Why move to Wokingham?
PUBLISHED: 13:09 16 July 2008 | UPDATED: 15:21 20 February 2013
Market town feel, easy city access - no wonder people want to live here, says Carol Evans...
IMAGES: Jeff Hopkins
Wokingham could never be classified as one of Sir Max Hasting's 'clone' towns. True, there are a few chains here, but its centre is dominated not by some characterless 'mall' but by its market hall. People choose to live here because it offers all the advantages of a small market town yet it's still within easy reach of big city razzmatazz.
Property prices are high here, yet unlike similar towns in the Home Counties, Wokingham is totally unpretentious with a good mix of housing in and around its centre. Indeed, the fact that so many homes are based within walking distance of the shops - and a railway station - adds to its desirability.
"There is such a diverse property market here. You can get pretty much any kind of property you want," says Matthew Witney, manager of Roman's estate agents. "Whether it's an older style property with a big garden, something from the 1970s or a one-bedroomed flat, you'll find it here."
That one-bedroomed flat could set you back around £135,000 and up to £500,000 for a typical modern four-bedroomed detached. Prices for a two-bedroomed Edwardian terrace house are in excess of £250,000. In prime locations, it would not be unusual to pay around £440,000 for a substantial Victorian three-bed semi or £850,000 to £1.5 million for a large detached.
One of the town's newest developments is Imperial Court, on Reading Road, opposite the historic Shute End Terrace. Here you'll find 40 one and two-bed apartments for the over 55 market, aimed at 'discerning downsizers.'
In 2007, Halifax, one of the country's largest estate agents, ranked Wokingham as the Number One place to live in the UK. And it's not hard to see why. With a full complement of high street stores lining its four main shopping streets, the town is completely self-contained.
You can buy almost anything here, from clothes, shoes and ironmongery to bread, ballet shoes and dog baskets. And if you really can't find what you want, then Reading and its huge shopping mall, The Oracle, is just seven miles away by road - or ten minutes by train.
Wokingham boasts numerous restaurants serving a diverse range of foods, including Chinese, Thai, Italian, Indian as well as lots of character pubs offering hearty snacks and fine food.
A swimming pool, two leisure centres, tennis courts, recreation and cricket grounds serve the needs of the sporty and if you want to support a really local team, then look no further than the Wokingham and Emmbrook Football Club.
The town itself has an 800-year-old history and much of this can still be observed in the streets fanning out from the iconic Victorian Gothic town hall at the centre. Medieval cottages are features of Peach and Rose Streets, elegant Georgian and Queen Anne properties line the wide boulevard that is Broad Street while the oldest of all, an attractive 12th century cottage, sits on The Terrace at the town's entrance from Reading.
The town was once famous for the bull baiting and cock fighting that took place in its market place. Crowds now come, not for illicit bloodthirsty sports, but for Wokingham's regular market and, once a month, a farmers' market which has a reputation spreading for miles around.
Out & About
Property prices: Expect to pay around £135,000 for a one bedroomed flat in the town centre, £250,000 for a two-bed Edwardian terrace house and £350-500,000 for a modern four-bed detached. Substantial Victorian semis in the best locations fetch around £440,000, while large detacheds could go for anything up to £1.5 million.
Best areas: Murdoch Road, Sturges Road and Crescent Road, close to the town centre contain large Victorian semi and detached houses.
Ups: Good community atmosphere, low crime area, plenty of shops and restaurants plus an excellent Farmers' Market on the first Thursday of the month. A very good rail service to Reading, London Waterloo and Gatwick Airport. Easy access to London and Heathrow by road on the M4.
Downs: Traffic congestion during peak times, not helped by the town's one-way system and level crossing, can be frustrating.
Amenities: All the services one would expect in any town, including medical facilities and hospital, library, shops and eateries. The town boasts several parks, open spaces and recreation grounds. There is a swimming pool, sports and leisure centres plus a theatre run by the local amateur dramatic group, the Wokingham Theatre.
Schools: The town has a number of good primary schools. For secondary state education, The Holt (for girls) and Forest School (boys) come with high reputations, although the two other comprehensives, The Emmbrook School and St Crispin's School are also well regarded. Private education is provided at Luckley Oakfield (girls) and Bearwood College (mixed). As youngsters, Princes William and Harry attended Ludgrove School.
What the locals say: Dave Allen, who has lived here for two years, says: "We love being able to walk to the town centre shops. We can buy everything we want here and there's a good variety of pubs and restaurants."