If I say Swindon, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
Before I spent a day exploring Swindon en route to the Cotswolds at the end of Summer, I didn’t know anything about it. I read something online that caught my attention, describing Swindon as, ‘the most average town in Britain’.
What does that even mean? What is the criteria to become the ‘most average’? Is it a bad thing?
There was only really one way to find out. Go there and take a look for myself.
Swindon Town: First Impressions.
First impressions, not bad at all.
The drive into Swindon from the other side of Wiltshire where we are based is lovely. Lots of rolling countryside and pretty views. On the outskirts of the town, you can see the history laid out in the streets. There are grand old homes alongside row upon row of terraced homes built for workers of the railways.
Even an old pub, now converted into housing but still eye-catching. Looks like it has been the kind of place you’d meet a real character at the bar. Probably not the place to ask for an Aperol Spritz or a fancy cocktail, though.
And when you feel like a change of pace from exploring the streets, the most beautiful Victorian era pleasure gardens in the form of Swindon Town Gardens.
Swindon Town Gardens
A pretty green space in the heart of the old town, full of natural beauty and points of interest. I knew these gardens were going to be a winner from the gates alone. Proper old-school park gates painted and proud and complete with the park closing time on display. The sort of gates that make you wonder if there’s a stern faced, uniformed park keeper about.
There wasn’t, but there was plenty else to see.
Before we get into that though, a bit about the roots of the place. Swindon Town Gardens were opened in 1894, having been built on site of a former limestone quarry. This influenced the layout of the park and meant it was built at different levels, creating pocket size gardens within the park, making it feel bigger than it actually is. It also makes it a joy to discover- you never know what’s around the next corner.
The gardens were a work-in-progress right up to the 1920’s as further planting was added, a rose garden nurtured and a bowling green built. Today it’s a garden space of mature trees, pretty planting and historical points of interest. My favourites being…
Love a good bandstand, I do. Seen some lovely ones this year in Basingstoke and Clevedon. And now, this beauty in Swindon. Although it’s been tweaked and refurbished a few times since the gardens opened, this bonny bandstand is one of the parks original features. Imagine all the courting couples and families that have wandered round the old thing?
As well as bandstands, I’m also fascinated by the history of the Titanic. And there’s a link here- this bandstand was the venue for a fundraising concert for the families of those who drowned when she went down. It’s still used for traditional concerts in the summer months.
The Aviary & The Ornamental Pond
Known as ‘Children’s Corner’ when the park opened, the bird cage and ornamental fishpond were also original features. Like the bandstand, they have been updated and remodeled but remain true to the spirit of the original design.
The present aviary, home to a gang of boisterous budgies, was created as part of the Town Gardens Centenary Celebrations. The pond, originally oval shaped and home to a small island, was redesigned in the 1930’s. It’s full of colourful fish and water lilies.
A very pretty and charmingly old-fashioned corner of the park.
The Peter Pan Statue
A cute statue with a troubled history and another modern version of an original. There’s a theme here, isn’t there? Swindon is very protective of its heritage. I like that.
The original version of this statue was stolen and was replaced with a fibre glass replica. That might have been the end of it, but more misfortune lay ahead. The replacement statue was beheaded. Someone out there has the head of Peter Pan. Bet that wouldn’t have happened if we’d had a stern faced, uniformed park keeper on the case.
It seems Peter Pan never grows up and he never gives up on having a spot in Swindon Town Gardens either. The statue is there, fully intact. A lovely and whimsical thing.
The Rose Garden
Gated and contained within its own walls, it has a bit of a secret garden feel to it. Planting is carefully considered here, and there is ongoing revision of the garden to ensure a good mix of traditional and modern rose varieties are planted.
I’m an old fashioned girl at heart and roses appeal to me. They have a vintage, pretty beauty. A whole historical garden of them? Perfect.
The Rose Garden is also home to an unusual sundial featuring a gold dove. This was added to the garden in memory of Police Constable Richard Webb.
The V.E Day Memorial
A simple but striking memorial featuring an extract from the Siegried Sassoon poem ‘Everyone Sang’. The memorial was placed in the park to mark the 50th Anniversary of VE day and the Parish Council has since invested in keeping it in good order.
Of course, that’s not everything you’ll find in the Town Gardens. Just my highlights from a day spent wandering. You’ll find more information about the place and a range of images both historical and current on the Town Gardens section on the Swindon Borough Council website.
So, Swindon. The most average town in Britain?
I’d say not. But if this is average, isn’t average a beautiful thing to be?
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