Last Sunday at the swimming pool – Arthur Hill Pool at Cemetery Junction in Reading – it was quiet. This struck me a little strange it being the first Sunday of the year. Where were all the people who had committed to getting fit in 2015? It was the 4th of January, not the 1st so perhaps they had already given up on their noble intentions. Who knows? Anyway, I was there, just me and the two lads who open up at 8.30am. Arthur Hill is a wonderfully simply place at which to swim. I have written about the pool before on CyclingEurope.org (‘Tweeting Is Good For Your Health‘) in one of those occasional posts that have ‘nothing to do with cycling‘ (and this one certainly ticks that box, sorry.) You arrive, pay your money, change in a cabin by the side of the pool and then dive in. Well, I never dive in but you know what I mean… Last Sunday, with nobody around and in the knowledge that I would only have a few more visits to come before I leave Reading at some point in January (hopefully), I took an iPhone ‘panoramic’ photo. Here it is:
The photo got me thinking. Which other places in Reading will I miss when I leave and why? Over the past few days I’ve been trying to revisit the places that for me represent the positive side of the town, and here are, in no particular order, the panoramic photos that I have taken…
Let’s start with my flat. I’ve lived here for just over ten of my fourteen years in Reading and it is a very nice place to be. Close to the town centre but in a very quiet area next to the canal. There’s even a bit of industrial heritage, a restaurant and a small museum outside the window. Had I ever invested in a boat there would have been a few spaces in which to park it:
Especially in the last couple of years one of my first destinations when I walk in to Reading has been market square and more specifically, Picnic Cafe where John, the owner, serves a mean double espresso. The square itself was pedestrianised a few years ago but it’s a pity that the council never bit the bullet and closed it off to all traffic:
Just around the corner from Market Square is Forbury Gardens. A nice place in which to sit and watch the world go by (despite its proximity to the noise of the inner distribution road (or as it is known locally, the ‘IDR’)). The park itself is nice but the aspect I like most about the area is the broad sweep of architecture that can be found there. From the 11th century ruins of the Abbey to the gleaming modern offices of the 21st century:
At the very heart of Reading is Broad Street, again, like Market Square, it is pedestrianised but is nothing special. The other main street of the town runs parallel to Broad Street; it’s called Friar Street and remains open to traffic. What is special is this road that links the two, Queen Victoria Street:
If you walk along Queen Victoria Street and along Station Road you arrive at the (you guessed it!) train station. Over £800 million has just been spent on the railway station and the surrounding tracks, the building here on the left being the most visual evidence of where the money has gone:
Back to Broad Street where there is first of all the entrance to The Oracle shopping centre. Its architectural merits may be limited (it looks better on the inside than it does on the outside) but it makes Reading an easier and better place in which to shop, eat and drink. It has been in the town about as long as me opening for the first time in November 1999, just a couple on months after my arrival at the university in late September.
Staying on a shopping theme, the most interesting place to buy anything in Reading must surely be the Waterstone’s branch in Broad Street. A converted Baptist Church (which is obvious from the picture, no?) it was also the very first bookshop to stock my book so it has a special place in my heart. That said, it no longer stocks either books…
And finally, escaping the town centre to the place where the Kennet and Avon Canal meets the River Thames. The bridge shown here is built next to one of Brunel’s Great Western Railway bridges and was originally constructed to allow horses towing barges to continue their journey along either the canal or the river. In modern times it is a footbridge allowing easy access to Tescos or (more importantly!) enabling me to run in a continuous loop around the eastern side of the town…
So there you have it; nine places that I will remember when I think about the Berkshire town of Reading, my home for the last fourteen years.