I usually get some irate comments when I denigrate a town, but I’ll take that risk. Not because Chippenham is an unattractive town, far from it: the famous sandstone of Bath, only 13 miles away, is much in evidence here be it in towering viaducts or pretty Victorian high street architecture. And not because of any disappointing lack of charity shops or any other facilities. Not because of a lack of scenery or cuteness nearby, because that’s not the case.
It’s just that Chippenham feels so completely far from any sort of normal civilisation, as I’m used to the term. It’s hardly remote, 4 miles off the M4, commuting distance to Bristol and Swindon, rail distance from London even, but there’s just nothing around for miles but some countryside, some small, undistinguished towns like Melksham and Calne, and a motorway (which is boring itself). Sure sure, it’s not far from the Cotswolds, or Bath, or even South Wales I suppose; but man, it wouldn’t half be a dull place to live.
That off my chest, the charity shops ain’t bad. The town centre revolves around its marketplace/high street, at the top of which lies the British Red Cross, on the town square by the Buttercross, a strange sort of stone gazebo that’s been assembled, disassembled and reassembled numerous times. Proceed down the gentle hill through the market stalls (Friday and Saturday) to British Heart Foundation by the river Avon. The town itself is plenty pretty: down by the river it’s downright charming, a wide arc of water with swans and little boats and greenery. A lovely spot for a picnic, I would think.
Cross the bridge for the bulk of charity shops. Oxfam is right on the roundabout and has a pretty good book display, as well as a wide variety of other things, including some frilly meringues masquerading as secondhand wedding dresses. Over the road is Age UK and Dorothy House Hospice, both small but packed full of some pretty random tat. Chippenham’s well-stocked for charity shops and is a pretty town. If you can face being miles from anywhere big but still surrounded by people, this might do you.
Find: Chippenham @ Google Maps
Get there: Chippenham station runs to Bath, Bristol or London.
Consume with: there’s a few little coffee shops but nothing fancy: I’d recommend a Waitrose picnic by the river.
Visit: the beautiful city of Bath is only 13 miles away.
Overall rating: three butter buddies