The Whitley Pump

The view from Katesgrove Hill

Friends of the IDR

Oracle roundabout under the IDR

The Friends of the Inner Distribution Road (FIDR) will meet for their inaugural meeting today at the Little Crown public house on Southampton Street.

The aims of the society are to promote the IDR as an important feature of Reading and preserve and enhance it as heritage asset in its own right. FIDR chair, Reg Vastern-King said that “the importance of the IDR to Reading and its residents has never been truly appreciated. People tend to look at it as a barrier to the radial routes out of Reading rather than a circular route with a logic and meaning all of its own”.

The Friends’ first campaign is for the IDR to be closed once a year on ‘IDR Day’ so that residents can truly appreciate what a fantastic space it is to observe and appreciate some of the iconic sights of Reading.

Reg said “pedestrians never get a chance to understand the beauty of the IDR as a viewing place; drivers have to watch the road and wait for the lights to change. We think closing the IDR on one day a year would be the perfect opportunity for everyone to take advantage of the road and understand what it has to offer as a destination in itself”.


County Lock photograph c.1898; Philbrick’s Tannery is on the right with the louvred windows – courtesy Reading LIbrary

The view of the Kennet and County Lock towards the town centre from the elevation of the IDR is one not to be missed.

Modern architecture

Concrete lovers will be in their element as they will be able to get close enough to touch some of the most beautiful béton brut textures in Reading on the section linking the Butts Centre (Broad Street Mall) and the Oracle.


The IDR is a circular route around the town centre which takes in some of Reading’s most iconic historic sites. From the section above the Oracle roundabout the ancient route from Reading town centre rises to the south past S Giles church. Continuing east the road passes the junction with London Street, laid out by the monks of Reading Abbey as a new route south.

A level section then passes the magnificent bath stone Queen’s Crescent before turning left to cross the Kennet with a view of the Huntley and Palmers building on the right.

Watlington Street Bridge

As you enter Reading’s Abbey Quarter, Reading Gaol is now straight ahead behind high walls, and beyond that is St James’ Church and Forbury Gardens. The road then dips under the railway line and almost reaches the Thames, but decides against it just in time to return to the centre of Reading.

The final stretch to return to the starting point is in a man made canyon between the Butts Centre and Howard Street before rising to cross the Kennet. Famously, this is where the IDR once stopped and for many years Reading had a ski jump.

The ‘ski jump’ at the end of the IDR in 1984. The Hook & Tackle is the on the left painted white. Photo by Gareth Thomas, courtesy of Reading Library

Public houses

The ring of ghostly pubs along the IDR would have been more than sufficient for a pub crawl. From the Little Crown it is only a few steps to the Reindeer and then in an anti-clockwise direction; the Queens Hotel, the Lyndhurst, the White Horse, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Britannia Hotel, the Britannia Tap, the Clifton, the Brewery Tavern, the Prince of Wales, the Wellington Arms, the Kennet Brewery, the Blue Lion, the Rose and Crown and finally the Tanners Arms (now the Hook and Tackle).

IDR in the snow 2018

The Whitley Pump asked Reg what his favourite stretch of the IDR was.

“That’s difficult,” he said. “I have two favourite sections. One is when the road crosses the Kennet at County Lock because it is such a fantastic view. The other is at the foot of London Street; for me that truly is the gateway to Katesgrove between the twin pillars of the Great Expectations and the Black History Mural.”

Let us know your favourite part of the IDR using the comments box below.

  1. IDR – wikipedia
  2. Visit the Abbey Quarter
  3. John Dearing, Reading Pubs
  4. Reading Museum online collection
  5. List of Ring Roads – wikipedia
  6. Brian Redhead – wikipedia


  1. Till I remembered which day it was (happy birthday, cousin Graham) I was reminded of an organisation I know little about except the name, The Friends of Friendless Churches.

    I do actually quite like the completed fly-over which does have a certain grace even if it does ruin the view of everything else!

  2. In case you haven’t worked it out by now, this story was an April fool. Even so, if there isn’t a ‘Friends of the IDR’ now, then there needs to be!

  3. Paul Raymond Cserfalvi-Young

    1 April 2018 at 6.31 pm

    Reading needs a ring road.

  4. Perhaps Reading does need a ring-road, but we need our communities too. You only have to look at the damage the IDR’s concrete canyon did to the Baker Street area of west Reading to get a little queasy about the human cost. As useful as the IDR is, it still forms a physical and psychological barrier dividing central Reading from the rest of the town, which can’t be healthy.

  5. Matthew Farrall

    1 April 2018 at 11.42 pm

    IDR day – that’s comedy April fool genius.

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