WOKINGHAM Despite centuries of doffing its cap to nearby royals in Windsor Forest, Wokingham was not granted a coat of arms until Coronation year, 1953. A relic of the royal hunt still survives in Nine Mile Ride, which was cut through the forest to enable ladies to follow the chase from their carriages. The town’s Millennium effort to plant 200,000 bulbs has meant that every public and private space should be covered in a haze of bluebells each spring.
The old market town has expanded rapidly during the last few decades, swelling its population from 9,000 to around 150,000. Strategically, Wokingham is extremely well-placed, being served by the A329 London to Reading road and by the M4, which links it to Heathrow airport, the West of England and South Wales. Bus services provide links to Reading and Bracknell. The town centre is surrounded by modern residential streets, many of which are still lined with old oaks and other forest trees. On the west side stands the Woosehill development, containing more than 2,000 houses, shops, a school and community and health centres. Most of it went up in the Seventies and Eighties. The mixed estate offers flats and one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom houses at prices ranging from £150,000 to £500,000. A relatively new addition is Keephatch Park, which has five-bedroom detached houses at £500,000 to £550,000 and four-bedroom houses at £350,000 upwards.
There are a few attractive 16th- and 17th-century houses, particularly in Rose Street and Shute End. An 18th-century three-bedroom house in Rose Street with no garden could cost £400,000, but would be a rare buy.
The most expensive parts of town are in Murdoch and Sturges Roads, just to the south-east of the centre, where prices for large Edwardian houses, with four or five bedrooms and big gardens, start at £1m. Priest Avenue and Rances Lane are also desirable, where three-bedroom houses in large gardens cost £375,000. Cheaper properties built in the Sixties are found around the Mulberry Business Park and along the Finchampstead and Luckley Roads. A three-bedroom bungalow here will cost around £300,000.
In the north, the large Emmbrook development was begun in the Thirties, with additions in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties. Modest estate-type housing predominates, with prices starting at £200,000 for a two-bedroom terraced house and rising to £400,000 for a four-bedroom, detached chalet-style house.
Wokingham is a good area for golf fanatics, who have five courses to choose from. It also has public playing fields, a sports centre, indoor swimming pool and a small theatre. Shops include Tesco, Waitrose and W.H. Smith, and a farmers’ market is held on the first Thursday in the month. Four weeks before Christmas the town seizes up for the winter carnival, and each February it turns out for the half marathon, which attracts over 1,750 entrants.