10 Good Reasons to visit Beckenham, Kent

Once a small village in almost completely rural surroundings, now a thriving cosmopolitan town, Beckenham today combines plenty of green spaces and fine old buildings with great facilities for families and a wide range of shops and restaurants

Once a small village in almost completely rural surroundings, now a thriving cosmopolitan town, Beckenham today combines plenty of green spaces and fine old buildings with great facilities for families and a wide range of shops and restaurants

Chamber music in churchSt George’s church is famous for the St George’s Chamber Orchestra performances, as well as the many other lunchtime and evening musical concerts it hosts. It has a scenic churchyard with ancient tombstones, a set of wooden Stations of the Cross made in Oberammergau in 1930, and windows by Thomas Freeth. There’s an annual Arts Festival involving local musical groups and international artists. Heron watchKelsey Park is a haven of wildlife and its heron population is the best place in England to see these birds. It has wonderful woodland, a lake with Canada geese, a children’s playground, tennis courts, a crazy golf course, and a park shop.Cricket and carsBeckenham Crematorium and Cemetery is a peaceful place in a tranquil wooded setting interspersed with pathways, having lovely gardens of remembrance and a marvellous gothic chapel, behind which is a waterfall and rock pool feature. Famous occupants include W G Grace, Frank Bourne, Frederick Wolseley (creator of the Wolseley car), and that great Victorian sanitary engineer, Thomas Crapper.Am-dram heavenBeckenham Theatre Centre (or BTC, 07500 908 331), produces at least nine shows a year in a lovely detached building in its own grounds at the bottom end of the High Street. These are excellent amateur drama productions, from Shakespeare and Shaw to Pinter, as well as musicals and pantomime. The Christmas pantomime is Jack and the Beanstalk, 17-22 December and 27 December-1 January 2012, a production written especially for BTC.Best for swimmingThe Spa at Beckenham (020 8650 0233) has two swimming pools (voted ‘best swimming pool in the UK’), a large gym, a multi-purpose sports hall, five studios and the ‘Buzz zone’, a soft-play area for children, cr�che, cafe and meeting room; there’s also a sports hall and dance studio, Pisces Health and Beauty Centre (020 8658 5646) and Laserworks (07944 611 641) for hair removal and skin rejuvenation.

Open spacesBeckenham Place Park Gardens is the largest green space in the borough with vast tracts of woodland that form part of south east London’s Green chain and Capital Ring walks; it was once part of the huge Cator Estate. There is one of the largest public golf courses (020 8650 2292) in England, its club house in the original mansion house belonging to John Cator. There’s a children’s play area, ornamental gardens and a visitor centre.Pubs big and smallTwo traditional public houses in the High Street are the quaint 18th-century Ye George Inn and the lovely Coach and Horses. If you like sizeable pubs, try the modern Dr W G Grace, named after the great cricketer, or the large 1850-built Elmer lodge, which in previous incarnations was a gentleman’s club and a brothel. Bar Flux is a bar and club for the young, as handy for a quick drink as it is for an all-night rave.Children’s paradiseGambado (0208 662 6910) is described as ‘the ultimate children’s play centre’ and has one

of the largest play frames in Greater London, with dodgems, a climbing wall, fairground carrousel, a gated sensory area for toddlers and a caf�. Suitable for youngsters aged nought to 10, there are trampolines and a huge soft play structure that’s divided into age zones. There’s also a lounge for adults, with internet access.Keep fitDavid Lloyd, Beckenham (0845 1257002) is a terrific health and leisure centre, with the latest resistance equipment and cardiovascular machines, tennis, squash and badminton courts, an open-plan gym with two aerobic studios, a 25m indoor swimming pool, steam room and sauna, hydro, relaxation and plunge pools and heated relaxation beds, as well as a restaurant and bar, the Amida Spa (020 8662 6161) and a cr�che.

Up hill and downThe High Street winds up and down a steep hill and in addition to all the top High Street names there are also some great independent shops. The excellent Beckenham Bookshop (020 8650 9744) is huge and has been there since 1974, there are antique shops and art galleries, homeware and fashion stores and some fine restaurants and caf�s. There were fears that there’d be no money this year for Christmas lighting, but the lights are being switched on, though without a separate ceremony.How to get thereBeckenham is part of the London Borough of Bromley and just a 20-minute drive from London. It is reached by car from the A21 by taking the A222 or the A2015. There are two rail stations, Beckenham Junction and Clock House, plus regular tram and bus services. Satnav postcode: BR3 1ED

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