Thursday, 28 May 2009

Woodland Walking in Old Town

Bugle and and buttercups

Information board for Bruddel Wood, just off Marlborough Road (click on photo to enlarge for information)

At the bottom of the Lawns, beech nuts already on the trees

Bruddel Wood - nettles

One of Swindon's best kept secrets - Bruddel wood
This morning I met my good friend Elaine in Old Town; the plan was to walk from Old Town to Coate Water and back avoiding roads as much as possible. Although Elaine lives in Wroughton she hadn't actually walked around Old Swindon that much so it was a pleasure to show her Swindon's hidden beauty; here's where we walked.
We started of at the ever tranquil Lawns, walking down to the bottom of the woods, turning right we then picked up Bruddel woods (which are probably an extension of the Lawn wood). A corridor of ancient woodland running parallel with Marlborough road; today just lovely, the nettles stood high, the birds singing and we met no one else . We came out by the notice board (pictured above) and walked along the busy Marlborough road for a hundred or so metres, then crossed over into the the Polo Grounds. This took us into the Coate Tree Collection which Elaine had not seen before; a peaceful place, today the lilac was still out, one day it will be a magnificent arboretum and is already a place Swindon can be very proud of.
We stopped by the cafe at Coate for a drink then continued along the shady avenue of trees to the back of Coate. Leaving Coate we turned right into Broome Manor Lane and walked about two hundred metres to pick up the footpath around the golf course. Made our way to Piper's Lane, crossed over into a woody area, got a little bit lost, walked round in a pleasant circle back to where we started, then made our way up to the Great Copse (Croft wood); back up through Croft Sports Ground to Old Town.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Evening sunlight on the old canal

Protective parents, the resident swans keeping guard on their newly born cygnets. A friendly looking dog went a little too close and was severely hissed at

Evening sunlight on the Kingshill section of the Wilts & Berks Canal

A golden evening

The Front Garden on a summer evening

At the end of a beautiful summer's day, a stroll home along the old railway walk specifically to see how the Wichelstowe development is coming along. I took about half a dozen photos of the new houses in the evening sunlight thinking that perhaps, after all, they may look quite attractive.
I regret to report they do not.

The hitherto unspoilt Front Garden - from the Old Railway Walk

The remainder of the Front Garden landscape in the evening sunlight

The Old Railway Walk between Old Town and the Front Garden - a corridor of unspoilt nature and birdsong. Robins and blackbirds hopped across the path; there was a time until very recently that deer could be seen in the meadows below. When will the civic guardians of our ever expanding town realise that that big is not always beautiful when it is at the expense of a precious disappearing landscape.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

A river and a retail park

This little river, the Cole represents so much of what I have been trying to illustrate about Swindon; it runs through the middle of one of Swindon's apparently soulless retail parks at Greenbridge, Stratton. It is the proof that nothing which belongs to nature can ever be soulless; build a retail park on the land, it will perhaps stand for several decades but the life veins of the land cannot be obliterated. The little river Cole still flows, making its way towards the mighty Thames.

The river Cole flowing through the centre of Greenbridge Retail Park

Street Art on Canal Walk

Street art (as opposed to graffiti vandals) has a long tradition in Swindon; started by Ken White with his end of terrace wall murals back in the 1970s, I have noticed it is still thriving. I recently watched a group of young people spray painting a garage wall along Canal Walk, I have to say I was impressed. Street artists represent the youth and vitality of Swindon's young population, they are the future of our town.

A detail from a garage wall

This is part of a very large Pink Panther mural on some old out buildings at the Kingshill end of Canal Walk .... easy to walk by but if you stop and look at the skill and detail, it is brilliant.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Swindon's lost stone circle, perhaps ....

A few day ago when walking past the lozenge shaped stone that stands on its side at the top of Grosvenor Road in Old Town I spotted for the first time a similar shaped stone on the other side of the road, partially hidden by shrubbery and forming a garden wall.

I went back today for take a photo and as the gates of the garden happened to be open I went to take a look at the other side of the wall. I was astonished to find several very large sandstone stones; they must have been on the land when the house was being built because I cannot imagine they would have been moved very far. (Interestingly the house has the same street number as my own).
The other side of the wall, inside a garden

Both the above and below stones are of a similar shape to the one on the green opposite the house

Another lozenge shaped stone forming a garden wall.

I have featured this stone before, it stands at the top of Grosvenor Road. At first I thought it was sarsen but on closer inspection can see it is sandstone. I cannot help wondering about its history.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Swallows over Old Town

There are some things that cannot be easily photographed; the scent of bluebells in Croft Wood (also known as the Great Copse) on a spring morning; the subtle fragrance of cherry blossom in the evening. It is unlikely that you could photograph a wren as it flits across your path into shrubbery and, for me at least, it is nigh on impossible to capture on camera a swooping swallow.

Today I heard the first swallows return over Radnor Street Cemetery and later saw them swooping over Kent Road. As I walked along Bath Road I watched three swallows high against the blue sky, in circled flight. When I came to Swindon just about a decade ago, the swallows in Old Town on a warm summer's evening seemed magical; they still do. I recall also them being over on Ermin Street in Stratton St Margaret; the sun was going down one warm evening as I was given an aerial display by the swallows.

If I had to pick just one thing to say I loved about Swindon, it would have to be the swallows in the summer .... mysteriously returning each year to the same terraced houses to roost in the eaves
Note: my swallows could possibly be swifts or house martins; not entirely sure but harbingers of the happiness of summer anyway.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

The view from Barbury Castle

Photo taken on Tuesday evening, with some friends after work; on this occasion the wind was so strong it actually blew one of my friends off her feet (though caught on camera, she was not hurt ).

The view from the Iron Age hillfort, Barbury Castle, looks towards the fertile plain where Swindon now spreads; Barbury is just uphill from Wroughton. The downs to the south-east of Swindon are steeped in prehistory and for me Liddington Hill and Barbury Castle are two of the many landscape features which make Swindon such a special place. I have been here a decade now and, as one of life's milestones comes into view, I know it is time to seriously think about moving on. Dear Swindon, how it has grown since I first moved here as a child and couldn't wait to leave at the age of seventeen and three quarters - to find my way in the big city. I can't pretend it didn't feel strange when I came back here nearly a decade ago; much of old Swindon still remains, some of it hidden, though sadly so much more of it is being lost to yet ever more housing.
The surrounding countryside is part of what makes our town such a good place to live and I know there are plenty of people living here who want to protect it. This blog is for them.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Victorian bird tiles, Wood Street

If I've walked past this building on Wood Street, Old Town once, I've walked past a hundred times, usually on my way somewhere else. The once exquisite Victorian wall tiles on each side of one of the shop fronts always catch my eye. The shop is now an estate agent; clumsily painted in red paint. Here are some of the bird tiles:

House swallow and flower bowl

One of the tile panels on each side of a shop on Wood Street in Old Town; each bird tile is different.