Adventures around Readingwith PlusBus
Fascinating museums, a ruined abbey, a famous gaol, a festival, lots of pubs and cafés and some terrific walks along the Thames, one of the town’s two rivers: Reading has a lot going for it. The town is home to more than 300,000 people. It’s bigger than cities like Newcastle, Nottingham, and Oxford; in fact, it’s the UK’s largest urban area not to have city status. And now, at one end of the new Elizabeth Line, it’s easier to get to than ever. Add PlusBus to your train ticket and you can hop on the bus to explore Reading’s hidden gems.
1. Abbey ruins, Rural Life and more
In the heart of Reading’s urban sprawl, you might be surprised to England’s most comprehensive collection of things relating to the history of the farming and the countryside. At the Museum of English Rural Life, you’ll find garden with a shepherd’s hut and a dozen galleries packed with scythes, cider jars, wagons, straw figures, a giant teapot and lots more. See Good Journey’s directions. Your PlusBus ticket can take you to the museum and lots of other places too.
- Regular Bus 3 and others from outside Reading’s huge railway station (Blagrave Street exit) runs past some of the most interesting parts of the town and stop, about 12 minutes later, near Redlane Court. From here, it’s a three-minute walk to the museum. But you might prefer to walk part of the way from the station through Reading’s abbey ruins.
- The ruins of Reading’s medieval abbey, once part of one of the biggest royal monasteries in Europe, are just a short stroll from the station, past Reading Museum, with its own version of the Bayeux Tapestry. Walk through the green space of Forbury Gardens, where the big lion statue commemorates soldiers who died in the late 19th century.
- On the far side of the ruins, you can exit through a gate near the River Kennet and turn L onto a waterside path past Reading Gaol, where Oscar Wilde was imprisoned. Cross the river and turn a few steps right to pick up the bus from a stop near the red brick Huntley and Palmers building, once the world’s biggest biscuit factory!
- The Museum of English Rural Life celebrates Reading’s biscuity legacy with a 2022 exhibition to mark 200 years since Huntley and Palmers biscuits, began life as a small bakery.
2. Walk the Thames Path
The mighty River Thames runs through Reading on its journey from a Gloucestershire field to the sea. The long-distance Thames Path along its banks takes you past waterside mansions, grassy fields and low wooded hills. Look out for red kites circling overhead and graceful swans floating on the water. When you’ve had enough riverside rambling, you’re never far from a bus stop to take you back into town.
- Exit from the station onto Bagnall Way, cross the main road and follow Norman Place to reach the river. Turn right along the Thames Path for a three-mile walk to Sonning Lock. You could detour on the way, over the bridge across Caversham Lock to an island. This urban nature reserve is home to kingfishers, grebes, herons and woodpeckers.
- After you pass Sonning lock and before you reach the brick road bridge, you can turn right, away from the river, along a footpath to St Andrew’s church.
- The half-timbered Bull Inn, where you can take a well-earned break, is just through a gate on the far side of the churchyard. From round the corner on Sonning’s High Street, buses 128 and 129 run regularly (less on Saturdays, not Sundays) back to Reading’s railway station and your PlusBus ticket is valid.
- There’s a good walk in the other direction too. Turning left near the station with the river on your right and follow the Thames Path to Purley. After four pleasant waterside miles, the route leads over the railway to a path through woods and then winds through houses back towards the river with glimpses through trees of Mapledurham House.
- On Wintringham Way, you’ll find the quirky Mad Duck Café. From Chestnut Grove bus stop, which is very nearby, bus 21 sky blue runs frequently, even on Sundays, back to Reading railway station and you can use your PlusBus ticket.