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Published May 24th 2014
If you have a garden and a library, you have everything
The above paraphrased quote from Marcus Tullus Cicero may be the inspiration behind the University of Nottingham's devotion to natural beauty and diverse gardens in such a scholarly environment.
Apart from Robin Hood, Nottingham's major claim to fame is its large and dynamic university, which is spread across four campuses around the Nottingham area, as well as two abroad in China and Malaysia. These campuses are not just centres for research and education, but also places of innovative design (see the Jubilee campus for instance) and a variety of diverse, beautifully arranged gardens, which are open to all members of the community.
The following three gardens are a representative selection from the University Park campus located just outside of Nottingham city centre (about 10 minutes by bus or car). On weekends, the university has plenty of parking and many public events specially designed for children, families, and local visitors, so there should be no problem in accessing these gardens.
The Walled Garden is the smallest of the gardens mentioned here. It is located not far from the university's west entrance and across the street from the Hallward Library.
The walled garden was once part of a much larger estate dating back to the late eighteenth century. In the Victorian era, many exotic species were introduced, including bamboo and bananas. Today, those unusual plants exist alongside brilliantly coloured tulip beds and spring-time daffodils.
Otherwise known as the 'Zen Garden', this area is influenced by the tranquil style of traditional Asian gardens - perhaps in honour of the university's strong connection with China. Weekend Tai Chi classes are even offered in the garden when weather permits.
Apart from tulips, daffodils, and hundreds of other plants, this award-winning garden is composed of many symbolic features representing time, antiquity, knowledge, reflection, meditation and openness to list just a few. Upon approaching the garden, attention is immediately drawn to the large water feature in the centre of the garden. The pond is surrounded by short walkways which lead to a central island containing the 'Tree of Heaven' as a focal point.
As previously mentioned, symbolism is a major feature of the garden. It is designed around circular interconnecting, overlapping pathways that harken to the contemplative prayer labyrinths of the Taizé and other meditative traditions.
At the edge of the garden is a short tree-lined path that leads to the university's conference centre. It is worth a walk in the spring when the trees are covered in white blossoms and the path is lined with yellow daffodils.
The lake is located next to Highfields Park, which is a public park offering playground space for children and boat rentals when weather permits. See Rowing in Nottingham for more information on aquatic activities offered by the park.
During the spring and summer the gates surrounding the lake are opened for visitors to cross the lake via stepping stones, which is especially fun for children. The small pool gathered around the stepping stones is home to ducks and swans, as well as a small waterfall.