Sue Gidney, Lettings Managing Director, Richard James Estate Agents
One of the great things about living in Old Town, Swindon is that you have so much to do on your doorstep. If I am not working on Saturdays I will often start the weekend with a visit to The Pantry in Wood Street with my husband and 17-year-old son - we call it the “pink café” because of the, you’ve guessed it, pink décor. It’s a tiny place but a real unsung hero, both the food and the people are lovely, and the quiche is to die for! Another family favourite is Jack’s Bistro on Victoria Road, another friendly place with an appetizing deli counter and seasonal breakfasts.
After breakfast, I sometimes pop into the office. Saturday mornings are a good time for me to catch up with work, especially all that admin that didn’t get done during the week. My job is genuinely rewarding and I never get tired of telling people what a great place Swindon is to buy or to rent. In fact, Swindon is now the most affordable place in the UK for people in work to rent*. Not only is it far cheaper to buy property here, but employment levels and average salaries are also high compared to the UK average. While Londoners pay 41 per cent of their take-home pay on rent, and people renting in Oxford must set aside 39 per cent of net pay for rent, working tenants in Swindon typically spend just 11.5 per cent of salary on rent. And with the electrification of the Great Western railway line, London is creeping closer and closer.
If I am not in the office, we’ll do some shopping in Old Town, we’ll buy some fresh fish from the fishmonger in Wood Street and then pop into Balula’s Deli across the road; they’ve got nice artisan bread, and you can go continental with Italian hams or English with scones with clotted cream and jams. Saturday afternoons are for putting my feet up before more wining and dining in the evening – my husband and I can’t resist it, we’re real foodies and spoiled for choice in our neighbourhood!
I am a big fan of Helen Browning’s Chop House in Wood Street. I like the rustic décor and wooden furniture, the service is great, and the food is both beautiful and plentiful. They serve their own organic beef, pork and lamb, and it’s really nice to know exactly where the food comes from, in this case, Helen’s own farm just outside Swindon. Another fave place to eat is Kenzo 72 in Godwin Court where they serve Oriental influenced tapas and their signature grilled steaks served on volcanic hot stones. You cook them yourself which makes for a real experience. And again, they source all their food locally.
Sundays are all about chilling at home or getting some fresh air and exercise. We might get the bikes out; you can get from any point of Swindon to another on the extensive cycle routes. There are also lots of great walks and parks in Old Town; five minutes from my house is the old railway line which sits between Old Town and Wichelstowe, or the more manicured Town Gardens where they put on a diverse range of summer concerts in the impressive Victorian bandstand. Ten minutes away are the lovely Lawn Woods. Or we might head out for Barbury Castle or the Ridgeway, one of England’s great rural idylls.
If we walk out Wroughton way we often end up at the Royal Oak for traditional Sunday lunch. Another favourite haunt as the weekend draws to a close is the Plough Inn on Croft Road, they have live gigs on Sunday afternoons which is great for music buffs like me.
Just recently I combined my love of music with my love of picturesque green spaces by catching Simple Minds live at Lydiard Park; they’re still a class act and Jim Kerr is a charismatic front man, and not just because he’s Scottish like me!
I first moved down to this part of the world from my native Arbroath to RAF Lyneham. Thirty-five years later I am still here and Swindon is very much home. It’s a great town to live in and a great location, and with my letting agent’s hat on I’d say it’s destined to become a real hot spot in the very near future.
Find out more about Richard James Estate Agents.
Watch this space for more notable locals giving their tips for the perfect weekend in Swindon.
*The Wiltshire town of Swindon has come top of a list compiled by jobs website Adzuna which compared average advertised salaries with average rental figures in towns and cities across the UK.