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T.W.I.G.S. Garden Swindon

This delightful little garden in the industrial heart of Swindon was a real surprise. T.W.I.G.S. (Therapeutic Work in Gardening in Swindon) is a part of the Richmond Trust (http://www.richmondfellowship.org.uk/).  The organisation specialises in the training and therapeutic care of people suffering from various mental illnesses. It is hugely dependent on charitable donations and funding from NGO's, so lives on a very restricted budget. It was not easy to find in the complicated centre of Swindon, but worth the persistence. The site is next to the Manor Garden Centre.

As soon as I walked through the gate I could smell the heavy scent of the Valeriana   officinalis pervading the garden. There are plantings of these tall flowers all around the garden.  The site is split up into small self-contained gardens with thematic plantings.

Each plot links to the next with a series of different design of pathway, all very attractive. I noticed an unusual looking path, then realised it had been constructed using chopped up car tyres, and very effective too!

A golden leaved Catalpa bignonioides looks glorious nearby.The styles are: potager, wild  life, physic,  Japanese, cottage, individual, and path of life.  All of them present interest to the gardener.

The entry to the garden is emphasised with a woven willow model of a country character.A number of these woven models pop out as you wander through the garden.  I turned left on entry to the garden and walked past the shelves of potted plants that are sold at open days and other garden shows. There is a glasshouse where seedlings are potted up and I am warned that there are bees around.

Suddenly I am back in the iron age, looking at a superb reconstruction of an iron age round house. It is beautifully constructed. Inside there is a circular bench and workspace with various artefacts, presumably made by visitors to the garden. An unusual feature on a garden, but very appealing.  Towards the end of the garden there is a large meadow style area full of flowers with narrow meandering paths.  There are bee hives around, and a small warning sign tells me not to linger too long on the flight path of the bees. It is a beautifully natural area.

Back towards the start of the themed gardens, and I see the physic garden, constructed using wooden framed raised beds. There are sages in flower and several other attractive herb displays; it all adds a variety of perfumes to dwell upon and enjoy.  A workshop area demonstrates the skills of the willow woven fencing and garden architecture apparent all around the garden. It is clear that traditional country skills are alive and encouraged here.

The stock of living willow nestles between a glasshouse and one of the several poly tunnels. These tunnels prove to be a very useful way of housing various potting and seeding areas, and one is used as a woodworking workshop.   On though the themed gardens and a series of fascinating features awaits.  I turn the corner into one of them and am suddenly  face to face with a snake in the grass - a netted slate head linked to an undulating body made out of small diameter wood logs laid out effectively.   In one garden I am stunned by a beautiful Oenethera fruticosa 'Fireworks' that almost glows!

The area near to the main office is entered through a lovely rose arch, and walled raised beds contain some interesting flower species. On the ground are inlaid mosaics and the educational aspects of the garden are emphasised. A nice tool shed complements the general scene.  There is a lake and an organic vegetable garden nearby, unfortunately closed on my visit.

Location: Central Swindon SN2 2QJ


Map: SU 135865

Altitude: 94m

Geology: Mudstone

Parking: yes

Disabled: yes, wheelchairs difficult on paths

Toilets: Disabled, yes

Opening: see web site, normally  Fridays 1000-1530. Also special open days.

Dogs: Please ask