Reading New Walks Festival – By Alex Brennen the REDA Organiser

The idea of Reading as a destination for a walks’ festival was inspired by the many people who tell the stories of Reading. Reading has 1000 years of history to share, from centre of medieval religion through Victorian industrial powerhouse to the vibrant, multi-cultural and surprising place it is today. Those stories live on in many local voices as well as in our urban townscape and natural landscapes. Add in a community with a passion for the waterways, green spaces and the countryside that surrounds Reading, and all the ingredients for a festival of guided walks are here.

The Reading Walks Festival is a set of guided walks with the storytelling as important as walking for its own pleasure. A programme of 42 walks over five days to represent the diversity of Reading’s attractions, with many of the walks free to join thanks to the generosity of our volunteer walks leaders.

Even before the pandemic, Reading was embracing its outdoor self. Initiatives such as the St James’ Way is re-awakening Reading’s place on a medieval pilgrimage route in partnership with end point Santiago de Compostela. We have local pilgrimage experts The Confraternity of St James who have properly waymarked the route from Reading to Southampton along the old medieval way. You can try out a mini pilgrimage as part of the festival. 

There are so many people in Reading involved in walks and walking, from Terry’s Reading Walkabouts to Blue Badge Guide Graham Horn, community walking duo Walk Works and the Abbey Quarter volunteer guides to name a few. Last year’s 200th anniversary of Reading’s biscuit heritage had a walking element, while the annual Heritage Open Days always sees new walks launched by local people eager to share their knowledge. In the natural world, Nature Nurture and Reading Tree Wardens are among the local groups showcasing green Reading. The Festival is just a conduit to bring it all together in one place.

Reading makes an ideal location for a Walks Festival. The scale of the UK’s largest town (or defacto city depending on your persuasion) makes it eminently walkable, while links to national rail with GWR and Elizabeth Line services, as well as boasting the UK’s best bus operator, means we can link walks into transport interchanges.  Reading aspires to be a truly green city of the future and you’ll see that you can access all our walks (bar one) by rail or bus, including those that start in the surrounding countryside.

The Reading Walks Festival programme is designed to cater for all abilities and interests. We have short urban walks, half day walks and two-day pilgrimages; walks you can bring your dog on or do with your family.  From experiencing the dawn chorus to the history of beer; discovering a lost railway to following the route of the iconic number 17 bus; majestic trees to meadows exploration; mindfulness to public art. there’s a walk for everyone. Come walk with us!