The most impressive thing about Waltham Cross is… well, there’s nothing really there. Really: nothing at all. My sole reason for going was that Google Maps threw up a high incidence of charity shopping in the area, and in this it was correct. What Google Maps fails to appreciate is the massive lack of life, entertainment, happiness…
With a quick connection to the city and elsewhere, Waltham Cross should, in theory, be a pulsing, local hub – think Enfield Town, or Romford, or Croydon. But it’s nothing at all: a dingy, poorly-developed town centre, home to cheap tat stores, pound shops, ugly and tasteless cafes, and brutal, red-brick, ziggurat-styled offices overhanging the shops, giving an overriding sense of gloom. One can’t help but be reminded of the impression that Michael Moore likes to make of his smalltown Michigan home; the deserted former coal-mining towns of the Welsh valleys; the bleak nothingness of small town Scotland.
Though hardly a destination in its own right, Waltham Cross has at least a little purpose for the hardened charity shop, and you’ll find five stores open here, with another set to open in mid-November. The pick of these is the Isabel Hospice Shop: a cavern of delights if ever I saw one. Staffed by endlessly cheery Cockney grannies, this stocks furniture, which immediately marks it down as a useful stop-off (cf. Epping Sue Ryder; Sally Army on Forest Road, Walthamstow; Mencap in Tottenham); we bought a desk, and were helpfully able to pull up right behind the shop. View also for a fine selection of DVDs, shelves full of buttons and assorted sundries; boxes of football programmes… A bit more esoteric than your standard Oxfam.
Actually, DVD’s seemed to be the thing all over Waltham Cross. My only conclusion is that there’s nothing else to do here, so the long, dark, cheerless nights are spent in front of the latest DVD releases. I came away with little this time – just Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind (I watched it; it’s good!), but I could have spent plenty.
There’s a big British Heart Foundation as well as a Scope and a PDSA which are more at the ‘meh’ end of the market. It doesn’t salvage what is a genuinely depressing, dead little town, sadly, but it may make it worth a stop-over (the furniture was really quite nice…).
Find: Waltham Cross at Google Maps
Transport: Waltham Cross rail
Consume with: unless you can’t avoid it, nothing in town. I suggest grabbing a McDonalds just outside and getting yourself off to the Lea Valley Park. You can find the details here.
Visit: Royal Gunpower Mills looks quite fun
Overall rating: three pairs of stripey ties
EDIT: I can actually recommend a place to eat now: Cherry’s, near the cross, does some great baked potatoes and breakfasts, and is all round clean and pleasant. There’s also a huge new hospice shop here, which may make WC worth a re-post soon.