Reading’s Cintra Park is a world away from how it was even five years ago. Some ‘orrible kids, dog mess, violence and drugs weren’t uncommon. My cricket team and I even found a shotgun cartridge in the outfield when playing a game one evening.
Reading Borough Council have made great efforts since those dark days and the transformation has been immense. Environmental measures including wildflower earth banks and some prudent tree planting have improved biodiversity and the park is an excellent place to hear birdsong at dusk and dawn. The council took out some dark and dangerous corners and added a great flat path all the way round of exactly one kilometre distance to encourage walkers, runners, push chairs and wheelchairs alike. The long avenue of small pollarded trees on the Christchurch Road side is delightful in spring and summer.
The play equipment is varied, adventurous and great for kids. I must admit to having a quick go on the swings myself now and again for some after-work stress busting. The council also added outdoor gym equipment but this mostly consists of monkey bars and odd benches. It all looks like torture equipment to me, but it is well used. The park is self-draining and often remains in use while other football and cricket matches have been called off waterlogged.
The pavilion and changing room building has acted as a youth club and community beacon for years and has recently attracted attention as a home for three local cooks. I have yet to sample the food but the function facilities have supported a café and is a good spot for pensioners’ teas too.
There are also historical echoes with some lovely old iron gates with pillars near Warwick Road and an avenue of evergreens at Christchurch Green that must have been a drive to the old house that belonged to the Sutton Seeds family. What, if anything, connects the park to the town of Sintra in Portugal or the convention of Cintra remains a mystery.
The park exists on a plateau and if the magnificent line of massive oaks were ever removed (which we hope will never happen) there would be a handsome grand view of south Reading. Cintra Park is a common treasury for all to enjoy and a great example of why we should never abandon hope for our green spaces, but instead invest our time, effort and money in improving and making these treasures truly inclusive.