INSIDERS GUIDE TO... Calne
PUBLISHED: 15:55 28 September 2011 | UPDATED: 20:04 20 February 2013
Sandy Thwaites looks at why this small town has so much to offer
BEST KNOWN FOR
Pork and Wool: Historically, Calne is probably best known for its woollen and pork processing industries. The Harris pork processing factory became the towns biggest employer until it eventually closed in 1983. The latter connections explain the bronze pig and sheep sculptures that stand in the town today.
More recently the town has become famous for motorbikes. At the annual Rotary Motorcycle Meet in July, thousands of riders from all over the UK, bring their vintage and modern-day motorbikes into the centre of Calne to show them off, chat and compare notes.
More recently, the area hit headlines across the world when a rare 1611 King James Bible was discovered at a parish church in the nearby village of Hilmarton. The Bible had been sitting on a shelf at St Laurence Church for hundreds of years, and it was only when villagers started researching it that they realised what they had discovered. It turns out to be one of fewer than 200 original copies still in existence, and it is hoped that it will be on display in the church by the end of this year.
Nestled on the edge of the Downs, Calne offers quick access to beautiful countryside and walks. Local landmarks include the Cherhill White Horse and Lansdown Monument, and Avebury isnt far away.
Another more unusual monument in the area is a statue from 1838 of Maud Heath, which is erected on a high column and stands in the middle of a dairy pasture on a bridlepath above Calne. It marks part of the route where legend has it that Maud made her fortune carrying eggs to Chippenham market. You can sit there, by Maud, today and enjoy the tranquillity of the Wiltshire countryside.
Cycling is big in Calne too - there is a 7 mile flat trail (National cycle route #11) suitable for beginners, which starts on Station Road and takes riders along the disused railway track to Chippenham. In addition, the quiet and hilly country lanes around the Calne villages are a magnet for the lycra-clad brigade.
The Castlefields Canal and River Park project is a charitable initiative to improve the Castlefields Park area, and the Calne branch of the Wilts and Berks Canal. It also includes management of a River Marsden restoration project, raising the river bed to improve flow and recreating the original flood plain. Established in 2001, the work is being carried out by both professionals, together with individual volunteers, and the re-sowing of the meadow, the Fitness Trail and improvements to the access of Castle House Garden are now complete.
Festival Time: Calne has its own Festival of Music & Art which will be in its 37th year (7-16 October) with fittingly 37 musical and arts events across a wide variety of genres, over the course of 10 days. In addition, the town has held a very popular country music festival every July for the last 22 years which includes live music, free camping, charity and Western stalls. And, for the first time this year, there was also a mini, one-day Calnefest rock festival at Bentley Fields at the end of July.
Movies: The advent of Moviola community cinema means that cinema buffs are not forgotten in and around Calne. This community association has grown fast with regular screenings in three venues in the vicinity of Calne Beversbrook sports hall, Calne Town Hall and Hilmarton village.
The Heritage Centre is well worth a visit to find more about the history of Calne, and The Millennium Library is a real boon, especially as you can reserve books online for picking up either from there or from the travelling library that goes around the villages.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
The New Wine shop in Calnes High Street is sole supplier of Calnes first wine from the new Maud Heath Vineyard, one of very few vineyards in the county. Their first crop of grapes last year produced a light, crisp ros wine called Bramble Hill (the old name for Bremhill) Ros, and has already achieved English Quality Wine status.
Calnes Spice of Bengal restaurant is one of the towns worst-kept secrets, having been awarded the South West award for Best Indian Food by the Bangledesh Caterers Association in 2010.
Calne Farmers Market, on the second Saturday of each month, offers everything from Artisan Bakehouse breads and local farm shop meats to fresh fruit and veg, and plants.
FOR FAMILY FUN
Calne has its town Leisure Centre offering all types of sports activities and fitness classes, climbing wall and swimming pool. Its also a great venue for childrens parties and inflatable swimming fun sessions.
On the northern edge of town, the Beversbrook sports complex offers cricket, football, boxing and badminton as well as the Moviola cinema screenings mentioned earlier.
A couple of miles down the road towards Chippenham is Bowood House where children under 12 can spend the whole day playing in their superb Adventure Playground and developing their imagination.
Sarah Jones, a management consultant, has lived on the outskirts of Calne for five years. She says that surprisingly for a small town, Calne has some hidden gems for fashion and beauty. She recommends Juniper in Church Street for a relaxing shopping experience.
Theyve got some great brands like as Fenn Wright Mason, Betty Jackson and Noli, Lysgaard and White Stuff, and they are brilliant at helping you choose the complete outfit with a good range of accessories too.
Its also well worth wandering around the back streets, where you can find lovely peaceful corners like The Courtyard which boasts a hairdressers, beauty salon and a great little caf. For charity shop aficionados, there are as many as three in the one street (Phelps Parade).
Local McTimoney chiropractor, Graeme Cooper, has two children, Georgina (14) and Jamie (12), says: Its a really friendly town and everything is within easy walking distance so the kids dont have to rely on us for lifts, which is a bonus all-round.
I play lots of golf with Jamie and we are spoilt for choice in the area with the Bowood Hotel, Spa & Golf resorts championship golf course just down the road and North Wilts Golf Club over in Bishops Cannings.
Georgina likes to do Zumba classes (the latest Latin-inspired, dance fitness craze) with her friends at the Town Hall. Jamie recommends the BMX bowl by the cycle track in Calne,
With thanks to Sian Kelly for additional research.