“I THINK to appreciate Swindon,” said Angela Atkinson, “you’ve got to open your eyes to it – and your heart and your mind.”

In addition to being an author and freelance editor, Angela writes the successful Born Again Swindonian blog and chairs Swindon Civic Voice, which campaigns for high standards in architecture and planning.

She has little time for people who compare Swindon to surrounding towns and cities and deem it wanting.

“Let’s look at Bristol. Everybody goes on about these wonderful buildings with columns and all this stuff.

“Think about what paid for them – and think about what paid for Swindon.

“In Swindon it was good honest toil and in Bristol it was slavery and/or tobacco.

“I know what I’d rather have.”

Angela is originally from a village near the Derbyshire-Nottinghamshire border.

“My dad was a miner, my ex-husband was a miner. The pits closed in the 1980s.

“I came here in the 1990s as a single parent. My daughter was then 12.

“I came for much the same reason as the men who came to New Swindon in the first instance came – for opportunity.

“Prior to that, I’d largely been a full-time mum, because that’s what you did in a small village in Derbyshire. You got married young, you had children young, you lost your name, you lost everything.

“You became Mrs Robert Atkinson or Mrs John Smith or whatever, and then, once your children went to school, you got part-time jobs in the newsagent’s or the playgroup and stuff like that.

“That was what I had done until I came to Swindon. I’d trained as a nurse and decided that wasn’t for me, but anyway we were starting a family.

“It was just what you did.

“I had visited Swindon several times before I came and thought it was a perfectly fine place.

“I thought I’d landed in the land of milk and honey – and that’s because I had.

“I bought this house and just up the road on Shaw Ridge I could take my daughter to an ice rink and a leisure centre and a cinema complex and a Pizza Hut, and within a couple of weeks of being here I’d got a full time job in the post room at National Power.

“I can’t begin to tell you how incredible all of that was.”

Angela had a number of administrative roles with various organisations in subsequent years, including the Research Councils.

Following retirement in her 50s, Angela went back into education.

She eventually graduated from the University of the West of England with first class honours in English.

Interested in a study module about travel writing, she voiced concern to a professor that she hadn’t travelled.

She will never forget his reply: “That’s absolutely fine, Angela. The last thing I want on my desk is another account of another gap year in Thailand.

“Tell me what you see when you walk to Tesco Express.”

Angela said: “It was a classic lightbulb moment because when I walked to Tesco Express I could see a piece of public art – not that I knew the term ‘public art’ then.”

Her travel piece - she chose the Magic Roundabout - earned top marks and was used the following year as an example to others studying the module.

The blog followed and was read by a publisher who invited Angela to write her first book, Secret Swindon, which was followed by Swindon in 50 Buildings.

Her favourite among those structures is the David Murray John Building: “I think it’s beautiful, Swindon’s answer to the Chrysler Building.

“It’s an optimistic building. It’s round-shouldered and shiny, and it’s screaming at you to look at it.”

Next came Ken White: Muralist and Painter, and Angela’s current project is a guidebook in collaboration with John Chandler, author of Swindon Decoded.

As far as Angela is concerned, the beauty and fascination of the town can easily be discovered.

“Open your eyes, open your heart, open your mind, look up, look down.”

Angela’s books are on sale at the central library and online.