Some of the best things to see and do in Wokingham
PUBLISHED: 12:22 11 March 2019 | UPDATED: 15:34 11 March 2019
Those who have made their home in Wokingham talk of its appealing village feel and now with the regeneration project almost complete, visitors from the county will want to experience it for themselves
Wokingham has a fascinating history. A traditional market town, its residents have always been productive folk, starting back in the Tudor period when the town was renowned for producing silk. These days, local producers set up in Market Place for the farmers’ market every first Thursday of the month and the general market trades every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
The town has had its fair share of bad news in the past. Over 20 per cent of the buildings in the town centre were burnt down in the 1600s, when Wokingham was attacked by both sides during the Civil War. Not long after the war was over, the town became famous for bull-baiting, and it took many years for the so-called sport to be banned.
But its sometimes turbulent past is long forgotten, unless you wish to delve deeper into the town’s history via Wokingham’s Virtual Museum, a virtual home of all the Town Hall’s treasures.
It’s the future of Wokingham that has sparked everyone’s interest in the last few years, with a change of character on the horizon that’s been described as ‘boutique’ in the local press. It’s undergoing a regeneration, which is set to cost £117m and will, according to the borough council, face off the competition from The Lexicon in Bracknell and Reading’s Oracle shopping centre.
Residents and visitors will be able to witness the regeneration of Rose Street, Peach Place and Broad Street. There will be new shops, a cinema, hotel, housing, a play area and leisure centre. Exciting stuff, but the continued drive of the existing businesses who have kept the town going during all the work should also be recognised.
There’s no doubt the future looks good for the town, with everyone behind the regeneration being a success.
Berkshire’s hidden gem
Haven’t discovered Holme Grange Craft Village yet? Now’s your chance! It’s a fantastic craft and shopping village with unique, boutique-style shops, craft outlets and a great café hidden in the idyllic countryside between Wokingham and Crowthorne, within easy reach of both the M3 and M4. What’s not to like?
Holme Grange features 21 distinctive, independent businesses, all set in former farmland and converted barns with plenty of free parking. Take time to browse the wide range of beautiful bespoke and off-the-shelf products available in the variety of shops, book onto one of the craft workshops that run throughout the year, pamper yourself at one of the salons, bring your children along to try one of the activity centres, or simply sit and relax in the café and enjoy the ambience of Berkshire at its best.
Throughout the year the village arranges a number of entertaining free events for visitors to enjoy. These include an annual 1940s vintage day, classic car rallies, weekend food markets, Christmas, Easter and Halloween events, and many others.
The village is open seven days a week, although please check individual businesses websites for their own opening hours and days, as opening times do vary.
In the frame
Jan Rixon is owner of T G Art Gallery on Peach Street. She has lived in Wokingham for more than 30 years and has owned the gallery for just over 11 years. As well as selling original art, limited-edition prints and open prints all framed and ready to go, the gallery also offers a bespoke framing service along with ready-made frames, glassware, DCUK ducks and lately the Jellycat range of soft toys.
Like many towns in the country, Wokingham’s high street is ever changing: “It is a different place now but things cannot stand still. The ethos of the town itself hasn’t changed, it has always been a friendly place to live,” says Jan.
“The high street is undergoing a huge regeneration and I think it is providing us with a Wokingham for the future that will have a really good feel about it. The new cinema is of huge excitement to many people I know, and I’m sure it will be a great attraction.”
Jan’s favourite aspect of the town is its size: “I love the fact that I never come into Wokingham without bumping into someone I know; friends, people from the days my kids were at school here, customers, and it still has a village feel. I love the market, especially the flower stall, and I wouldn’t go anywhere else.”
On with the show
Jess Hadleigh is one of the 250 volunteers that make up Wokingham Theatre. She says: “All of us work hard together to produce the wonderful eight main shows and two special shows we put on each year. From Shakespeare to Ayckbourn, classic to modern, we perform a wide range of plays to entertain our patrons.”
The group was founded in 1947, is a registered charity with their purpose being to promote the enjoyment of theatre in Wokingham. “I love the community feel of it,” says Jess. “Everyone mucking in together to create some truly wonderful productions that brighten up people’s days. Wokingham is such a lovely place to live and work. It’s also easy to get to countryside walks from here, so you really have the best of both worlds. I like to go climbing (the local climbing wall is 10 minutes away) and there is always somewhere great to have brunch in Wokingham; Sedero Lounge, Côte and Gail’s Bakery being my favourites.”
Look after you
If you’re after that perfect piece of jewellery for Mother’s Day, try Kaanaanmaa on Denmark Street. They’ve been trading in Wokingham since 1976 and design and make their own range of gold, silver and platinum jewellery. If you want to design your own engagement or wedding rings, this is the place to come.
An independent on Denmark Street is clothing store Purple Butterfly. After something a little less run of the mill for a special occasion or holidays? You won’t be disappointed here. Not only do they have an array of clothing to suit all styles, there’s also accessories and shoes to peruse too.
A salon that always has its customers’ interests at heart is Inspirations hair and beauty salon. Many of their clients have been coming here for years, and the friendliness of the whole team is first rate. They welcome ladies, men and children, and they all leave feeling great.
Let’s go outside
Just one of Wokingham’s attractions is the nearby Dinton Pastures Country Park. With its walking trails, play area, wildlife and café, it’s a popular destination whatever the weather. The park celebrates 40 years this year since it opened. The site was previously farmland belonging to High Chimneys Farm and the old farmhouse is now the popular Dragonfly Café. Wintering wildfowl like wigeon, pochard and goldeneye can be seen at the park’s lakes. There are also 18 different species of dragonfly to see – no wonder the café was named after them. If you’re looking for somewhere to take the little ones, then the play area is the place to go. With swinging hanging logs, a zip wire, troll holes, a willow maze and woodland obstacle course, getting them to leave may be tricky.
Whether its pizza and pasta or a simple slice of cake, the town’s eateries can satisfy your appetite. There are just too many positive words to describe cosy restaurant Ruchetta. The service is first rate and the food is simply amazing. The menu caters for everyone and all the dishes are freshly prepared. Located in Rose Street, this restaurant is a must-visit dining destination.
For a spot of lunch, try Aroma, a quaint family run establishment. They make your baguettes and sandwiches in front of you, allowing you to choose from their vast array of fillings. They are based in Denmark Street, so don’t forget to head over there for your lunchtime order.
If you love a good hot chocolate, make the Brown Bag Cafe your go-to place. One local told us: “They serve the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had.”
For a sophisticated atmosphere and all-round yummy dining experience, try Italian Piccolo Arco, rated number one restaurant on TripAdvisor for its great service and food.
For a memorable afternoon tea, pop along to see the folks at Riseley Village Tea Room. It’s located at the Memorial Hall and opened to provide a place for the local community to get together and to offer local craft people the opportunity to sell their goods. Pop along for a cuppa to show your support.
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