Wednesday, July 6, 2016

How lucky are we ...

Here in Swindon we are so very fortunate. We have historic countryside on our doorstep with more national monuments than you can shake a stick at and within the borough boundaries more green spaces than many towns and cities twice its size.

When the desperately needed Swindon cemetery was on the drawing board in 1881, planners were already looking forward to a time when it would have to close.

The 11 and a half acre cemetery was designed on the principle of a country estate with the chapel situated where the house might be. Pathways radiate out to a serpentine perimeter walk where local residents would be able to enjoy some gentle exercise long after the cemetery had closed.

In 2005 the cemetery was declared a Local Nature Reserve and described as:

Mostly ancient semi-natural woodland, with oak dominating canopy and hazel dominating understorey. Some parts managed as coppice with standards. Many large old coppice stools, especially field maple and oak. Good range of woodland flowers and animals. Bechstein's bat is proven to breed on site. Open wayleaves under powerlines are important for invertebrates. Small adjacent species rich meadow.

Unfortunately local government spending cuts in recent years have led to reduced staffing and the team of Rangers who once held so many events have long gone while council groundsmen do the minimum amount of maintenance.

Now if you are a glass half empty kind of person you may be unhappy at the state of affairs at the cemetery, complaining that it is abandoned and neglected and shows a lack of respect for those buried there.

But if you are a glass half full person - ah, then you will see the beauty and perhaps the vision of those early town planners. Perhaps they would have cut the grass more regularly and trimmed the hedges occasionally; kept the pesky brambles at bay and perhaps even have replaced the lost benches.

As for respect and remembrance members of the Swindon Heritage team have spent many years doing just that. Military historian and Swindon Heritage co-founder Mark Sutton has been arranging a Remembrance Day Service at the chapel for more than ten years and guided cemetery walks take place every second Sunday in the month between March and October while research continues throughout the year. And this year marks the first Swindon Heritage History Day to celebrate the fascinating history of our town.

Today Radnor Street Cemetery is a beautiful green space between the original Old Swindon and its industrial neighbour New Swindon.

Come along on Sunday and join us on a guided walk. Learn about the early railway settlers who made our town and the soldiers of the Great War who died defending its freedom.

The first Swindon Heritage History Day takes place this Sunday, 10am - 4pm. Guided walks are at 11am, 12.30pm and 2pm. For further details see below.

Cemetery followers on a guided walk

Remembrance Day Service

photograph published courtesy of Andy Preston 

photograph published courtesy of Neil Lover

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