"Reading - Home is where the heart is" Top 5 Page for this destination Reading by KennetRose
Reading Travel Guide: 225 reviews and 391 photos
Reading has been my home for a little over a year now, since I moved here from Bristol in June 2001. I lived here once before too, with my parents for a few months in 1976.
Reading is not a tourist city by any stretch of the imagination, and at first sight appears rather unprepossessing. But it has quite a lot of interest, and makes a useful base for exploring southern England, with its fast and frequent rail services to London, Oxford, Bristol, Southampton and Birmingham. It's also host to the original WOMAD festival every July.
First, a few facts:
Reading has a population of about 150,000 and is situated on the River Kennet, close to its confluence with the River Thames which flows just to the north.
Since 1974 the previously separate town of Caversham was incorporated into the new borough of Reading, so it now includes territory north of the Thames, connected to the town by two road bridges (which are hopelessly congested in the morning and evening rush hours)
Reading lies 65km due west of central London, and is home to a large number of commuters. It is not just a dormitory for London, however, and maintains a proud independence.
Historically the principal industries have been based on agriculture, and often referred to as the "Three Bs" - Bulbs (Sutton Seeds), Biscuits (Huntley & Palmer) and Beer (the once famous supplier of beer to the British Army, H & G Symonds). All of these have now gone.
The university, established in 1926, also has a strong agricultural emphasis but has diversified in recent decades to support Reading's new high-tech base, and contributes to a strong student body in the town, with a consequent effect on its life.
* The song Sumer is icumen in, sometimes known as the Reading Rota, was written by a monk at Reading Abbey in the middle of the 13th century. It is the oldest song known to have been written down, the oldest canon in English, and the oldest known song in six-part harmony. A copy of the notated song can be seen on a plaque on the walls of the abbey ruins.
* When a scandal caused a split at Oxford University, leading to the foundation of Cambridge University by a dissident faction, the remaining scholars transferred to Reading for several years before returning to Oxford. So although the present university dates only from 1927, the town has a scholarly tradition going back much further.
* Kate Winslet was born here on 5 October 1975 and is fondly regarded as Reading's favourite daughter.
* Oscar Wilde was confined to the town's prison between 1895 and 1897 for sodomy, and wrote De Profundis while he was there. (The better-known Ballad of Reading Gaol was written and published in Paris after his release.)
* T E Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia") is said to have left the manuscript of Seven Pillars of Wisdom at Reading railway station. He subsequently rewrote the whole lot from memory.
* Thomas Hardy set the fifth part of Jude the Obscure in Reading, to which he gave the fictional name "Aldbrickham". This was undoubtedly a reference to the austere red-brick appearance that the town still presents today, and was intended as a contrast with the grand limestone spires of "Christminster" (Oxford), the seat of Jude's thwarted ambitions.
- Pros:A vibrant and self-confident town with hidden secrets
- Cons:Not the most beautiful of towns!
- In a nutshell:More going for it than you might think
Reading's river is a surprisingly attractive one. For years it was hidden from the centre of town behind the brewery,... more travel advice
Reading is low-lying and prone to flooding in winter. This was the scene close to my home in early January, 2003 more travel advice
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- 105 Comments
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