I wish it could be Christmas every day, right? Well, I’m a fan of the mince pies, it’s true, but given the mammoth hamper-construction task we’ve given ourselves this year, I think I might not be able to cope with it every day. Nevertheless, set the task we day, which meant that this Saturday was dedicated wicker search day. Running through the demographic options it was concluded that the highest incidence of basketry was likely to be our Chilterns run, so off we set.
The job was done surprisingly quickly – Gerrard’s Cross, Amersham and Chesham did the trick. Left with some time to spend, we ventured along this string of Buckinghamshire towns and arrived in Berkhamsted. I don’t know if it’s the festive cheer or the availability of fancy brownies, but I liked the place: a strip of a high street bounded by boutiques and stores mostly masquerading as upmarket, if not quite reaching the nouveau riche exclusivity of Gerrard’s Cross or the Regency elegance of Amersham’s Old Town.
The castle was beyond the limits of our stay this weekend (after all, we had to return to make mincemeat and pickle onions), but it’s the seat of the town’s history. Berkhamsted was the extent of the marauding Norman invasion back in the (10)60’s, where the surrender was made official and the keys to London were handed over. The town’s been a thriving market community since, and today houses a very Christmassy market and three charity shops.
Cancer Research and Red Cross reside at the far end of the high street and are fairly par-for-the-course charity shops. Next to the Red Cross shop was a jewellery boutique where everything seemed to be modelled by meerkats; later on, the toy shop had to announce it was out of meerkats. There appears to be some sort of conspiracy here.
Pick of the bunch, though, is Oxfam. So often overpriced and filled with fair-trade lecturing, this one was packed to the gills with lovely stuff (cf. Pinner for another good example). I could have spent a fortune on books, limiting myself to a beautiful old edition of Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton, and two books which I’ve been meaning to check out for my course. Then there was the epic mounds of children’s clothes and a generally well-stuffed collection of other stuff.
Berkhamsted is an excellent addition to a fine run of Chiltern towns – I could spend a happy day sifting the 23 or so charity shops between here and Beaconsfield, and given an hour extra we could even pootle from here to Tring, Aylesbury, Harpenden, St Albans…
Find: Berkhamsted @ Google Maps
Consume with: I recommend the stand selling nothing but chocolate brownies, I can’t fault that business plan.
Visit: I ‘ll be trying to find time for the castle next time.
Overall rating: four diddy wooden spoons