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The Magic Roundabout in Swindon, England

December 28th, 2006 / / Links: Google Earth, Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Virtual Earth / Nearest places

The Magic Roundabout in Swindon, England, was constructed in 1972 and consists of one large roundabout containing five mini-roundabouts. It is located near the County Ground, home of Swindon Town F.C. Its name comes from the popular children's television series, The Magic Roundabout.

It is an innovative system which was constructed after consultation with the British Road Research Laboratory. Traffic flow around the larger, inner roundabout is actually anti-clockwise, whereas traffic flows in the usual clockwise manner around the five mini-roundabouts and the outer loop.

Although the complex comes as a shock to the newcomer it is simple enough to traverse if each mini-roundabout is approached as a separate entity in turn. Local and regular users are proficient at traversing the complex which offers multiple paths between feeder roads. The flow rate of the complex is still highly impressive and is reckoned to be better than a modern junction could offer. Virtually the same overall configuration has been in place for over 30 years.

When the roundabout complex was first opened the mini-roundabouts were not permanently marked out and could be re-configured whilst the layout was fine tuned. A Police Officer was stationed at each mini roundabout during this pilot phase to oversee how drivers coped with the unique arrangement.

Such was the success of the Magic Roundabout that plans were mooted to build a similar complex just a short distance away to replace the traditional Greenbridge roundabout. The plan was not developed.

Whilst The Magic Roundabout occupies an important part of modern Swindon history the site itself has an interesting past. It is built over a section of the old Wilts and Berks Canal. A narrow, stone built bridge of c1810, which is a grade II listed building, carried the old Saxon way known as Drove Road over the canal half a mile east of the town centre. Its site became covered by Drove Roundabout which was later redeveloped as the Magic Roundabout. A wharf occupied one edge and the area was known as The Marsh. The Wilts and Berks Canal Trust are currently in negotiations with Swindon Council to include plans to restore the canal through the town centre as part of the New Swindon Regeneration Framework. The restoration would utilise the route of the North Wilts Canal and not the main West Vale route that the Magic Roundabout sits over. The North Wilts Canal was a separate branch which exited the town northwards through Moredon.

The Magic Roundabout is the crowning glory of Swindon's plethora of roundabouts of all sizes. Swindon is generally regarded by aficionados as the UK capital of roundabouts alongside rivals Basingstoke and Milton Keynes. A calendar is produced each year by The UK Roundabout Appreciation Society depicting the town's finest examples.

The official name of this roundabout used to be County Islands, although hardly anyone other than officials called it by this name. The official name was changed in the late 1990s to match its popular name. It is the subject of a pop song by local band XTC.

T-shirts are produced by local company SwindonWeb with a slogan regarding the magic roundabout.

Local people sometimes refer to it as the Tragic Roundabout.

[Source: Wikipedia]

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