Welcome to the dark side Jonathon. It's good to see newcomers getting into this wonderful craft. Takes me back to when I first started and the never ending search for knowledge and info (still looking after 20 yrs!!).

With regards to equipment, the big auction site is the best place to go. Prices in the shops, even for secondhand can be alot more expensive, although I guess it may be more convenient if you find all the stuff a bit confusing. The new ag business metioned above would be very helpful with getting you started.
As far as chemicals .. I'd suggest Ilford for everything, at least to start with. The supply and distributuion is 1st class here in the uk and while there's no problem with using other brands, I think it keeps it simple and less confusing for a novice.

Trial and error is probably the way most of us have learn't but it does have a lot of frustrations along the way ! Ideally, some one-to-one hands on tution is the way to go but with few people still practising these ways it's not easy to find.

Good luck!
Bill