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A rural walk within urban Reading

A small but select band met up outside in the shade next to the minster church at St Mary’s Butts central Reading. Had we been transported 500 years ago rather than walking we would likely have been practicing our archery (pictured) on this site. The select band ignored the retail temptations as we passed through the Oracle shopping centre and viewed the living wall planted up against the exterior House of Fraser wall on exiting the centre. The footbridge over the Kennet was colourfully decorated with pelargoniums and other colourful flowering plants.

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The shopping centre has been built on the site of Simmonds brewery. Usefully there is a display board with a reproduction of an aerial view of the brewery complex to be viewed from the opposite bank. We then crossed back over to the north bank and reached the towpath near the county lock. After passing under the IDR and Berkeley Avenue bridges rural Reading was revealed. On the opposite bank this stretch of river revealed the “Hanging Gardens of Elgar Road” a long strip of back gardens sloping down to the river. On our side, despite being flanked by prefabricated industrial buildings there were signs of major tree planting between these buildings and the A33 dual carriageway beyond them.

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Soon the landscape changed with open spaces on either side of the river and a typical southern riverside scene of overhanging willows. This scene continues when the river turns west and heads towards Newbury. Not having the stamina to head towards Theale and a railway station, we turned back to cross the river via the Rose Kiln bridge and entered Waterloo Meadows, the site of a former brick and tile works. Now it is an open space, rather overgrown, but luckily there was a mown path back toward Reading.

After a refreshment break at some conveniently positioned picnic tables we re-entered urban Reading by walking along Elgar Road back towards the county lock and back to the Oracle centre. Whilst this is obviously an urban setting, several of the houses had delightful front gardens and the repeated terracotta plaques on these houses had a floral motif to remind us that there is plenty of real and representative examples of plants even within an urban landscape.

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St Peter’s Occasional Rambles And Dawdles In the Countryside