be under no illusions about the fare on offer but it’s a convenient and comfortable pit-stop. Surprisingly set in a front garden in The Prinnels this charming sculpture is carved in Portland stone and depicts the popular nursery rhyme in a domestic setting.

You now have a lengthy but level walk to sculpture number five in Freshbrook village centre: ‘Nexus’ (1986). Comprised of Blue Pennant stone and railway sleepers this piece was carved with hand-made tools, in public and in situ by the late Japanese sculptor Hideo Furtura.

The walk from Freshbrook to Toothill Village centre, the home of the sixth sculpture ‘The Watchers’ (1982) gives a panoramic view over the Marlborough Downs. As the name suggests, this sculpture cast in ferro-concrete and featuring a mother, father, child and dog represent guardian figures looking over the then new community.

On leaving Toothill a downhill path and a short walk by a stream eventually takes you to the seventh and final sculpture ‘Looking to the Future’ (1985). Completed by the first artist in residence during the development of West Swindon, this glass-fibre resin sculpture depicts three life-sized sunbathing figures relaxing at the edge of the pond. Cross the road from here to return to the starting point.

This is an activity of which you can make as much or as little as you wish. At a steady walk, and with only a passing examination of each sculpture, it could be completed in a couple of hours. But you could really take your time about it and make a day of it.

NB: Both Freshbrook and Toothill village centres have shops and pubs so there’s further refreshment opportunities there before the walk returns you to the start point.

#travelwriting #publicart #publicartswindon #scultptures #art #swindonblog #swindon blog #thingstodoinswindon #thingstoseeinswindon #swindonia #swindoniablog #hiddenswindon #swindonian #travel #writing #travelwriting #guidebook


The West Swindon sculpture tour in pictures

Just a picture gallery of the West Swindon sculpture tour. But don’t rely on these – go and visit them for yourself!

Here is a link to a map of the trail.

A good starting point for this tour is the Link Centre. The upside down Cassandra is no longer there but you can still see the mural commemorating Swindon’s twinning with Nicauraga.

#swindonblog #swindon blog #thingstodoinswindon #thingstoseeinswindon #swindonia #swindoniablog #hiddenswindon #swindonian

On from the Link Centre, the next port of call is Shaw Ridge Leisure park where you will find the larger-than life statue of Diana Dors,  the homage to the larger-than-life actress born in Swindon. Situated, appropriately enough, outside the cinema.

Now, not many minutes walk from the cinema, up onto the green open spaces of Shaw Ridge, you will come to ‘How the Mighty Fall’ and close by it the outdoor gym equipment.

Further meanderings around bits of West Swindon I had no idea existed brought us to ‘White Horse Pacified’. This sculpture would be striking if only had some TLC! As it is..welll…

Next up, the tour takes you to ‘Hey Diddle Diddle’ – a fabulous representation of the nursery rhyme, prominently situated in a front garden in The Prinnells.

A bit more trekking and you get to ‘Nexus’ at Freshbrook Village centre.

Another village centre, another sculpture. This time ‘The Watchers’ at Toothill.

Then, last but by no means least, before returning to the start point at the Link Centre, you will see Looking to the Future.

#travelwriting #publicart #publicartswindon #scultptures #art #swindonblog #swindon blog #thingstodoinswindon #thingstoseeinswindon #swindonia #swindoniablog #hiddenswindon #swindonian

Road signs in and around Swindon – mostly…

A largely pictorial post featuring various old road signs. Some in Swindon and some slightly further afield. For no other reason than that they have lasted this long so it’s just feels like a nice thing to have some pictures of them here. Seems like a good enough excuse to me.

Click on the thumbnails for a bigger picture.

Swindon signs: Here are some Swindon signs from various points in and around the town. In no particular order there is:  County Road, new and one rather rusty and forlorn old one, the old post to Semington that lives on Canal walk and a nice snowy one in Upper Stratton. A very old post on the road from Commonhead to Coate and a lovely traditional one between Hinton Parva and Bishopstone.

I just LOVE this Walcot sign – I’m not sure why. It’s so retro and a bit ‘Fawlty Towers’ – I want it:

Okay then – so who remember furlongs and yards? I can just about remember furlongs in the measurement table in my school exercise books. Along with Pecks and Bushels … anyway – here is a fabulous old milestone in the Savernake Forest, Marlborough.

This lovely old beauty is on the old Marlborough rd near The Spotted Cow:

Some signs from roads between Slough and London:  A lovely old one in Langley near Slough with Hyde Park on it…1741.

The other one is on the old A4 at Slough….the A 4 is an ancient thoroughfare and was the main route from the west to London long before the M4 was built.

#swindonblog #swindon blog #thingstodoinswindon #thingstoseeinswindon #swindonia #swindoniablog #hiddenswindon #swindonian

Chapters coffee bar at the central library, Swindon

Well what else could it be called? For a coffee  bar in the middle of a library nothing else would do, would it?

On the ground floor of the central library on Regent Circus in Swindon is located this very pleasant coffee bar. I like it because, being a library it’s peaceful without being deadly. What I’m trying to say is that you are not competing with a TV or music playing, so conversation or quiet reading is easy. There is a TV there but it’s muted and has sub-titles. I used the place a lot over the summer as a venue for giving English lessons to a Portguese chap for that very reason. Oh, and the coffee is okay too.  🙂

I popped in there today and had a good chat with Steve, the barista, in between him serving customers – and it was pretty full which is great to see. Unfortunately for Steve I take my coffee black so he had no chance to practice his ‘coffee art’ on me.  I did however watch him in action preparing such milky delights for other customers. Steve explained to me how he’d learnt his coffee art from YouTube videos, practising and practising until he’d got it right. I did record a little video of Steve in action but the technology of getting it on here has defeated me for the moment, but you can see it on the blog’s Facebook page.

The cafe, under Steve’s guidance, is making an effort to use locally sourced drinks, a recent addition to the offerings being Ramsbury teas, which are proving to be very popular. Also on offer are locally made cakes. And, though I didn’t indulge today, jolly good they looked.

Steve is friendly and approachable and is clearly working hard to give a good coffee or tea experience, so all power to his coffee pot I say!

You can follow the coffee bar in Twitter @ChaptersCafe and find them on Facebook too.

Being situated in the library the coffee bars opening hours are of course dictated by that. You can find information about the library opening times here.

And course while you are in there you are perfectly placed to say hello to the Visit Swindon team on the main desk there.


#swindon #wiltshire #swindonblog #swindon blog #thingstodoinswindon #thingstoseeinswindon #whattodoinswindon #swindonia #swindoniablog #hiddenswindon #swindonian #coffee #cafe #chapterscoffeebar #swindoncentrallibrary

Museum purchases painting by Swindon treasure Ken White via Swindon Link magazine

Museum purchases painting by Swindon treasure Ken White.  So thank goodness for that! Brilliant news in this article by the Swindon Link magazine that: “Thanks to the Friends of Swindon Railway Museum, the STEAM Museum has now acquired a painting produced by Swindon’s internationally acclaimed artist and muralist, Ken White. The oil on canvas painting entitled The Rivet Hotters depicts a group of GWR rivet hotters who are gathered round a brazier, making their toast at lunchtime … ‘

Ken White’s murals have been a part of Swindon’s artistic landscape for many years now, though sadly much of his work exists only in photographic records held by Swindon local. As the Link Magazine article points out it is ironic that:  “there is not a single painting of Ken’s in Swindon’s art collection, although McArthur-Glen bought seven canvasses for the Designer Outlet Village, and Steam Museum have a couple of Ken’s works on loan.”

It goes on to say that Ken is saddened by the disappearance of so much of old Swindon and the demise of its heritage … he further commented that: “Swindon doesn’t know what it’s got. We should keep what we’ve got and look after our history.” And, while I don’t especially want to rant and moan on this blog, I’m rather afraid I have to agree with him. There’s an old canal bridge with once lovely painted friezes on it going to rack and ruin for a start. And then most of the contents of the West Swindon sculpture tour are in need of TLC, ‘White Horse Pacified’ in particular but they could all do with a piff up.

The West Swindon Sculpture Tour

A little guest blog I wrote for Visit Wiltshire about the West Swindon Sculpture tour.

The Swindon collection

I’ve given mention before to the amazing resource and service that is the Swindon Collection in ‘Digital archives R us’. But I figured it was time to give another, more detailed ‘shout out’ about them.

As it says on their section of the Swindon Borough Council website:

The Swindon Collection: The Swindon Collection of local studies and family history material can be found on the second floor of the Central Library. Staff will be happy to help you begin your search. Additionally, one Monday a month, an archivist from the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre will be available to advise researchers. Please check with Swindon collection staff for future dates.

But there’s more.  The Swindon local collection is the home of the Swindon photostream collection on Flickr:

“In collaboration with the people of Swindon and local history enthusiasts, Swindon Central Library has produced a substantial online library of historical photographs – on the Internet photograph repository, Flickr.

The Swindon Collection Photostream is an ongoing project to publish the history of the Borough of Swindon in photographs.

The collection already includes many thousands of fascinating images – drawn from the library’s collection, the private collections of local residents and enthusiasts, and historical material from Swindon’s commercial institutions of the past and present.”

There are links to various areas of this photostream scattered throughout this blog. It truly is an amazing resource and important record of every aspect of Swindon’s history – something that Swindon should be very proud of.

Just some of the other resources that the Swindon collection can offer are:

  • Complete GRO index of Births, Marriages & Deaths, for the whole of England and Wales (1837-1999).
  • GRO Overseas index.
  • International Genealogical Index (The LDS or Mormon Index).
  • Census records (1841-1901) with surname and street indexes where available.
  • Parish registers, bishops transcripts and surname transcriptions where available (from 1538).
  • Free access to Find My Past Community Edition.
  • All available parish magazines, newsletters and journals, including staff magazines for the Great Western Railway, Wills Tobacco, Garrards and Vickers.

The rest can be found here, on the SBC website. And you can, of course, also find them on Facebook.

About your library | Swindon Libraries & Info. Service

Screen Shot 2013-10-24 at 18.41.33

Just in case you weren’t aware, the Swindon library service has a rather jolly blog. So this quick press is just to tell you it’s there and is well worth checking out as it’s full of all sorts of interesting and useful information.

About your library | Swindon Libraries & Info. Service.

Below is  some of the information from their ‘About’ page, with opening times and contact info etc, but there’s lots more on there so follow the link above and explore! Then, when you’ve done that go and explore your nearest library. The central library at Regent Circus has a very nice coffee shop, Chapters coffee bar, and a quiet reading area upstairs.

The central library is also the home of Swindon’s tourist information desk: Visit Swindon

“With 15 libraries, plus a mobile and home library service, you are never far away from a wealth of books and useful information resources in Swindon. Our online resources even bring the library to you in the comfort of your own home…

To find out more about Swindon Libraries & Information Service check out  where you can find the opening times and contact details for your local library.

Do you have a query but not sure where to find the answer? Then why not call our Information Helpline on 01793 466454?
This is a free service that enables you to ask an information question to a trained member of staff at Central Library, where there is direct access to a broad range of resources.

This service is available:
Monday–Friday 9.30am–7.00pm
Saturday 10.00am–4.00pm
Sunday 11.00am–3.00pm

You can also contact us by email at:

If you have a Local Studies or Family History Query then contact us View pictures from our archives at:

We are also on Twitter:

Find us on Facebook:

Textphone users can contact Swindon libraries via Text Relay by inserting the prefix 18001 before the full telephone number … “

The Swindon Jubilee clock

Tempus fugit!

“Tick. Tick. Tick. 
This is the sound of your life running out.” 
― Anonymous

A wee post about Swindon’s Jubilee clock which, having been moved from its original town centre home, now resides outside Swindon’s railway station.

Designed by Edwin Wright and made by the Cumbrian Clock company it didn’t thrill everyone when it was first installed in the town centre in 2002/3 It was much derided for never working well – which is not unreasonable but I always liked it. More to the point I liked it in that position far more than than the water feature that superseded it. While it sits well in its new home on the railway station forecourt I did think it look good on the crossroads of Swindon’s pedestrianised centre – it allowed you to look in all four directions easily whereas the water-feature sort of ‘clutters’ it up. I don’t dislike the thing per se – just not there.  But hey, that’s just my opinion…

How long a minute is, depends on which side of the bathroom door you’re on. ~Zall’s Second Law

#swindon #wiltshire #swindonblog  #swindon blog #thingstodoinswindon #thingstoseeinswindon #whattodoinswindon #swindonia #swindoniablog #hiddenswindon #swindonian #swiondonia #art #artists #publicartswindon #swindonjubileeclock #clockrailwaystation #jubileeclock #clockswindonstation

The West Swindon Sculpture Tour | VisitWiltshire

A wee post I have just written for Visit Wiltshire about the West Swindon sculpture tour.  With half-term happening it might be worth checking out – a free activity. Walk it, cycle it, yomp it or stroll it. But above all experience it and enjoy it! 🙂

The West Swindon Sculpture Tour | VisitWiltshire.

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