Category Archives: London East

Stoke Newington

Old post office sign, Allen Road, N16, under Creative Commons, by mtrank. Click pic for link.

Old post office sign, Allen Road, N16, under Creative Commons, by mtrank. Click pic for link.

I’ve been in Wood Green Library all morning reading up on gentrification, i.e. the process of displacing working class residents and replacing them with middle class types. It’s actually a lot more complicated than that, but you know what I mean. The key case study for this is actually Barnsbury, just down the road, but Stokie is definitely on the euphemistically titled ‘urban renaissance’ roster. It has its background in Quaker non-conformism and like Barnsbury was a fairly well-off sector, full of little Victorian terraces surrounding Church Street and Stoke Newington High Street, now the A10 but dating back to the Roman Ermine Street. Post-war, this was a thoroughly working class area in keeping with its entry into the London Borough of Hackney.

Lately however, like Barnsbury, Crouch End etc. nearby, Stokie has been overrun by the young, the wealthy, the stylish: it’s a very media-type area, full of sandal-wearing coffee-shop denizens with weedy beards and the Guardian tucked into their back pocket. And it has every amenity to cater to them: a range of extremely beautiful cafes all just on the far side of expensive; restaurants particularly representing the South Indian community of the area; a Saturday morning farmers market; boutiques and ridiculously over-priced children’s and locally-themed tat shops.

That said, it’s a very pleasant way to wile away a couple of hours, especially when combined with the gloriously overgrown Abney Park Cemetery. It lacks on charity shops, sadly, even when you broaden most yuppies’ stamping ground of Church Street onto the more ethnically-diverse A10 – they pop up as you go either direction (either South towards Dalston or North to Stamford Hill/Tottenham). Stokie has just the one, Mind, at the foot of Church Street. It’s a decent enough shop, though small: there’s little in the way of clothing, but the book section is, as you’d expect, fairly literary. The cd’s are often pretty good – my guess is that the journalists of the region offload their promos here, and you never quite know if you’ll happen on something useful.

This is prime trendy Londoner territory, surrounded on all sides by more down to earth parts, but remaining cheerfully aloof. For all that, it’s not a snobbish type of place, and though there’s definitely a Stoke Newington ‘type’, visitors won’t feel looked down on as you might get in Highgate, for instance. With outdoor coffee, the cemetery and Clissold Park, it’s definitely a pleasant place to spend a sunny afternoon.

Find: Stoke Newington @ Google Maps
Consume with: For coffee, breakfast or lunch, the Blue Legume is excellent (try the juices), but for dinner there’s nothing finer than Rasa.
Visit: Abney Park Cemetery is home to William Booth and all sorts of fun others, as well as some beautifully decayed monumental masonry and some serious atmosphere.
Overall rating: three pairs of sandals.

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Filed under 3/5, London East

Walthamstow

Walthamstow Legs, under Creative Commons, by Andy Howell. Click pic for link to photostream.

Walthamstow Legs, under Creative Commons, by Andy Howell. Click pic for link to photostream.

It was with some trepidation that we headed out for a stroll along a soggy Walthamstow High Street this Saturday past. Not because of the usual fears, that the vast hordes of market shoppers would infuriate and aggravate us, or that we’d have so much choice of bowls of fruit that our heads would explode; rather, this being the first time I’d ventured out for a proper shop since I broke my hip in May, that I would keel over from fatigue before scenting the perfect bargain. It didn’t happen, obviously, but Walthamstow is at best a proposition and a half on a Saturday. The mile long market (the longest in Europe) becomes a magnet for the bargain hunters of the whole of East and North London and whether you’re after knock-off perfume, fabric, fruit’n’veg or rare reggae, you’re bound to find it here between Tubby Isaacs‘ jellied eels and various roti or kebab stalls. Diamondgeezer‘s not keen, but I have to confess I find the place kind of fun, when I have the energy – there’s not many places like it.

With my limited mobility, we only perused the top half of the market, which was still enough for me – from Palmerston Street up to Walthamstow Central station and back. If you’re interested, there’s a huge Asda and a huge Sainsburys up here, but Walthamstow High Street is really about the little independent shops – there’s relatively few large chain stores (outside of the mall in Selborne Walk), and a lot of these are your Percy Ingles, Greggs variety. For such a lengthy stretch there’s also relatively few charity shops, and you won’t get a proper review of the whole lot here for the simple reason that I didn’t go to them all. There is a couple worth a mention though, so we’ll continue.

First up is YMCA, a beast of a shop with (I notice now) a ramp in the middle. There’s a good selection of clothing here, and I came away with a short-sleeved summer shirt (Primark, I think, which probably means YMCA are selling it for more than it was originally…) and an Idlewild album. At the top end of the High Street (approaching Walthamstow Village, which I still have a hard time believing exists), there’s two British Heart Foundation stores: one a normal, well-stocked shop (if nothing worth buying), one a vast furniture and electrical emporium. These places are always worth noting: this shop has beds, suites, and all sorts of furniture as well as a range of white goods and electronics, TVs and hifis, you name it. At this juncture it seems appropriate to mention the Sally Army Thrift Store on Forest Road: a bit out of the way for a trek along the High Street, but again a furniture shop, as well as plenty more besides. It’s up opposite the William Morris gallery.

At the end of the High Street is Hoe Street, and there’s an Islamic Relief shop there: I’ve not been, so we trek back down the market to the other side of Palmerston Road and we have a couple more, which I didn’t get to this time round: there’s a Scope, Help The Aged and CREST, and a slightly forlorn Oxfam right at the bottom.

While Walthamstow is not generally for the fainthearted, especially at the weekend, for the brave/foolhardy there’s plenty to see here, or come just for the experience of such a huge, bizarre market – with plenty of thrifty choices as well as coffee shops, you should be able to grab a bargain too, which always helps.

Find: Walthamstow @ Google Maps
Consume with: There’s plenty of cafs and coffee shops, but for something a little more traditional, I might recommend the aforementioned Tubby Isaacs for jellied eels, or Manzes for pie and mash.
Visit: The William Morris gallery is worth a look: set in the former home of the painter, decorater, writer and social reformer, it’s mostly dedicated to Morris‘ famous patterns.
Overall rating: four old bits of underwear

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Filed under 4/5, London East

Chingford

 

Chingford, by -AX-, under Creative Commons. Click for -AX-s photostream.

Chingford, by -AX-, under Creative Commons. Click for -AX-'s photostream.

The role call of Chingford’s notables is impressive in an awful kind of way. Starting well with Leslie Phillips, it quickly descends from David Beckham, to Teddy Sheringham, to Samantha Fox, to Daniella Westbrook, to Blazin’ Squad. It’s redolent of the character of the place – situated on London’s very edge and bordering Epping Forest, Chingford should by rights be a classy-ish, monied ‘burb, a la Loughton or Woodford. And parts of it fit into that category, with Station Road extending off into the Forest past restaurants that spill onto the gazebo-covered pavement, and olde buildings and the station. But the bulk of Chingford centres around Chingford Mount Road and Hall Lane, less affluent in appearance at least, and generally deeply tacky.

 

The appearance of four charity shops does little to bypass the hordes of loud women, their screeching reminding us that though this is Greater London, though this has an E postcode, Chingford is Essex through and through, and no region plays to its stereotypes more than Essex. We’ve three chain stores here, Barnardo’s, Cancer Research and Sense doing little more than average. The one to look out for is the Haven House shop, which aside from its bizarre one way system of navigation (all baskets of produce on the floor like stacked tyres at a racetrack) has a decent enough pile of odds and ends, and books stacked several deep at points.

I find little to recommend in this part of Chingford, and while the northern part of the area seems more pleasant, situated in close proximity to Connaught Water and the Queen Elizabeth Hunting Lodge, Chingford proper is just… grim.

Find: Chingford @ Google Maps
Transport: Chingford Station is actually a trek from the main bit, so there’s little alternative but buses
Consume with: Um, Greggs?
Visit: Head out to the forest would be the best bet.
Overall Rating: two egg slicers

 

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Filed under 2/5, London East

Barkingside

 

Childrens Church, under creative commons by diamondgeezer. Click pic for photostream.

Children's Church, under creative commons by diamondgeezer. Click pic for photostream.

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.

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Filed under 3/5, London East

South Woodford

photo from stevec77s photostream

photo from stevec77’s photostream

We’re entering a world of controversy here. What category do I enter South Woodford in? Is it Essex? London North? London East? It’s difficult to know the correct protocol here – my usual tactic of insisting on Essex to the chagrin of Woodforders falls down in the almost incontrovertible evidence of Wikipedia. For that reason, it’s going in East: my mental map dictates that anything right of the River Lea is East, and so East it is.

Now that’s cleared up, down to business. For a small shopping zone centred around George Lane, South Woodford punches above its weight in terms of charity shops. The tube station that carves through that street rends the CBD in two, and where once a level crossing joined them, now a subway or flyover leaves not much worth visiting on the Eastern side, and a small but cosy high street affair on the West. It’s George Lane West that is the centre of the bargain shopping district here, with a good five charity shops piling up on top of each other to get a look in.

Starting at the station, firstly is a rather odd Barnardos. It houses the occasional item of bric-a-brac, but predominantly it’s factory seconds, or donated warehouse stock. As such, it’s priced well above the odds for a charity shop, with the pay off that the clothes are brand new. Not really for me.

Also on George Lane we find a Haven House hospice shop with a fairly standard selection; a pretty decent book selection in the Childrens’ Society; a well-stocked Cancer Research (natch) and the rambling splendour (although not much to buy this time); HEAL – it doesn’t quite make up for the missing one in Epping, but it’s a start.

On this trip I found… well, not much really. The biggest resentment was seeing a lady at the laden bookshelves of Haven House holding a Roland Barthes book- Mythologies – that I would certainly have snapped up. I came away instead with Falling Down, much to the approval of the lady volunteers. South Woodford is great for bargains on the right day; this just wasn’t really it.

Find: Charity Shop Tourism @ Google Maps
Transport: South Woodford station on the Central Line
Consume with: not out of personal recommendation, but I can’t fault the naming principle behind The Oven D’Or.
Visit: Honestly, there’s not a lot of reason other than bargain-hunting to come here. You’d be best combining it with a trip out East, or up to the Forest.
Overall rating: Three Phil Collins’ No Jacket Required
  

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Filed under 3/5, London East