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At the heart of the Thames Valley sits one of the largest towns in England. Despite its economic success and growing population, Reading is yet to receive ‘city’ status. For now, it remains a sought-after town which rivals some of the UK’s biggest cities.
Often cited as one of the best places to work and live in the country, the region has enjoyed unprecedented growth in recent years. It’s partly due to its close proximity to London – only 30 minutes via train – and the area is now considered a mecca for leading tech firms. Some of the big names with operations here include Microsoft, Dell and Ericsson.
Situated in business parks close to the M4 corridor, these modern industries haven’t spoiled the integrity of the surrounding Thames countryside. Nearby villages such as Sonning, Winnersh and Streatley promise a slower pace of life complete with thatched cottages and country pubs. Scenic open spaces are also located in and around the town, with the River Thames a short walking distance away.
Reading is a top retail destination thanks to its impressive shopping complexes such as The Oracle – a large indoor mall and leisure centre. Other attractions include the many sporting facilities, from golf courses to swimming pools, not forgetting the Madejski Stadium.
This provides all the convenience of a city, made even more appealing due to its enduring rural charm. As such, Reading promises an unrivalled housing location for both old and young.
The close proximity to the M4 corridor provides convenient access to the M25, linking to London and the rest of the UK. Both the M40 and M3 are within easy reach, and travel to Heathrow by car takes approximately 40 minutes.
As a major transportation hub, Reading station offers similar appeal for those travelling by train. Services between London Paddington and Reading run every 15 to 20 minutes, taking as little as 30 minutes. As part of the Crossrail programme in 2019, this journey time is expected to reduce further with the introduction of a high-capacity railway.
Reading is home to some of the top-performing schools in the country. There are more than 35 primary schools within the borough, providing plenty of choice for those with smaller children.
At the secondary level, the options are just as extensive, with a handful of outstanding grammar and independent schools. Reading School, a boys’ grammar school with academy status, is one of the oldest in England. Girls have the option of Kendrick School, named third in the Telegraph’s league table of the UK’s 100 top-performing schools based on GCSE results.
The University of Reading boasts exceptional facilities for higher education, considered amongst the top 1% of universities in the world. Alternatively, Reading College offers young adults over 900 courses. These include both university-level programmes and apprenticeships.
It may boast all the convenience of a modern town, but Reading’s 1,000-year history is ever-present. The many historic treasures provide an insight into its vibrant past, which began during the 6th century. As a stronghold for a Viking tribe, a settlement was formed and later captured by the Danes in 871.
Prosperity was to follow throughout the middle ages. The town became an established stopover on the main road from London, and a popular destination among pilgrims. An abbey was commissioned by Henry I, but later closed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The crumbled ruins can still be explored to this day.
Despite the civil unrest which was to follow, the many industries of Reading continued to flourish. The wool and leather trades were later replaced with silk production and iron founding. Infrastructure improved in the Victorian era with the opening of a hospital and science school. This prosperity carried through to the 20th century with the launch of Reading University in 1926. Today, Reading has transformed into a modern-day hub and sought-after location for high-tech businesses and start-ups.
With something for both visitors and residents, Reading offers an exciting mix of attractions. From the many historic sights to the impressive shopping complexes and family-friendly amenities, here are some of the highlights: