Friday, 17 September 2010

1. The Charity Shops of Beckenham

Photograph by Robert Brook
I intend to eventually get around to doing posts about the charity shops in each town in Bromley. I've been to all of the charity shops in Beckenham and West Wickham, but not all of those in Bromley. I've never been to the giant Oxfam, but I do recommend Goth Scope, as I prefer to call it. It's a good few years since I last went around Orpington, but I will visit, in the name of research, to check out its supposed shiny-newness as comically reopened by Boris Johnson. Warning: link contains quotes from bizarre speech referencing Charles Darwin and natural selection. Neither ITAGIB or anyone else takes responsibility for any damage you may cause to yourself or the world as a result of reading them.

Anyway, today's post is about Beckenham High Street. Land of middle-class-ness. Restaurants. Hairdressers. Pretentious looking bars. Little boutiques. A few random independent shops. Estate agents*. And charity shops.

Eight fine charity emporiums.

It used to be eight and a half, when The Changing World was open, as they would take donations for a homeless charity. I miss The Changing World! It was right opposite Clock House station, a very convenient location for me, and was absolutely stuffed with all kinds of weird and wonderful things. I bought so many hats there I lost count. But onto the remaining eight, and my recommended route.

1. Begin on Croydon Road, with Mind, at number 431. Closest bus stop is Beckenham War Memorial. Mind is best for books, they currently have just about the lowest prices. Although if you really want a bargain, you should go to the library first and check out the sale rack. They've recently started selling women's clothing in Mind but unsurprisingly there isn't much of it as it's a very small shop. It's mostly bric-a-brac, books, music, and DVDs in here. Mind closes at 4:30.

2. When you've walked round onto the High Street, cross the road. Trust me on this. CROSS THE ROAD. The 2 charity shops on this side of the road both close at 5:30, whereas all those on the other side of the road, shut at 4:30 or 5pm. So cross.

3. First destination on the High Street is Scope. Scope were the first to start organising the women's clothing by colour. They're still ahead of the pack - they've got one of those four pronged rail things devoted to larger sizes, which I'm told is a Very Good Idea. There's quite a lot of space in here so lots of clothes stock and shelves of bric-a-brac. Book selection is very small though, and prices can be a bit high. I personally prefer the Goth Scope at Bromley but will still pop in here and have a look, of course. What I particularly like about Beckenham Scope is that everything is well spaced out. In some of the smaller shops I feel like I have to be very careful with my bag and my lanky limbs, not so in Scope. They do have a lot of new jewellery but I quite like Scope's selection and the prices seem fair.

4. Next we walk up to what I like to call the Triad. It begins with the British Heart Foundation, which I have trouble telling apart from the Cancer Research shop four doors down. I can remember which charity shop I bought any item from, unless I got it from the BHF or Cancer Research! Honestly they are pretty much the same shop with different livery. About the same size, same variety of stuff, books in the same position along the back wall, new items as well as old. Both shut at 5pm.

Photograph from Jon's pics
 5. The final charity shop in the Triad is Oxfam, which is two doors down from Cancer Research. Oxfam is practically a bookshop. They have the widest selection but some of the highest prices. There are a few records and some clothes, and quite good jewellery sometimes. Oxfam closes at 5pm.

6. If you are mentally and physically prepared for it, you can now continue walking and walking and walking (round the corner - never cross the road!) until you reach the St Christopher's Hospice shop. This is a rather strange place. It's quite big, but I have never bought a book or any clothing there, because I've never seen anything I've liked. I know other people have gotten fantastic bargains there, but I can only remember getting make-up from the shelf on the left by the till. They sell very cheap make-up. £1 nail varnish, yes please.

7. Now it is time to cross the road and walk back the other way. Method to this madness! Of course, if you want to end up at Beckenham Junction station, you will need to do all this backwards, beginning with St Christopher's Hospice, crossing over to go to Mind, and then turning around to go back on the other side of the road.

8. The Children's Society. Second cheapest for books at the moment, no new stuff except Christmas cards. I think it's the best for women's clothing, possibly because it gets fewer visitors than the other charity shops so the stock is less picked over. Why does it get fewer visitors? It's one of the newer charity shops in the area and a lot of people have yet to realise that it's there!

9. I have bought one of practically every type of item from the Red Cross Shop. Clothes, books, CDs. It used to be the last charity shop to close. Prices are fairly average, but there's plenty of breathing room. Clothes are organised by colour. It got a revamp a year or so ago and I have to admit that before the revamp, when clothes weren't organised by colour and it was a bit more smelly, I found more items to buy. But it is more welcoming now and probably brings in more money for the charity, which is the whole point.

The End. I hope you packed all your new-to-you purchases into a canvas bag like a responsible person, and that you don't have long to wait for the bus home.

* though two closed down when the recession hit, to be replaced by, of course, restaurants.
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