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Reading Town, River and Canal

There are currently 2 comments and 2 photos online for this walk.

Reading Town, River and Canal
Author: Richard, Published: 03 Dec 2011 Walk rating : Rating:star1 Reading Town, River and Canal Walking Guidestar1 Reading Town, River and Canal Walking Guidestar1 Reading Town, River and Canal Walking Guidestar1 Reading Town, River and Canal Walking Guidestar0 Reading Town, River and Canal Walking Guide
Berkshire, Reading
Walk Type: History trail
Reading Town, River and Canal
Length: 3 miles,  Difficulty: boot Reading Town, River and Canal Walking Guide
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A 3 mile loop around Reading and its two rivers the Thames and Kennet. The walk takes in the Thames Path, former industrial areas and the historic grounds and ruins of Reading Abbey.

Reading is a large town built on the confluence of the River Thames and the River Kennet. It is also served by the Great Western Railway and the M4 Motorway. First evidence of settlement dates from the 8th Century although it became important in medieval times with the founding of Reading Abbey.

The walk follows a mixture of tarmac paths, grass tracks and towpaths. The walk is flat other than steps leading to and from the rivers, a long bridge over the Kennet Canal (suitable for people and horses!), and a small set of steps leading into Forbury Gardens at the end of the walk. Dogs should be kept under control along the route looking out for fishermen, cyclists, joggers and heavy road traffic in places. However, there is also the opportunity to visit two museums along the way that are not accessible for dogs. Approximate time 2 hours.

The walk starts outside of Reading Town Hall which now houses the Museum of Reading and is situated on Blagrave Street. There are several car parks near by including the Forbury Retail Park situated on Kenavon Drive, which is free and a short walk away. The postcode of the Town Hall is RG1 1QH

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Walk Sections

Town Hall to the River Thames
Town Hall to the River Thames

Start point: 51.4566 lat, -0.9704 long
End point: 51.4607 lat, -0.9678 long

Start by the Queen Victoria statue in Blagrave Street. With your back to the Town Hall which was completed in 1897, turn right and pass by the Tourist Information Centre and Museum. Cross Valpy street and then turn right into Forbury Road. Continue along the road until you reach the roundabout with the Rising Sun pub on your right. Turn left here and pass underneath the railway bridge. When you reach the pedestrian lights, cross the road and continue walking towards the river crossing Napier Road. When you reach the river bridge go down the steps onto the river path.

Along the Thames to the Boat Yard
Along the Thames to the Boat Yard

Start point: 51.4607 lat, -0.9678 long
End point: 51.4625 lat, -0.9591 long

Turn right walking away from the bridge heading downstream with the river on your left.

Continue to Caversham Lock, the original of which was built in 1778 into King’s Meadow. Running parallel to the lock is a weir and a footbridge over the river. Follow the Thames Path past the lock to the boat yard on the opposite side of the river.

Towards the Kennet Mouth
Towards the Kennet Mouth

Start point: 51.4625 lat, -0.9591 long
End point: 51.4592 lat, -0.9499 long

Continue along the Thames Path. There are some places here where dogs can swim but some of the banks are above deep water so please keep children and dogs under control. As you walk along the path you will pass by canal boats, derelict boats and luxury homes on the opposite bank

You will then come to Kennet Mouth with a waymark pointing along the Kennet Canal indicating the direction of Bristol.


Along the towpath to Blakes Lock
Along the towpath to Blakes Lock

Start point: 51.4592 lat, -0.9499 long
End point: 51.4561 lat, -0.9545 long

Turn right at the waymark along the bank and cross the Kennet via the Horseshoe Bridge which, is a timber-clad iron bridge constructed in 1891 to allow horses to cross the canal. Turn left and walk under Brunel’s railway bridge with the Kennet on your right. You are now entering one of the old industrial areas of Reading with the working remains of the gas works including a large gasometer on the opposite bank used for storing gas at night to meet the peak morning demand. This part of the canal has been in use since the 13th Century allowing goods to be taken to and from Reading Abbey.

As you continue along the canal towpath you will pass by new flats and two pubs that serve food with gardens to the front.

Onto Kings Road
Onto Kings Road

Start point: 51.4561 lat, -0.9545 long
End point: 51.4547 lat, -0.9606 long

Pass by Blake’s Lock next to which is a museum that tells the story of Reading’s two rivers. Go along the towpath past the weir and the flats overlooking both sides of the canal until you reach a bridge over the canal. Climb the steps here leaving the canal and join King’s Road. The River Kennet is often referred to as part of the navigable Kennet and Avon Canal running from the River Thames to Bristol and Bath.

Reading Gaol and Forbury Gardens
Reading Gaol and Forbury Gardens

Start point: 51.4547 lat, -0.9606 long
End point: 51.4569 lat, -0.9684 long

Turn right along Kings Road and follow the path round past the old Huntley and Palmers biscuit factory. Cross the road and turn right in front of the building called St James Wharf along the Forbury Road towards Reading Gaol. Turn left at Chestnut walk in front of the gaol which is most famous for housing Oscar Wilde who languished there for 18 months between 1895 and 1897. On his release from gaol he wrote the famous poem The Ballard of Reading Gaol.

Look for the gates with a silhouette of Wilde as you walk with a basin of the Kennet on your left. You will get your first glimpse of the ruins of Reading Abbey on your right.

Reading Abbey was founded by Henry I in 1121 who was buried in the grounds. The Abbey grew in importance and was visited by many kings including Henry III who visited several times a year. The abbey was largely destroyed in 1538 by Henry VIII and the abbot charged with treason and hung, drawn and quartered. Although in many areas only parts of the walls remain the Hospitium (1189) and Abbey Gateway have survived and been restored.

Follow the path to the right past some statues and look for some small steps straight ahead. Climb these and go through the small gardens with a large office block on your left. At the T-junction turn left towards the centre of Reading. Opposite Abbots Walk take the second set of gates on your right and enter Forbury Gardens which formed the outer court of Reading Abbey. Walk towards the large lion statue in front of you.

The Maiwand Lion is an iron sculpture within the Forbury Gardens and was named after the battle of Maiwand (Afghanistan) in 1886 where 329 men lost their lives. The fictional character Dr Watson was based on the medical officer of the regiment who was injured in the battle.

Going past the lion turn left and head towards the gates in the wall. Go through these gates across a small road and into a churchyard. Look to your left for a wooden plaque commemorating the death of Henry West who lost his life during a whirlwind at the Great Western Railway Station on 24 March 1840 aged 24 years.

Continue through the graveyard where you will find the Queen Victoria statue - the beginning of the walk.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2011 by the author Richard and may not be reproduced without permission.


2 responses to "Reading Town, River and Canal"

Nice walk, lived in Reading for 20+Years didn't realise you could walk so much riverside paths!

By ServeanSell on 2013-09-22 14:44:06

A lovely walk, which reveals a hidden Reading - a historical town and one with all kinds of waterways.

By thomasjellis on 2015-06-26 18:01:15

The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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2 images to "Reading Town, River and Canal"

425_0Richard1322937734 Reading Town, River and Canal Walking Guide Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 01 Jan 1970
Henry West memorial - killed in a whirlwind aged 24
425_0Richard1414699934 Reading Town, River and Canal Walking Guide Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 01 Jan 1970
Huntley & Palmers Biscuit Factory (Dinner Hour)
Valentine's - postcard"

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