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Spotlight on: Bromley

PUBLISHED: 08:07 27 September 2014 | UPDATED: 08:07 27 September 2014

Queen's Garden, Bromley

Queen's Garden, Bromley

Manu Palomeque

With excellent shopping, parks and open spaces, Bromley is also on the cusp of being Kent's leading architectural innovator

Bromley is right in the middle of massive transformation and it’s hard to believe that this suburban town that’s on the edge of fine countryside yet touching South London, started as a group of buildings near what was Bromley Palace, seat of the Bishops of Rochester since the eighth century.

From coaching town on the route from Hastings to London, it became one of the first dormitory towns for commuting London workers and is now undergoing tremendous transformation, previously covered in February Kent Life (page 58).

In 2010 an Area Action Plan was produced, and since February, East Street’s revitalisation has been completed and now had new granite paving, lamp columns, trees and outdoor seating – part of the Bromley north Village improvements.

At the time of writing, the Market Square pedestrian area is almost complete. In July 2104, the Development Control Committee approved town centre plans for a cinema, new restaurant units and leisure facilities in the INTU Shopping Centre.

There are also plans for a hotel in the old Town Hall, while Bromley South Central scheme incorporates what will be eventually be St Mark’s Square, with a hotel, cinema, café and restaurant facilities plus apartments. This development is due to be completed next year.

Walkaround

There is virtually no on-street parking near the pedestrianised town centre, but there are plenty of car parks, although the complicated one-way system is confusing to navigate, with poor signage.

The High Street links the two stations, Bromley South to Bromley North, and most of it is pedestrianised.

The Churchill Theatre and Library building are on the High Street in heart of town, beside Church House Gardens; this is the heart of the town’s famous shopping centre, with two huge malls and masses of individual stores.

To the north is Market Square with a children’s roundabout and a large mural on a house wall.

Places to go

The Churchill Theatre (0844 7620, BR1 1HA) offers West-End style entertainment, and there’s also Bromley Little Theatre (020 8460 3047, BR1 1SB).

The comprehensively equipped Pavilion Leisure Centre (020 8313 9911, BR1 3EF) has pools, health suite and sports hall and squash courts.

If you fancy a relaxing stroll Church House Gardens has a lake, ducks and rose gardens, Queens Gardens has ornamental floral bedding and shrubbery, and Queensmead is a popular recreation ground, with a bowling green.

Nearby attractions include Down House (0870 333 1181, BR6 7JT) at Downe village, home of Charles Darwin, and the Bromley Environmental Education Centre at Farnborough (01689 862815, BR6 7JH).

Shop then dine

The fabulous INTU shopping centre (aka The Glades) has 120 stores, ranging from all the large chains to independents, and there’s also The Mall Shopping Centre, plus plenty of shops, cafés and restaurants mostly on the opposite side of the High Street from these.

On Friday and Saturday the High Street has a street market for all kinds of items, and there are also occasional continental markets.

You’ll find quality cuisine at The Garden Restaurant at the Bromley Court Hotel (020 8461 8600, BR1 4JD), Ferrari’s Italian Restaurant (020 8464 8877, BR1 1QQ), and at nearby Locksbottom there is award-winning Chapter One (01689 858848, BR6 8NF) (winner of a Michelin star and AA rosettes, plus a contender in two categories in the Kent Life and Kent on Sunday Food & Drink awards).

For good pubs, see real-ale devotee Geraldine Rolfe’s choices below.

House prices

One- and two-bedroom flats are in the region of £174,000 and £245,000 respectively, while a three-bedroom semi might cost around £325,000 and a four-bedroom detached house upwards of £520,000.

Real ale lover

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) is an independent voluntary consumer organisation with branches throughout England, its main aims promoting real ale, real cider and the traditional British pub.

Geraldine Rolfe (above) has been a member since the early 1980s and is Joint Vice Chair and Public Affairs Officer for the thriving Bromley branch.

“I joined CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival, where I was introduced to hundreds of beers and dozens of ciders and perries – a wonderful experience,” says Geraldine.

Real ale, as opposed to keg beers, is unfiltered, unpasteurised, served directly from a cask by gravity or a hand pump and has no added gas.

There’s a flourish of microbreweries right now, and I’d like to mention Late Knights Brew in Penge and the one in Westerham, always a favourite.

We meet on the last Tuesday in every month in a range of Bromley pubs – check our website for details. Members’ advantages include: discount on beer in some pubs, reduced or free entry to beer festivals and a hectic social side, with events most weekends. You can buy real ale from the cask from a shop called The Bitter End (020 8466 6083, BR2 9HW).

I live near Beckenham Hill Park and Golf Course, which offers very pleasant walks and is part of the green chain walk.

All the following pubs offer quality real ales in superb condition: The Queens Head (01689 853455, BR6 6BQ), Downe, (just won our 2014 Pub of the year), the Shortlands Tavern (020 8466 0202, BR2 0EY), (runner up), the Greyhound (01689 856388, BR2 6BP) at Keston, a truly inspirational community pub, also The Red Lion (020 8460 2691, BR1 3LG) and the Two Doves (020 8462 1627, BR2 8HD) on Bromley Common, both of which offer a more traditional style of pub.”

Herbalist’s viewpoint

Bromley Store and Therapy Rooms (020 8313 9898) is part of Neal’s Yard Remedies (NYR), a countrywide chain of stores that sell health and beauty products that are more natural and less synthetic.

Natasha Richardson (07961227595) has worked at the store for seven years as a shop assistant and therapist, and also runs her own business and arranges guided herb walks and courses in herbal medicine.

“I’m always at the store on Saturday afternoons and am readily available if you want to chat there or via email (nr.herbalist@gmail.com),” says Natasha.

NYR is a wonderfully ethical company that I worked for since I left school, indeed their courses helped me discover my vocation as a herbalist. I thoroughly recommend their Wild Rose Beauty Balm – it’s amazing for everything.

My favourite feature of the Bromley area is the preponderance of green spaces (around 18 public parks), which are especially well kept, and many are allowed to grow wild along the Ravensbourne River.

My hobby is gardening and I have an allotment behind Ravensbourne Road. I love the park next to my house that goes up behind the Churchill Theatre, it’s an oasis of calm. My favourite local walk goes through there and follows the park down to Beckenham Place Park opposite Ravensbourne Station.

I can recommend the Olive Tree Restaurant (020 8313 3808, BR1 1LG), and my favourite pub is the The Shortlands Tavern.

Bromley is a bustling shopping town, but look behind the High Street and you’ll discover a lesser-known Green Metropolis.”

Getting there

Touching south east London, Bromley is accessible from the A21, linked to the M25 at junction 4. There are two London-linked stations, Bromley North and Bromley South.

Satnav postcode: BR1 1DN

CAPTIONS

The Queen’s Garden is on a site formerly known as The White Hart Cricket Field and was created to commemorate the reign of Queen Victoria

The Charles Darwin mural in Market Square commemorates the famous former resident of Downe House in nearby Downe

Bromley Town Church in Ethelbert Road

The Star & Garter pub in the High Street

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