After the adrenaline rush of playing one of our escape rooms, you might want to wind down somewhere nice. In our latest posts, we introduced you to the history-steeped railway quarters and picturesque Old Town. This time we are taking you to the green outskirts of Swindon, which are only a 10 to 15-minute drive from our venue.
While everyone in the area knows Coate Water, the Richard Jefferies Museum seems to have been flying under the radar. This is a crime because it is definitely one of the prettiest attractions in town. The museum is located in the old farmhouse where the Victorian novelist Richard Jefferies grew up and started his career. Jefferies’ work covers a range of genres and topics, but he is probably best known as a nature writer. Actually, he is the one who coined our modern term wildlife.
Originally well outside of Swindon, the recently restored thatched-roof building is surrounded by a meadow orchard with picnic benches, a cottage garden and the original outer buildings. If you are lucky, you might be greeted by some friendly chickens, roaming around to complete the chocolate box image.
"The lover of nature has the highest art in his soul" - Richard Jefferies
The museum itself is not exactly big – there are essentially four display rooms – but it has a unique ambience. Not only does it present information about Richard Jefferies and his writing in a very attractive and engaging way. It also exhibits an interesting mix of objects that relate to his life and give insights into the era. One example of the curious things you will find is a Victorian cardboard model made by his uncle! This feels like a very real place and putting it together has clearly been a labour of love.
Every Sunday from March to September you can get cream teas at the museum’s café. There are various annual events, such as Steam Engine Day and Apple Pressing Day, and the museum also offers a host of activities for children. You can visit the website to find out what’s on – and to download some of Jefferies’ work for free!
Connected to the museum via a small footpath across a field lies Coate Water Country Park. This is actually where you start off because the car park is right next to it (don’t worry, there are signs to guide you around!). Fees for staying here are pretty sensible – it’s £1 for up to 2 hours and £2 for up to 24 hours.
Coate Water Lake was originally created as a reservoir for the canals; then, from the 1910s to 1950s, it served the local area as a popular pleasure park. At the entrance you are still met by an Art Deco diving platform, although nowadays the only ones using it are the many ducks, geese and swans living at the lake. If you feel like stretching your legs, this is a really lovely place to go for a walk. Following the path around the lake, you are taken through leafy woodlands and meadows buzzing with dragonflies, the (mostly) calm waters popping in and out of view.
If you are visiting with children, you might want to take a ride on the Coate Water Railway. This dual gauge miniature railway is open every Sunday and most Bank Holidays and has recently been expanded. To the north-west of the lake there is also a crazy golf course. At the moment it is still closed, following the Covid restrictions, but hopefully it is going to be back soon.
On your way to Coate Water you have probably already spotted The Sun Inn. It’s situated right next to the country park and you can easily walk there. Simply head back to the Richard Jefferies, turn left when you get to the museum gate and enter through the pub’s car park. This is a good place to sit down and finish your day out in Swindon with a light lunch, a Ploughman’s sharer or some more substantial pub food. And there is a large outside seating area from which you can enjoy the sunshine. Every now and then the pub also hosts live music events, which are announced on their Facebook page.
That’s it for Coate. We definitely aren’t done exploring Swindon, but in our next post we’re going to move to an amazing nearby town for a change! Where could it be? Any guesses? Stay tuned to find out – and feel free to browse our selection of escape games (both on site and play at home) in the meantime.