There are huge swathes of this part of London with little to break them up, and this section of the north east is perhaps the epitome of that. Lengthy avenues are filled with identical suburban homes and traffic, and names like Collier Row, Clayhall, Barkingside, Ilford, Hainault, do little to assist in identifying them. A quick look at the map and you can see that with the exception of a few trunk roads, the North-East of London matches the North-West: avenue upon avenue of 1930’s homes, leafy but grey, broad avenues of pebble-dashed homes with no architectural merit, or stylistic flairs. In the midst of this bland suburbia, just another faceless locale invented out of a former little settlement of no importance between wars.
Nevertheless, I’m unqualified to pass judgement on architecture – I’ll leave that to the experts. We’ll concentrate on Barkingside as retail hub, although what there is of that has been amply written up by diamondgeezer, who namechecks Danny’s Pie & Mash, Yosi’s Gourmet Bagels and the Cheesecake Shop (I was sorely tempted) as worthy of visiting. And well they might be, but I confess I wasn’t really inspired to find out. While the charity shopping is great, I found little worth hanging around for (although I’m sure others would argue).
However: as I say, for a little charity shop tourism, Barkingside’s a far more pleasant diversion if trekking between the more scenic Woodford and the more bustling Romford, certainly a nicer route than the always-horrendous A12. Free parking can be achieved behind Sainsburys, then the pick of suburbias frugal delights are here. Cancer Research is a fairly sizable store, featuring on this occasion a group of young Indian men who appeared to be doing their annual shirt shop all at once. Close by is Helen Rollason’s HEAL, and across the road is Barnado’s – significant, as the young Dr Thomas Barnado set up his charity here in Barkingside in 1866. A none too spectacular shop, but no doubt the charity’s local focus is on the Barnado’s village just down the road.
At the far end of the High Street there’s a Scope and a closed Norwood (it was a Saturday; with the bagel shop, notice of a local Jewish community), along with a fairly ordinary PDSA. Highlights were found close by however: The Haven House shophad a wide range of all sorts of interesting tat at knockdown prices – one of the best purchases I’ve made of late was from here, a complete cake icing kit, with rotating stand, egg-white separator, icing rings, nozzles and fancy Thelwell-esque pump for just 1.50. I say that it’s one of the best, but then there’s the St Francis Hospice close by, one of the last remaining bastions in the London charity shop world of genuine bargains: paperbacks 25p (I got a Hemingway and a pile of Dune and Arthur C Clarke books), CDs 50p. Normally I’m wary of 50p cds but amongst these are some of the best I’ve bought recently: U2’s The Joshua Tree (which I’ve dissected elsewhere) and a Virgin Best Rap Album Ever double cd, which has pretty much everything you’d ever want off an album of that name. Lots of cheap everything else as well.
Barkingside has little going for it except for charity shops, in my opinion, but for a quick stop on one’s way out east, it’s not that bad, and has at least two very good bargain shops which make it worth visiting.
Find: Barkingside @ Google Maps
Transport: Barkingside station is on the Fairlop Loop of the Central Line
Consume with: Though we scuttled off fairly swiftly, The Cheesecake Shop did look enticing…
Visit: You can still wander around Dr Barnardo’s Village, originally a Victorian social housing scheme for poor families and orphans, now housing association with preserved features like the village green
Overall Rating: three icing sets.