Thursday, 16 October 2008

Ancient Echoes

A menhir shaped stone standing in Radnor Street Cemetery - very smooth and curved on one side. It is not hard to imagine that it may have one stood in a stone circle where the rites of life and death were enacted by our ancestors.

The grey lichen covered stones found on the roundabout in Sarsen Close

To people who do not know Swindon, our town compares unfavourably with the architecturally magnificent cities of Oxford to the north, Bath to the west, and Salisbury to south. Swindon has its own heritage firstly as a Wiltshire market town on a hill (Old Town) then later with the coming of Brunel's Great Western Railway as an working railway town. Following the construction of the m4 motorway, however, the town's image started to suffer - industrial and trading estates sprang up while large housing developments gobbled up the land. Still more developments continue and more green belt land is being lost. The most recent casualty is the Front Garden - the farmland that buffered the town from the motorway. Home to small herds of deer and other wild life .... all now displaced. The land surrounding Coate Water Country Park, still much coveted by developers, is not yet safe in spite of a vigorous campaign to protect it.

As I walk around this town that I have grown to love, I hear the cry of nature breaking through the cracks in the pavements. I hear its song along cycle tracks in the hawthorn and elder and in the small wooded areas that have somehow survived. I hear it in the wind whispering through the old willows by the many small streams and brooks that meander around the edges of the town.

All across the eastern side of the town there are sarsen stones seemingly scattered - though in fact thoughtfully positioned to enhance green open spaces and parkland. I have become something of a stone enthusiast and it always gives me pleasure to find new ones ..... except they are anything but new. Each new 'find' brings its own quiet stillness and ancient echo. Some have clearly been imported from the Marlborough Downs while others have something even more resonant of the distant past about them.

The 'stone-circle' at the bottom of Sarsen Close, Bankside - Old Town