It's rare that I find myself at a loose end, with a day to myself. Even then, when I do, I find myself strangely drawn to the idea of going 'antiquing', as they call it in the US. A couple of friends had mentioned that Sawbridgeworth in Essex was well worth visit, so I decided to take the advice and take myself off there for a day.
Only 40 minutes by train out of London, I discovered a real treasure trove at the Maltings. Literally next to the station, not one, nor two, but FIVE antiques and collectables centres can be found, each crammed to the gunnels with all manner of goodies.
For the real bargain hunter with time on their hands, I can really recommend the first two nearest the road; Herts & Essex Antiques Centre and Riverside. You'll find something to suit every pocket from £1 to over £1,000. I was particularly tempted by a 1930s Webb vase, containing a network of bubbles and a gentle lilac tint. At £20, it looked like great value, but on closer inspection the condition didn't quite meet with my approval. Save some of your budget to visit Acorn Antiques & Collectables (above) at the furthest end of the buildings from the road. Arranged over three truly enormous floors, the place was humming with activity, and I could understand why. The selection is truly unparalleled in this part of the world, and I left with two bags full of treasures, having spent under £50.
At the top of the tree sits Cromwells, with its beautifully laid out interior containing hundreds of cabinets filled with a superb selection of identified and 'vetted' items from Doulton to Whitefriars. I spotted this rather fantastic 1930s Art Deco cabinet, which was on sale for around £500. In great looking condition, the veneer was both undamaged and unfaded, and its Art Deco appeal cannot be disputed. It'll make a great centrepiece to someone's Deco or 'modern eclectic' living room.
My only advice for the would-be visitor is to allow enough time. All the centres here are huge and arranged over many floors - each could easily take an hour to explore fully. I had to go around twice to make sure I'd seen everything - and take a breather to enjoy a restorative cup of tea half way through!