Adding another top trump to the Chiltern towns trading card set, we reach the ancient market town of Chesham, just down the road from Amersham. The royal charter of 1257 is still in evidence in 2009, and as we rounded the corner onto the high street, a windy market was in the process of packing up, selling off enlarged plastic bowls of fruit at barked, drop-down prices. But it was a sunny day, a happy one to be a trader, and just as much a happy day to be a charity shop tourist.
Chesham’s an old town, with plenty of history. Though a quiet commuter town now, at the extremities of the Metropolitan line, it’s had associations with big bad Henry VIII and friends, as well as the hilariously named lollards and the puritans – it’s a hub for non-conformism. Today, it’s home to the likes of Lt. Gruber and bloggers, and is a cheery, pleasant little town. It’s charity shops proved a surprise even armed with the now invaluable iPhone, and seven little outlets proved a good way to wile past an hour or two.
First approached is a large-ish Oxfam – a decent books and cds section here, and I left with VS Naipaul’s The Loss of El Dorado. Continue on though and you’ll find a High Street stretching in both directions along a semi-pedestrianised market zones. Turning left points you towards the less classy end of the town centre: pound shops and the like here, and also a spacious St Francis Hospice, to which someone had evidently had a clear out of their 90’s collection: I left with Weezer’s blue debut (finally! I lost my copy years ago and have been holding out for this) and Tricky’s Maxinquaye.
On the main drag of the High Street there’s an average British Heart Foundation, an average Cancer Research… nothing too much to comment on. As for the national charities, the pick of the bunch is RSPCA, a large, untidy store with lots of unusual oddments, the oddest of them all being a nice pair of trousers that fit my awkward frame. Moleskin even, though nothing to do with the notebooks. Then we have Shaw Trust, another untidy place that spills out onto the High Street. A basket for shoes, a basket for t-shirts, that’s the sort of place. At the opposite end of the spectrum, though equally appealing is the Helen & Douglas House Hospice. Ever the rolls royce of the charity shop world, this shops well-fitted shelves and tasteful array of new bits complement a large selection of assorted electricals to rival the Sally Army in Hitchin, and the layout and selection is reminiscent of the Hospice’s excellent shops in Abingdon and Beaconsfield.
Chesham well warrants a return visit for my intrepid companion and I, as there’s surely plenty more to explore: the large park and lake looked quite appealing on this sunny day, were it not for the ominous ticking of the car park clock. So I’ll return, and will do so with pleasure.