Brunel 200 Legacy Rodbourne Living Story – The Rodbourne Discovery Trail
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The Rodbourne Discovery Trail

The Rodbourne Discovery Trail delivered a community history project for Brunel 200 to celebrate the links between the people of Rodbourne (Even Swindon) and Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

During the months of April to July 2006, members of the Rodbourne Community History Group, assisted by outreach staff at the National Monuments Record (English Heritage) in Swindon, researched and devised an interactive walking trail.

Over four hundred people took part in a fun community event on Sunday 16 July 2006. Starting from Jennings Street Community Centre, they first collected a backpack and a trail map before following clues around the trail to discover fascinating facts about the community’s history.

Local businesses, St Augustine’s Church, Even Swindon School and students from Swindon College supported and contributed to the project.

The aims of the project were to:

  • Increase local knowledge and pride in the area through an understanding of the role of Brunel in the community’s history and heritage.
  • Help members of the community gain a sense of place within the past, present – and future – of their local environment.
  • Contribute to community cohesion by bringing together people of different ages and also people new to the area with families who have been resident for several generations.
  • Excite people about using archives to enjoy and learn from the historic environment and to create a permanent written, oral and photographic record for future reference and use, with the provision of on-line access.

Learning outcomes

Working together to plan, research and design the trail, and then to organise together a celebratory event in the community, gave participants opportunities to achieve the following individual learning outcomes:

  • knowledge for how to use and interpret archive sources.
  • skills in the use of multi-media.
  • develop critical thinking and problem solving skills.
  • take opportunities to articulate and share opinions.
  • gain increased self-esteem and confidence.
  • work together as a team; channelling energy into productive outcomes.


  • 20 volunteers met once a week from April to July to plan, research, design, construct and promote the Trail.
  • 10 volunteers worked together at St Augustine’s Church to produce the floral displays and other exhibits.

“The Trail was great – that’s living history.”

”Great to see the community working together.”

“Proud to be involved.”

“Great to see people bring along children.”

“Nice to get together to talk about old times”

”Learning skills without realising you are doing it.”

“Makes people interested in their community.”

“Without Brunel’s vision, Rodbourne wouldn’t be here, he needed all those workers that lived in Rodbourne to make his vision a reality.”

7 life-skill students from Swindon College met each week for 4 weeks during June to help research the Trail:

“The students have come away with lots of facts that we will build on during the next academic year. I have also learnt a lot more about the understanding of students have when studying history in such a lively and interesting manner. Some of the students amazed me with their high level of participation and I’m sure the fresh approach used during the delivery was a major factor in this”
Barbara Padget, tutor, Swindon College

  • 9 shops took part in the Shop Quiz and 11 entry forms were received.
  • 200 people, including families with children went around the Trail on Sunday 16 July.
  • 406 people attended the venues at Jennings Street Community Centre and St Augustine’s Church on 16 July.

“Excellent presentation of quiz sheets and pack sheets. Discovered things about where I live I didn’t know! A really enjoyable wander round, met lots of friendly people. A big well done and thank you to all the arrangers.”

“Brilliant. One of the most genuine community projects I have encountered!”

“Very enjoyable, have lived in Swindon for 25 years and until today, knew very little about such an interesting area – Rodbourne. Thank you.”

“I think the whole thing was brilliant. I would definitely do it again.”

Rodbourne community event.

Rodbourne community event.

Other perspectives

Jane Golding and Elaine Davis, Outreach Officers at the National Monuments Record (English Heritage), led the project and worked with the volunteers.

Benefits gained

  • Enjoyment and satisfaction through working with community groups.
  • Development of a new outreach methodology for the team i.e. interactive walking trail and its on-line version.
  • Welcome the opportunity to work with and strengthen relationships with heritage peers locally: Swindon Borough Council; STEAM; National Trust etc.
  • Support received from Cirque Bijou in the form of creative inspiration and practical ideas
  • Greater understanding of the importance of Brunel to our history and heritage, both locally and nationally.
  • Development of an on-going partnership with Swindon College whereby life-skill students can make use of and enjoy the resources of the NMR.


  • Enthusiasm and commitment of all those involved.
  • Support received from Brunel 200 South West and the Swindon Project Team.
  • Being part of a much larger event: not only did we benefit from support and sharing resources (especially publicity), but the atmosphere on the day was buzzing – it was great to enjoy the finale in the Park alongside people from Rodbourne.
  • Co-ordinated media responses: this meant when we were dealing with media contacts they were already well informed and interested.
  • The sun shone – it was a beautiful summer’s day!


They can’t think of any!

Future potential

The project has produced a permanent resource for the community. Groups and individuals are welcome to borrow the back-pack containing the trail quiz sheet and resources to undertake the walking trail.

An on-line version is available at for those who are unable or do not wish to walk the Trail.