Visit Reading and Forbury Gardens are one of the first places you will encounter. This brilliant public park is Victorian in origin and design, and is found on the edge of the grounds of the ruined Abbey. The beautiful Gardens were re-opened in 2005 after extensive restoration, and include a rose garden, a bandstand, plenty of landscaped areas and the famous Maiwand Lion, a huge war memorial (dedicated to the men of reading who lost their lives in a battle (the Battle of Maiwand) during the late 19th century campaign in Afghanistan. The Lion was sculpted by a local artist, George Blackall Simonds, who was a member of the brewing Simonds family. The sculpture is still one of the biggest cast iron statues anywhere in the world.
Some might tell you that Reading is more noteworthy for what’s nearby than as a destination in its own right: posh paradise Windsor and Eton is just down the road, and the surrounding Berkshire villages probably have more combined disposable income kicking about than the rest of the country. But there’s plenty of weird and wonderful stuff within the town limits to make this jumping-off point for upper class England worth a look. A surprising affiliation with ornithology and zoology is just the start. Reading’s got a successful football team; a massive modern shopping mall; and enough bars, restaurants and quirky eateries to keep the weary traveller happy for days.
Great places to visit in Reading!
There are the rivers: the Thames and the Kennet both flow through Reading, creating a wonderful swath of valley that harbours dozens of quint olde English villages complete with waterside inns and pubs. It’s not all business, you know.
Beale Park Bird Collection
There’s something for everyone at Beale Park, a superb animal park and garden close to the village of Pangbourne, just outside Reading. There are over 120 species of birds in residence in the park, including many exotic ones. The park has a huge owlery, a walk-in aviary, and a hide so visitors can watch birds unobserved. There are loads of places for the kids to play, and fun exhibits to get them interested in the wildlife they see. The meerkats are a huge favourite, as are the monkeys and marmosets! Take a day to explore wilderness in the heart of Berkshire, have lunch at the Peacock Restaurant and keep your eyes peeled for special events!
Cole Museum of Zoology
Nature lovers get a double hit of quality entertainment in Reading – the Beale Park bird collection is one, and the Cole Museum of Zoology’s the other. A spectacular natural history collection compiled by Francis J Cole, Reading University’s Professor of Zoology from 1907 until 1939, the Museum displays around 400 of its more than three and a half thousand specimens. The recently refurbished Museum has arranged its specimens in order of taxonomy, and its boast that the animal enthusiast can explore the whole animal kingdom in just one hour, thanks to the brilliance of the layout, is well founded. The Museum is free to get in, and is open Monday to Friday between half past nine and half past four.