10 reasons to visit Banstead
- Credit: Archant
With its leafy surrounds, famous lavender and expansive high street, Banstead is a pleasant place to while away an afternoon. Here are its hot spots...
Retaining a relaxing, villagey feel, the expansive High Street is a great place to start your visit to Banstead, searching out the interesting independents. One of our favourites is the Boutique Cakery, at 163 High Street (boutiquecakery.com), where you’ll find the most astonishing display of elaborately-iced creations – from the Ahoy Sailor cake – complete with incredibly detailed treasure map – to Elsa’s Ice Tower, a hand-painted tower including an Olaf character from Frozen. When it’s time for a cuppa, a bit further along is Edibles Delicatessen, at 125 High Street (edibles.co.uk), with everything from cheeses and chutneys to hampers, as well as a popular café. The Banstead Big Breakfast, which has two of everything except the sausages (you get three of those), comes highly recommended.
Curzon Country Cinema
Staying in the High Street, believe it or not the village also has its very own movie house – The Curzon Country Cinema. Situated in the Church Institute – a lovely old building dating from 1906 – this month they are showing The Lady in the Van, a film about a man who forms an unexpected bond with a lady living in her car parked in his driveway. With Dame Maggie Smith of Downton Abbey fame and Alex Jennings, this is one not to miss. The screening takes place on Tuesday March 15, with matinees at 2pm and 4.10pm and evening showings at 6.10pm and 8.10pm.
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War Memorial and Old Village Well
Time for a bit of history now, and a quick stroll to the far end of the High Street will take you to the war memorial and on to the old village well. The memorial has quite a history, having been erected in 1920, complete with a Celtic cross, following plans made by the Parish Council in 1918 to “welcome home our fighting men”. The entire memorial was actually moved a few yards to one side in 1996 to allow a new roundabout to be constructed. Even older is the nearby well, once at the centre of village life. Almost 300 feet deep, it has a set of elaborate winding gear to raise fresh water and was last used in 1895. Restored in 2003, the well-head is housed in a cover that is itself a listed building.
Describing themselves as a “true traditional village pub” and recently named the Shepherd Neame Pub of The Year, you get a lot more than just a pint and a pie here. Monday nights are quiz nights, but better than that, if you’re a jazz fan, you’ll be in for a real treat. On the first Tuesday of every month, The Woolpack hosts a live jazz session – the pub was the former local of Pete Strange, Humphrey Lyttelton’s trombonist, who regularly met with his fellow musicians and jazz friends over a pint – so if you fancy something to get your feet tapping, pop along. Also featuring a seasonal menu, daily à la carte and Sunday roasts, that should take care of the hunger pangs.
All Saints Church
The Banstead Five, as it is commonly known, is an ecumenical partnership between the five churches in the area – All Saints, United Reformed, St Paul’s CofE in Nork, St Ann’s Catholic and Banstead Methodist. There’s lots going on including a very active youth group, Banstead 5 Youth, with discos, plays and outdoor activities. There is also a church-run café in the High Street called The Open Door Coffee Shop, open six days a week from 10am to 2pm. If you’re popping in for a cup of tea or lunch, have a quick wander round the nearby All Saints Church, a fascinating building dating back to the 1100s, with some fine examples of stained glass windows (see if you can find the camel…).
If you live in Banstead, you will already know the town’s link with lavender. The chalk soil in the area made this a perfect place for growing this beautiful purple flower, much-valued since before Victorian times. The tradition of lavender growing is still continued to this day at Mayfield, who have two sites. First, there is the 25-acre organic growing fields here in Banstead, where from May onwards you can wander amongst the flowers breathing in the heady aroma, and enjoy the café and shop. For now, though, pop along to their plant nursery and shop at 139 Reigate Road, Ewell KT17 3DW (open Tuesday to Saturday, 9am to 5.30pm) where you can buy all kinds of lavender-related products. Their tip of the month? Try adding five to 10 drops of lavender oil to a warm bath and lie back and relax… mmm.
The Four Banstead Commons
Did you realise there are four distinct areas of common around Banstead? Called Banstead Heath, Burgh Heath, Banstead Downs and Park Downs, the last two are classified as Sites of Special Scientific Interest. The commons are managed by a group called The Banstead Common Conservators, formed in 1893, originally to protect the areas from rampant development. The conservators, eight in total, still meet every three months. Our favourite anecdote surrounding the commons concerns the horse that paused for a drink from a pond but, complete with cart, slid four-footed down the bank where it came to rest, completely stuck and refusing to budge. The story goes that an onlooker had the bright idea of pouring whiskey down its throat, whereupon the poor beast reared up and shot across the common with the cart rattling behind.
You might wonder why we are including a used car dealership in our list of interesting places to visit… but this is a showroom with a difference indeed. Even if you are not a confirmed ‘petrol- head’, as Jeremy Clarkson would say, you can always look on the supercars this company deals with as works of art. Based here for over 25 years, Romans pride themselves on the fine selection in their showroom, and there are indeed some really fabulous beasts here – Aston Martins, Bentleys, Mercedes and Porsches sit side by side in a gleaming automotive extravagance. There is the small matter of funding, of course, but at this level it is probably vulgar to discuss how much a 2011 Ferrari 599 GTO costs. Oh, okay then, just over half a million quid.
Right in the middle of the Banstead, Epsom and Tadworth triangle, this very special Indian restaurant has long been a favourite of discerning diners in the area. Opened 26 years ago by Enam Ali MBE, Le Raj has carved out an enviable reputation as one of the best outside the capital. Following a philosophy of healthy cooking using traditional methods and organic produce (even to the extent where the chefs grind spices in a mortar and pestle and make their own yoghurt and cheese), Enam has helped to change the way the original ‘curry house’ was viewed beyond all recognition. Frequented by celebrities and VIPs, Le Raj is also the only Indian restaurant to have served guests at the Olympic Hospitality Centre in 2012. Don’t just take our word for it though (yes, Surrey Life has enjoyed the occasional feast here), have a browse through the website and be tempted.
Tadworth Leisure and Community Centre
Don’t be fooled by the name – this new leisure centre has recently replaced the nearby Banstead Leisure Centre and serves the whole area. So, now that you’ve been eating The Banstead Big Breakfast, tucking into lunch at The Woolpack, sampling the fabulous fare at the Boutique Cakery, all finished off with a feast at Le Raj, we felt it a bit irresponsible not to encourage you to turn the tables on the calories with a bit of healthy exercise. The recently-opened Tadworth Leisure and Community Centre has got everything you need – a huge swimming pool, group exercise studio, gym, sports hall activities, trampoline, netball, table tennis and loads more. While many areas are open to non-members as well, if you’re really committed, why not join up and give it the full works.