Winchester is my furthest venture south yet in the name of Charity Shop Tourism, yet it’s arrival has been a long time coming. Winchester’s my home town – and on a weekend exploring home towns, I can safely say it’s a posh place to call ones home. For Winchester is a genuinely historic city, full of ecclesiastic monuments and medieval remnants, Roman remains, grandiose edifices and cobbled streets. It’s curious how much I find that I took for granted when I lived here (for my first nineteen years) – showing a guest around now, it’s far more impressive than I took note of at the time.
Nevertheless, though sightseeing (or at least, sightshowing) was on the agenda, as always my constant companion and I were mosly on the trail of charity shop finds. We had high hopes – my memories of the subject were hazy, but positive, and the location would fit our theory of the more money, the better the bargain.
Well, it works in Essex, but Winchester is so much a Money kind of place, that the scales have tipped over the other side, and the charity shops end up expensive, and poorly-stocked. Commencing on the upper reaches of the High Street, Marie Curie and Age Concern sit opposite a butcher shops whose slogan is “meat for the millions, and the millionaires”. It speaks volumes. The shops are of standard size but the selection is poor – books and cds are particularly underrepresented across the city (with one notable exception, of which more later), and the tat shelves are not heaving.
We hoped for more joy in the cluster around the junction of Parchment Street and St Georges Street. Most notable here is the Oxfam bookshop, inwhich I spent many long hours as a younger man. Even then, Oxfam knew how to price things, but now they’re razor sharp: your average CD (e.g. Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Fever To Tell clocks in at £4.99, a paperback (Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s noted The Leopard) at £3.99. There’s a vast selection, and on balance more interesting than Waterstones in the Brooks Centre – but a bargain you will nary find).
Better luck would be had in the two Cancer Research shops, one on each side of the busy road, or the Scope next door, or the Help The Aged (a black velvet skirt and a CS Lewis, £1.39, from here). Better still is the large and ramshackle Naomi House Hospice shop – excellent, I’m told, for toys, passable for clothes. Less luck would be had in the main Oxfam shop, on the High Street next to Cross Keys Passage – hardly a secondhand item in sight, just a small colour-coded selection of ladies clothes, and vast ranges of Fair Trade produce. Next door, the British Heart Foundation is better stocked.
Winchester scores well for sheer volume of charity shops. They’re not always well-stocked, and they’re certainly not too bargainous, but the quantity counts in Winchester’s favour – you’re almost sure to find something.
Find: Winchester at Google Maps
Transport: Winchester station, or the Megabus
Consume with: cappucino cake and a coffe in Cafe Centro
Visit: the Cathedral is an essential part of the day out, but also go to St Cross Hospital for your Wayfarer’s Dole of bread and beer.
Overall rating: three travel chess sets