The gurus of homebuying, Kirstie and Phil, conduct an annual survey of the best – and worst – places to live in the UK. In 2008, Epsom & Ewell (the two are always inextricably linked, the blame probably lying at the feet of estate agents) came third in the entire country, slipping from first place in 2005. This year, it comes below only Edinburgh (certainly a future stop off for Charity Shop Tourism) and Winchester (been there, done it) as the most desirable location to set up home, based on crime, education, employment, environment, lifestyle and health. Clearly I have different expectations for what I consider desirable: my beloved Haringey, whilst improved from bottom ten in 2007, still makes the twenty worst places to live.
I say: pah. Haringey has cultural attractions, vim, variety, and vigour. It has beautiful parts, interesting parts, bargainous parts, posh parts. Epsom (and its surrounding area) has… well, nothing as far as I can make out, except a great heap of bland.
There’s something to be said for calculating desirability on an immutable set of discrete, quantifiable statistics, but it misses the human element altogether. What on earth is the attraction? In the hub of Epsom, you have a scrutty, run-down market – better to go to Romford, or Hitchin. You have a shopping centre – a Mall, same as Wood Green, or Walthamstow. You have chain stores as per anywhere in the country. And that’s about it. In the outlying regions, you have a few shops and a co-op in Ewell, a cluster of local stores around the crossroads in Cheam, and, um, Chessington World of Adventures. There’s just plain old nothing here except for a heap of traffic and lots of annoying people.
The charity shops aren’t worth the crush. There’s a fairly plain Oxfam and a Cancer Research. There’s a British Heart Foundation which provided the only moment of excitement of the afternoon – an actual Nintendo GameBoy, with games. I dithered, I went away and came back in ten minutes… and it was sold. A lesson in the evils of procrastination, and the importance of impulse in charity shopping. There’s two Hospice shops (Queen Elizabeth and St Raphael), both with their own distinctive odours. Little was bought, a couple of books here and there.
There are lies, damned lies, and statistics. Trust any at your peril.
Find: Epsom & Ewell on Google Maps
Transport: Epsom station, on Southern trains to Victoria
Consume with: ours was a McDonalds in the Ashley Centre, bu you might be able to do better.
Visit: Chessington World of Adventures, of course. Don’t hurl on The Galleon.
Overall rating: two missed opportunities