Newbury and Thatcham
Newbury is the principal town in the west of the county, and is a historic market town. Thatcham is a dormitory town some three miles to the east, with little obvious boundary between the two towns.
Newbury has a population of about 45,000 and has become something of a booming company town recently as it houses the world headquarters of Vodafone, a major mobile phone operator with operations in many countries.
Newbury also attracted a lot of national and international coverage in the 1980s when it was the scene of the Greenham Common Peace camp in protest at the stationing of nuclear armed cruise missiles at a nearby air base, and in the 1990s when it hosted perhaps the most famous road protest against the Newbury bypass. The vast majority of the population probably did not appreciate either campaign.
Visitors may hear both the terms 'Newbury District' and 'West Berkshire' in use; these are effectively synonymous and refer to the town of Newbury and its surrounding rural area. They are also the old and new names for the local government which runs the area that includes both Newbury and Thatcham.
Both Newbury and Thatcham have rail stations on the main line from London to Exeter, Plymouth and Penzance. Some through trains between those cities do stop at Newbury Station but these are relatively infrequent. Local trains stop at both stations and run from Reading approximately every half hour taking some 20 to 30 minutes for the journey; some local trains start their journeys in London. From London, travel from London Paddington Station and, if necessary, change at Reading. Train times (from any station) can be found on the National Rail Planner or by calling 0845-748-4950 from anywhere in the UK.
Newbury is 17 miles west of Reading on the A4, 18 miles north-west of Basingstoke on the A339, 28 miles south of Oxford on the A34, 28 miles east of Swindon on the M4 and 29 miles north of Winchester on the A34. Thatcham is 3 miles east of Newbury on the A4.
The M4 motorway also runs just to the north of Newbury, for which the junction is number 13.
If arriving by plane, see the 'Get In By Plane' section of the Reading article, and then travel on from Reading as described above.
The central area of Newbury is easily walkable.
There are several town routes within Newbury and Thatcham, with hourly (or better) services during the day, and infrequent service in the evenings and on Sundays. Beyond that distance, bus routes are much less frequent, with often only a handful of buses per day and no evening or Sunday service.
Newbury's roads can be congested at peak periods, but in general are less congested than London or even Reading. A car is one (possibly along with cycling) of the only really practical ways of seeing a lot of the local countryside and villages.
If you are planning to do any visiting or exploring beyond central Newbury, you will probably want to obtain a decent map of the area. You should ensure that any map you buy clearly shows the national grid reference lines, and explains how to use them, as grid references are frequently used to indicate out of town locations. The best maps for this purpose are those published by the Ordnance Survey (Britain's national mapping agency) and both the following maps cover all the locations mentioned below:
These maps can be found in any good bookshop, or can be bought online from the Ordnance Survey's web site.
Newbury has a number of shops, including its own large department store, Camp Hopson, a small shopping centre (mall), the Kennet Centre and a number of leading high street chainstores. See NewburyTownCentre.co.uk for more information.
A reasonable range of choices includung Pubs, the usual chain restaurants (Pizza/Pasta or French), Indian and most recently a New Thai. Local restaurants of note include the Crab at Chieveley (££), MPW's Yew Tree at Highclere (££), The Pot Kiln at Frilsham (of Heaven's Kitchen Fame) (£££) and The Vineyard at Stockross (Astronomical)
There are a number of hotels in and around Newbury, including two Hiltons; Hilton Newbury (Centre) and Hilton Newbury (North). Hilton Newbury (North) is situated near J13 of the M4, with the A34 running very close by. It is therefore advisable for light sleepers to choose the Hilton Newbury (Centre). Set in a Georgian Manor house, the Mercure Newbury Elcot Park Hotel, . is 7.76 km outside of the city centre with 16 acres of landscaped gardens. edit
The area code for both Newbury and Thatcham is 01635 when dialed from within the UK or +44 1635 from outside the UK.