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Some of the best things to see and do in Maidenhead

PUBLISHED: 10:49 15 January 2019 | UPDATED: 10:50 15 January 2019

River Thames at Maidenhead (Mick Vogel)

River Thames at Maidenhead (Mick Vogel)

MICK VOGEL

Idyllic views of the Thames, a vibrant arts scene and new eateries popping up all over the town, Maidenhead is about to have its big moment

Maidenhead is having a revival; it’s on the cusp of a major regeneration, meaning people are no longer heading out of town for entertainment and shopping; but instead, homebuyers, day-trippers – and celebrities – are heading in. And this seems only right for the biggest town in the Royal Borough.

The riverside market town has, in fact, been home to the Spice Girls, Michael Parkinson, Richard Dimbleby, Michelin-star chefs – and it is also the stomping ground of the Prime Minister, Theresa May. So what is it about this town that’s so appealing?

Just under an hour away from London, Maidenhead is easily accessible. It will also be a station on the new Crossrail line, and just over a year ago, the Royal Borough set up the Partnership for the Regeneration of Maidenhead and launched a 20-Year Vision and Action Plan for rejuvenating the town centre.

We will soon see a retail and residential development called ‘The Landing’ and an upgraded train station. Smart offices and company headquarters are also cropping up. It’s exciting stuff.

Right now though, at the heart of the town, you’ll find the busy high street and the Nicholson’s Shopping Centre. There’s a large Odeon cinema and the extremely popular Magnet Leisure Centre, although this is due to be replaced by a state-of-the-art new one as part of the regeneration project.

The new attractive waterway at the Chapel Arches development is bringing up the town, with the vibrant Coppa Club and Bakedd artisan café having opened next to the water.

The upmarket riverside area near the iconic Maidenhead Bridge is also being redeveloped. Built on the site of the Skindles Hotel, which had a reputation for illicit liaisons, the new Roux at Skindles, brought to you by Michel and son Alain Roux, is a French-inspired friendly local hub. Take a walk up the Thames from here to Ray Mill Island, where you’ll find Boulters Lock brasserie with amazing views over the river, a café and playpark, an aviary and guinea pig enclosure, stunning gardens and a 600-year-old weir.

Want to live here? Us too, but this popular leafy residential area by the river is pricey, as are the impressive boats that sail by.

Maidenhead is a rowing centre, and there’s the annual regatta, which is not to be missed. And while we’re on the subject of sports, the town’s football team, Maidenhead United, play at York Road, which, if you’re interested in facts, is the oldest football ground in the world.

If you want to find out more about the history of the town, pop into Maidenhead Heritage Centre. Maidenhead also has a zoo at the Berkshire College of Agriculture, with over 100 different species.

Norden Farm Centre for the Arts is the destination of choice for arts workshops, performances, classes, festivals and more.

So with a line-up of events, new shops, restaurants, cafes, new waterways and entertainment venues, modern Maidenhead has so much going for it, the future of the town looks set to be exciting. 


Cool, cosy artisan cafe

Down in the new Chapel Arches development of Maidenhead, at the bottom of the high street, you’ll find a warm, inviting artisan cafe that has opened on the waterside.

“We feel incredibly lucky with our location on the waterfront,” says Founder and Managing Director of Bakedd, Emre Yilmaz. He and his wife, Gul, who hail from Turkey, have been living in Maidenhead for 10 years.

“We’ve always been interested in food. Making it and sharing it is part of our family culture. We wanted to open a café with unique Mediterranean and European tastes for those looking for a reason to come to the town centre. Hospitality is part of our culture in Turkey. Theresa May has even been in here. It was a great honour to host her.

“Since opening, we have had lots of positive feedback about the taste of the food and the service. We make everything in-house. Our most popular product is simit, a Turkish pastry. Our customers love it. Another signature product is pain paillasse – a unique bread.

“Maidenhead is being updated and in five to 10 years time, the town will be totally different. We feel proud to be a pioneer in the redevelopment process. We are turning traffic the other way. Now people are coming here from Marlow and Windsor, rather than the other way round. It’s great.”

Every month, Bakedd also hosts a painting session with Twisted Art Parties. “It’s a collaboration with Maidenhead artist Angela Mitchell,” says Yilmaz. “Every month, she comes in and runs a fun, sociable evening where you can have a go at creating a masterpiece of your own.” 


Get crafty

In the Nicholsons Centre on the High Street, you’ll find a unique space full of handcrafted gifts and accessories called the Craft Coop. It is a collective of local craft producers and designers that gives its members the opportunity to sell their products.

“Director Teresa Mills was inspired by an artists’ cooperative community in Denmark, and we were extremely lucky to have been running craft fairs for a few years before Steph James (Town Centre Manager) and Jane Wright (Nicholsons Centre Manager) asked us if we would set up a pop-up market in an empty unit in the Nicholsons Centre. After a few one-day pop-up markets, we moved on to longer pop-ups in the Nicholsons Centre, moving to a different unit about every six weeks for several years,” says Director Deborah Jones.

“We wanted to help with the town centre revitalisation and regeneration by using their empty units and creating a vibrant and welcoming hub, and we’re always really keen to be involved in anything going on in the town. After becoming a Community Interest Company, we were able to put down roots in our current shop, and have stopped moving around − at least for now!

“Both Teresa and I live in Maidenhead, and have done for many years. Our children went to local schools, and we believe it’s important to support the community we live in, any way we can.”

Craft Coop is home to about 30 different craftspeople. “We have new people coming in all of the time. Twice a year, we run an Open Call, which attracts even more people, so there’s always something new in the shop,” says Deborah. “We also have an activity area, which is used for parties and workshops, and people can use it for free when there’s nothing else on.”

When you shop at Craft Coop, you will be served by one of the craftspeople who sells their products in the shop. “That means the knowledge they have about how the products were made, where the craftsperson lives, what inspired the work, is unparalleled in the area,” says Deborah.


Let me entertain you

Norden Farm Centre for the Arts opened back in autumn 2000 on the site of an old dairy farm. The original Georgian farmhouse and Long Barn have been incorporated into the venue, alongside a state-of-the-art auditorium, art gallery and studio performance space.

We spoke to Alex Vander Borght, who joined the venue seven years ago and works in the marketing department. “I feel very fortunate to be working in the industry I feel passionately about,” she says. “At Norden Farm we know that the arts have the power to change lives. We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to experience and participate in the arts. This is reflected in our events line-up, which includes music, theatre, comedy, film, children’s events, classes and workshops.

“We pride ourselves in our education and outreach work within the Maidenhead community. Our schools programme Farm Out sees us work with all primary and secondary schools within the town, bringing eager young minds access to a host of creative workshops and events.

“The team also work hard to raise thousands of pounds each year towards special projects that aim to enrich the lives of the people in the area. These include annual events such as The Maidenhead Beach, our Spring Family Arts Festival, Lantern Parade in the town centre and the Community Kite Festival.” 


Magnet Leisure Centre

The Magnet Leisure Centre is a favourite spot for many families, with its fantastic range of facilities, including a 150-station gym, eight-lane competition swimming pool, 10-court sports hall, and a brand-new spin studio.

We bumped into the Grice family on their way out of the Magnet, and mum Wendy said: “Living in Cookham in Berkshire, we feel so lucky to have the ideal mix of countryside, fabulous schools and good local amenities on our doorstep, in addition to easy access to London and Heathrow. Both of my daughters are members of the Magnet Netball Club. As someone who has come to the sport later in life, I love that my daughters have the opportunity to be involved in a team sport that they enjoy, at such a great venue.”


Treasure Trove

You’ll find the usual popular stores on the High Street, including Marks & Spencer, Boots, Monsoon, Paperchase… but not to be missed is Wally’s; a traditional toy shop with a modern outlook that sells games, gifts, arts and crafts, dressing up and more. It really is a treasure trove of goodies.

Shop Manager Joyce Scroggie, who has worked here since it opened 10 years ago, and has loved every minute, says: “We cater for newborns to children ages 12 to 14. I love working here; it’s wonderful. I get to see the kids come in and how they grow up over the years, and they always come back to visit and buy gifts.

“Right now, our best-selling products are unicorns, slime and LOL dolls… but we’re always waiting for the next crave to hit. There’s an advert on TV and suddenly there’s a mad rush of people wanting to buy something and then we sell out!”


Why I love Maidenhead, ‘Maidenhead Mum’ Jodie Humphries

• Maidenhead is… “A great place for raising a family, with lots of lovely parks and beautiful places to explore on our doorstep, yet we are only 25 miles from London. Although a lot of it is being redeveloped, there is an army of passionate people living here who create fantastic community events on the high street and in our parks.”

• Best day out in Maidenhead? - “I would take some time to explore Maidenhead riverside. Go and look at Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s marvel of structural engineering over the Thames. If you have the kids with you, take a balloon and pop it: the echoes under the arches of the bridge are world-famous! Guards Club Park is a lovely place to feed the ducks and geese. Ray Mill Island has some nice paths to explore with the kids: mine love playing on the wobbly bridge and visiting the ice cream café. Grab a bite to eat at Boulters or at the newly opened Roux at Skindles. They have a terrace overlooking Maidenhead Bridge, perfect for a cocktail at sunset!”

• Favourite place to eat? - “Aside from the riverside restaurants there are also some great places in the centre of town and new places are opening all the time. You could try out the Coppa Club, Funky Wood or The Broadwick. Strawberry Grove Café and the Japanese restaurant Miyazaki also offer something a bit different.”

• Best local discovery? - “If I had to pick a current favourite local discovery I would probably say the new footbridge from Ray Mill Island. I love how it has opened up a whole new area to explore for everyone.”


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