There might be at least ten good reasons to study in Typography, but there’s a eleventh one that we can make no claim to be responsible for. Most universities, if you’re lucky, will have their buildings in a single campus, with some green land in between. Reading is the other way round: the campus is very much a stunning park with a bunch of buildings sprinkled on. And I’m not the only one thinking this: a couple of weeks ago it was announced that the campus was awarded a prestigious Green Flag. According to the press release, Reading is only the second university to receive the award.
The most prominent effect of the campus on the the people working there is its complete domination of the horizon: look out of any window, and instead of the rectangular grey or maroon of buildings you expect to see in cities, you will see the tops of mature oaks and cedars all around you. There is something deeply satisfying in seeing human activity sandwiched between a sea of green and open sky, the rectangular patterns of construction and order being guests in an ancient curtain of leaves. After a few hours staring at a screen half a metre away, the irregularity of foliage over open expanses is rejuvenating.
A couple of days ago I realised some of the students had not been to The Wilderness, nor the Harris Garden (or Dinton Pastures, or the cycling route to Mapledurham, or The Lookout…). Two minutes’ walk from the Department, The Wilderness is a managed natural forest on campus, and a designated Wildlife Heritage Site. This means that conservation work is carried out discreetly, and the forest looks and feels as if nature is taking its course undisturbed. A bit further on, the Harris Garden is an oasis of plants whose names I never remember, but whose colours and shapes stay in my memory. (It is also a good picnic ground.)
Two are my favourite parts of the campus. The open green next to the Library reminds me of checking out a bunch of books when I first arrived in Reading, and sitting under the trees reading (thinking “five down, five million to go”). On the same patch, many years later, I was running behind my kids shouting “you did it! I’m not holding you!” (Like many children, they both learned how to ride a bike in the open expanses on campus, and still spend many hours there for sports.) My second favourite place is the south-eastern bank of the lake, beyond Wessex Hall: it is the best spot for a picnic I can imagine (and one that I am sure would satisfy Will Self’s dad). Having grown up and worked for years in a concrete jungle before moving here, it is still something out of a fantasy that these views are a few hundred steps away from my office.
P.p.s. Normal service will resume now.