Continuing in our exploration of the Chilterns while at the same time steering well clear of Slough, we head to Beaconsfield on a whim. As it turns out, it’s a well-placed whim as Beaconsfield is a very similar kind of town to Amersham, and a town like Amersham is a lovely thing indeed.
An ancient charter town like the latter, with an annual fair to match, Beaconsfield dates from, at the latest, 1185 when it was Bekenesfeld, the field by the beeches. Today, the old settlement is the most picturesque part of town, with the old A40 passing through grand Georgian townhouses, old coaching inns (the most exciting thing I’ve found about these is that the Royal Standard on London End was the home of the local inHot Fuzz, which definitely endears it to me) and country churches. Turn away from this very select part towards the station and you end up with a much more ordinary town – nevertheless attractive, pleasant and home to some tasty charity shop action.
The new town followed the railway station, around a century ago. Since then, old and new have merged into a single entity and as such, the whole town exudes the gentrified air of the olde market town. What this means, in a word, is money, and money makes for a good charity shop experience – for the most part (see FAILs on the part of Harpenden or Epsom, WINs on the part of Epping or Gerrards Cross). Here, I’m happy to say, local money is a definite win for the thrifty. Parking in the Waitrose car park (an early indicator), we make our way right down the high street to Cancer Research. A big shop, full of interesting junk including a set of antique planes. Not aeroplane planes, you understand, wood turning planes. These came in at a not quite justifiable £25 for the biggest, and though I know several people who’d like them, that would buy me a bag full of paperbacks, so the planes remained in the window, next to the glamorous Singer sewing machine.
Close by is a Shaw Trust hospice shop – this furnished me with Interpol’s Our Love To Admire, for which I thank it. I had to scarper before the boxes upon boxes of old National Geographics pulled me in, however. Next, the adjacent Oxfam and Help The Aged, both small but well-stocked. Oxfam, as you’d expect, is reasonably expensive but worth a poke.
My favourite of the five here was a little farther up the road, and a new one on me, the Helen & Douglas House hospice (I’ve since discovered another in Abingdon, of which more later, which was also nice, so I’ll have to investigate further). This was a beautifully appointed and furnished store, unusually for a hospice- fitted bookshelves, carefully displayed Valentines-themed clothes… we left with a variety of bargains: an Eric Newby book on the Trans-Siberian Express; three herb planters for a miserly £1 each; and a Noah’s Ark playset for my niece.
Beaconsfield was well worth the almost accidental visit, and we’ll certainly be back when we’re in the area again. There’s some nice looking coffee shops, including a Costa with outdoor seating that might just be the nicest-located chain coffee shop ever, and I’ve no doubt the pub grub in the inns of the old town is excellent. What with Amersham, Gerrards Cross and more to explore, I’m really growing to like this part of the world.
Find: Beaconsfield @ Google Maps
Transport: Beaconsfield station, on the Chilterns line
Consume with: Chez Pain (specialist coffee shop) looked nice
Visit: the Hot Fuzz theme continues with the world’s oldest model village
Overall Rating: four Dave Pelzers