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A village in E17

21 June 2013

by Helen McShea


Travel east on the Tube to the furthest reaches of the Victoria Line, or drive around the top part of the North Circular, and you arrive at Walthamstow.


Walthamstow may not be the first place you would think of for a family day out. But it is stuffed with attractions that you would be hard-put to sample in just one day.

What to do

If you visit nothing else, visit the William Morris Gallery. It is this year's winner of the Art Fund Museum of the Year award. The house, where Morris lived for some years, has wonderful displays of world-famous art, tapestries, and furniture, and hands-on activities for adults and children. A new extension has been built on the house to form a small gallery, and a tea-room.

Behind the house is Lloyd Park, a large open space with gardens, a café, a wonderful playground for younger children, and a skatepark, where I saw young children on scooters mixing easily with considerate teenage skateboarders.

Walthamstow Market is the longest outdoor market in Europe, and is open from Tuesday to Saturday. The stalls, like the surrounding shops, reflect the area's ethnic mix - I spent some time looking in the window of Jilbabs R Us. Somewhat smaller is the Wood Street Antique Market, near Wood Street station. It sells second-hand furniture, antiques, vintage vinyl, and has a small café.

If you visit the Town Square on a Sunday, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., the Farmers' Market sells everything from cherries to ethical veal.

A walk around Walthamstow Village is a real pleasure. It is a conservation area, containing a 12th- century church, St Mary's, and a 15th-century house that has a glass panel on one of the walls, showing the original wattle and daub structure. Near the church is the Grade II listed Vestry House Museum, which has themed displays and special exhibitions on the history of Waltham Forest. It has a costume gallery, a small shop, and pretty gardens.

Where to eat

There are dozens of small cafés along Hoe Street, and dozens more down the High Street, behind the market stalls.

In Walthamstow Village, you are spoilt for choice. There are pubs such as the Nags Head, and the Village Pub, which serve good food, restaurants, and cafés such as Eat17 ("great British food"), or the Orford Saloon (Spanish tapas).

Penny Fielding Gallery and Interiors, which hosts a new exhibition every two months, has a small pop-up tea-room selling delicious home-made cake, which can be eaten in the sunny garden.

Near by

If you have any energy left, take a walk across the huge open spaces of Epping Forest, along one of the marked trails, or enjoy an hour-long session in a rowing boat on the Hollow Pond.

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