I was born and raised in Reading some 23 years ago, and therefore it will always be my home, wherever I live. I've lived in the Midlands for 3 years whilst at university, but it's nothing compared to being at home. Reading has certainly gone through a bit of a transition during recent years. And it all came at the right time for me - when I was in my early teens there were about five pubs / bars in town. By the time I became legal there were millions of them!!! I read a recent report saying that Reading town centre can accommodate over 30000 revellers on any given night!! Crikey!! Lots of decent pubs in town - 3 Wetherspoons for those who want a quiet and cheap night out, Brannigans, Bar Med, O'Neills, Slug & Lettuce, Yates' and any other chain you can think of. Not as many 'locals' pubs as there used to be, but I've not quite reached that age yet!! Club-wise it is getting there...there's The Matrix, newly re-opened after the, um, shootings, RG1s, Fez Club, and then Brannigans, Bar Med, the Litten Tree and a few others open until 2am or later themselves. The Matrix used to be one of the best clubs in the country, and regularly popped up in Ministry Of Sound magazine and Muzic. For shopping, there is the old decaying Braod Street Mall, which is soon to be refurbished, and the lovely shiny new Oracle, which is coming on for three years old now - and is where I currently work (until i start my new job in August anyway!!). The Oracle is lovely in many ways - it has Debenhams, HoF, Boots and 80-odd other smaller shops, including lots of posh ladies clothes shops. But the best thing about The Oracle is the Riverside, where all the bars, and restaurants are. At night, when the lights come on, it looks really magical, and is home to some top restaurants, including London Street Brasserie, arguably the best in Reading. There is only the one cinema in the town - The Warner Village, which is a bit of a sham
e, as we used to have a few of them dotted about, and that's at The Oracle as well!! Food-wise, Reading has a pretty decent choice. And since The Oracle opened, there is lots of al-fresco dining options along the river, which is lovely. All that's lacking is a few more traditional English restaurants about town. And for take-aways, there are lots of kebabs, and other favourites around, to cater for the pub and club-goers. I would strongly reccommend for lunch, a trip to Pierre's Baguette Shop in St Mary's Butts, or Sweeney Todd's Pie Shop in Castle Hill. Beautiful food, and really cheap for the area. There's a fair bit of accommodation in town - a few hotels, and B&Bs dotted about, including Travel Lodge, Quality and Renaissance. Prices aren't cheap, as you would expect from Reading, so a trip out of town may be a better option for finding a place to stay. Then there's a bit of history to boot - the Abbey Ruins are nice to look around, along with the Forbury Gardens with the famous Lion. There's the tradional history of beer, biscuits and bulbs, although these industries have largely moved away now. Then there's Reading Museum, Blake's Lock Museum, a few art galleries, and a nice big statue of Queen Victoria (facing away from town, because she hated the place - ooops!!). The transport system is interesting - like most cities or large towns, there are large one-way systems, along with a big concrete structure called the Inner Distribution Route (IDR), which was never finished, and more 'traffic-calming' measures than you could shake a very large stick at!! The rail network is excellent though, with links to everywhere in the country, and very regular services to London. Reading Station is right in the heart of town, which is handy. Buses are ok, but the rolling stock is getting rather old now. There is now a Night Bus service, which ferries home club-goers late into the night. The
re is a fair amount of parking in town, the most safest being at The Oracle (roughly £1 / hr). Crime is pretty high like most places these days, so if visiting do be careful with your bags, and phones, and laptops etc. There are far worst places around, but you can never be too careful.... And then there are the new super-toilets!! Located by the Town Hall, these toilets contain three urinals, which raise from the ground at night, and then disappear in the morning!! Bizarre, but convenient if you are caught short....and male!! Not forgetting Reading FC, newly promoted back to Division 1 where we belong, and housed in the Madejski Stadium, with a capacity of 25,000 - all very nice, but also with newly inflated ticket prices, making it a pretty expensive trip out. And the Reading Festival...one of the best and most famous festivals in the world. Held in a large field by Rivermead Leisure Centre in August Bank Holiday weekend, the event attracts the biggest names in Rock and Indie music, including a dance arena, and the usual market stalls etc. Excellent festival, and very popular, with around 70,000 people attending each year. So, in general, Reading is pretty damn good, and will always have a fond place in my heart. A kind of mini-London, with all the benefits and all the problems!! Virtually no unemployment, and plenty to do for the affluent. Lovely place - come and visit!! (and if you're in The Oracle before August, wave at a camera, and I will probably be watching, as I'm a Controller, so spend a lot of my time operating the CCTV and catching criminals!!!) It may not be a city in title, but is certainly one in practice.....
Both the best and worst thing to be said about Reading is that "it's very convenient." And there's the rock Festival! It almost beggars belief that any town (oops, missed out on the millenium list to be renamed as a city -- better luck next time) should be this convenient in terms of transport. The trains from Reading into Paddington take about 30 mins and leave at a rate of about 4 per hour late into the evening. An airbus shuttles between the station and Heathrow Airport every 30 mins. Trains run through directly to Gatwick airport (a bit slower, but also cheaper.) For drivers, it's also handily placed for the M4 and M40. It's the transport links, as much as anything, that have turned Reading into such a boom town over the last few years. The town has become popular with businesses for the easy airport/London access and popular with employees for the relatively cheap housing (compared with London prices). And it's booming in a big way. Especially among high tech companies (I guess venture capitalists approve of it), although the Prudential still seems to own vast quantities of office space. The city centre has been transformed since the opening of the Oracle Shopping Centre (shurely no link with the humungous database company which seems to own the half of the trackside real-estate on the run in to the station that isn't owned by Thames Water or Micro$oft ...) Crime is relatively rare compared to London and I've felt safe walking around town after midnight, but as with all places, there are areas you would do better to avoid (parts of East Reading, mainly.) It was always a fairly compact shopping centre, well served by pedestrianised roads (ie. Broad Street), department stores, and a few smaller shopping arcades, and that hasn't changed. But The Oracle includes a 10-screen warner village cinema and various new restaurants on the banks of the (massively renova
ted) canals and it has acted like an injection of adrenaline into the already healthy city centre. The most recent development is that pretty much any coffee shop you've ever heard of has just opened a branch on Broad Street (except for Starbucks, which is a shame because I like their eggnog coffee.) Shopping in Reading is about as good as you'll get outside London, and it's also something of a regional centre for shoppers around Berkshire. Expect it to be very busy on weekends (duh.) It's all starting to get very generic, which is a shame in some respects. But the town hall still has a quiet little coffee shop which runs a bar in the evening and offers live music on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so it's not all doom and gloom. Also, although not really a brilliant place for restaurants, there are some decent places, often a little away from the main streets. The traffic situation in the town centre is, however, absolutely atrocious. If anyone is planning on driving in to shop, I'd recommend using one of the park-and-ride carparks out of town and catching the bus in. I'll add a few words about the Reading Festival (there are other good music festivals held here too, such as WOMAD -- world music -- but the rock festival is the biggie.) The Festival site is a short way out of town, but do expect to see haggard, unwashed festival goers with huge rucksacks hanging around Sainsburys in town at all hours that weekend, and the station is definitely to be avoided. Having said all that, the festival is a lot of fun to attend if there are enough bands playing that you like -- especially because you can go home at night to somewhere where a warm bed and hot shower awaits! (Ah, you say, but she hasn't mentioned the biscuits yet. What's with that?) In the pre-hitech days, the town had two major industries. Huntly & Palmer biscuits, and Suttons Seeds. Expect to see signs of this all over the place
, from the name of Palmer's Park (an actual park) and Suttons Business Park (a business estate and not a park at all), to the way that the Museum of Reading has a permanent exhibition of old bisciut tins -- be still my beating heart. If you don't mind venturing a bit out of town, there is some beautiful countryside and pretty local villages to visit. The Thames around Reading is less polluted than it gets downstream, and there is a LOT of local wildfowl. Warning: Swans are big nasty mean bastards in the flesh, so treat them with respect (especially when a load of them decide to take over the tow path -- it happens.) I've also seen a lot of coots, mallards, and grebes. They all nest along the river and the chances are that you'll see them swimming around with their babies in the summer if you walk that way. And now (she says in the tone of Tony Hart introducing the Gallery in Vision-On), here are some handy links: (Hold me down, it has it's own website!) http://www.oracle-shopping.co.uk/ http://www.reading-guide.co.uk/ (Warning. They use a lot of Flash on this site.) http://www.readingfestival.com
I have lived just outside Reading all of my life. Although not perfect it does have some good features. I think its best point is probably its locality. It is reasonably close to London & Windsor and also to the South coastal towns of Southampton and Portsmouth. Reading is a very old town, with its own Abbey ruins . The town developed into a town of the 3 ‘B’ industries- Biscuits (Huntley & Palmers), Beer (Courages) and Bulbs (Sutton Seeds). Nowadays, these industries have been dwarfed by the Silicone Industry, as Reading is the centre of the ‘Silicone Valley’ where most of the computer giants have their Head Offices. Shopping is good in Reading, especially since the Oracle shopping centre opened around a year ago. There is plenty of nightlife in the town centre also. However Reading’s roads are forever congested, and the car parks are very expensive, so I would recommend public transport to get there. There are excellent rail services to and from Reading. I would say that Reading is a victim of its own success. Because of its high employment it attracts people from areas of higher unemployment. Because of its position and trained workforce, more companies want to re-locate to Reading and the surrounding area. This has led to a massive increase in the number of houses being built in and around the Reading area, which is eating up the small pockets of green areas. Small villages have become housing estates, and one village has sprawled into the next. The increase in population has led to severe congestion on all the roads in and around Reading. Its popularity has also led to extremely high property prices. Reading is trying to obtain City status. Although a large town with a University and many attractions, I do not feel it is worthy of a City status. It is probably most famed for hosting the annual Reading Rock Festival on the August bank holiday. If you are not intending to visit the fest
ival you should avoid the area over this period.
With reportedly 130 bars in the Reading area it is unsurprising for a new comer to this town in Berkshire to quickly understand why this is turning into a drinkers paradise. With the town center crammed full of all types of pubs the possibilities for a pub crawl are endless, there is rumour that you can pub crawl 22 bars without have to be outside for more than a single minute at any one time, let me assure you this is no rumour, I’ve done it. As I mentioned there are many pubs, bars and clubs in Reading we have Irish pubs (Scruffy Murphys, O’Neils) come on, who doesn’t like a good old Irish pub? Theme/Chain pubs (Yates, Firkins, need I go on?) sorry but I hate theme pubs. (wannabe?) Trendy bars (Pitcher and Piano, Edwards) now these are decent enough pubs but they attract some dubious Del-boy clientele. There are also a whole host of other pubs that should be given a look in (The Monks Retreat, The Hobgoblin, and more) that give a real feel for the town and tell you most about the character of the area. For the more serious of you there are the late night bars in Reading, these will provide you with the interesting cocktails and dance floors. Bar Med, top of my list for several reasons, the bar staff always remember what I’m drinking even if I don’t and the music is cheesy. For those that know me know I like my cheesy music and Bar Med delivers this (quite purposefully) by the barrel load. If for some reason the DJ in Bar Med is having a bad night the Music Room above O’Neils can put some good tracks together on a Friday or Saturday night. There is also JW’s that has a jukebox so put your own music on. If its your scene you could try the Purple Turtle but (in my humble opinion) I’d avoi Then there are others Brannigians and Po Na Na are always a safe bet for some up-to-date music and a good time. Last of all is the Matrix, open later than all the bars and clubs in Reading put together and home to som
e top DJs (Dave Pearce and Pete Tong to name a few) is not for the fait of heart but nonetheless cracking. The only problem you may have in Reading is for some of the over zealous bouncers who may want to see you in a dinner jacket, or possibly top hat and tails, before they will allow you to drink in their establishment, I would recommend that a collar and no trainers be standard for the bloke, just as a matter of precaution you understand. Women don’t worry you'll be let in more or less anywhere. I know I know it’s a pain in the proverbial. All in all, enjoy and if you can’t get into one pub or get thrown out of another who cares? There are plenty of other places that will be happy to take your money.
Well..its my home town..so I suppose I`m bound to be attached to it sentimentally!!! Reading has had a rapidly expanding population over the years..and has grown from a small place centred around a biscuit factory(Huntley and Palmers) and a canal and the Thames, to a thriving and vibrant almost city...with a hugely successful university and a town centre which really cannot be betterted by a trip to London for shopping.. If you attempted to visit every pub in Reading...you just would not make it...we have hundreds....and a huge variety of eating places in the towncentre and outlying districts. Reading is also very well placed for commuting to London...and has excellent links with all parts of the country..being a short distance from the beautiful berkshire Downs..and less than two hours from the dorset coast and New Forest... We are blessed with one of the lowest unemployment figures in the country..computer industrues abound sround here, and the new Oracle shopping centre has provided hundreds of new jobs. The Thames runs through the edge of the town, and is a quiet and calm oasis to enjoy at any time. One downside is the huge cost of living here...it does seem drastically unbalanced sometimes.. We bought our house here 8 years ago..and it has literally doubled in value...we certainly could not afford to purchase it now...in a two income proffesional family??How exactly our children are going to get on the housing ladder , I really don`t know... Another problem is also the poor air quality sometimes associated with the Thames Valley..it isn`t really the place to be if you are an asthma sufferer!!(Luckily. my family are not!!) All in all. Reading has a great deal to offer..I certainly feel at home here.!!!
In my time, I've lived in some interesting places e.g. Straford-Upon-Avon and I've lived in some holes e.g. Luton. Reading is neither. You could say its nothing exciting - but for some reason I've lived in the area for 13 years - so it can't be that bad.
Reading is a large town (trying to become a city) situated on the River Thames and the Kennet and Avon Canal. The M4 passes to the south of it and Reading is also a major railway junction. From here you can travel directly by train to London (25 minutes), Penzance, Swansea, Scotland and a whole host of places in between.
As a town, Reading has quite a bit of history going for it. It will always be associated with the 3 b's - bulbs (Sutton Seeds were based here), beer (Courage have a brewery here - no not for much longer) and biscuits (Huntley & Palmer had a vast factory near to the canal). Being on a river, Reading was a major trading centre. In later years, the opening of the biscuit factory caused the building of many terraced houses near to the gas works.
Today, Reading is in the centre of Silicon valley. The town and its neighbouring areas of Newbury and Wokingham are bristling with hi-tech companies. Oracle have a number of offices here as do Microsoft and Prudential.
In terms of shops, Reading has the Oracle which is a shopping centre overlooking the canal. Other than the little shops, it contains a House of Fraser and a Debenhams. In the centre, there is also a John Lewis store (used to be known as Heelas). Reading is getting quite cosmopolitan with the arrival of 2xPret a Manger, Coffee Republic and now 2 Starbucks.
In terms of things to do at night there is the Hexagon which puts on plays (and the odd snooker show). There are loads of modern pubs, winebars and the like. Reading has a large number of people who like to drink and there is one street where there is practically nothing but pubs. For art lovers, there is the Old Town Hall where you can watch classical concerts and the like.
Reading has 2 universities, the first being Reading University based at the Whiteknights Campus and the other one is the Thames Valley University which is shared with Slough (I do believe.
Sport - there is Reading FC who spent 2 years in the Premiership before being demote in 2008 back into the next division down. Reading is also home to the London Irish Rugby Union club who play their home games at the Football Club. Reading also has its own speedway team.
In the Summer, Reading is the venue for the Reading festival (on during the August Bank Holiday weekend), and the more gentle Real ale and jazz festival.
For a stroll, I would recommend a wander around Palmer and Prospect parks, and a trip to the original Town Hall which has been lovingly restored.
Healthcare is provided at the Royal Berks hospital. This has a classical Greek facade dating back to the early C19. There used to be a hospital in West Reading except that has been closed and is home to another Tesco's and more housing.
Reading has its share of problems like any other town. Many people live on the outskirts of the town and commute in. I live in Earley which is about 3 miles away to the east. I have the town to the west and have miles of countryside near to me (until the politicians allow it to be built on !!).
Its not a cheap place to live - property prices are lower than London and Surrey but higher than anywhere else. Unemployment is pretty low too.
I like the town and the area; and cannot think of a better place to live. Check it out someday !!
** Update 29/08/2008
Reading's bid to become a city has not been successful - the winners were Wolverhampton, Brighton and (would you believe it!) Inverness.
I think Reading should go UDI and declare itself a city anyway - why should it be down to the Queen to decide what becomes a city ? Most newcomers to the town call it a city until they find out the truth.