17 fantastic things that make Newtown GREAT

A wordsearch. Splurge. Biscuits. A horsehoe. An echo chamber … all unconnected. Until you visit Newtown. Steeped in modern history, blessed with great pubs and picturesque scenery, there is nowhere quite like Newtown. And here are 17 things that make the area so great.

Do you agree? What have we missed out on? Have your say at the bottom of our article…

Reach the canal and turn right, keeping walking and you’ll find yourself enjoying riverside walks, green open spaces and the gorgeous Thames Path to Sonning. Go over the Horseshoe Bridge, follow the river and you’ll end up in King’s Meadow.

2. It’s just 15 minutes’ walk to Reading’s town centre

Reach the canal, turn left, keep walking and you’ll find yourself at The Oracle’s Riverside. Terribly handy and quicker than driving, with no parking fees too. And if those bags are heavy on the way back you can always catch the Number 17, the 13 or 14, or the 190 and 191 buses, all of which stop at Cemetery Junction.

3. There are two great pubs on Kennetside

The Jolly Anglers and The Fisherman’s Cottage are perfect for lazy days watching the River Kennet go by. With beer gardens, real ales, pub grub and friendly locals – and the footy – you can’t beat a summer’s day here.

4. The canal is home to two historic bridges

One was built by Brunel, the other is the horseshoe bridge. Once it used to let barge horses cross from one side of the River to the other, now it’s a footbridge to Kings Meadow (and Tesco Reading East). The Brunel bridge is one of his earliest and is a fantastic echo chamber. Hands up who hasn’t walked through it and made a loud noise?

5. Feeding the ducks. And Swans. And pigeons.

Going down to the canal? Bring bread  to feed the hungry ducks and swans. Pause for a second by the water and they’ll come charging towards you. The pigeons also lie in wait on New Town Primary School’s roof, lest you leave any crumbs behind. It’s a perfect way to spend an idle hour with youngsters.

6. The Hargun Superstore

There are almost as many corner shops as corners in Newtown, but the Hargun is a veritable goldmine of ethnic cooking gear and goods. As well as everything you need to make an authentic Asian feast (including the pots and pans), the store includes Polish and other world foods. Well worth a browse but you may come away with more than you’d intended.

7. It boasts (at least) two bands: The Newtowners and Dolly and the Clothes Pegs

You’ll frequently find them randomly performing in various parts of the Thames Valley. One does blues and the Modern covers mixed with foot stomping fiddle tunes, and classics played with wild abandon. Both are fab.

8. If you need a listening ear, the Samaritans is based in Newtown

It’s hidden away down Cholmeley Road, but the local branch of The Samaritans offers its essential listening service should anyone need it. And they’re always after volunteers…

9. Amity Street is next to Amity Road — but mix them up and you have to go round the one-way system again

Amity Street is small, connects Cholmeley Road with Cumberland Road, is a major thoroughfare for Newtown and has a turning off it for Amity Street, which is one-way. Before you get to Newtown, make you double check if it’s Street or Road you need, otherwise you’ll have your own Amityville horror having to navigate London Road to get back into Newtown and start again. Oh and dig those street signs. How many of those are left in Reading?

10. Bugsy Malone was filmed in Newtown

Parts of the famous splurge fight was filmed at the Huntley & Palmers Factory, which is just at the end of Newtown. The movie was made before the area was redeveloped, but Reading’s famous brickwork can be seen on screen.

11. Which reminds us .. how many other places can say that biscuits built their homes?

Newtown was built mainly for people who worked in the bustling Huntley & Palmers Biscuit Factory, from 1870 onwards. And because it’s been built in a piecemeal fashion, the houses vary in size, shape and look. Keep you eyes out as you wander around and you’ll see the variations, some fat, some thin, some tall and some small.

12. The big tree between Cumberland Road and Amity Street

It’s a local landmark of the ecological variety – and very handy if you’re caught in a rain shower as it acts as a giant umbrella. Many children love playing in the cut through between Cumberland Road and Amity Street and this tree is one of the reasons why.

13. This wordsearch in a children’s playground

Avon Place Play Ground is an unsung hero. Small and not as glamorous as Palmer Park’s two (count ’em) parks and dwarfed by St John’s School’s playing fields, the park is rarely used. But it contains lots of entertain small people including a climbing frame/slide/pirate ship combo. On its ‘walls’ are some puzzles including a wordsearch that contains words in French and English. Can you find them all?

14. Thames Valley Police stopped the drug dealing

For years, Orts Road and Arthur Place were the place to go in Reading if you needed some drugs. On some days you’d even see people queueing up to get their fix. Until May 10, 2011, when 200 Thames Valley Police officers descended on 16 addresses in the area and finally sorted out the problem once and for all. The steps leading up to Arthur Place from Kennetside have since been replaced with a small garden area – cleaner and greener, that’s Newtown.

15. Everyone gets on with each other

Where else can you find a church, a mosque and a Sikh temple within yards of each other and not have any tension? When it snowed in 2012, guys from the Mosque went out and cleared the pavements of the Sikh temple so people could get to it.

16. It’s Green (well, at the time of writing)

Newtown is part of Park Ward, which is the only ward in Reading to be represented totally by Green councillors – although Rob White is up for re-election in May 2014. It sums up Newtown: a little bit left-of-field, quirky and caring.

17. Cemetery Junction is at the top

But that’s a whole other list of great things about Reading 🙂