Chippenham is a market town in the south west of England, midway between the cities of Bath and Swindon. Its population has grown rapidly in recent years, and it is currently Wiltshire's third largest town with 40,000 inhabitants.
The rapid expansion in the last 10 years can be attributed to the development of the South West regional economy as a whole, and specifically to the new housing estates developed in Chippenham such as the recent Cepen Park North and South areas to the west of the town and the earlier Pewsham estate to the east.
The town lies in the Avon Vale, the broad valley of the River Avon in the low lying claylands of north west Wiltshire. Chippenham is located at a convenient crossing point of the River Avon, within close proximity of the nearby towns of Corsham, Calne, Melksham and Malmesbury. Higher ground lies to the east of the town at the Marlborough Downs, to the north at the Cotswolds and to the south at Salisbury Plain.
The origins of Chippenham are believed to be from before Roman times, with remains of settlements from this time claimed to be in the wall behind the former magistrates court in the town today.
During Saxon times it emerged as an early settlement around 600 AD. There may also have been a royal forest and hunting lodge here that was used by Alfred the Great.
The name Chippenham may have been originated from Cyppa's Hamme - perhaps a Saxon chief called Cyppa, or from the word ce-ap meaning market, and Hamme meaning enclosed by the river or an enclosed water meadow. In its early years this was an area of small family farms, perhaps concentrating on dairy farming and cheese making.
The name is also claimed to be recorded as Cippanhamm, Cepen, Cheppeham, Shippenham and Chippyngham. The Domesday Book listed Chippenham as Cepen, with a population of 600-700 people in 1086. The town received a charter of incorporation in May 1554 by Queen Mary.
Chippenham is well served by trains for a town of its size, with trains every half hour to and from London Paddington, Bristol Temple Meads, Swindon, Reading, and Bath Spa.
Chippenham is served by several interurban buses. The main operators are Stagecoach and Faresaver, the former providing the 55 to Swindon, and the latter providing the X31 to Bath and the X34 to Trowbridge and Frome. A handful of coaches also stop in the town centre.
The nearest airport is located at Bristol, from which travellers should take a bus to Bristol or Bath and then change onto the train. Heathrow Airport is accessible via National Express coaches, with the journey taking a little under two hours.
Surrounding the town are many ancient villages, including Lacock, Castle Combe, Langley Burrell, Kington Langley, Derry Hill, Kington St Michael, Colerne, Yatton Keynell and Biddestone.
There are also several manor houses and gardens nearby including Bowood House, Lacock Abbey, Sheldon Manor and Corsham Court.
There are many places to eat in Chippenham, the best and most expensive being the Angel Hotel. There are the usual McDonalds and Subway. For the non fast food eaters, head to Revo Lounge or Revolutions. They sell good cheap food and add friendly feel to the restaurants.
Chippenham town centre has a range of pubs, including a Wetherspoon in the Borough Parade shopping centre. As is common in the West Country, most serve a wide range of local ciders.
Chippenham is a very safe place to visit, with fewer crimes per capita than the national average. It has also been awarded the Purple Flag status in recognition of its safety at night. Nevertheless, you should still keep your wits about you in town. Should you need them, there is a large police station next to Monkton Park near the station.