In the wake of World War II, Bracknell underwent a transformation and became one of London’s surrounding new towns. Before this time, Bracknell was little more than a sleepy village in the heart of Berkshire woodland.
Although it’s hard to imagine now, signs of its former past are always present. Large neighbourhoods and housing developments are never too far from rural greenery. The new town was designed to reflect its country village past, with expansive open spaces and public parks. It provides the convenience of urban living with the outdoor lifestyle found in more remote areas of the south-east.
Bracknell Town Centre
Surrounded by Bracknell Forest, the town offers plenty of opportunities for a scenic stroll and other outdoor leisure activities. In the burgeoning town centre, ongoing regeneration projects deliver impressive attractions such as The Lexicon shopping centre.
What is Bracknell Like?
Sitting between Windsor and Reading and a mere hour from central London, Bracknell is a popular commuter town with a good balance between urban living and rural charm. A thriving town centre surrounded by green spaces galore, Bracknell’s balance of urban living with rural delight has wooed many a resident. And with strong transport links to London, Reading, and more, you’re perfectly placed for adventure at home or beyond. Bracknell is particularly good for families, with a selection of excellent schools as well as plenty of things to do. From the Look Out Discovery Centre to Coral Reef Water World there are plenty of ways to spend quality time with your children.
The Lexicon is Bracknell’s premiere shopping centre offering a host of shopping and dining opportunities, and residents can enjoy Princess Square Bracknell Shopping Centre too. There are two cinemas in the heart of town (ODEON and Cineworld), as well as another cinema and two theatres at South Hill Park, a converted 18th century mansion house, which also puts on over 250 courses and workshops. Stanlake Park Wine Estate is Berkshire’s largest vineyard, offering tours as well as wine, beer, and gin tastings, quiz evenings, and more.
And when you’re in the mood for green spaces, you’ll be spoilt for choice with spots like Lily Hill Park and Westmorland Park.
Sitting close to both the M3 and M4 motorways puts a huge amount of the UK within reach of Bracknell residents. London is around an hour away by car, Reading less than 25 minutes, as well as direct-line travel to places like Swindon, Bristol, and Southampton. And for those looking to travel beyond our shores, Heathrow Airport is just over 30 minutes away by car!
For those looking to travel by rail, Bracknell is served by two train stations: Bracknell and Martins Heron. Both of these are on the same line, with regular services running to Reading and London. Reading is closest, just 20 minutes away, while London Waterloo is around an hour away.
Bracknell is well-served by a comprehensive network of bus routes, covering both the town centre and reaching out to the outskirts. Bus services can also take you to destinations as far afield as Camberley, Reading, and Windsor to name a few.
Schools in the Area
There are plenty of excellent schools in Bracknell, making it a fantastic place for parents to raise their children.
Parents of younger children will be heartened by a wealth of excellent primary schools, including St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, Sandy Lane Primary School, and Wildridings Primary School, all of which have been rated ‘good’ by Ofsted. At the secondary level, options include Easthampstead Park School, Brakenhale Academy and the renowned Ranelagh School, which has been named one of the south-east’s top state and independent schools by the Sunday Times.
At a secondary level, The Ranelagh School is highly respected, which is reflected in its ‘outstanding’ rating from Ofsted. A Church of England school with a history over 300 years, the school “provides an excellent education for all of its students, preparing them well for their futures and for life in modern Britain” according to Ofsted. Parents will also appreciate the proximity of both Garth Hill College and The Brakenhale School, both of which enjoy ‘good’ ratings from Ofsted.
In terms of further education, Bracknell and Wokingham College offers a range of full and part-time courses. Alternatively, the Royal Holloway College is Reading University, which has not only been ranked 27th out of 84 UK universities but is also just 20 minutes from Bracknell by rail.
Attractions in Bracknell
There are a host of attractions and entertainment for residents of Bracknell to enjoy.
The Lexicon is Bracknell’s premiere shopping centre, with a sizeable selection of stores, restaurants and a Cineworld. As well as The Lexicon, there are more shopping options at the Princess Square Shopping Centre.
Bracknell features two cinemas in the heart of town, an ODEON and the Cineworld at the Lexicon. There’s a cinema at South Hill Park, too, which shows some of the same blockbusters as its competitors as well as smaller films that you might otherwise miss out on. This converted 18th century mansion house is a thriving hub for the arts too. Aside from the sheer entertainment, the centre puts on a programme of over 250 courses and workshops, perfect for budding artists of all ages. There are two theatres, too, putting on musicals, drama, live music and more.
Lily Hill Park is a particularly popular example of green spaces in Bracknell. Its 23-hectares feature 56 acres of restored heritage parkland, formal Edwardian water gardens, an animal tracks trail, a brass rubbing wildlife trail, as well as England’s longest picnic bench!
Then there’s Westmorland Park, an 8-hectare park filled with open spaces and play areas. The pavilion is hired out for activities like aerobics and Tai Chi. The park also features three tennis courts, several football pitches, a baseball diamond and a basketball hoop for the sporty, while there are a number of play areas suitable for younger children.
From one kind of park to another, Stanlake Park Wine Estate is Berkshire’s largest vineyard and just a few minutes from Bracknell. A wine tour is a must, revealing the wine-making process along with samples at every step.
Bracknell is a superb place to raise a family, with plenty of activities and attractions for the family to enjoy. The Look Out Discovery Centre offers over 90 hands-on, science-focused activities designed to entertain children of primary age. There’s also an incredible outdoor play area, a picnic area and a coffee shop for parents to recharge. There is also Coral Reef Water World, a leisure pool which features 5 water slides, rapids and a sauna and steam room.
Some of the other highlights in Bracknell include:
- Hollywood Bowl
- Go Ape Bracknell
- Casey’s Drive In
- The Vintage Pavilion
- Dinton Pastures Country Park
Bars and Restaurants
When you’ve had a busy day, Bracknell is full of places to eat, drink, or find some great entertainment.
The town offers high street favourites such as Zizzi, Las Iguanas, and Bill’s. But you’ll also find plenty of unique and independent restaurants in the town too.
For a fun and informal meal, head to Blue’s Smokehouse. The team proudly declare that they don’t stand on ceremony, focusing instead on serving authentic flavours created on the imported American smokers. The menu is full of tummy-pleasing dishes such as burgers, dogs, and smokehouse favourites. And a generous vegan menu means that Blue’s is welcoming to all diners!
For a relaxed drink coupled with a great pub food menu, visit the Market Inn. Close to the train station, the Market Inn is superb for sports-lovers with its big screen and six TVs around the pub.
If you’re looking for a drink with a fine-dining element, try The Yorkshire Rose. With an enormous beer garden and ample parking, it’s perfect to visit for a Sunday lunch. You’ll find residents love the care and attention that the staff give to their guests, and the food is exceptional.
Bracknell plays host to a superb annual ale and cider festival that is a must for both residents and visitors. Naturally, you can expect fantastic beer, gin, cider, and there’s also live music at two separate stages and plenty of delicious food too.
Leisure Centres and Outdoor Activities
There are plenty of places to go in Bracknell when you want to get active.
You’re bound to find something to get your heart rate up at Bracknell Leisure Centre. It features a gym outfitted with 120 stations including state-of-the-art cardio and resistance equipment and group fitness studios that host a variety of classes to get you moving. Three pools give you plenty of swim options, with both competition and teaching sessions available. A sports hall and an outdoor pitch host sports such as football, badminton, netball and more. There’s even a spa on-site for a post-workout relaxation session.
Keen golfers will love Downshire Golf Complex, an 18-hole championship course on the outskirts of Bracknell that welcomes golfers of all calibres. Whether you’re a new golfer looking for a fun way to get into the game, or a seasoned player looking for a challenge, the course at Downshire has something for you. The complex also features a nine-hole pitch and putt course for those times when you’re looking for a short game. There’s tuition available if you want to improve your swing, or you can make use of the 30-bay, floodlit driving range.
Tennis players have the choice of two clubs: Bracknell Lawn Tennis Club and Westmorland Park Lawn Tennis Club. The latter is a smaller club that makes use of the facilities at Westmorland Park, welcoming casual and social players as well as those who want to play against other clubs. Bracknell Lawn Tennis Club is situated near Lily Hill Park, and offers five courts with LED floodlighting. The club welcomes junior players, and also offers coaching.
History of Bracknell
Although most commonly known as a post-World War II New Town, Bracknell’s history actually dates back thousands of years. While visitors can still explore the sight of a Bronze Age burial mound at Bill Hill, it wasn’t until the 14th century that Bracknell gained prominence as a Royal hangout. During this time, a hunting lodge was built at Easthampstead Park for King Edward III. This also happened to house the banished Catherine of Aragon following her divorce from Henry VIII.
During the Victorian era, Bracknell transitioned into a fully-fledged county town complete with local shopkeepers and a weekly cattle market. Victorian brickyards were also established with the famed Thomas Lawrence & Sons producing bricks for Westminster Cathedral and the Albert Hall.
Bracknell town underwent its most notable development after the housing crisis of the Second World War. Staying true to its county town origins, new neighbourhoods were designed with local community areas and green, open spaces. Although a business park and modern industries now flourish, Bracknell still retains the rural charm of its past.