Maidenhead is a town in the south of England, approximately 10 miles south of High Wycombe and 17 miles west of London Heathrow Airport.
Maidenhead came into existence as it was a handy location for coaches to stop over on their way from London to Bristol along the Bath Road (A4). Maidenhead High Street was originally part of the A4, although the A4 now runs alongside the High Street on the oddly named Bad Godesburg Way. Many of the shops you find on the High Street 1 were originally inns at which coaches would stop for the night. Maidenhead was also popular with these travellers because it has a bridge over the River Thames. Maidenhead has many older neighbours, most of which it has almost swallowed up over the ages, including Bray, Cookham and Holyport.
Maidenhead has an average bus service and reasonable train connections. Maidenhead train station is located at the edge of the town centre from which you can get trains to Marlow, London Paddington or westbound to Reading, Oxford or Bedwyn. If your route varies much from this, you'll probably end up changing at Reading, London Paddington or Slough.
Maidenhead also has good connections with the UK's road and motorway network. Maidenhead can be found at junction 8/9 of the M4 and the A404(M) runs 12 miles from the M4 to junction 4 of the M40 at High Wycombe. Maidenhead is also on the A4 and the A308, and is host to a very short length of motorway, the A308(M) which runs for just under two thirds of a mile between the A308 and the M4. The reason Maidenhead has two junction numbers on the M4 (8/9) and yet only one junction is because when the M4 ended at Maidenhead, the A404(M) was part of the M4 and accounted for the extra junction.
Traffic in Maidenhead is, as with every place within 80 miles of London, getting progresively worse. It is not uncommon to see large queues of cars headed towards Slough on the A4, especially at the week-end when it's sunny and everyone's heading that way towards the river. Ray Mill Road runs alongside the river from the A4 towards Cookham and was the scene of some "traffic-calming2" measures, as protested for by the kind of people who write into The Maidenhead Advertiser complaining about how fast cars go. The traffic calming measures were soon deemed dangerous and duly removed by the council. The incident was reminiscent of the time the council decided to place traffic lights on a large roundabout on the A4. They caused much congestion and again, were duly removed.
Parking in Maidenhead isn't too badly priced at the time of writing, although the local council are always seeking to change this. Free parking in Maidenhead is not what you'd describe as being plentiful. You can no longer park in the multi-storey car-parks for free in the evenings and any free parking space you find during the day will be yours for a maximum of 30 minutes. It also seems that "disabled parking" sign is often misinterpreted as meaning "it's okay to park here if you're only going to rush to the cashpoint quickly". Other misinterpretations include thinking "Taxis Only" means "Park here while you nip into the bank for 10 minutes" and that "Loading bay" means "Park here while you go and get your lottery ticket". Hazard lights3 are not known by this term in and around Maidenhead. They are known as free parking lights. In essence, what this enables a motorist to do is stop and park somewhere which is convenient for them, but where they really shouldn't and turn on the free parking lights, leaving them free to do their shopping and watch nervously for traffic wardens.
Maidenhead has a reasonable selection of shops in the town centre, although you will probably notice the abundance of estate agents, mobile phone shops4 and banks. The Nicholson Centre, formely Nicholson's Walk is the main indoor shopping centre in which you can find a variety of mostly national chain-stores such as a small Tesco, a small Argos, a WH Smith and a small Virgin Music. The town centre usually suffices for most people's weekly shopping needs although if you want a better choice of shops, or just bigger shops, you'd be well advised to head into Reading which opened a much larger shopping centre in 1999.
Eating Out and Fast Food
The usual suspects
In the town centre, you can expect to find most of your usual international brands of fast food, including Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken and MacDonald's. There's also a new Pizza-Hut in the recently-redeveloped end of town, and slightly out of the town centre along the A4 towards Slough, you can find a Domino's Pizza.
There's also a range of non-brand name fast-food outlets in Maidenhead, including two of the finest kebab shops you'll ever have the fortune to patronise and a "Tennesse Fried Chicken", who do deliver their snacks and also do some rather brilliant, if slightly addictive, onion rings. These places used to be open until the early hours of the morning, but the powers that be have decided that forcing them to close at midnight will stop people from loitering around the town centre when the clubs kick out.
Maidenhead has many pubs. Not as many as it had about 25 years ago, but still, quite a few pubs. Some of the pubs are part of a chain of pubs, for example, The Newt And Cucumber5. The Honeypot opened in 2001, suffering a baptism by fire, as pillars of the local community decided they didn't really want a topless bar in their town centre. The Bear Hotel is no longer a hotel at all. There are no longer any rooms for people to stay there, as the whole of the upstairs was demolished when the current owners6 spent lots of money on the refurbishment. Like the Newt And Cucumber, The Bear has an extended licence allowing it to stay open until midnight at the week-ends. Also worth a mention is The Hobgoblin, which was always a bit of a rock/metal bar, although the 2001 refurbishment has changed this image slightly. Bar 38 is another nice bar and is quite pricey, too. On the plus-side, they do sell absinthe and have rather strange open-plan semi-unisex toilets. Bar 38 generally caters for the trendy yuppie / rich kid hybrids, although there's no apparent dress-code. Bar Soviet is unsurprisingly the choice for the vodka lover. They sell around 20 different flavours of vodka, ranging from cola-cube to toffee. They also sell Absinthe and have been known to put a Playstation out for their patrons to play with. If you're looking for exquisite cocktails, your only real choice is Heroes, opposite Bar 38. This is another trendy person's bar and isn't short on ideas for cocktails. If general bars and pubs aren't really what you're looking for, and you want to stay out past midnight, you have limited choice in Maidenhead. The most popular choice is Chicago's. This is yet another "brand name" venue. They have been known to stay open until 2am at week-ends and they have friendly staff, including doormen who aren't 7ft gorillas in suits, which is a welcome change. If you go there before 10pm you won't have to pay the standard £5 entrance fee, but the place will be almost empty until about 11. If you're looking for somewhere to sit down after that, hang around near the bottom of the stairs and wait for them to open the upstairs section (usually around midnight unless there's a private party going on up there), so you can dash up there and grab a table. Your only other choice for staying out late is Smokey Joe's. This isn't technically a club or a bar but is actually licenced as a restaurant. This place is also open until about 2am and the kind of music you'll hear depends on what's on that particular night, often a disco or a tribute/covers band.
There are numerous other pubs to be found in and around Maidenhead, far too many to list in this guide entry. If you're looking for more information on pubs in Maidenhead, you should look at the Maidenhead Pub Guide. Also offering advice on the pubs and clubs (among other things) in Maidenhead is the Knowhere Guide To Maidenhead.
Entertainment and Leisure
Apart from getting drunk, eating kebabs and slurring down the phone to the taxi company, there are other leisure facilities available for people to enjoy. Firstly, there's a small cinema which has pretty much all the standard cinema facilities such as films and popcorn. There's also the Megabowl. This is primarily a bowling alley, but the building also includes a pool-bar upstairs, a network of PCs on which is very handy for computer games, several "coin-op" computer games, a Wimpy burger bar and of course, being Maidenhead, a bar.
If your pursuits are a little more healthy you could do worse than wander next door to the Magnet Leisure Centre. This includes a gym, a fair sized swimming pool, squash courts, a basketball/indoor football court and a very large hall often used for teenager discos and the occasional concert. If you're going to move to the Maidenhead area, this is the place you go to get an Advantage Card which allows residents of Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead to get discounts at places like the local swimming pools and gain free entry to nearby Windsor Castle. You can also find the recently built skateboarding park on the A4 by the town centre. This has received a mixed reception from locals who agree that youths need something to keep them off the streets but would really rather that the something in question wasn't a skateboarding park and certainly not one so close to their own back yard.
Let us not forget that Maidenhead is in the south east of England and it is often said that people in the north are friendlier than those in the south. For southerners, the people of Maidenhead 7 aren't too bad at being friendly, just don't expect much conversation from strangers in a busy pub unless you are stunningly attractive or are evidently buying drinks for everyone and loaded with cash. If you are new to town and looking to make friends, your best bet is a fairly quiet local pub or working behind the bar in a busy one.
There does seem to be quite a class divide in Maidenhead. On the one hand, it's very expensively priced housing and so there are many well-off people in Maidenhead and on the other hand, there are many who either settled well before the house price boom of the late 1980's or bought their homes through a right-to-buy scheme and so a mixture of a Porsche Carreras, Ford Sierras, Land Rover Discoveries and Nissan Cherries is not an uncommmon sight, showing the mixed communities found in Maidenhead.
One person who will almost certainly be your friend is Charlie. He roams Maidenhead town centre in a drunken state around three or four days a week, singing or shouting to people. You probably won't understand a word he's saying and he's barred from the town centre off-licence, but he's harmless and will almost certainly be your friend if you buy him a can of strong lager.
Maidenhead is split into several distinct areas outside of the town centre, many of which are entirely different.
Furze Platt is found to the north of Maidenhead and is quite a mixture of large privately owned housing and housing association and ex-council housing. It's very close to North Town Moor, where you can find a cricket ground, large fields and some stolen torched cars in said fields. The two main pubs in Furze Platt are The Golden Harp, which used to be stables for horses and The Farmer's Boy, conveniently located close to a local off-licence, video store and grocer's. Furze Platt also has it's own train station on the Maidenhead to Marlow line with trains running at least once an hour in each direction. Furze Platt is also where you can find the Laggan Road estate which is home to a large percentage of Maidenhead's Asian community.
The "Bomber" Estate
The "Bomber" Estate, is known as such because most of the road names are taken from World War II bomber aircraft8. It is mostly council housing or ex-council housing and is quite easy to get lost in. The Bomber Estate has quite a bad reputation but nobody ever seems to be able to think of any particular incident to justify this. It also borders Oaken Grove park where you can find a Boules green, a large open field and a children's playground. In the summer, you can expect to find several youths drinking from 2 litre bottles of cider after sunset.
While Larchfield hosts a small mobile home site, it is also known for Shoppenhangers Manor, a beautiful 16th Century manor house popular with tourists and locals. It offers easy access to Maidenhead train station, via the Gullet, a footway which used to have a bad reputation for muggings and rape but which has recently been tidied up9 and has seen a marked reduction in criminal incidents occurring there. Some still say it's best to avoid the Gullet and take the longer route to the station, while others are happy to use it.
On the edge of Larchfield Estate is Desborough School where the famous author Nick Hornby was educated.
Cox Green is quite a large part of Maidenhead, with many very nice houses and includes some local shops including an off licence, a large convenience store and a video store. Next to these shops is a children's playground, althought most of the children prefer to hang around outside the shops themselves than sit on the swings. Cox Green is also home to some of the larger pot holes to be found in Maidenhead's roads with new ones appearing on a regular basis.
Holyport is, for the purpose of political circles, in the Windsor area, although it's actually right on the side of Maidenhead by the M4 junction. Holyport is a quiet area comprised of a real mixture of different sized and priced housing. In Holyport you can find a few shops, including an off-licence which closes at 7pm, a small newsagents / video store with around 20 videos available at any one time, and The Belgian Arms. The Belgian Arms is a restaurant in pub's clothing and is a CAMRA approved pub owing to it's choice in real ale and beer. Most of the locals in the area will tend to prefer The George which is less focused on food and more on alcohol.
Bray has been around since long before Maidenhead was first officially recognised as a town by Queen Elizabeth I. Bray is now home to several traditional style pub/restuarant venues, such as The Duck. Housing in Bray costs a small fortune and in spite of being a one-lane road in two places, Bray is used as a through-road by people from Windsor who wish to avoid the A308 on their way to work. Bray was also the set on which the fire engines were filmed racing along in the 1955 film "The Quatermass Experiment". The field in which the space rocket crashed was actually in Fifield, opposite Bray Studios where cult TV shows such as Thunderbirds and Terrahawks were made.
River Thames / Boulter's Lock
You might think it stupid for anyone to live in the Thames, but you'd be surprised how many people do. In 2000 and 2001, Maidenhead and Cookham have been the sites for some severe flooding. House prices along the river have always been high and the flooding seems to have had a limited affect on this. Along the riverside, you will also find Ray Mill Island, where they keep several species of birds and is the site of the actual Boulter's Lock. There's also the Boulter's Lock Inn, which is situated facing Maidenhead Bridge on Ray Mill Island. This place is very smart and posh in appearance, although if you're only going for drinks and don't care about food, it's no more expensive than some of the trendy town centre bars.
Castle Hill itself is the very steep bit on the A4 at the western edge of the town centre. At the top of Castle Hill where the housing is, parking is a fiercely fought over commodity. The downwards slope heading down to the town centre makes it all too easy to wander into the pubs of central Maidenhead, but quite tiring to walk back up the hill to get home. Fortunately, residents of the Castle Hill area are treated to two rather good drinking establishments; The Windsor Castle and The Pondhouse, but don't try to play the Pondhouse at pool. They have a habit of doing very well in the local pool league.
Living In Maidenhead
Maidenhead is often thought of as a nice location, mainly because it has good connections with motorways and trainlines, is quite close to London and in spite of this, manages to maintain several picturesque locations, possibly because it has never been thought of as "London Overspill10". Those wishing to move to Maidenhead will be sorely dissapointed to find that the price of housing and cost of living are among the highest in the United Kingdom. Most of the residents, including those in the employ of the local council, will tell you it really isn't worth the cost. But they're still living there.