When it’s not locked down as part of a global pandemic, Reading is a bustling, fast-growing town.
The town has evolved over the years, and looking back, some strange decisions have been made.
There are other things that are puzzling, like why it ended up being spelt the same as the word reading, when Redding would be more distinctive, and much better for Google searches.
There are various other quirks about the town we, quite frankly, don’t really get, despite living here, working here and growing up here.
So we’ve looked back at the town, and at how it is now and will contemplate some of the curious conundrums that are thrown out.
Here are 11 things about Reading we just don’t understand.
How the IDR was allowed
Drivers in Reading are expert navigators of the IDR, and probably don’t give it much of a thought.
However, to outsiders, it’s seen to be somewhat eccentric.
According to the esteemed former Reading Post reporter Linda Fort, when discussions were had about the now-infamous one-way IDR plan, the “criss-cross” design raised a few eyebrows from traffic experts from other parts of the country.
Thinking about it, it’s easy to see why.
In one direction, you’ve got traffic coming down the ramp from Castle Hill, which has to merge into the oncoming traffic.
Once those cars are on, they then instantly face other cars trying to get off towards Chatham Street.
The other direction is even worse.
Those wanting to get off by Reading Police Station have to indicate left, then look over their shoulder for the traffic wanting to get on.
This often leads to some rather traumatic, side by side action.
The final design flaw is when leaving the Broad Street Mall car park, someone has helpfully felt the need for a big, ugly, grey wall that blocks your view of the traffic coming off the IDR.
This is distinctly tricky come rush hour.
The IDR was built in the late 60s/early 70s – different time, different rules etc – but you can’t imagine that criss-cross design being allowed today.
Why Prospect Park is such a popular spot for football
We understand you need a large area of grass, for example, a park, to allow multiple games of football to be played.
What we’re not sure about is why most of those games are played on considerable slopes.
A common sight of a Sunday morning at the park in Tilehurst was to see one side desperately slogging up a hill while the other cruises around.
It’s a lovely setting, but we’d argue the key to the flowing, Barcelona-style football most Sunday league sides strive to play is not having to boot the ball up a hill.
Why the Island Bar and Restaurant isn’t a roaring success
Aspiring bar owners would do a lot to have a large property right by the River Thames.
The Island Bar and Restaurant in Caversham has been there for many years, but has never really been that much of an attraction.
It has had various problems in the past with neighbours complaining about noise but has been relatively quiet over recent years.
Despite it’s incredible location, it seems it has never really reached its potential.
According to Rightmove, it has been up for sale for a stonking £2,000,000 for a good while.
Its Facebook page has not been updated since August 2016 and the website has very little information aside from a message saying “new website coming soon”.
Why people don’t like flats
You can be assured whenever BerkshireLive publishes a story about new homes being built in Reading, it is met with groans of “not more flats”.
This is curious for many reasons.
There is a genuine concern over the impact on local NHS services and schools.
However, people always talk about traffic issues.
The thing about most of the new developments around Reading town centre is that they are largely car free – people living there won’t be allowed cars.
Nor will they be allowed to have permits to park their cars in other parts of Reading.
The council is also planning a number of measures to reduce traffic in general, and with most of the developments being built in the next five to 10 years, traffic in Reading could be very different by that point.
The council has repeatedly said there is very little land in Reading for big housing estates.
The government insists houses are built, and Reading has little choice but to build up.
Out of all things, why would people from one area decide the humble woodlouse needed to be called a different name?
Having decided that, why call them Cheeselogs?
Looking at the woodlouse, they’re definitely not cheesy, but they are woodlice.
We’ve got no idea where the cheese comes from, how it caught on, and why it’s only people from Reading who call them that.
Why people think it’s in London
Reading isn’t in London, and never has been in London – although we will concede it is now part of the Tube map.
It’s something that people in other parts of country seem to genuinely believe.
But it’s odd, people from Reading wouldn’t say to someone from, say, Preston “Oh right, that’s in Manchester isn’t it?”
This is the arcade on the corner of Friar Street and West Street.
It’s been there for years in various guises and if you’re ever to look in it’s almost always empty.
It’s a mystery how it has been there for so long.
Why the government was OK with leaving Reading prison empty for so long
Reading Prison closed at the start of 2014 – more than six years ago.
Since then, it has stood empty.
The Ministry of Justice has been paying more than £250,000 a year for electricity, water and gas in the building.
Bar the odd art exhibition, the huge building has been used for very little during that time, apart from burning a hole in taxpayers’ pockets.
It was put up for sale last year, five years on from closure.
Reading Borough Council was hoping to buy the Grade II listed building to convert it to an arts centre.
BerkshireLive understands the bidding process is now over, but the Ministry of Justice has yet to reveal the building’s future.
However, the government has repeatedly stated in the past the building will be sold “to the highest bidder”.
Hopefully it won’t take six years.
Why it has never become a city
Reading is the biggest town in England, and one of the key cogs in the South East’s economic machine.
Yet attempts to turn from a town into a city have always failed, with towns like Doncaster and Preston in the north succeeding.
It was rumoured that it was because it doesn’t have a cathedral.
But cities like Bath, Cambridge and Hull also don’t have cathedrals, and there are plenty of towns which do.
Also, in 2020 getting a cathedral is quite a tough job.
Reading Borough Council has tried three times to become a city and has failed each time.
There’s no extra government cash if you’re a city either, so whether the powers that be should bother going through the application again
How it manages to have the world’s longest running music festival
Reading Festival is a phenomenon.
For one weekend a year, the town is swamped by music fans from around the country who take over the town and cause massive queues in Sainsbury’s in Friar Street.
It’s a fantastic, incredible event that puts the town on the map and pumps millions into the local economy.
For people living here though, it’s a bit odd.
Why does Reading have such a massive music festival?
Why not somewhere else? A city perhaps?
But we do, and it’s ours, and it’s great, and we very much hope it’s able to happen later this year.
An interesting fact is that it started life as a jazz festival (which makes us inevitably think of those of “jazz…..nice” sketches from the Fast Show).
This bit of road
A different colour, one direction at one time of day, the other at other times.
Best just keep out of it.
To be fair, there have been very few crashes since the introduction, so the council’s traffic experts probably do know what they’re doing.
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