Day tripper: Chobham
Do you know your Chobham from your Cobham? Be honest. I know I’m not the only one. I confess that until recently, I thought they were one and the same. But then they’re not a million miles apart (12 actually), both demographically and geographically.
But while Cobham has been nicknamed the Beverley Hills of Britain (with more wags, Jags and, er, designer handbags than any other town or village in these Isles), Chobham is, perhaps, her more reserved little sister. Both are equally lovely, but still with their own personalities all the same.
I’ve had cause to visit Chobham several times recently. And – I’ve gotta say it – I’m a tiny bit smitten. I may even have logged on to Rightmove once or twice… I like it THAT much. It’s what I’d call a destination village. You could easily spend the best part of a day here eating and wandering in and out of the shops – an elegant collection of independent fashion boutiques, gift shops, jewellers and the best boutique pet store I’ve ever seen.
Chobham is midway between Woking and Sunningdale, and like it’s flashier big sister, there’s an air of commuter-belt wealth about the place. It’s home to the largest National Nature Reserve in the south-east, where more than 300 species of wild flower grow and 100 different bird species live a lovely protected life. The pretty Church of St Lawrence sits proudly in the middle of the village. A bit of a relic, it dates back to 1090. The 52ft tower came a little later in about 1400.
But enough of the history, it’s the shopping and food you want to hear about, right?
Food has put Chobham firmly on the gastro-map in recent years, with several pubs and restaurants grabbing attention. Stovells, in a 16th century Tudor farmhouse at one end of the village, has four AA rosettes, is listed in The Sunday Times top 100 restaurants (it’s 64th) and has won multiple awards. I really must try it out!
Several other pubs and restaurants have undergone recent refurbs, and are the subject of much chat too, including The Four Horseshoes, The White Hart (below) and The Sun Inn (I’ll tell you more about that one next week!), the Green Olive for Greek, Pashas for Turkish, and of course The Water’s Edge cafe which opened at Horsell Common in January. I’m sure I’ve missed something. Do let me know if you have a particular favourite.
There’s a great little selection of independent shops and boutiques on the high street, which will have you covered for all occasions. Melita of Chobham (below) is one of the longest standing businesses in town, and the big draw is the occasion wear (think Ascot and mother-of-the-bride). This is a destination shop in itself with customers travelling from far and wide. It sells designs from premium fashion houses including Ian Stuart, John Charles, Condici and Ispirato.
The owner, Melita, also owns the shop next door – Ella Rose – which opened last November offering day wear and accessories for the more on-trend younger woman – a funky cuff bracelet for £16, a Barbara Lebek cardi on sale for £70.
Further along is Betty and Claude, with an eclectic mix of contemporary and vintage designs for men, women and children. I could have spent a LOT of time in here peeps, if my carpark ticket wasn’t on it’s final few minutes. It sells Great Plains, as well as the vibrant and sophisticated Ichi label, and the edgy Traffic People, among others. If you want something that’s not in all the other high-street stores, this is the place for you. The shop was set up by friends, Ros and Sue, in 2013, and named after their dogs. Awww!
And those dogs would be well catered for in Chobham, at Comfort and Nourish, which opened only six months ago to provide quality food and accessories for your beloved pets. Abby, the owner, is passionate about pets, and her enthusiasm can’t help but rub off on you. And don’t you just lurve those pet beds (below)? I’ve got my eye on a pair of the pink spotty ones at the top for my moggies!
Interiors-wise, there’s the vast What-Not’s, which has furniture and accessories, or the small and intimate Whitedown Interiors (below), with plenty of gorgeous stuff to fill your home from merino wool cushions (£49.95) to a solid oak table for £1,385.
Tucked away in a small courtyard, past Drake’s Cafe is Not Just Antiques, a small space with a cooperative of five traders offering a collection of vintage and shabby chic furniture and accessories. It’s worth a peep – I bought a gorgeously fab extra large wall clock for £15 (you read that right!).
Not on the high street (hmmm, that sounds strangely familiar), but just a few minutes’ drive away on the Chertsey Road, is Inside Chobham, a little emporium of loveliness with up-cycled vintage finds, pre-loved and re-loved painted furniture as well as fabrics, wallpapers and carpets. This is where you go to buy Annie Sloan chalk paint, and it’s also where you can learn how to use it. There are free ‘play days’ on the first Saturday of every month between 10am-12noon, and regular workshops. The next workshop with space is on 19 March and the cost is £65; call 01276 856441 to book.
And for jewellery (Mr Mudds are you reading this?), there is Boshers, another longstanding family-run business, specialising in fine diamonds and gemstones.
I spent about five hours wandering around the village before I had to scoot off home for the school pick-up. I’m sure to have missed something, please do let me know. And if you make it to Chobham, or try out any of the places I mention, let me know what you think. Put it on my gravestone peeps – Knowledge is Power!
PS. I didn’t make it into Chobham Travel, mainly because I get such terribly itchy feet when I see those wonderful destinations I could be jetting off to. *Sigh* But I’m told this is the place to go to book your bespoke holiday. They’re local, independent and offer a personal and tailored service. Oh, and they’ve been there for 22 years. What more can I say, other than, I want a holiday!