Thames valley area guide

Thames Valley Area Guide: Bracknell

Bracknell may be best known for being one of the first post-war New Towns and has had a reputation in the past for being rather plain and without character. However, this thriving town can boast a history dating back to the Bronze Age and, with a modern 21st century makeover, is now considered an appealing place to work, shop and live.

In the latest of our Thames Valley Area Guides, we take a closer look at the Berkshire commuter town, Bracknell; from schools to property, transport to a history of the area plus a few fun facts you might not know.

Bracknell: A Snapshot

Once a small village, Bracknell was one of the first new towns that was built beyond the green belts around London. The move was designed to help alleviate the housing shortage that the Second World War had created in the capital and Bracknell was earmarked for the first wave of development in 1949 following the New Towns Act 1946.

The town is home to a large number of technology companies and is often referred to as the UK’s answer to Silicon valley.

Conveniently situated just an hour outside of London, Bracknell is a thriving commuter town that has recently been regenerated.

bracknell lexicon thames valley area guide
Bracknell during its latest face lift. Image via Geograph.

Bracknell: The Detail

Bracknell may be best known for being a modern town and might lack the instant character of neighbouring Wokingham when it comes to historic buildings. However, the area has a great deal of notable historic buildings and hides a colourful past.

Bill Hill in the centre of town is the oldest monument in Bracknell and is a Bronze Age burial mound. Head south and you’ll find Caesar’s Camp, an Iron Age hill fort. Covering more than 17 acres, it is one of the largest of its kind in the south of England.

Most of the Bracknell Forest area was a part of the Windsor Forest hunting grounds and Easthampstead Park was one of the favourite lodges in the Tudor age. It is reported that Catherine of Aragon was banished here by Henry VIII whilst she awaited her divorce to be settled.

The ‘Old Manor’ pub in the town centre dates back to the 17th century and contains evidence of priest holes to protect the catholic clergy during the persecutions of that time. Though no longer standing, the ‘Old Manor’ was reportedly joined to another public house, the ‘Hinds Head’ by a series of underground tunnels. Why? Apparently the infamous highwayman, Dick Turpin liked to wet his whistle in one of the two establishments and these secret passageways helped to facilitate the escape of known criminals from the authorities.

bracknell old town thames valley area guide
Image via Wikimedia.

There are many other timber framed buildings in and around the town which serve as reminders that, before Bracknell was earmarked for development in the 1940s as a New Town, there was once a village here.

In 1949, work began on transforming Bracknell into an ‘overspill’ suburb for bombed out housing in the capital of London. Originally intended to increase the population to 25,000, the town was expanded several times. By the 1960s, the population was over 60,000.

By the 1980s, Bracknell was further developed with the opening of Princess Square a new central shopping district. Though this has now been replaced with the construction of the Lexicon, the town centre remains a draw to visitors across the area including Wokingham, Crowthorne and Binfield.

The town has exceptional leisure facilities which include private run facilities like the John Nike Ski Centre which as well as a dry-ski slope also has an indoor ice-rink. The council also runs the local leisure centre which is home to a large athletics stadium plus the indoor leisure pool, Coral Reef Water World, which regularly attracts 400,000 visitors each year (see below).

Bracknell is a major commercial hub and is home to companies like Panasonic, Waitrose and Dell.

Location

Bracknell lies 30 miles to the west of London, 11 miles east of Reading and 9 miles south of Maidenhead. It has easy access to the M4, M3 and M25 and is served by two railway stations, one in the town centre and one in Martin’s Heron; both of which sit on the Waterloo-Reading line.

bracknell thames valley area guide
Image via Geograph.

Bus services from the town run regularly to Reading, Wokingham, Camberley, Slough and Windsor plus there are direct coach services to Heathrow, London Victoria and to Luton Airport.

Demographics of Bracknell

According to data secured in the last census report, the town of Bracknell is populated by 113,205 people, broken down as follows:

  • 50% male and 50% female.
  • 18.7% of the population are Professionals, 15.2% are Associate Professionals/Technical, 13.1% are Managers, Directors or Senior Officials.
  • 83.4% of people were born in England with the highest proportion of foreign nationals from one country being South Africans (1.1%).
  • 94% of the population speak English as their first language with the second most commonly spoken language being Nepalese (0.9%) followed by Polish (0.3%).
  • The average age is 37.

Education

There is a diverse mix of primary, secondary and special schools in Bracknell Forest as well as some highly regarded private schools.

Primary Schools

There are 30 primary schools in the Bracknell Forest area with an additional two units opening in September 2019 (King’s Academy).

Provision for primary education ranges from those that are performing well above average (St Joseph’s Catholic Primary, Cranbourne and Crowthorne C. of E.) to those that are below average (Holly Spring Junior, The Pines and Kennel Lane).

More than half of the primary schools in Bracknell are performing with an average score in the three key target areas of Reading, Writing and Maths.

Secondary Schools

The following secondary schools are all situated in the Bracknell Forest area with the following performances and information taken from the most recent (2019) league tables

School Name Type of School Progress 8 Score Last Ofsted Rating
Brackenhale Academy 0.00 (Average) Requires Improvement
Easthampstead Park Maintained -0.48 (Below Average) Good
Edgbarrow Maintained 0.43 (Above Average) Good
Garth Hill College Maintained -0.06 (Average) Requires Improvement
King’s Academy Brand new school opened in 2018
Ranelagh Academy 0.25 (Above Average) Outstanding
Sandhurst Maintained -0.18 (Average) Good

Further Education

Bracknell is home to a large general college which offers a huge variety of vocational courses as well as A Levels, BTECs and apprenticeships. The Bracknell & Wokingham College has around 20 centres, most of which are based in the Bracknell Forest area.

Bracknell: Areas

When the New Town was being built, housing was constructed in several districts including:

  • Birch Hill
  • Priestwood
  • Easthampstead
  • Bullbrook
  • Harmans Water
  • Crown Wood
  • Hanworth
  • Great Hollands
  • Wildridings
  • Martins Heron

Each of these areas benefits from their own facilities including local shopping parades, community centres and green spaces. Some have additional amenities such as GPs surgeries, dentists and libraries.

Did you know that Martins Heron is the location of the Dursleys House from the Harry Potter films? Picket Post Close is better known as Privet Drive to fans of the movie and Warner Brothers shot quite a few scenes in the Bracknell area, including some in Swinley Forest (see below).

Harry Potter bracknell thames valley area guide
Image via Wikimedia.

Our best picks for…

…a bit of retail therapy.

Since the £750 million regeneration project of Bracknell’s town centre in 2013-2018, there is no shortage of places to shop. The main development, known as the Lexicon, is home to some big name shops including FatFace, Foot Locker and Flying Tiger as well as H&M, Marks & Spencer and Next. The town centre has a modern and inviting appeal with the developers taking care not to simply create a faceless shopping precinct.

Outside of the town centre, Bracknell has a couple of retail parks plus you can find a selection of boutique independent stores within popular garden centres like Moss End Garden Village.

…getting back to nature.

As part of the Windsor Great Park, Bracknell is surrounded by forestland and there are lots of great spots for some dog-walking, rambling and picnics. Our choice is definitely Swinley Forest on Nine Mile Ride. Owned and managed by the Crown Estate, this 2600 acre woodland is great for a gentle stroll or taking your mountain bike. It’s big enough to get lost in or has some short trails for families to explore the woodland in.

As well as the beauty of being out in the open, there is also the Look Out Discovery Centre, an interactive science and nature educational facility that offers both indoor and outdoor play. You can also find a Go Ape centre for bigger kids.

And, if you are a fan of Harry Potter, you can always scout around the woods to find where scenes from the movie Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows- Part 1, were shot. According to some reports, more than 160 trees were cut down as part of the filming to accommodate the equipment needed.

swinley forest thames valley area guide bracknell harry potter
Image via Geograph.

…making a splash.

Coral Reef Waterworld was originally opened in the mid-1990s but has just completed a major renovation project to bring its facilities back up to date. Featuring a whole new set of indoor water slides, refurbished changing areas and all-new dining options.

The works were carried out at a cost of £13 million and has resulted in the leisure park now offering the most technologically advanced slides in the country. Visitors can opt from a selection of different lighting and sound experiences in one of five interactive flumes.

Housing in Bracknell

The latest data from the UK House Price Index published by the Land Registry up to the end of November 2018 confirms that the average house price in Bracknell Forest is currently £337,473.

We’ve compared how this breaks down by property type with nearby Wokingham and the rest of the UK for the same period:

Property Type Bracknell Forest Wokingham UK Average
Detached £616,188 £618,808 £350,317
Semi-Detached £370,479 £389,653 £217,986
Terraced £287,540 £307,268 £188,131
Flats/Maisonettes £210,536 £225,628 £202,663
Overall Average £337,473 £412,321 £230,630

The majority of Bracknell’s housing stock has been built over the last sixty years and consists of a mixture of estate housing formed from terraced properties, semi-detached, link-detached and detached homes.

Though the town has a reputation for being more new than old, there are in fact 254 listed properties in Bracknell.

You can certainly find some period properties in the town with the majority of these being detached.

a guide to bracknell thames valley area guide
Image via Wikimedia.

If you are considering moving to the Bracknell area and would like to know more about the reasons that make the town a great place to live then contact us today on 0118 912 2370.