It's the annual Daily Constitutional Christmas Shopping Guide!
Every year the London Walks guides round-up their fave shops and stalls along (or near) the routes of their London Walks tours.
“I don’t want a shop that’s full of the same stuff that you can find on every High Street. I’m better than that. We’re better than that. Our customers are better than that.”
Music to my ears, those sentiments.
And that’s by way of introducing Susan Wainwright and her South Hampstead (Hampstead Heath, really) gift shop, “Susan Wainwright Ltd.”
I dunno if it’s possible to improve on what a customer delightedly yelped on Yelp…
Susan Wainwright’s offerings are eclectic to say the least! On the adult front look out for traditional mohair scarves at £15 and Bronte tweed travel blankets-a snip at £14.99.There is a mass of jewellery from India and some lovely small leather purses. Let your imagination run wild amongst the kids stuff-recorders, tambourines, pencils that look like twigs (£1) and what really caught my fancy-the kits!-morse code and (unbelievably!) Make a crystal radio like Grandad did radio receiver kits. Brilliant stuff and only a stone's throw from The Royal Free Hospital-make a mini patient smile!!
The shop is small, independent, local, much loved and lovingly tended. Like a beautiful garden. It’s not a chain, there’s not some corporate “buyer” in a far-off corporate headquarters office deciding what “lines” are going to be carried. It’s the sort of establishment that once you find out about it you’ll make a special trip over there supremely confident that you’ll find a special gift. The right gift.
The shop’s got all kinds of personality. It’s got Susan written all over it. Susan designed jewellery – got known – so it made sense to call the shop Susan Wainwright. But what you gotta love about it is that this is a “name” shop and the owner of the name is in there. You go in and you’re gonna have Susan to show you round, talk about what she’s found, liked, bought, put in her shop.
So the foundation – so to speak – is Susan’s artist’s eye, her taste, her sense of fun, her integrity. “I buy what I like.” How do you go wrong with that? She could fill the place with popular junk that would make her more money – but she doesn’t do that, wouldn’t do that. On principle.
You can sense that when you go in there. And that impression firms into rainbow rainbow rainbow hard fact if you talk to her. Lovely, bright, thoughtful, artsy lady. Pairs well with her daughter, who helps out with the shop. Generations. Family-owned. The more you find out about the place the more you like it.
An example or two of what’s there. Beautiful cotton kimonos from India. Lambs wool scarves from Scotland. Children’s soft toys. Best selection – “selection” is the mot juste – of cards I’ve ever seen. Wonderful candles. Men’s canvas (I think they are) bags. Jewellery of course. Nepalese slippers. Beard baubles (what a hoot – see the photo). Children’s craft stuff (why would you go to Hamley’s – put up with all that – when you could have Susan Wainwright help you get that one sorted?). Beautiful leather bags for women. The LIFE is Better IN Hampstead book bag/shopping carryall…
She had it specially made. Black with the word is prominented with gold lettering. LIFEis. And love the positioning of the word “is”. You just know that if you’re packing that you’re gonna get asked, “wow, where’d you get that bag?”
Mary’s the proud owner of one. Got it for her birthday.
Anything else? Yes, sure. It’s “South End Hampstead.” The sunny south. So the shop is positioned perfectly. The Heath is just across the street. There are great coffee shops. Daunt books – London’s best independent bookshop – is right there. Keats House Museum is just round the corner. The street a national newspaper described, nearly 70 years ago, as “the most beautiful street in London” is two minutes away. And of course I’m going to mention this – I’d be courting your disapprobation if I didn’t – Karen, “the world’s greatest guide” – does an annual “South Hampstead walk every spring. Timed to catch sunny South Hampstead when those beautiful houses are empurpled with wisteria.
The Susan Wainwright Gift Shop is at 31 South End Road. Tell Susan David (of London Walks) says hello.
Christmas 2017 With London Walks…
On Christmas Day there are TWO London Walks:
Walk up an appetite with The Christmas Morning 1660 Walk – meet at 11:00a.m by the big tree in Trafalgar Square
Walk off the pudding with The Christmas Day Charles Dickens Walk – meet by the big tree in Trafalgar Square at 2:00pm
A London Walk costs £10 – £8 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at www.walks.com.