Sunday, 27 April 2014

Sights of Swindon

Last Wednesday two friends from school days came to visit me in Swindon, they arrived by train and from the station, we walked up the hill to Old Town taking in some of the finest views around.
Some have been photographed, and having listened to Andy Binks on Friday night, I realise I missed a lot of the sights and experiences out, and of course others are 'gone but not forgotten' as Andy would repeat with mantra like frequency.
I don't know if this is what anyone else would have chosen, but here's the tour:

 We walked up Regent Street, took in the magnificence of the Town Hall building and went inside to see the fabulous marble Charlotte Corday statue in the entrance.
From there, we walked past the strikingly blue Ceanothus in the well thought out bed at the bottom of Victoria Hill:
And from there up past Mr Cod and noticed two more signs have sprung up in addition to the Mr Cod one, the wall still hasn't been painted though, and the purple rubbish bins were still gracing the seating area.
The Pipers Area Residents Association are hoping to begin  making the flower bed more attractive in their biennial tidy up on May 11th.
From Mr Cod, we walked up the hill further and nipped into the Ladies toilets which have been so sensitively renovated, retaining most of the original features, although maybe the cisterns would have been cast iron originally
Here's Kathy looking at the washing area,

And Jay thinking she's not going to be photographed by hiding behind a door and then peeking out.

 From there we went to have an excellent lunch in Los Gatos, their tapas is so tasty and the service informative and friendly.
 Fortified with lunch we had a look round the museum, the wild life exhibition went down very well, as did 'Florestan' by Gillian Ayres in the art gallery.
 But as ever, the croc proved a firm favourite.
 From there we went to the Core, had herbal teas and mango juice, and then went to have a look at the exhibition upstairs in the Core Gallery:
 It's certainly a lovely space.
 I liked Jake Stark's 'Handstand'.
 From there we managed an ice cream each at the fab Ray's Ice Cream shop.

 Our last stop was a garden tour of my garden, and back to the station via the Beehive where Jane Milner-Barry has an exhibition of her paintings:
And so to the station after a fabulous day in Swindon, the company of course makes the difference. On the way home, walking up the hill, the sun was setting and I knew if I rushed to Cross Street, I'd be able to see the sun setting, on reflection I probably should have cropped the photo to remove the bins, but it was glorious watching the sun go down.

 What amazing colours.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Last Few days of JMB at the Beehive

Where has April gone? It's not too late to catch the exhibition in the Beehive of Jane Milner-Barry's glorious oil paintings.
They are delightful, and great to have in the house, I'm an avid collector of Jane's work. Jane has been very busy this month and not been able to complete labels, but there is a phone number attached to the paintings, so go and have a look at this exhibition in its last week, and see what you fancy taking home. I'm going to put my two favourites up first:
 They are of allotments as you can see.
The light was a bit odd yesterday in the Beehive, so the rest of the photos are a bit misty looking:

And last but not least the permanent customer looking fabulous yesterday:
Why not go and have a look?

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Snakeshead Fritillaries at North Meadow, near Cricklade

Yesterday we had a family picnic on the edge of North Meadow National Nature Reserve where we'd gone to see the fabulous Snakeshead Fritillaries there. They make up 80% of the UK population which is incredible when you think about it, but not so surprising when you see the numbers in the field. I make an annual pilgrimage to see the fritillaries, forgetting each year what a wonderful spectacle they make.
Photographs of the field don't seem to show the purple hue of the masses of fritillaries together, only the close ups give an idea of the flowers' majestic appearance.
 Above an old sign at the entrance to the meadow.
 Above purple fritillaries and below a rare white one.
 Below a massive number of fritillaries which can't be seen!

Alex enjoying trying to smell a flower.

Other flowers include King Cups

 And Cowslips
 And a more modern sign:
This Thursday 24th of April is the counting day, so maybe that's when they will be at their peak. Try and go and have a look.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Labour Shadow Minister Hilary Benn visited Lydiard Park on the 14th of April

Shadow Secretary of State for Communications and Local Government visited Lydiard Park last week as a show of support for the Labour Party's campaign to protect Lydiard Park for future generations of people living in and around Swindon.
Lydiard Park really is a delightful place, set in a glorious parkland and purchased by Swindon Borough Council in 1943, more can be found about it here.
Some of us concerned about the future of the Croft playing fields, and spreading the word as widely as possible about the council 's attempts to lease out the Croft Leisure Centre, fields, car park, and originally lane leading to it, on a 99 year lease, went along to meet Hilary Benn to hear his views on how we could protect these precious assets.
It was a glorious day, and we hung around the car park for a while and looked at the information board with an immense number of sponsors displayed on it.
There were masses of coloured horses, they may be overcrowded, but they appear to be in good condition.

It was finally decided that we should wait outside the front of the house where we enjoyed the sunshine and watching masses of families playing and enjoying the park. What a brilliant asset it is for the people of Swindon, on our doorstep.
I took a couple of photos of people playing in the wide open spaces, but all you can see if wide open spaces so I only included one:

 After hanging about for a while, Hilary Benn arrived and we were introduced as the Croft Field campaigners, and managed a chat over a cup of tea at the cafe. I am sure it was a lot to take in as we talked about 99 year leases, 3 year change of use clauses and our concern that decisions will be made to sell off our assets to those wanting to develop land.
Below Hilary Benn talking to Mark Dempsey Deputy Leader of Swindon Labour party..
The Oasis held up as a success story of a leisure centre sold 2 years ago, does not look like the sort of place you would set as an example of how well things are working. The swimming facilities leave a lot to be desired, it's worth visiting them if anyone is any doubt about what is happening at the Oasis. The former Clare's equipment site looks as though it might become prime development land rather than a deeply unsustainable ski park.
Basic details of the Croft Fields campaign appear on our leaflet:

Although the consultation has ended, you can join the 'STOP Croft Fields Being Sold' page on Facebook, and sign the online petition at

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Declan Kelly's Exhibition at the Central Library

It's well worth having a look at Declan Kelly's exhibition in the Central Library, in the corridor behind the coffee bar.
It's entitled The Last Supper - vessels brought to the table , it goes on to say this work considers ideas raised by the last supper. We are all vessels, what do you bring to the table?
 There are then 12 pictures of vessels beautifully presented:

 He's had a spirit level hasn't he to put up this exhibition?
 And Pat Elmore's sheep are looking more at home than ever under the silver birch tree.
Our Swindon Open Studios May exhibition with a literary theme to coincide with the 21st Swindon Festival of Literature will be hung on May 2nd, handing in between 5.30-6.30pm

Friday, 18 April 2014

Mary Keen's Garden at Duntisbourn Rous

Coincidentally Mary Keen's garden is also at the Old Rectory, but this one is in Duntisbourn Rous, near Cirencester, and was open the day after the Rare Plant Fair in Quenington. Mary Keen opens her garden twice a year for the National Garden scheme, so I decided to make a spring visit, having been charmed by the garden when I visited the garden for the first time last September. It's the sort of place I'd like to keep returning to, it has so many well thought out features, it feels as though Mary spends hours and hours in the garden looking for ways of making the garden a delight.
The house is stunning and Mary is there to great all visitors and talk to them about the garden:
 I have included a few lovely things, like the Auricula theatre which was gorgeous:
 Here's one of my favourites below, there were Auriculas for sale, I bought 'Tomboy', I must look it up. The RHS magazine, The Garden in March featured a mail order Auricula nursery which I'll look up, I'd like to make an Auricula theatre
 In another greenhouse I was pleased to see one of my all tieme favourites, Pelargonium ardens which I have managed to keep for several years now despite its poor growth habit:
 Below is a photo of Narcissi and Snakeshead frittilaries in an orchard:
The adjacent church is well worth a visit as well, with a lovely window, slightly bleached out here:
 And detail of a wall painting
 And another section of it:
Mary Keen writes for the Telegraph and the Garden, her garden is well worth visiting, I'll be there again in September.

Rare Plant Fair at the Old Rectory in Quenington

Last Sunday the Old Rectory at Quenington, GL7 5BN, hosted the fourth Rare Plant Fair
Having been there for sculpture exhibitions and also plant fairs, I was keen to visit again. The garden is in a beautiful setting beside a river, there's a lovely woodland garden, vegetable garden and a swimming pool room where refreshments were sold.
This is my favourite sculpture, so cleverly 'planted' and in fact swimming in the grass:
Another great sculpture in a quiet corner of the garden:
The plant fair on the lawn:
And the river flowing beside the lawn above.
These are the plants I bought, arranged on some steps in the photo below, and still to be planted out, there's so much to prepare in the garden at this time of year, I'm fighting the forget- me- nots and Geranium phaeum two plants which threaten to take over the garden:
The next fair is at Sharcott Manor on the 18th of May, a brilliant garden, well worth a visit.