Reading lies just 40 miles west of London, at junction 10 and 11 of the M4. The centre of the town nestles on a low ridge between the Rivers Thames and Kennet.
Bringing shoppers from near and far, the Oracle, located in the heart of the town, combines the best in fashion and leisure. It takes its name from a seventeenth century workhouse that once occupied part of the site, built by contributions from local man John Kendrick.
With more than 90 top named shops to choose from including Karen Millen, Mango and French Connection, or the usual chain stores for those on a stricter budget, the Oracle has much to offer any shopaholic.
Situated in the heart of The Oracle is the 270 metre riverside promenade stretching along both sides of the River Kennet, featuring a wide range of restaurants, cafes and bars with outdoor seating for those who fancy al fresco dining, as well as a 10-screen multiplex cinema. Two bridges span the river - Cooks Bridge, a straight footbridge links The Riverside Car Park to House of Fraser, and Delphi Bridge, gives access from the cinema to Debenhams.
Reading has much to offer any historian with the Museum of Reading, located in the old Town Hall. It contains galleries describing the history of Reading and its related industries, a gallery of artifacts discovered during the excavations of Silchester Roman Town, a copy of the Bayeux Tapestry and an art collection.
The oldest part of Reading's old Town Hall is the Victoria Hall, which was constructed in 1786 and its clock tower is still a distinctive Reading landmark. The beautiful Forbury Gardens and Abbey Ruins were once the forecourt of Reading Abbey, and the ruins of the Abbey itself can be found between the park and the River Kennet. Henry I, the Abbey's founder and benefactor was buried here in front of the high alter in 1136. The town's prison, built in 1844 is most famous for imprisoning Irish poet Oscar Wilde from November 1895 to May 1897.
Another man who has helped put Reading on the map, is John Madejski, who became chairman of Reading FC in 1990. The Royals have done much for the town's credibility after winning promotion into the premiership for the first time in their 135-year history on March 25th 2006.
Reading FC was formed in 1871 and they were originally nicknamed the Biscuitmen after one of the main trades in the town, Huntley & Palmers biscuits. But they changed their name to the Royals in the 1970s due to Reading's location in the Royal County of Berkshire. The club played at Reading Recreation Ground until 1878, before moving on to Reading Cricket Ground (1878-1882), Coley Park (1882-1889) and Caversham Cricket Ground (1889-1896).
The switch to professionalism in 1895 meant a need for a bigger ground, so the club moved to the purpose built Elm Park on September 5 1896. Finally, in 1998, they switched to the new state-of-the-art all-seater 24,200 capacity Madejski Stadium - named of course after Mr Madejski who contributed much of the £25 million needed to build it.
In 2000 Mr Madejski was awarded an OBE in recognition of his contribution to Reading FC and the Reading community, after supporting local arts and education projects. In 2000, the John Madejski Art Gallery was opened at the town hall and the John Madejski Academy is due to open its doors to pupils in September 2006.
The town also has its own University and it offers degree programmes in more than 60 subjects, and in excess of 250 part-time adult education courses, with a population of more than 15,000, and staff or around 4,000.
The University of Reading's educational heritage dates back to the end of the 19th century and it received its Royal Charter in 1926, the only university to do so between the two world wars. It stretches across three campuses, all within 10 minutes of Reading town centre – the beautiful 320 acre Whiteknights parkland campus, and the campuses at Bulmershe Court and London Road.The University has its own million pound 3Sixty nightclub on campus - recently ranked one of the top university venues in the UK by the NUS.
Reading is a campus-based university, with shops, cafes and a bank all on site. Most halls of residence are within easy walk, adding to the real sense of community, and most have their own bars. The University has its own million pound 3Sixty nightclub on campus - recently ranked one of the top university venues in the UK by the NUS.
But should students wish to venture out, or if residents fancy trying out the nightlife, or enjoying its very own cinema, the campus is just a short bus or taxi ride from the town centre.
Music lovers will know Reading for its famous annual Reading festival, held at Little John's Farm on Richfield Avenue in central Reading, near the Caversham Bridge on the bank holiday weekend in August. In 2010 it drew in 82,000 onto the site.
Text kindly provided by "The Berkshire Local"