READING is a significant shopping and business centre and a university town. It has a farmers’ market twice a month. Its prosperity used to be based on beer (Courage), bulbs (Suttons) and biscuits (Huntley & Palmer), but now it has a much higher profile as the gateway to ‘silicon valley’. Seven out of 10 American IT firms have bases here, including Microsoft and Oracle. The train service to London is superb – about one every seven minutes – as it is one of the busiest rail interchanges in the country (see also Waterloo to Reading. Reading is also the terminus of the Kennet and Avon canal, which offers some marvellous walks to the west.
Different areas cater for different tastes. On the Thames, Caversham Heights has a mix of detached houses, flat conversions and modern apartments, and is very residential. The most expensive address is The Warren, up on a hill with river views. A two-bedroom flat in an Edwardian conversion with a mooring and garden sloping down to the river would sell for around £290,000. A large, five-bedroom Edwardian house in three-quarters of an acre costs about £895,000. Lower Caversham offers mainly Victorian terrace housing with some modern infilling. A three-bedroom terrace would cost £190,000; a modern two-bedroom flat on the river, £340,000. Caversham Park village is made up of town houses built a couple of decades ago. Prices tend to hover between £200,000 and £300,000, which makes it attractive to young families and first-time buyers. Emmer Green is very Thirties, with a lot of open land and golf courses. A three-bedroom semi here would cost around £230,000.
West and east Reading are cosmopolitan, and prices are slightly lower. A one-bedroom flat would cost £110,000; a three-bedroom Victorian house up to £220,000. To the south is Lower Earley and to the west Tilehurst, both with their own railway stations. A three-bedroom semi costs from £200,000 to £300,000. Whiteknights Road, where the university is situated, has large Edwardian houses that sell from £350,000 to £500,000.
The popular villages nearby include Pangbourne, Goring and Streatley. Sonning Common, just inside Oxfordshire, is not beautiful in itself, but it lies in a sleepy and countrified area. It has a swag of shops, a bank and a vet. A two-bedroom detached bungalow might be bought for £250,000 upwards. Most of the villages to the south of Reading are not particularly outstanding in any way.