A gem nestled in England’s South-East: Reading’s cultural appeal

Oluwatoyin Bayagbon and Mark Laynesmith standing infront of a statue in Forbury Gardens.

Oluwatoyin Bayagbon, a Masters student in Marketing at Henley Business School, discusses their recent experience of going on a Reading cultural walk lead by Mark Laynesmith and highlights some interests facts about Reading.

When I decided to go on the Reading cultural walking tour, months after “settling” into life in this sometimes “sleepy” but culturally diverse town, I never knew I’d be overwhelmed by a rollercoaster of emotions and feelings. 

From the passive interest that gradually built up to palpable excitement, to a brief moment of melancholy that quickly transitioned to intense curiosity and finally a heartwarming appreciation for the gift of life that “crescendoed” into a burst of energy and determination to make each day of living count- the over 10,000 steps I took as part of this walking tour is one which I won’t forget in a hurry. 

On the cold but bright Saturday morning of 7 February, the take off point from the University of Reading’s Whiteknights Campus took all 13 of us- Mark Laynesmith, our amiable and knowledgeable tour guide and his 12 “tourists”- on an interesting trail through town to the Abbey Ruins at Forbury Gardens.

Mark did a wonderful job highlighting important facts about Reading and its history. This was a masterpiece in “destination marketing” as the stories told drew me into each moment and made me appreciate Reading even more. The full tour can be produced in video format and used as solid content to market to potential tourists, students, and professionals who may be considering a destination for holiday, school, or work. 

Five highlights… as seen through my eyes 

In no particular order, highlights from the tour, including places and people include: 

  1. Abbey Ruins: Here is where “Summer is Coming”, the oldest known English song was written- sometime around the year 1240. 
  1. The mural in honour of black history. Painted in 1987, it features famous faces including Martin Luther King Jr, Harriet Tubman, and Bob Marley. 
  1. The “MERL”: I absolutely loved the story of how the museum enjoyed a “moment of fame” when #ElonMusk swapped his Twitter image with the “absolute unit” Sheep the MERL had tweeted about.
  1. The Oscar Wilde painting by celebrated graffiti artist, Banksy. 
  1. The Clock Tower on London Road Campus left me teary-eyed as I listened to Mark recite “Dulce et Decorum Est”, a poem written by renowned poet and Reading University College alumnus, Wilfred Owen in the heat of the first World War.

Three Fun Facts about Reading!

Fun fact 1: Did you know that famous English novelists Charles Dickens and Jane Austen have strong ties to Reading? 

Fun fact 2: Did you know that Reading is known for the triple B’s- Biscuits, Beer, and Bricks?

Fun fact 3: Did you know that “Reading” is named after “Readda”, an Anglo-Saxon?

If you’re planning this tour, remember to dress comfortably in tune with the weather and pack a simple snack and some drinks. A good camera or your smartphone will come in handy for capturing noteworthy moments.  Mark’s blog contains detailed description of the trail covered during this spectacular two-hour tour. You can read it and get inspired to experience one of South England’s rare gems.

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