Thames & Kennet

Reading lies on the junction of the rivers Thames and Kennet, There are also the Holy Brook and Pang to the west and the River Loddon to the east.

The Thames
The Thames is crossed by two bridges and separates Reading from Caversham and some other communities north of the river. In mediaeval times the Thames was the major trade route of England, but the coming of the railways saw a decline in freight and an increase in leisure traffic. Until recently it was a source of fish and huge quantities were shipped down to Leadenhall Market in London. Nowadays in summer time the river is crowded with boats of all sorts and sizes ranging from canoes to large passenger craft, mainly operated by Salters and providing some beautiful and restful cruises up river to Abingdon and down river to Henley. There are also cruises to visit Mapledurham House.

Downstream of Reading there are the remnants of huge gravel workings which have left large lakes used for all sorts of leisure activities, including the National Rowing Centre, home to Great Britain's very successful rowers.

Alongside the river is the Thames Path, stretching from Lechlade to London. A very pleasant section in Reading runs from the Roebuck Inn served by bus 143, just west of Tilehurst Station to the Promenade behind the Rivermead Leisure Centre, by Caversham Bridge. It passes the site of the annual Reading Festival, but being north of the railway, for most of its length it is in the last residual farmland of Reading.

There are two locks in the greater Reading area, at Mapledurham where there is the last working corn mill and at Caversham, just to the east of Reading Bridge.

The Kennet
The Kennet used to join the Thames at Pangbourne, but for the last many thousand years it runs to the south of the chalk hill upon which Tilehurst stands. For many years it served as the main outlet for the wool trade on the Berkshire Downs to the west of Reading and, to aid navigation, large sections were canalised in the 18th century.

It now joins the Thames about two miles to the east of central Reading after Blakes Lock and is the principal water feature of the town, running alongside the Reading Gaol and the site of Reading Abbey, where there are often the starts of boat trips in the summer running up to Boulters Lock. It then passes through the centre of the Oracle shopping centre where it is surrounded by numerous eating establishments. In winter the river can be boarded over by an ice rink.

From the Oracle to Boulters Lock the river runs past a historic industrial area which can be seen only from a boat. Then, to the west of the A33, it passes through extensive water meadows and lakes formed of old gravel workings and through the Linear park to Calcot. This latter area is a haven for wildlife and fishing.

The Holy Brook
The Holy Brook is an artificial stream which was a diversion of some of the waters of the Kennet to power the mill at Reading Abbey.The gate of the mill can still be seen just to the east of the Central Library. For much of its route through central Reading it has been covered by a tunnel, but emerges by the Library and briefly at the west end of the Oracle.

The Loddon
The River Loddon drains land to the south of the Thames to the east of Reading. For part of its length it forms the boundary between Berkshire and Hampshire. To the north it passes through Wokingham's main parkland before its junction with the Thames.

The Pang
The Pang is at the edge of the greater Reading area, once forming the last stretch of the Kennet before it was diverted. It now flows across the Berkshire Downs from Compton. Although unnavigable it is an important wildlife habitat passing through a wildlife sanctuary (off the A340) owned by the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Naturalist Trust. It is a working zone for teams of Conservation Volunteers seeking to preserve and enhance the ameneties.

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