Reading Today

Reading can rightly claim to be the commercial centre of the Thames Valley and the centre one of the most affluent areas of Europe. There are actually two Readings - the inner part which forms the Borough and Greater Reading which encompasses parts of West Berkshire, Wokingham Borough, Bracknell Forest Borough and South Oxfordshire District. It is home to many high-tech industries and financial institutions, boasts two universities and forms one of the best transport hubs in the country with direct rail or bus services to Heathrow, Gatwick, Southampton, Birmingham and Manchester airports, direct train services to the midlands and Scotland, to Bristol and South Wales,to Plymouth and the West Country and to Southampton and the south coast, not forgetting two main lines to London Paddington and Waterloo. In addition it has one of the best municipal bus services in the country and has links by several operators to neighbouring towns and is served by over 100 long distance coach services every day.

In local government terms the Borough is governed by Reading Borough Council, a unitary authority as are all Berkshire authorities. The other areas which form Greater Reading are governed by West Berkshire Council, Wokingham Borough Council, Bracknell Forest Council, South Oxfordshire District Council and Oxfordshire County Council

Reading is an excellent shopping centre with two large shopping malls (Broad St and The Oracle) downtown and numerous out of town retail centres. The main shopping area is within the inner distribution road with a wide variety of shops and department stores plus several interesting alleys and small arcades. Other centres such as along the Oxford Road, Caversham Village and Tilehurst Triangle add to the variety of shopping experience. Also within easy reach are Bracknell and Wokingham town centres.

There are good eating facilities as in recent years Reading has developed a distinctly continental flavour with numerous cafes and restaurants, many spilling out into the street scene and providing a wide variety of dining experiences ranging from exotic ethnic cuisine through more continental fare to traditional English pub fare and American style burger bars. In the summer the downtown area can be as busy at two o'clock in the morning as at noon.

There are two large multiplex cinemas; at Loddon Bridge and The Oracle, and the Hexagon provides a never ending variety of theatrical and musical programmes. The Reading area boasts a huge number of amateur choirs and the quality of its junior choirs enabled one of them to win the senior BBC Choir of the Year competition a few years back, and only recently no less than two of the local youth orchestras made it to the final six of the junior orchestra of the year.

Driving around Reading is easy if you know the way but a nightmare to the visitor. Thankfully the M4 to the south now carries the national east-west traffic and the days when it took three or four hours to crawl through the town are long gone. However north-south traffic is confined to two totally inadequate bridges. Around the town centre the Inner Distribution Road keeps all but essential traffic out and much of the inner area is pedestrianised. There are plenty of good car parks, albeit a bit expensive and two 'Park and Ride sites'

On the sporting scene Reading is home to a Championship football team, a Championship rugby team, a top flight hockey team and provides the base for Britain's rowing team.

There are many places of worship of a wide variety of religions and sects. All of which are ready to welcome you.

On the cultural scene you will find Reading Museum one of the best around. It boasts an almost exact replica of the Bayeaux Tapestary, displayed much better than the original and numerous galleries ranging from fine art to an enormous collection of Huntley and Palmers biscuits tins. There are many works of art scattered around the town by some eminent sculptors. The University of Reading hosts the Museum of English Rural Life and the Ure Collection - both in the top flight of museum experiences.

Finally we draw your attention to Reading's waterways. Dominated by the Thames to the north of the town centre, it is threaded by the River Kennet and the Holy Brook and has both the Pang to the west and the Loddon to the east providing a haven for wild life. Around the M4 there are lakes reserved for a variety of activities from angling and boating to nature protection.

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