There are whole swathes of London that are very pleasant indeed, but I just don’t bother going there. Why? You know very well why. Remember, three charity shops minimum. Sometimes it’s a shame, really, because these are nice enough places but there’s little to warrant actually going. Such is the case today, and so I’m linking together a few close locales to make a usable whole.
Tracing its roots back to beyond the Domesday Book, Hampstead is synonymous with cash; wonga; dollar. It’s home to the most millionaires in the country, it’s known for its musical, literary, artistic connections: Wikipedia’s list of past and former residents is startlingly impressive. So, rich pickings, right? Weeell… not really. There’s just a mere smattering in the region, even heading down past the bottom of the Heath towards Gospel Oak.
Nevertheless, it’s worth a poke. Oxfam in Hampstead itself is just down Gayton Road. One of the less interesting side streets in the Village, it’s good only for the Oxfam, but while you’re here, be sure to have a wander up the cobbled streets off the High Street, Flask Walk with its impenetrable bookshop, Perrin’s Lane at the bottom of which can be found the famous Hampstead crepe cart. I like Hampstead best at Christmas: mooch through the antiques markets, pop into the nice smelling coffee shops, browse the slightly-incongruous flea market, head to the Everyman for a festive showing of It’s A Wonderful Life (they didn’t show it this year, I was quite put out). Oxfam itself is narrow but windy – board games, ladies clothes and books are in good supply here.
Head down Rosslyn Hill, past the boutiques and the big houses, and you meet a fork in the road. It’s walking distance, if you’re fit. Turn left down Pond Street, and you’re pootling along the bottom of the wonderful Hampstead Heath. Here you’ll find The Charity Shop, a fairly standard rich person’s affair.
Wending your way around the vast Royal Free Hospital you can end up by Belsize Park tube station, and a small row of shops: boutiques, florists, gourmet burger restaurants, a tiny cinema. There’s a large and high-class Marie Curie here, from whence came one of my favourite charity shop buys: a cow-themed cappucino maker. Nice.
All in all, trawling around the charity shops of this part of North London is more effort than it’s worth, especially when you’ve Golders Green and West Hampstead nearby. Unless you’ve got some reason to come, you’re best off going for a hike on the heath.
Find: Hampstead & Belsize Park @ Google Maps
Transport: Hampstead or Belsize Park on the Northern Line, or Hampstead Heath on London Overground
Consume with: a crepe of course.
Visit: the many and varied delights of Hampstead Heath have to put it at first port of call
Overall Rating: two coffee machines