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Epsom: where to eat, shop and visit

PUBLISHED: 17:21 11 July 2012 | UPDATED: 18:24 20 February 2013

“It would begin with a long ride around Horton Park on my horse, Orla,” says The Ashley Centre’s Annelie Simmons. “It’s a lovely relaxing start to set me up for meeting friends for lunch; we like to pick up something delicious and healthy from Bamboo Basket before we wander around the shops in The Ashley Centre. I like to cook at home so will have friends round for dinner on Saturday evening and Sunday wouldn’t be complete without a long, lazy walk on Epsom Downs.

“It would begin with a long ride around Horton Park on my horse, Orla,” says The Ashley Centre’s Annelie Simmons. “It’s a lovely relaxing start to set me up for meeting friends for lunch; we like to pick up something delicious and healthy from Bamboo Basket before we wander around the shops in The Ashley Centre. I like to cook at home so will have friends round for dinner on Saturday evening and Sunday wouldn’t be complete without a long, lazy walk on Epsom Downs."

Away from the famous racecourse, life is bustling in Epsom, which often features highly in lists of the best places to live in the UK. Recent celebrations of the town's independent stores highlighted the good feeling in the town

Away from the famous racecourse, life is bustling in Epsom, which often features highly in lists of the best places to live in the UK. Recent celebrations of the towns independent stores highlighted the good feeling in the town and theres plenty more to celebrate, too, as MATTHEW WILLIAMS discovers


Epsom's history...
Atown that regularly appears among the best places to live in the country, Epsom first made its name back in the 17th century when it became a spa resort of sorts, as home to the now famous Epsom Salts. Over the years, there have been many famous figures connected to the town, including Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, who grew up in the area. Also, housewives favourite Isabella Beeton spent part of her childhood living at Epsom Downs, before going on to write her seminal text, Mrs Beetons Guide to Household Management, in 1861.


Epsom and racing...
Many historical figures have been connected to the racecourse. Housewives' favourite Isabella Beeton spent part of her childhood living at Epsom Downs, before going on to write her seminal text, Mrs Beeton's Guide to Household Management in 1861. Later, in 1913, suffragette Emily Davison killed herself by jumping out in front of the King's horse on Tattenham Corner at the Derby. In 2001, a modern sculpture erected outside the Ebbisham Centre in the heart of Epsom immortalised that year's Derby winner, Galileo, together with the first ever Derby winner, Diomed.


Epsom Playhouse...
The popular Epsom Playhouse puts on a varied programme of amateur and professional theatre productions and concerts, film seasons, comedy nights and children's events. The town can also lay claim to two very famous names from the entertainment world - Victoria Beckham studied at Epsom's Laine Theatre Arts school before going on to join the Spice Girls, and Norman Wisdom lived in Epsom for many years.


Eating out in Epsom
Diners are spoilt for choice in Epsom, with The Canopy (01372 745330), an independent on the High Street, Il Ponte (01372 725111), an Italian in the Ebbisham Centre, and Le Raj (01737 371371), popular with celebrities, on nearby Fir Tree Road. On the pub front, The Derby Arms (01372 722330) and Rubbing House (01372 745050) both almost trip up the horses on the racecourse and are well worth a visit.


Out and about
As well as Epsom Downs and the racecourse, which are heaven for racing fans and riders alike, there are some great public parks with childrens playgrounds, tennis courts etc, and some wonderful places to take a walk on the wilder side, too. At Horton Country Park nature reserve, youll find bluebell woods and the green woodpecker if you visit at the right time of year. Meanwhile, Nonsuch Park, in nearby Cheam, is one of the last vestiges of Henry VIIIs deer hunting legacy in the area, and Epsom Common produces superb blackberries, as well as being popular for nature walks and bird spotting. Another local haven for wildlife is the lake and gardens at Bourne Hall in nearby Ewell. Several walks lead from the lake along the Hogsmill River, where Pre-Raphaelite artist John Everett Millais is thought to have painted his famous depiction of 'Ophelia'. Bourne Hall itself houses the borough museum, which contains over 5,000 local artefacts including a hansom cab and fire engine.


Did you know?
That Epsom Salts are not only great for putting in your bath but are also reputed to have various health benefits, too, including helping to reduce the swelling of sprains and bruises? Meanwhile, one of the stranger stories from Epsoms history concerns one Jubilee Day when, in the middle of the festivities in Epsom High Street, all eyes turned towards the Clock Tower as the hour was struck with an eerie clang. What was so strange, you might ask? Well, legend has it that the clock had been taken away for repairs.


Shopping
Some would say the jewel in Epsoms shopping crown is the independently owned Lester Bowden (01372 747474) clothes store, found on the High Street, which has taken pride of place in the town for over a hundred years and was originally a breeches maker and tailors. A traditional market town, which still hosts a variety of markets, the nearby Ashley Centre, which was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1984, is also a popular shopping destination these days.


My Epsom Weekend

Need to know:
Where to eat:
Popular with celebrities, the reputation of Le Raj (01737 371371) is such that one star had a take-away curry flown all the way over to America.Where to drink: Literally on the racecourse, The Rubbing House (01372 745050) is definitely an interesting one to visit. Something to take home: In the 17th century, a spring on the common was discovered to be rich in mineral salts and this led to the town becoming popular as a spa resort and in turn gave rise to the now famous Epsom Salts. Of course, you dont actually need to head to Epsom for this popular bathing product these days! Somewhere to stay: The Chalk Lane Hotel (01372 721179) is a hidden gem. Top tip: The notebook in which Sergeant Frank Bunn wrote his eyewitness account of the death of the suffragette Emily Davison at the 1913 Derby can be found at Bourne Hall Museum.

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