Things to Do in Reading

With such attractions as the Thames and Kennet rivers, the medieval ruins of Reading Abbey, the beautiful Thames Valley countryside, a major shopping centre and a host of restaurants and pubs, there is certainly a lot to do in this fascinating town in Berkshire called Reading (pronounced as "redding," as in "bedding," and not as "reeding.") However, as they say, you can never get enough of a good thing. So make it a point not to miss Reading's festivals and walks any time you're in town.

There are two annual festivals, both held on the open-area Rivermead site beside the River Thames that has put Reading on the international music scene. These are the Reading Festival, officially known as 'Carling Weekend Reading' although no one ever calls it that, and WOMAD or World of Music, Arts and Dance (WOMAD).

Since 1971, Reading has staged the Reading Festival, a very popular local event and the biggest annual festival in town. It's a great event where visitors are usually thrilled by the presence of major musical acts, including local artists who have made a name on the national scene such as the heavy metal rock group, Exit Ten, and the indie-synth-pop artist Mr Fogg as well as the likes of other home-grown artists like Mike Oldfield of the Tubular Bells, Slowdive, The Cooper Temple Clause, Stuart Price, Three Litre and Morning Runner.

WOMAD began in 1990 and features a dazzling array of international music, arts and dance that celebrate the world's cultural diversity. Beginning in 2007 and onwards, the WOMAD festival will be held in Wiltshire.

While these festivals are two distinct celebrations, they both succeed in drawing thousands of visitors to Reading every July and August when they are staged. Visitors are advised to book their accommodations and festival tickets in advance.

Meanwhile, the Reading Real Ale and Jazz Festival, is another great festival that promises a rollicking good time. This annual event, which started in 1987, brings together a collection of breweries from all over the country. The festival's aim is to bring as many different real ales to Reading.

Merrymakers enjoy the beers over a three-day span, with a generous serving of local culinary delights such as the popular hog roast, while top-quality traditional jazz plays in the background. More than 15,000 pints are consumed at the Reading Real Ale and Jazz Festival, selling at £2 a pint, and as the guests are wont to say, there's not a bad beer among them.

The next staging of the Reading Real Ale and Jazz Festival will be on July 2008 at the Christchurch Meadow on the banks of the River Thames.

There is also the annual Water Fest, which is celebrated with a slew of events along the Abbey ruins and through the Kennet and Avon canal. It is an especially thrilling event for young children. A wide array of craft stalls are also on hand to add to the merriment.

A favourite past-time in Reading is to take one of the many possible walks in the area. For instance, there is the Thameside walk to Sonning. The walk starts from Reading Bridge and Caversham Lock, which is about five minutes away from downtown Reading. It traverses the towpath to the old village of Sonning, stretching about four miles in length and featuring open landscape and wooded river margins.

The Thameside walk to Tilehurst is another attractive walk and stretches to about three miles. It begins at the Caversham Bridge, which is about 10 minutes away from downtown Reading, passes the Thames-side Promenade and follows the towpath to its end, which is the site of an old ferry. A nearby path leads to the main Reading to Oxford road in the Tilehurst suburbs. Following the road towards Reading leads to the Tilehurst rail station where there are many buses and trains that head back to Reading.

The View of the Thames walk is a popular option for visitors to Reading. It is actually as series of walks starting from Goring Railway Station. These walks stretch to between four to 10 miles in length and provide spectacular views. The View of the Thames Web site provides more details to interested parties.

Finally, there's the Marlow Donkey & River Walk, which is actually not only a walk but also a train ride. It begins by hopping on the train that leads from Reading to Bourne End station. From there, it is a delightful stroll along the most alluring parts of the River Thames all the way to the Thameside town of Marlow. The stroll is about six miles long. 

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