Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Not So Hidden Gem

Last weekend one of our friends came to visit and we decided to show her around Reading in Berkshire. There’s tons of shops and restaurants there, but it is also a really historic place with a beautiful town hall. In fact, it turns out it is even more historic than I realised.

Just a short walk from the town hall lie the beautiful Forbury Gardens. I’ve walked round the edges before but have never really explored very far into the gardens which are beautifully landscaped with some gorgeous flower beds.

I particularly like how they have used edible Rainbow Chard as a feature plant in the flower bed in the picture just above.

This visit we wandered a little further into the gardens.  First, we found a very non-traditional war memorial which is a simple stone plaque surrounded by flowers. It’s really beautiful.

We then walked over a small hill and found some lovely places to sit. The buildings surrounding the gardens are very historic as well and include Reading Gaol, where Oscar Wilde was famously imprisoned. There is also a church, and a school that Jane Austen is said to have attended.

The thing that surprised me most was that there are actually the ruins of an Abbey on the edge of the gardens.  I had absolutely no idea there had been an Abbey in Reading.

Sadly Oliver Cromwell did knock it about rather a lot on the orders of Henry VIII, and what was left is crumbling so badly it is fenced off, but these walls were originally built on the order of Henry I in the early 1100‘s. He built Reading Abbey to be his final resting place and was buring there in 1135.  No trace of his tomb remains, but a large cross in his memory has been placed in the gardens themselves. From the signs on the fences surrounding the ruins it appears they are attempting to preserve them and excavate any antiquities they may hold.

I’m a huge history buff, and I can’t believe that all this was only a few miles from where I live, and I had absolutely no idea. It really is worth investigating and exploring your local area because there are often hidden gems you may well have missed, particularly if you have not lived there a long time, but sometimes even if you have!

And if you do visit Reading, don’t miss these beautiful gardens and their historic, not so hidden Abbey!

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