Discover why Reading was chosen as one of The Sunday Times Best Places to Live 2022 in their words.
Don’t be shocked. The behemoth of Berkshire is here on merit. Reading used to be known for the 3Bs — beer, bulbs and biscuits — which underpinned its industry in its 19th-century heyday.
Today the Double-Barrelled Brewery usually has more than a dozen craft ales available; the Biscuit Factory is a brilliant new cinema that hosts everything from life-drawing to wine tasting; while the third B is now business parks: the commercial megalopolis that is Thames Valley Park, which also has 80 acres of wetland and green space beside the River Thames; the eco-friendly Green Park, built around a lake and dominated by Ecotricity’s 85m wind turbine; and building has just started on the huge new Shinfield Studios, the UK’s biggest film and television studios.
It is the availability of jobs, relatively affordable house prices and a fantastically accessible location, with trains that will take you to the centre of London faster than most Londoners can get there, that make Reading a right-on millennial favourite. It’s a place you can prosper and plan your future. There are two schools in The Sunday Times Parent Power’s top 20, a retail and restaurant offering from Primark to L’Ortolan, and still more to come with the redevelopment of Station Hill.
Charlotte Chatfield, a design operations manager, moved here from east London just before the pandemic, attracted — like so many — by the transport links and reasonable house prices. Last year, 68 per cent of buyers in the suburb of Earley were under 40, according to research by Hamptons estate agency. “There’s a real community here, and I love how unpretentious it is. It’s cosy and chilled, and although there’s a lot going on, people don’t tend to shout about it,” she says.
Her highlights include outdoor swimming and tapas at the Thames Lido — like its celebrated sister in Bristol, but a bit smarter — and the walk along the Thames to Sonning, where you can relax over brunch, lunch or dinner at the Coppa Club, or just try to catch a glimpse of George Clooney.
The twice-a-month town-centre farmers’ market was voted one of the country’s best. Reading is also the home of the UK’s oldest triathlon club, an entrepreneurial university and there’s a fast-improving cultural offering, that stretches far beyond the annual post-GCSE invasion for the Reading Festival. There are some cracking green spaces — Forbury Gardens and Caversham Court Gardens are a delight, and the paths beside the Thames and the Kennet and Avon Canal are a blissful alternative to roads that could do with a lot less traffic.
All the town lacks is a great big space where the many local arty and creative types can come together to show their talents to the world. The good news is that Reading Gaol, temporary residence of Oscar Wilde, is standing empty and a plan is in place to convert it into exactly the arts centre that the town needs. Support is certainly there, and the council has put in a bid for the revamp.
Thousands turned out to see the Banksy mural that appeared on the wall last year, and local girl Kate Winslet has promised to appear on stage on the first night if the plan goes ahead.
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Prices are correct as of April 2022.
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