A Rough Guide to Swindon: Introduction
This section of the blog is going to be rather different from my other posts. Where they are written in my own voice, these are going to be written as if for a rough guide to Swindon so, therefore, from a neutral viewpoint describing things as they are and the merits or otherwise of visiting them.
The inspiration for this stems from a travel writing module I undertook in my 3rd and final year of a BA Hons degree in English and English language. The pieces on the Magic Roundabout and the West Swindon sculpture trail were written for my coursework portfolio for that module. So this new section of the blog is dedicated to Professor Robin Jarvis and Dr Melanie Ord of UWE’s English department for their support and guidance. Thank you both.
So to get it started here’s a draft of what could serve as an introduction to just such a book. It’s most definitely not a ‘finished’ piece but a serving suggestion as it were.
Swindon is a large town within the Borough of Swindon and the county of Wiltshire in South West England.
The home of the Great Western Railway, Swindon has excellent rail links to Bristol, 64 km to the west, Reading 64 km to the east and London, 130 km to the east and also to Bath. Additionally there are good road links to Cheltenham, Cirencester, Oxford and the Cotswolds. Featuring a number of decent hotels: The Marriott, the Hilton, a Jury’s Inn and a selection of budget hotels these combined factors certainly make Swindon an excellent base from which to explore the surrounding area. However, Swindon itself has many attractions that are well worth seeking out. Despite being the butt of many comedians’ jokes and having a dispiriting skin in places this is a many faceted town worthy of closer examination.
Swindon is a town of two halves. The original Swindon, Old Town as it is referred to, sits atop a hill. This is an attractive area with many coffee shops, bars and pubs. Old Town is home to Swindon’s museum and art gallery which houses a decent art collection – the displays of which vary periodically. There is also an art’s centre, the town gardens – a Victorian park complete with aviary and bandstand – and The Lawns, once the Goddard family estate but now another public park with spectacular views across the town towards Highworth.
Down the hill is the new Swindon born of Brunel’s railway and later the car industry. Neither particularly ugly nor particularly attractive the new town merits visiting if only for the vestiges of history to be found, notably the Railway Village – the housing built by Brunel for occupation by the men and women who toiled in his mighty GWR workshops. Paying homage to them is the renowned STEAM – the museum of the Great Western Railway. It has some decent shopping in the form of the Designer Outlet Village. Formed from the ashes of the great GWR works the outlet centre makes a historic supplement to the town centre, all of which is pleasantly pedestrianised.
Two other interesting museums in Swindon are the Museum of Computing and the Richard Jefferies museum. Though small-scale they are worth getting to if their subject matter is of interest to you. The former is located near the central library where you will find the tourist information centre. Unfortunately by dint of being situated in the library the tourist information desk is not open on Bank Holidays – the very time when a visitor may well venture to Swindon. The latter is right by Coate Water, another large park area that has a pitch and putt facility, lovely walks, a children’s play area and a miniature railway. At the time of writing the mini railway is being extended and will include a halt right by the Richard Jefferies museum.
To the west of the town centre is Lydiard Park and house, once the ancestral home of the Viscounts Bolingbroke. The town further boasts a range of leisure facilities and, spread across the town, an interesting collection of public art much of it on walking and cycle paths of which Swindon also has many.
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