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Spotlight on: Bromley

PUBLISHED: 07:22 25 September 2015 | UPDATED: 07:22 25 September 2015

Market Square, Bromley

Market Square, Bromley

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

Bromley is the best of both worlds; at once a Kentish town a stone's throw away from the countryside and also a part of suburban London.

Originally a tiny hamlet surrounding the Bishop of Rochester’s Palace, now the hub of the town’s civic centre, it became one of the first commuter towns and was eventually taken into the newly created Greater London in 1965.

Bromley is changing again with its shopping and leisure areas receiving multi-million pound upgrades. The north end of Bromley has already been smartened, the vast intu shopping centre is expanding with plans for more al fresco dining and a rooftop cinema; a leisure development is taking shape at the south end of town.

Away from the trendy shops and construction sites, Bromley is blessed with excellent parks and green spaces, fabulous leisure and sporting facilities and is very family friendly. With a warm, community feel and an easy commute to the city, it’s the kind of place where young professionals are eager to set up family homes.

Eating and shopping

With a town the size of Bromley comes a great deal of choice in both shopping and dining. The large intu shopping centre has more than 120 stores and has branches of M&S, Debenhams and French Connection, among many others. The centre even has a range of personal shopper packages if you need a bit of help choosing an outfit for a special occasion.

Out on the High Street there are plenty more stores to choose from, including a popular branch of Primark. Bromley North, however, boasts a much more independent feel with friendly shops, cafés and restaurants in and around the Chatterton village area.

Great places to eat are plentiful in Bromley. We recommend modern Turkish restaurant Havet (020 82906717), Indian restaurant Shampan 2 (020 84607169) and, in nearby Locksbottom, the award-winning Chapter One (01689 854848), run by chef and Kent Life contributor Andrew McLeish.

Bromley’s Green Gyms

If you thought exercising was dull, think again. The bright sparks at The Conservation Volunteers have come up with a way to keep fit at the same time as volunteering on some great local conservation projects.

Bromley Green Gym Project Officer Alaina O’Donoghue tells us about about the exciting new initiative to get Bromley’s residents out of their stuffy gyms, off their treadmills and into the borough’s green spaces.

What is a Green Gym?

Green Gym is a great and refreshing approach to outdoor exercise. It involves weekly three-hour sessions designed by The Conservation Volunteers (TCV), the community volunteering charity, to improve people’s health and wellbeing and make a positive impact on the local environment.

We start with some gentle warm-up exercises before conservation and gardening tasks and finish the day with cool-down stretches. Sessions are free to attend, from 11am until 2pm, and with a range of activities suitable for everyone, Green Gym helps people connect with the outdoors every day.

Tell us about Bromley’s Green Gyms

There are three in the area. Penge Green Gym, based at Winsford Gardens, was set up in 2011 and runs every Wednesday. It transitioned to a fully constituted community group in 2013. They continue Green Gym sessions and their work to improve Winsford Gardens is for the community, with a wildflower meadow, a rose garden and a nursery.

Bromley Green Gym was established in 2013 with sessions every Friday and celebrated its independent launch in May this year. Fantastic work has been done at College Green and Slip Pocket Park and the space has undergone a huge transformation from an unused spot to a bright, colourful and inviting space for not just the community but local wildlife as well.

You can find a mini orchard, an ancient mulberry tree and arguably the biggest insect hotel in Bromley here!

In partnership with intu Bromley and London Borough of Bromley, we recently established our third Green Gym in Bromley at Whitehall Recreation Ground, with sessions every Monday.

What are the benefits for volunteers?

Unlike other conservation projects our emphasis is on health and wellbeing. Independent studies show that Green Gym has an important positive effect on the physical and mental health of our volunteers, with 84 per cent saying they felt more positive after attending Green Gym sessions. So you’ll not only be improving your environment, you’ll be getting fitter and happier in the process!

And for the environments they’re working in?

Whether we are planting wildflower meadows, pond clearing, food growing or creating pathways, our volunteer groups impact greatly toward the survival of wildlife.

With locally managed green spaces there comes local people working responsibly for their environment and sometimes gaining an increased awareness of wildlife management.

Whitehall Green Gym will be creating a wildlife education area for local schools and the community to learn about things like pond life, the importance of the endangered stag beetle and what flowers will attract bees and butterflies. All of this contributes to an awareness of our natural environment.

What’s a typical project?

As each site is so different there isn’t really a typical project for Green Gym, but Whitehall Green Gym will be doing similar construction work to what Bromley Green Gym has done on College Green. Whitehall will be building two new raised beds on the pathways and a pergola in the nature area at Whitehall with new seating. We will also be planting a large meadow flower area at the Southlands Road entrance.

How can people try it out for themselves?

Just come along! Call me, Alaina O’Donoghue, on 07740 899672 or email gg-bromley@tcv.org.uk or alternatively you can visit www.tcv.org.uk/greengym

My Town

with local journalist Oliver Frankham

What do you love about Bromley?

Despite having been consumed by Greater London, it retains its identity as a Kentish town and manages to combine the benefits of urban living with a healthy dose of rural open space. Its location offers a fast rail link to central London and easy access to the Kent countryside and coast. Bromley has most of the amenities you could reasonably expect. I’ve always lived here and have no desire to leave.

Your favourite shops?

Like many UK town centres, Bromley’s shopping areas have suffered a downturn in recent years. Primark seems to be the biggest draw for out-of-towners, while my wife loves Neal’s Yard Remedies in East Street.

However, things are definitely looking up for Bromley. A great deal of money has been spent smartening up the northern end of town to great effect and the intu shopping centre - which everyone still calls The Glades - is expanding.

Best of all, a big new development at Bromley South is currently under construction, so next year we will have new restaurants, a hotel and a multi-screen cinema.

Your favourite pubs, bars and restaurants?

In the High Street The Barrel and Horn (020 8290 2039) has an eclectic selection of beers and some excellent live music. However, locals who prefer somewhere quieter have plenty of choice in the residential streets behind Bromley North. The Red Lion (020 8460 2691) in North Road is particularly nice.

Okiko (0208 2900682) in East Street - a stylish, high-quality sushi place - is a very welcome recent addition to the restaurant scene. Slightly further afield, Chatterton Road on Bromley Common is becoming something of a foodie destination for locals. There are numerous options here, including new pizzeria The Fireball (020 84668137) which has invested in a traditional wood-fired oven and has an intriguing interior decor based on the TV series Lost.

Property prices

It’s not going to be cheap buying a house this close to London. At the top end of the market there are six or seven-bedroom detached homes for anything up to £2.5million, with four bedroom detached houses averaging at around £650,000. You can pick up a three-bedroom semi for between £380,000 and £700,000 and a two-bed terrace for around £370,000. Even a one-bed flat can cost you £280,000.

How to get there

It’s accessible from the M25 and has two train stations, making getting around pretty easy. It’s just 16 minutes by train from the centre of London.

Sat nav for the town centre: BR1 1DN

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