Northern Tube line walk 4: Finchley Central walk to High Barnet

Walk 4

FINCHLEY CENTRAL walk to HIGH BARNET

2 1/4 hours

This Underground line was originally a suburban train line opened in 1872. It was taken over by the present London Underground and converted to a Tube line in 1940.

Routing note: This walk connects in Finchley Central with Northern line walks 2 & 3.

Some sections along Dollis Brook are unpaved and can turn muddy after rain.

FINCHLEY CENTRAL

Finchley Central Underground station

The station opened as a suburban train station in 1867 and was converted to the present Underground station in 1939. Trains ran originally towards Mill Hill East and beyond to Edgware while a junction for the branch towards High Barnet was added in 1872.

An impressive station building planned by Charles Holden for the Underground line was never built and the modest Victorian suburban train station is still in use today. Light yellow bricks and a lack of ornaments were quite usual for minor stations in the 1860s, particularly in areas like Finchley that were still very rural at the time.

Walk up the station ramp to the main road

Victoria Park in Finchley

R Ballards Lane

soon R Hervey Close

L Strathmore Gardens, turns L as Cadogan Gardens

R Oakfield Road

Ahead into Victoria Park

Cross the park passing the putting green, the tennis courts and the bowling green (turning progressively a bit left) all the way to the main road

Victoria Park Finchley

Victoria Park is a large neighbourhood park with the typical amenities such as a playground and a few formal flower beds. There is also a sensory garden in a corner taking advantage of raised beds lined with bricks. Unfortunately, the plants have fallen victim to vandalism on several occasions in the past, which is a little surprising in what is otherwise a peaceful suburb.

R Ballards Lane

Soon L Essex Park

At the end, the road turns R and soon again L

At the end L across the tracks (there is a small sign for the station)

WEST FINCHLEY

West Finchley Underground station

The station was opened in 1933 on the existing train line in order to serve new real estate developments.

The station building is a composite structure using salvaged parts from former stations closed by the railway company in other parts of England. Because this is an affluent part of London, the company expected mainly commuter traffic and saw no need to build a full service station that would be very quiet most of the day.

At the end of the small shopping parade R into Courthouse Gardens

Directly L Fursby Avenue

When you reach the bridge over Dollis Brook, turn R into the waterside path.

Brookside Walk

You are walking here and during most of the course of this walk along the Dollis Brook, the main source of the Brent River, a tributary of the Thames. There is a marked trail along the river over most of the distance and signposts inform you when it is necessary to detour away from the river for a short distance. The brook runs usually between trees and is not very visible until the upper reaches of the valley where there are more meadows.

Ignore the next road bridge and continue further along the river

Then R over the brook using a footbridge

At the end of the path L Holden Road

The road passes the station approach for

WOODSIDE PARK

Woodside Park Underground station

The station opened in 1872 together with the train line and was originally called West Torrington. The name was changed to “Torrington Park, Woodside” later in the same year and to Woodside Park in 1882.

The station is a sizeable building typical for an up-and-coming Victorian suburb. Like in Finchley Central, it is a utilitarian building with very little decoration. The platform awnings have the original wooden valances typical of train stations. I think the upper floor of the station was planned as a dwelling for the station master; it was the only intermediary station to have this feature on this railway branch.

Dollis Brook in Whetstone

Continue on Holden Road

L Tillingham Way

Just after the bridge over Dollis Brook, turn R onto the waterside path (unpaved here)

You walk now along the river for an extended distance. Ignore the first road you cross.

 

Dollis Brook Greenway

The next picture is taken looking back towards the South; the tall tower is one of only few council estates built in Finchley in the 1960s. Demand for subsidised housing was indeed less extreme than in other parts of London because Finchley had few factories and therefore less poor working-class families than Tottenham or Acton for example.

 

Riverside walk in Totteridge

When you cross the second road, the wooden signposts for the Dollis Brook trail lead you R along the road for a few yards. If you wish to continue to the station, climb along the road away from the brook. My route continues afterwards along the brook and is also marked here with a clear wooden signpost.

TOTTERIDGE & WHETSTONE

Totteridge & Whetstone Underground station

The station opened in 1872 together with the train line and was originally called Whetstone & Totteridge because it is located within the old parish of Whetstone. I don’t know when and why the two names were switched.

The station building is a bit more elaborate than Woodside Park. There is no upper level for housing purposes and the building could therefore be planned in a symmetrical manner with a U-formed steep roof. The only ornament is a modest cornice on both gables.

Brook Farm Open Space

Continue the waterside path across Brook Farm Open Space and Wyatts Farm Open Space

Wyatts Farm Open Space

The path skirts the end of a residential road but continues in Barnet Playing Fields

The path ends at a parking lot for sports grounds. Do not continue towards the access road, turn R instead along the fence of the sports ground.

Barnet Playing Fields

 

Climbing towards Barnet

Continue along a former cricket field

Leave the playing fields through the stadium access road (Priory Grove)

L Westcombe Drive

At the end R Barnet Lane

Continue ahead into Barnet Hill Common using the signposted, paved public footpath.

You are now very close to the Underground terminus but I suggest a short detour uphill along the main road in order to have a look at the centre of the village of Barnet. It is a very old village, originally built primarily to serve travellers on the Great North Road. After the long climb from the Thames valley to the hilltop, it was necessary to change horses and a number of hostelries grew around the staging post stables.

Former Barnet Court

The first official building you encounter while walking up the hill is the town court from 1916. You realise that Barnet was still a village at the time because the building is much less bombastic than typical Edwardian courthouses. The subdued style is probably not linked to World War I as the building was certainly designed before; it reminds actually a bit of Georgian buildings that are so ubiquitous in the United States.

 

St John the Baptist’s Barnet

When you reach the top of the hill and come closer to the church, you pass a few large pubs. The one or other still has a courtyard reached by a narrow access road, a reminder of the former use as staging posts. The parish church dominates the central square of the village. It was rebuilt in 1875 in the Elisabethan style (the nave windows, the flint walls and the chequered brick pattern) although some details are high gothic (the spire, the apse window and the reredos). I have not read of major monuments inside, possibly because Barnet was a strategic village for any army intent on taking London and fell therefore victim to depradations quite often.

If you walk a little bit further on the left-hand side of the church, you will soon reach the former Barnet council offices in a Georgian building with a formal portal and a nice little cornice. There is a pleasant public garden behind the building with a natural pond.

Former Barnet council offices

Recreation ground behind Barnet council offices

The borough of Barnet has a museum that was long located in a building close to the old council offices. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find whether the address has changed recently. You need to check the opening times beforehand as it is staffed by volunteers and therefore not opened very often. But it is really worthwhile. The battle of Barnet from the 15th century of course gets a place of honour but there is a large collection of curious items from elegant mid-20th century hats to old advertising boards. You will need to chat with the volunteers in order to get real information about the items and I ended up spending nearly two hours inside.

From the church, walk back down the hill until you reach the clearly marked path that drops steeply to the station.

HIGH BARNET

High Barnet Underground station

The station opened as the terminus of the new train line in 1872.

Because it is a terminus, there are a number of buildings on the site. The main station building is quite similar to that at Woodside Park with a station master dwelling above the concourse. The light yellow bricks are typical for the period of construction.

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Northern Tube line walk 3: East Finchley walk to Mill Hill East

Walk 3

EAST FINCHLEY walk to MILL HILL EAST

2 3/4 hours

This Underground line was originally a suburban train line opened in 1867 that ran from Finsbury Park through Highgate and East Finchley towards Edgware. It was taken over by the present London Underground and a connection was built in 1939 north of Archway enabling Underground trains to continue to East Finchley and beyond. The train line was then cut off and closed.

Routing note: This walk connects in Archway with Northern line walk 1, in East Finchley with Northern line walk 3 and in Finchley Central with Northern line walk 4. This implies that I give you two different routes between East Finchley and Finchley Central. This makes sense in terms of the length of the different routes and the routes are really similarly attractive.

Some sections along Dollis Brook are unpaved and can turn muddy after rain.

EAST FINCHLEY

East Finchley Underground station

The station opened as a suburban train station in 1867 and was replaced by the present Underground station in 1939.

The station was designed by celebrated architect Charles Holden who planned many stations in the modernist style of the 1930s i.a. for the Piccadilly Line. He was inspired by Nordic Art Déco, stressing simple geometric shapes and dark bricks enlivened by very large vertical glass panels (so-called clerestory windows). This particular station combines simple blocky shapes with semi-circular shafts that harbour the staircases to the platforms.

East Finchley Archer

The building is listed also because of its statue, an unusual ornament for a Charles Holden building. The 10-foot high archer by Eric Aumonier, a well-known exponent of Art Déco at the time, refers to the fact that Finchley was on the southern border of the medieval royal hunt of Enfield.

Exit the station and cross under the tracks

R The Causeway, a public footpath along the embankment

Soon L public footpath towards Edmunds Walk

L Deansway

Hampstead Garden Suburb extension

This very well kept neighbourhood is close to the most expensive mansions in London, located on The Bishop’s Avenue only a few hundred yards away. It is more correctly described as an extension of Hampstead Garden Suburb, planned from 1905 onwards. The core of the suburb features on an other of my Northern Line walks, you are crossing on the present route only the extension from the 1930s that was planned from the onset for affluent clients.

 

East Finchley hedges between gardens

A typical feature is that the Trust who owned the land did not allow fences or walls between the properties, only hedges. The houses themselves are of limited architectural interest, mostly plain brick and in some cases mock Tudor details.

 

Modest property in East Finchley

R Vivian Way

At the end, cross the main road into Norrice Lea (a road)

R into Lyttelton Playing Fields (there is a sign “Bishopswood Bowling Club” at the start of the footpath)

Lyttelton Playing Fields

The playing fields are a expanse of grass that marks the transition between the original Garden Suburb finished in the 1920s and the extension added in the 1930s. It is just a neighbourhood open space with no remarkable amenities. It is actually the largest open space in the Garden Suburb. From the middle of the fields, you get a view towards the spire and the dome of the two churches on the hill at the core of the Suburb. The sprawling central building is the school.

View towards the garden suburb churches

There is a sizeable pavilion on the northern side of the playing field close to the river. The architecture is strikingly similar to that of Underground stations built in the 1930s on designs by Charles Holden (flat roof, large rectangular blocks, clerestory windows, bricks enlivened by whitewashed bands of concrete).

 

Pavilion in Lyttleton Playing Fields

 

Mutton Brook in Northway Gardens

Walk across the playing fields parallel to the main road. You should be walking along the Mutton Brook, a minor river. The open space with the playground is called Northway Gardens after a road giving access to the Garden Suburb. It is just a narrow strip of greenery. It does have a pavilion but this is much smaller than the one in Lyttleton Playing Fields.

 

Pavilion in Northway Gardens

 

Walking along the Mutton Brook

The path merges into the main road (Falloden Way) at some point because the brook disappears under the road but it reappears soon again and you can continue on the path along the river.

Cross busy Finchley Road at the traffic lights and continue along the river

 

 

Mutton Brook

The Mutton Brook is a small brook that merges with the Dollis Brook to form the river Brent, a tributary of the Thames. It runs between concrete walls along a major highway and is therefore of limited value in terms of nature conservation. The path along the brook is nonetheless a very convenient link used both by the Capital Ring, a long-distance path around London, and by the Dollis Valley Greenwalk, a route along the border of the borough of Barnet using only few sections along roads and giving access to the open countryside of Hertfordshire.

Mutton Brook trail

 

Mutton Brook crosses under the North Circular Road

Follow the river as it passes under the North Circular Road.

This is one of rather few occurrences where local authorities had the foresight to build bridges wide enough to accomodate a path in addition to a watercourse. The small green space on the other end of the subway is lined by two brooks as it marks the confluence of the Mutton Brook with the Dollis Brook. The name Dollis comes from the old English word “dole”, a section of a commons.

Where the Mutton Brook joins the Dollis Brook

When you reach the merging of brooks, leave the Mutton Brook and turn R in order to walk upstream along Dollis Brook.

There is a continuous path along the brook crossing several roads and Windsor Open Space. In the absence of buildings of interest, I concentrated on pictures of the nice path.

 

Dollis Brook Trail

Crossing under the A1

Windsor Open Space is not remarkable but I did notice a pretty bench for children in the shape of a colourful caterpillar.

Caterpillar in Windsor Open Space

Continue along the brook until the path ends with a footbridge and joins a road. Turn here R (ignoring the footbridge) and walk away from the river along the sports ground.

Dollis Brook

Looking beyond the sports ground, you can see in the background the many arches of the Dollis Brook viaduct. You will see them from close up later on.

Sports ground near the Dollis Brook

At the end of the path L into Lyndhurst Gardens

R Dollis Park (a road)

L across the Underground tracks

To reach the station, detour R down the ramp.

FINCHLEY CENTRAL

Finchley Central Underground station

The station opened as a suburban train station in 1867 and was converted to the present Underground station in 1939. Trains ran originally only towards Mill Hill East and beyond to Edgware while a junction for the branch towards High Barnet was added as early as 1872.

An impressive station building planned by Charles Holden for the Underground line was never built and the modest Victorian suburban train station is still in use today. Light yellow bricks and a lack of ornaments were quite usual for minor stations in the 1860s, particularly in areas like Finchley that were still very rural at the time.

Take Nether Street opposite the station access ramp, soon crossing the Underground branch towards High Barnet

Ahead Dollis Road

When the road turns L in order to pass under the viaduct, turn R towards the footbridge and then along Dollis Brook

Viaduct over Dollis Brook

The viaduct looks quite imposing from the ground and is actually 18 m high. This makes it the highest on the Underground network although this is by no means exciting compared to the height of a central London house. You can see very clearly that the engineers built a viaduct meant to carry two tracks. As it is not easy to build large arches out of bricks, there is a set of pillars under each planned track and there are many small arches rather than a few large ones. Only a very experienced engineer like Isambard Brunel dared much larger brick arches such as those on the railway viaduct in Southall (also slightly higher and much longer than the one you are seeing now).

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Lovers Walk

On the other side of the brook, you can see there is a fenced golf course. Continue along the brook until you find the only path across the golf course. Turn L here and climb the path (Lovers Walk)

The path merges into the access road for the golf court. Continue to the next public road

The alley you just climbed and the grounds you see through the fence on your left were all part of a sizeable country mansion in the 19th century, Nether Court. It was built in 1883 and is the clubhouse of the golf course since 1929. The public footpath does not lead close to the house but you do get glimpses of the formal gardens with stone fountains and also of the house itself. The architecture is a fanciful version of an Elisabethan house, with the difference that 16th century houses were less sprawling and taller in order to be easier to defend against potential troubles by disgruntled peasants.

Grounds of Nether Court

 

Nether Court

L Frith Lane

R Inglis Way

At the end L Bittacy Hill

Unusual supermarket with columns and portico

I noticed a rather unusual supermarket structure in this road. You don’t often see such commercial buildings endowed with a portico and columns all around. What I am often missing as well on commercial structures in Britain is a row of solar panels on the roof to feed the air conditioning and food refrigeration units with locally produced power. In parts of Europe, this is used ever more often because the government levies an electricity tax enabling a guaranteed price to producers of solar power, something Britain decided not to do because it can produce power from cheap natural gas from the North Sea.

MILL HILL EAST

Mill Hill East Underground station

The station (called Mill Hill until 1927) opened as a suburban train station in 1867 and was converted to the present Underground station in 1939. Trains ran originally further to Edgware but the conversion was not finished before World War II and traffic was expected to be too low compared to other Underground projects after the war. As a result, the line from Finchley Central to Mill Hill East remained a single track, something unusual for the Underground.

The station building is the original train station from 1867. It is very similar to the one in Finchley Central except that it is symmetrical with a rather elegant cornice.

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Northern Tube line walk 2: Archway walk to Finchley Central

Walk 2

ARCHWAY walk to FINCHLEY CENTRAL

3 1/4 hours

This Underground line was originally a suburban train line opened in 1867 that ran from Finsbury Park through Highgate and East Finchley towards Edgware. It was taken over by the present London Underground and a connection was built in 1939 north of Archway enabling Underground trains to continue to East Finchley and beyond. The train line was then cut off and closed.

Routing note: This walk connects in Archway with Northern line walk 1, in East Finchley with Northern line walk 3 and in Finchley Central with Northern line walk 4. This implies that I give you exceptionally two routes between East Finchley and Finchley Central. This makes sense in terms of the length of the different routes and the routes are really similarly attractive.

ARCHWAY

Archway Underground station

The station opened in 1907 on the new Underground line. It was originally called Highgate because passengers for this village alighted at what was then the terminus and transferred to a cable tramway. The name was changed to “Archway (Highgate)” in 1939 using the name of a nearby pub, then to “Highgate (Archway)” in 1941 when the Underground line was extended towards the new station at Highgate proper. The name was simplified to Archway in 1947.

Archway tower

The original station building was demolished in 1963 as part of a scheme to build a major new urban centre in this area. This involved a shopping centre beneath a bulky office tower, something also done in locations like Elephant & Castle or Hammersmith. The building had become very outdated in terms of insulation and construction materials and was converted in the 2010s to luxury flats. The station concourse is now just a porch within the ground floor commercial area.

Exit the station on Junction Road

L in Junction Road past the Methodist Church (along the traffic, not through the pedestrianised plaza)

Ahead St John’s Way walking along Archway Park

Archway Park

Archway Park is a minor neighbourhood park but it does have an interesting detail. The slide is not your usual strip of metal on legs with a staircase, it is a slide set in a small concrete mound and children can climb the mound over irregular slabs if they want. This is quite sensible in terms of fostering muscle control and balance for young children.

St John’s Way continues along a strip of greenery (bordering Elthorne Estate)

Strip of green along St John’s Way

The strip of green is actually the southern section of Hillside Park, a narrow green space in the shape of a T. It is a convenient way to walk through the neighbourhood without walking on pavement but it has no features of interest otherwise. The one or other hummock is probably a way to landscape ground excavated during the construction of the nearby estate.

 

Hillside Park

At the end ahead across the short corner of Sunnyside Community Garden

Ahead into Elthorne Park, turn L along the children’s playground and walk past the Peace Garden

Elthorne Park

Elthorne Park is one of the nicest parks in the borough of Islington and it does have unusual features. One I found particularly lovely is the silver birch glade because the white trunks are wonderfully set off by the dark green laurel bushes. It is one of the few colour schemes in London parks that also work in winter. In the middle of the glade, there is an interesting bronze sculpture that seems inspired by the Amerindian totems of the West Coast of Canada. I get an idea of a beaver and a frog but I may be wrong.

Peace Garden in Elthorne Park

In addition to the birch glade, Elthorne Park has an enclosed Peace Garden set up in the 1980s when there was a strong movement against nuclear weapons and the East-West rivalry. The garden may be closed because of occurrences of vandalism and drunkenness; if open, it enables you to look at strongly geometric paths and beds with rose bushes.

 

Birch alley in Elthorne Park

Exit the park at the end of the birch alley

L on Hornsey Road

Very soon R uphill in Hillside Road, a much smaller road

Estate in Warltersville Road

When passing Warltersville Road, note that the estate looks rather unusual for London. It is obviously not built in the style of the many council estates of the 1930s and the colour of the bricks is also much lighter than in the 1930s. It is also not the typical style of estates in the 1960s, when concrete bars and towers were considered faster to build and less fussy. I guess the estate might have been built as a moderately upmarket scheme by a private developer in the 1970s but I have been unable to find details.

Footpath at the end of Hillside Road

At the end of the road ahead along school grounds until you reach a footbridge

L down to Parkland Walk, a converted former train cutting

 

Access to Parkland Walk

You should soon see the one or other green roundel for the Capital Ring, a very well marked long-distance path. The roundels are usually on wooden signposts or on flags as on the picture. My route follows the Capital Ring all the way to East Finchley station.

Capital Ring roundel

 

Platforms of the former Crouch End train station

Shortly after you join the Parkland Walk, you walk between the platforms of the old Crouch End train station. The Walk is indeed the bed of a railway line that ran from 1867 until the 1970s. It provides a very convenient link for pedestrians and small animals between Finsbury Park and Highgate over a rather long distance of 4 km. As such, it is the longest nature reserve and probably the longest train line converted to a walking path in London. Interestingly, it is not really convenient for cyclists as it is unpaved, possibly because cycling paths were not considered that important back in the 1980s.

Parkland Walk

 

Crouch End road bridge

At the end of the former station platforms, you walk under a road bridge with strange, inverted arches. They relate to the former train station as it was cantilevered over the railway line. The building burnt down in 1967.

The Walk leaves the cutting through the hill afterwards and passes two roads. As you are higher up, you can see that the surrounding suburbs are becoming greener with many sports fields and also a linear park which is actually just a strip of trees along the former train line.

Overlooking sports grounds in Crouch End

 

Leaving Parkland Walk

The Walk ends in a deep cutting that originally gave access to a tunnel under Highgate. Just before, there is an access L to Holmesdale Road. You can see on my picture the wooden post with a green roundel as it actually still the route of the Capital Ring.

Walk up Holmesdale Road

At the end R Archway Road

 

Highgate Youth Theatre

What looks like a church at the corner of Archway Road with Jacksons Road is actually the lively Highgate Youth Theatre, created in 1981 as a community centre where young people aged 16 to 21 can study plays for a modest fee. The architecture of the former church is Edwardian neo-gothic, which is nothing special for London suburbs. There is something amusing about converting a church into a theatre as I have heard people describing religious services as a sort of theatre.

R Shepherds Road

Just before Highgate Library L into a footpath still marked as the Capital Ring

The path ends in Priory Gardens

You will continue along the Capital Ring R, but you can detour before to Highgate station if you wish. It is located L at the end of Priory Gardens.

HIGHGATE

Highgate Underground station

The station opened in 1867 as a suburban train station. The line was lifted after it was closed in the 1970s and the old station has no connection with the present Underground station. The Underground line passed through the future Highgate station platforms from 1939 onwards but the platforms were only opened in 1941 following construction delays linked to World War II.

The impressive station building planned by Charles Holden was never built and the only evidence of a station at surface level is the entrance porch to the underground concourse.

Priory Gardens

Follow the Capital Ring away from the station entrance along Priory Gardens

When the road starts to turn R uphill, follow the trail sign L down into the wood.

Follow the trail as it turns L a bit further. It then crosses Queenswood Road and continues on the other side as a paved path into Queen’s Wood Local Nature Reserve.

Queen’s Wood

Queen’s Wood is one of four ancient woods located nearby, two additional of which you will cross later on. Specialists recognise that it is ancient (i.e. not re-growth after being cut off) because it contains a high number of so-called wild service trees that don’t grow spontaneously in a reforestation or even re-growth scheme. This wood also has more undergrowth than many others in London, which is extremely helpful to wild flowers and to insects. The rather pretty pavilion in the middle of the wood is a community-run café; I like its appearance as a romantic getaway.

Café in Queen’s Wood

The clearly marked path goes down, then up again until you can cross the next road, Muswell Hill Road

The trail then enters Highgate Wood through the New Gate and rises initially parallel to the road but within the wood.

 

Highgate Wood

Highgate Wood is a bit less wild than Queen’s Wood and was actually called at a time Gravelpit Wood. A mysterious artificial structure in the ground indicates as well that there was human intervention, possibly in neolithic times. Until 1886, this wood was leased to businesses that sold young hornbeam timber, popular for fencing and as firewood. Hornbeams grow quickly again from the stump, making it a sensible business proposition.

Clearing in Highgate Wood

The wood was managed by the City of London and the concept was apparently that of an urban park rather than a wood. Paved paths, football grounds and pavilions were laid while traditional trees were replaced over time by faster growing conifers. The lack of concept for what is actually a nature reserve was criticised in the 1970s and the wood is managed again as more of a normal English wood since.

 

Towards the fountain in Highgate Wood

Follow carefully the signposts as the trail meanders through the wood, passing first a nature study centre, later a café and further a drinking fountain. At one point, you will notice a Capital Ring sign indicating the total distance of the trail, 35 miles to Crystal Palace via Woolwich in the one direction and 43 miles to Crystal Palace via Richmond in the other direction. This is the only location on the whole trail where the total length is indicated.

 

Distance indicator for the Capital Ring

Fountain in Highgate Wood

My second picture shows the drinking fountain in the wood; it is a very normal design but it looks good because of the background. The fountain is an additional hint that the City of London was thinking of a park rather than of a wood.

The Capital Ring finally exits the wood through Bridge Gate and the path ends on a residential road. The steel gate you go through has a lovely design with typical woodland animals.

 

Bridge Gate for Highgate Wood

R Lanchester Road

Ahead Fordington Road

At the end of the straight section onto a footpath marked “Welcome to Cherry Tree Wood” still following the Capital Ring signs. Do not turn too much R, you need to continue in about the same direction as before.

Cherry Tree Wood

Cherry Tree Wood is actually a park and not a wood. It was even called Dirthouse Wood in the 19th century because there was a facility just nearby converting horse manure and human excrements collected in London to fertiliser. You can easily imagine that no one was tempted to have a walk in this wood at that time. It is a park since 1914.

It is just a pleasant green space with lots of grass, a few rose bushes and a pavilion. The most interesting item is the set of steel gates; the one towards Finchley East station is as nice as the one you crossed on leaving Highgate Wood.

Roses in Cherry Tree Wood

 

Gate for Cherry Tree Wood

Ahead across the parkland to the exit directly opposite the Underground station. You will now be leaving the Capital Ring trail.

EAST FINCHLEY

East Finchley Underground station

The station opened as a suburban train station in 1867 and was replaced by the present Underground station in 1939.

The station was designed by celebrated architect Charles Holden who planned many stations in the modernist style of the 1930s i.a. for the Piccadilly Line. He was inspired by Nordic Art Déco, stressing simple geometric shapes and dark bricks enlivened by very large vertical glass panels (so-called clerestory windows). This particular station combines simple blocky shapes with semi-circular shafts that harbour the staircases to the platforms.

East Finchley Archer

The building is listed also because of its statue, an unusual ornament for a Charles Holden building. The 10-foot high archer by Eric Aumonier, a well-known exponent of Art Déco at the time, refers to the fact that Finchley was on the southern border of the medieval royal hunt of Enfield.

Routing note: From East Finchley, this route continues via Islington Cemetery. Walk 3 from East Finchley to Mill Hill East also passes Finchley Central station but goes there via the Mutton Brook trail.

R Finchley High Road (do not cross under the tracks)

Soon R Baronsmere Road

The road changes names at the borough border and is then called Southern Road

L Springcroft Avenue

Villas in Beech Drive

Ahead Twyford Avenue, the road turns R

L Beech Drive

I noticed the size of the properties in this road. This is definitely not a council estate area. Properties come very rarely on the market, the last transaction was in 2013 for 2.5 million £.

L and soon R through the kissing gate into Coldfall Wood

Coldfall Wood

This is the third of the ancient woods you cross on this walk. The vegetation (primarily oak) does not prove that the wood is ancient, this is based on historical testimonies. Like in Highgate Wood, there were commercial activities like coppicing and gravel extraction. The wood is interesting because the slope occasionally causes trees to fall victim to storms, enabling rare flowering plants to take advantage of the sunlight in the new clearing. The wood was purchased by the borough in 1930 when the previous owner, a school, started converting significant portions to sports grounds.

Entering St Pancras Cemetery

Ahead across the wood, turning L at the two significant crossings of paths

The second turn left links with St Pancras & Islington Cemetery

Aim ultimately for the main exit to your L, but you can definitely tour the large wooded cemetery before by walking counterclockwise (first R) rather than clockwise (first L). My walking estimate includes the longer, counterclockwise version.

St Pancras Cemetery

The cemetery is the largest in Britain in terms of burials and one of the largest in size. Legally, it is actually the combination of two separate burial grounds. It is former farmland purchased by two boroughs in 1854 when a new law forced the closure of churchyards to new burials as they were suspected of contributing to epidemics.

The cemetery combines a heavily wooded section with a more barren part. It does not have graves for many celebrities but it is considered one of the best collections of funerary monuments in the country with many interesting examples from the 19th century. Graves with angels are Roman Catholic, admitted in this cemetery on an equal basis. I give you a few interesting examples of monuments.

Bluebells in St Pancras Cemetery

 

Italian monument

Islington Cemetery

Neo-classical monument

Islington Crematorium

There are also several listed buildings within the cemetery, one of which is the crematorium built in 1937 in a typical Art Déco style. The roof, actually a stepped, very flat dome, reminds a little of an UFO and is just the kind of pure geometric shape architects loved at the time. Some Underground stations from the 1930s have similar shapes.

 

St Pancras cemetery chapel

 

The Anglican chapel from 1853 is also listed. The architecture is rather run-of-the-mill neo-gothic but the chapel is particularly well proportioned and not too ornamented so that it does remind quite well of an old village church.

Exit the cemetery on Finchley High Road (that is, not downhill on the North Circular Motorway). There are two exits on this side of the cemetery, Viaduct Road and Exit Road. The second one is occasionally closed but is the more convenient if it is open.

Depending on which exit you use, you might get an opportunity to see the nice wrought iron gate from 1854 with an enameled coat of arms.

Exit Road gate

After leaving the cemetery, walk in both cases R along Finchley High Road

L Sylvester Road

R Tarling Road

When the road turns R, leave it for a footpath ahead. This leads to a footbridge across the North Circular Motorway

Footbridge over the North Circular Road

The nice footbridge painted striking red was built in order to take pedestrians away from Finchley High Road. This in turn was necessary in order to build a fully fledged motorway interchange between the road and the motorway. The motorway is the North Circular Road, planned originally in the 1960s as a ring motorway all around London. The plan proved very difficult to apply, in particular because countless properties needed to be expropriated at considerable cost.

In the end, only a few sections were built, mostly in the northern suburbs using river beds where there was no previous construction. The North Circular Road proved extremely useful to link suburbs. The problem is that traffic jams appear very quickly due to the traffic lights in the areas where the motorway reverts to a dual carriageway. Media occasionally mention the road as the most polluted or busiest road in the country. It causes considerable noise and had a very detrimental effect on properties along it, but it could be argued that the problems would be similar if it were just a normal road with traffic lights as cars would still need to be routed somewhere through the suburbs.

Finchley fire station

L along the motorway on the noisy footpath. It is difficult to find an other route here because you need to cross tracks and there are not many bridges. The advantage of the route is that you walk past the elegant fire station for Finchley, a building from 1936 with very simple shapes, lots of windows and an inconspicuous but cleverly stepped roof cornice. I also give you a nice detail of boots and pants waiting for a fireman to slide down the pole from his resting room if needed. I find it sort of funny to imagine the fireman sliding down in underpants and landing directly into his clothes.

The fireman in underpants is missing

 

Nature reserve off Long Lane

The area between the fire station and the Underground tracks seems to be unused wasteland but it could actually be a small nature reserve. If you look carefully at my picture, you see people taking a walk along a small pond. But you also see a bright orange emergency vest. I wonder whether the pond is so deep that you need such an item. As the footpath along the motorway rises towards the bridge over the tracks, you also get a good view towards central Finchley with two rather ugly blocks.

Finchley seen from the North Circular bridge

Soon after passing over the Underground tracks R into Rosemary Avenue

L Dudley Road

R Briarfield Avenue

L Manor View

soon R The Avenue (actually a public footpath)

 

Wilf Slack Sports Grounds

The footpath soon leads along sports grounds. They are called Wilf Slack Grounds and I was a little surprised at this unusual first name. Mr Slack was a popular cricketer from the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent and his first name was Wilfred. He died at only 35 during a game after several previous less serious incidents and it seems doctors were unable to diagnose in the 1980s what illness caused him to black out when overexerting himself.

Stephens House, originally Avenue House

The footpath leads along Avenue House Grounds, called Stephens House & Gardens since 2014. Avenue House is a Victorian mansion built in 1859. The last owner, Mr Stephens, was a businessman who gifted the property to the borough in 1918. Part of the house had to be rebuilt in the 1990s following a fire and it is now primarily used for meetings and receptions. There is a small museum inside dealing with Mr Stephens and the ink he invented. As opening hours are very restricted, you need to check before on http://www.stephenshouseandgardens.com/visit/opening-hours/opening-hours.

Gardens of Stephens House

The gardens around the house are very pleasant, with meandering paths around a large pond, romantically shaded dells, undulating ground and a variety of trees. This is not a formal park and there are few flowers except for the odd herbaceous border.

 

Stephens House pond in winter

Stephens House pond in summer

At the end of the footpath R on Regent’s Park Road

Jewish school in Finchley

You might notice a conspicuous building with a tall, thin tower crowned by a copper spire. This looks like an old manor house except that it is actually too tall for an old house and that manors don’t have such towers. It was built as a school in 1860 and refers partly to Tudor architecture, particularly the set of four parallel gables to the front and the brick pattern on the side wall. The school moved away recently and the property is now an Orthodox Jewish secondary school for boys.

Finchley Central platforms in a cutting

Just after crossing over the tracks down the ramp R for the station.

The picture shows that the tracks are in a rather deep cutting here. The whole Northern line section between Archway and Finchley Central crosses a very hilly part of London and the original engineers had to build a high number of tunnels and viaducts.

 

FINCHLEY CENTRAL

Finchley Central Underground station

The station opened as a suburban train station in 1867 and was converted to the present Underground station in 1939. Trains ran originally only towards Mill Hill East and beyond to Edgware while a junction for the branch towards High Barnet was added as early as 1872.

An impressive station building planned by Charles Holden for the Underground line was never built and the modest Victorian suburban train station is still in use today. Light yellow bricks and a lack of ornaments were quite usual for minor stations in the 1860s, particularly in areas like Finchley that were still very rural at the time.

 

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Northern Tube line walk 1: Euston walk to Archway

Walk 1

EUSTON walk to ARCHWAY

2 3/4 hours

This Underground line opened in 1907 with Archway as a terminus. It was integrated into what is now the Northern Line complex in the 1920s. The line was not a big success because there was much competition from cheaper private bus companies and it was bought by the Government in 1933.

Disused South Kentish Town station

Services called between Camden Town and Kentish Town at an additional station called South Kentish Town. The station opened in 1907 but traffic remained very low and the company used the occasion of a strike in a power plant to close the station in 1924. The building has been let to retail businesses ever since.

Routing note: This walk connects in Euston to Northern line walks 5, 9 and 10, to Victoria Underground walk 3 and to Euston train network walk 1. It connects in Kentish Town with Blackfriars train network walk 1 and finally in Archway with Northern line walk 2.

The route bypasses the touristy area around Camden Lock as this features in other walks. My time estimate does not include time spent visiting Hampstead Cemetery as this will be heavily dependant on your personal taste for memorials of celebrities.

EUSTON

Euston train terminus and Underground station

The station opened on the account of two different Underground companies in 1907; both lines are now called Northern Line but are actually two separate lines. An interconnection was put in place in 1924 in order to enable trains to switch from the one line to the other. The Victoria line platforms opened in 1968.

The station is entirely underground and has no dedicated entrance at street level. It is accessed through the Euston train terminus, a gloomy concrete structure from 1968.

Original Euston Underground station

There was a separate station building for the Underground originally and it is still visible at the corner of Melton Street with Drummond Street. Like most stations on this Underground line, it was designed by Leslie Green, the company architect, who used a standard scheme as he was supposed to design no less than 50 stations within a few years. The scheme involves a steel frame housing the concourse, which made it cheap and quick to build, with outside walls covered in glazed terracotta. Most stations then have some minor one-off decoration details. In Euston, it was a neo-baroque scroll bearing a semblance of a coat of arms.

With the train terminus to your back, turn R to the next road, then R again (along the tracks) in Melton Street

L Drummond Street

R North Gower Street, ends as a footpath

St James Gardens

There was a very nice green space in this area until recently. St James Gardens were an old burial site with interesting monuments, many mature trees as well as a pleasant central flower bed. All of this was taken away in order to build the new high-speed train line between London and Birmingham. There is no doubt that this is very sensible infrastructure. It just makes you think about how a city changes and how hard it is to give up on something familiar. When the French Railways had to decide about similar measures in Paris, they decided that the high-speed lines would start some 10 miles from the terminus. I guess this is difficult in London because the power system used on high-speed lines such as Eurostar is not compatible with that of suburban lines.

Harrington Square Garden

The path merges into Hampstead Road, later crossing train tracks

Walk along small Harrington Square Gardens

This is just a pleasant neighbourhood square with a nice central flower bed.

The long, colonnaded building overlooking the square on the other side of Hampstead Road is a famous landmark of the Art Déco style. There is an excellent description under http://www.modernistbritain.co.uk/post/building/Arcadia+Works/

Former tobacco factory

In short, the building was originally a factory commissioned by the Carreras Tobacco Factory in 1928. Most of the ornamentation was taken away when the property was sold in 1959 but a new owner decided in 1996 to bring back the original appearance as much as possible. This won the architects several prizes and ensured that tenants in what is now an office building were of sufficient standing.

 

Egyptian columns

The central part of the building is neoclassical in design with columns spanning the whole height. This was quite popular at the time; because it was used a lot to glorify fascist regimes in the 1930s, we forget that it was used in many other locations as well, for example at the Paris world fair in 1936. For Britain, it was a welcome contrast to the bombastic style used for many official buildings, in particular war memorials and cenotaphs, by followers of Sir Edwin Lutyens.

 

Detail with black cats

What sets the factory apart is the colourful Egyptian scheme. The black cats were the trade mark of the flagship product of the company but the Egyptian style comes primarily from a decoration craze of the 1920s following the much publicised discovery of pharaoh Tutankhamun’s grave in 1922. The style is more commonly found on film theatres.

Ahead Hurdwick Place (the same main road actually)

MORNINGTON CRESCENT

Mornington Crescent station

The station opened in 1907 on the new Underground line.

The building is a typical Leslie Green design. The flat roof was an integral part of the design because the company hoped to build office buildings above in order to generate rental income. This did not happen here because the area was a sort of transition zone between industrial premises and residential streets. The station had limited opening hours until 1992 but was rebuilt in 1998 into a normal station with a view to alleviating congestion in nearby Camden Town station.

Arts & Crafts detail

As mentioned about Euston, Leslie Green added to the standard design the one or other special detail in some of the stations. In Mornington Crescent, it is a set of wooden gates with stylised flowers, a typical Arts & Crafts ornament. The wrought iron panels above also have stylised flowers.

Continue along the main road turning slightly L, this is Camden High Street

 

Former Camden Theatre

One of the most conspicuous buildings on the crossroads at the start of High Street is the former Camden Theatre, built in 1900 but converted to a film theatre as early as 1913. It is a listed building that has always been used for entertainment purposes, unlike many theatres turned into bingo halls or evangelical churches. The latest incarnation as Koko was opened in 2004 and it remains a leading venue for high profile music artists. Interestingly, it seated 2400 people in 1901 while it seats about 1400 nowadays. The architecture is typically 1900s with grand columns and a copper-covered dome.

Statue related to free trade

In the centre of the crossroads, there is a statue of Richard Cobden, who played a very important role as a Member of Parliament. In the 1850s, it was common for industrialists in Britain as well as in Europe to insist on protecting their home markets from foreign competition by high tariffs. Mr Cobden managed to convince the French Emperor and the British Prime Minister to set a maximum tariff at 30%, signing the first international free trade treaty. This enabled both countries to double their exports into the other. France repealed the treaty in 1892, partly because both countries needed trade less as they were concentrating on their respective colonial empires. Interestingly, the issue of free trade vs. protection of the home market continues to be one of the hottest topics in international politics nowadays although it should be clear that all sorts of consumer goods like textiles and electronics would be much more expensive if they had to be produced locally rather than imported.

Former department store on Camden High Street

When you come closer to central Camden and reach Greenland Street, you walk past an interesting brick building with a corner gable in the German Renaissance style. The numerous, conspicuously large windows were typical for department stores and the goods sold inside in the 1900s are still written in old-fashioned script above the windows (Draperies, Beddings etc). Note the locomotive and the oriental looking boat, meant to inform you that you could buy exciting, imported textiles inside. The colour scheme combining red bricks and light stone, extended even to the window bows, is typically Edwardian.

Art Déco on Britannia Junction

Architects got fed up with the style after World War I and started looking for cleaner, functional shapes. They also felt that frilly colour games were out of order. You get a good example for architecture from the 1920s at the next street corner, Britannia Junction. The shape is based on pure geometry and there are no columns or moulded ornaments breaking the flat concrete surface. Ornamentation is now concentrated in isolated reliefs themed in accordance with the function of the building, here trade.

Colourful Camden High Street

As an aside, note the black device attached to the lamp post in front of the building. It looks to me decidedly like a chimney sweeping broom but it is apparently the bona fide decoration chosen for this part of the local High Street. As you can see on the picture, the shops in the vicinity are about as tacky as the decoration. I know tons of people walk through such shopping streets every day, to the point that it is a very well-known tourist attraction.

 

Shop selling trainers

I wonder a little how many people or what category of people actually buy these products in these locations. I agree that the borough manages to take away some of the tackiness by encouraging the very conspicuous decoration on the walls above the shops. It is quite creative, particularly combined with the bright colours, so that I give you a few examples.

 

Chinese owner in Camden High Street

CAMDEN TOWN

Camden Town Underground station

The station opened in 1907 on the new Underground line with trains continuing north either towards Archway or towards Golders Green. An additional branch opened in 1924 linking Camden Town with Euston without passing Mornington Crescent station. Because of the extremely popular Camden Market attracting considerable crowds on weekends, the station is the most congested on London Underground and often has to be closed or restricted for safety reasons. Plans have been proposed to build a new, larger concourse. This would imply building a new station with the present building being left as a historical relict only.

The building is a typical Leslie Green design and the flat roof indeed enabled here to add an additional level for offices generating rental income.

Pub in Camden

R Greenland Road (takes along a pub called “The Worlds End”)

The pub is quite conspicuous from outside and does not actually look like a pub inside, more like a converted factory or garage. Such conversions are very fashionable actually.

At the end R Camden Street

Detour R into St Martin’s Gardens

 

St Martin’s Gardens

The gardens were originally a cemetery set up in 1802 for the parish of St Martin’s in the Fields, better known for the name of a classical orchestra. The land was later used in part to build almshouses, still visible at the back of the garden. It was converted from a cemetery into a small park in 1889. Although it is very close to the pandemonium of Camden Lock and Market, it is a rather quiet location with less louts and lounging addicts than you might fear.

Otherwise opposite the access for the Gardens into Georgiana Street

At the end L across the canal into St Pancras’ Way, passing later under train tracks

Regent’s Canal in Camden

You cross here the Regent’s Canal, opened in 1820 in order to create a faster link between the Midlands and the London docks, bypassing the winding, tidal and crowded river Thames. Now that the many factories and warehouses have closed, it is only used by the occasional house boat. The towpath is an extremely popular walking and cycling route that I do use on other routes.

 

Pub overlooking Regent’s Canal

The pub at the end of the bridge is interesting for the reference to Charrington’s, a completely forgotten company nowadays. It was actually the core of the largest beer company in Britain back in 1967 when it was called Bass Charrington.

R Agar Grove

Half L into a short footpath marked as a cycle route towards Tufnell Park. The footpath merges into Stratford Villas

Ahead Camden Square

Camden Square

This is a leafy road with an elongated green space between the two strings of the road. The individual houses are about as elegant and as expensive as those along squares in Belgravia or Kensington, the difference being that they are larger, stand-alone properties rather than part of terraces. There was originally a typical suburban church at the upper end of the square but this had to be demolished after bomb damages during World War II and the replacement building is a nondescript, low concrete hall.

When the central square ends, continue on the left-hand side

L Cantelowes Road

R Camden Mews

Camden Mews

As the picture shows, you definitely don’t expect such a street so close to the touristy parts of Camden. The cobblestones in particular are quite a rarity nowadays. This is a good example of the suburban version of mews, the narrow alleys built at the back of sizeable houses in order to give access for deliveries and to stables without disturbing the more elegant front on the main road. Obviously, you only get mews in suburbs that were built before the 1920s, when horses were replaced by automobiles, and London did not have so many suburbs at the time.

L Camden Park Road (there is no road sign here but you cannot miss it as it is the first road that you reach)

Cross the main road into Torriano Avenue

L Busby Place

Just before the church R into Oseney Crescent

Ahead Islip Street

At the end R Kentish Town Road

KENTISH TOWN

Kentish Town station

The station opened in 1907 on the new Underground line, offering a connection with the existing suburban train station opened in 1868 between St Pancras terminus and Hendon. The train station was demolished in 1983 and the Underground station is now used by all travelers.

The building is a typical Leslie Green design with four bays instead of two due to the expected traffic level.

 

Pub in Kentish Town

The most conspicuous building in the vicinity of the station is the impressive Assembly House, built in 1898 as the public house it still is. It never housed anything remarkable but was clearly planned as a landmark for the suburb. The architecture is again typically Edwardian in terms of colour scheme, moulded decoration items and haphazard mix of details from different periods (the turret may be medieval in inspiration while the roof windows are Dutch Renaissance).

 

Pub in Kentish Town

If you want to see a little more architecture linked to entertainment, there are two venues a few yards north of the Underground station at the start of Highgate Road. One is a pub painted in very lively blue and gold. It is one of the older buildings in this suburb, erected in 1871. Just beyond, the much larger, hulking shape belongs to a former film theatre converted into a music venue. It is interesting as a typical example of Art Déco cinema built in 1934. If you remember the Carreras factory at the start of this walk, you find here again the row of huge columns while the flat roof is marked by a conspicuous horizontal cornice.

Former film theatre in Kentish Town

Just after the station R into Leighton Road

This is a road with a rather interesting mix of buildings. It was one of the main roads in the old village of Kentish Town and avoided thus the typical terrace developments. Among a number of listed buildings, you might notice for example houses number 27 and 37, late Georgian houses built respectively in 1828 and 1824. Nearly opposite, property number 30 is an elaborately decorated building from 1903 with coats of arms and nice old railings. It is actually an official building as it is a mail sorting office.

Estate on Leighton Road

A bit further on, the estate opposite number 80 is a particularly well-kept former council estate. It is quite typical for the 1930s with the rounded balcony ends so beloved at the time. I really liked the small garden with a few flowers and sitting opportunities.

L Leighton Grove

Ahead Carleton Road

L Huddleston Road

 

Edwardian residential building

I took the picture at the corner of Huddleston Road with Anson Road. It is an other good example of an Edwardian property with a mix of style elements from different periods of the history of architecture. Pointed frames around the roof level windows refer to Dutch or German Renaissance depending on the exact shape and may have been popular because this was a link to the Kingdom of Hanover from which the royal family came originally. I already mentioned before the typical colour scheme with red bricks, changed from yellow bricks in Victorian times.

L Tufnell Park Road

TUFNELL PARK

Tufnell Park Underground station

The station opened in 1907 on the new Underground line.

The building is a typical Leslie Green design. As in many other stations, he added a special decorative detail, the very nice wrought iron frieze above the three entrance bays. They show stylised flowers typical of the Arts & Crafts movement. Mornington Crescent station also has flowers but of a different design. This is typical for Arts & Crafts, where you want to avoid the impression of standardised industrial ornaments.

Arts & Crafts detail

Pub in Tufnell Park

As in Kentish Town, the junction in Tufnell Park is dominated by a conspicuous public house called here the Boston Arms. It is a rather well-known music venue and some internet comments mention that it attracts boisterous crowds, particularly when the programme appeals to Irish citizens. Irish already had a mixed reputation in this respect in the 19th century when they were considered the typical working class immigrants. Better classes were put off by the Irish being “in thrall to popish mummeries” and supposedly prone to heavy drinking and fighting. I’d say they are just less stuck up. The building dates back to 1899 and the architecture reminds a little of a central London theatre with columns and a corner dome.

R Dartmouth Park Hill (check with the road sign that you do take the correct road)

After climbing for a lengthy distance, you walk along a reservoir. You can detour into the park on the right-hand side at the very end of the reservoir, coming back afterwards

Banks of Dartmouth Park Reservoir

The reservoir is obviously in the logical place for a water supply installation. It was built in 1855 when this was still a completely rural area and the grassy banks have not changed since. The reservoir has a cover in order to protect water quality and this enabled local authorities to give access to some of the slopes, opening Darmouth Park in 1972. The primary attraction is a rather extended view towards Arsenal Stadium to the east, the Canary Wharf cluster of office towers to the southeast and the City to the south.

View towards Arsenal stadium

View towards the City and Canary Wharf

Downhill L Chester Road, turns later L along a cemetery

Library in Chester Road

Chester Road has a rather strange mix of styles with a very modernist building at the start, a typical Victorian library further down and innovative contemporary estate architecture opposite the library. The library is from 1906 but is surprisingly modest for Edwardian times. It is mainly neo-Romanesque except for the roof balustrade. The windows take up an extremely large part of the street front, which is very sensible in order to bring more light to people reading inside but was actually unusual because it raised heating costs considerably.

View of Holly Village

At the end of Chester Road, you walk between a cemetery to the right and a peculiar gated estate to the left. The estate called Holly Village is definitely worth looking at the building, which is fortunately easy to do as the fence is low enough. I found an excellent comment on http://www.victorianweb.org/art/architecture/darbishire/1.html. I quote excerpts from this webpage where you also get good pictures. Please respect the website author’s copyright.

Holly Village, designed by the architect Henry Astley Darbishire for Baroness Angela Burdett-Coutts, consists of a group of eight buildings built around a green, comprising four detached houses and four pairs of adjoining cottages. The houses were apparently intended (though there is some dissent here) as an economic rather than a charitable venture — as Camden Council puts it, for “private rent to those on considerable incomes.”

House in Holly Village

The development would have been visible from Holly Lodge, the Coutts’s splendid country villa on Highgate’s West Hill (…). Thus Darbishire (…) was here requested to create a sort of Gothic fantasy which could be enjoyed both as a view and as a residential community for future tenants. No expense was spared in the materials, which included fine quality teak wood and Portland stone, and Italian craftsmen were employed for the wood carving. Both in the stonework and the woodcarving there are many “picturesque and fanciful” details (…), including contrast patterning in the exterior walls, crenellations, pinnacles, dormers, small heads (on window corbels etc.) and small animals e.g. as gargoyles (…).

Détails of a house in Holly Village

(…) The sculptures on either side of the archway are idealised, classically-robed representations of Burdett-Coutts herself and her governess and long-time companion, Hannah Brown. Burdett-Coutts holds a pet dog, and Mrs Brown holds a dove. With its “huge indulgence in flamboyant detail” (…), Holly Village is a unique example of full-blown Victorian Gothic in a residential complex. The wrought iron gate beneath the entrance archway makes it perhaps the first example of a gated housing development.

At the end R Swains Lane

L Langbourne Avenue (it is part of a gated estate but access is always available for pedestrians)

Council estate in Holly Lodge Estate

Holly Lodge Estate is named after a property that was put on the market in 1907 after the death of its owner but did not sell because it was considered too far away from central London. It was finally sold to developers in 1923 and is a single property (which enables residents to close the road it irregular intervals in order to prevent a public right of way from emerging).

 

Stockbroker Tudor style

It was owned originally by a special purpose company that reserved it primarily for single women. It was therefore built in a way comparable to a student residence hall with communal bathrooms and kitchens in most buildings rather than in every flat. A significant part of the estate still has this feature. The owner company could not afford the major repairs needed after the first 50 years of existence and the property belongs now to the borough council. You definitely do not expect the estate to be a council estate when looking at the buildings because they are very well maintained and because the architecture is so conspicuous.

Example of council estate building

First R Hillway

Villas on Hillway

Along the central road, the estate looks the way it was actually planned by the original developer with individual villas in a garden suburb setting. The building plots sold slowly due to the distance from central London but also due to drainage difficulties on the steep hill. The residents in this part of the estate obviously have the means to ensure proper maintenance of the common parts.

 

Other view of Hillway

Villas were often built in the 1920s in this peculiar architectural style nicknamed “stockbroker Tudor” to point to the typical buyer. I guess people liked the black-and-white pattern with wooden decoration because it was such a welcome change from austere, dreary Georgian roads, flashy, neo-classical Belgravia terraces and endlessly identical brick houses in developments from the Victorian era. The style disappeared quickly because it was difficult to keep the houses white at a time of frequent smog.

Second R Oakeshott Avenue

L Swains Lane

Entrance of Highgate Cemetery

The road climbs between the two sections of Highgate Cemetery, the only burial ground in London to my knowledge that you cannot enter without paying a fee. It opened in 1839 and was a private commercial operation like a number of large cemeteries founded at the time; the ground was bought by a special purpose association in 1981 that manages it more or less as a nature reserve cum museum.

 

Highgate Cemetery

Part of the cemetery can only be visited with a guide for safety reasons (toppling monuments and protection of nearly undisturbed nature) while the other part works like a normal museum with tickets and self-guided tours. The cemetery attracted prominent burials in the Victorian era. You will see comparable monuments in freely accessible burial grounds like in Kensal Green and Nunhead so that you should envisage a visit primarily if you have a specific interest in some of the celebrities such as Lucian Freud or Karl Marx.

Gates of Waterlow Park

R into Waterlow Park. You should exit at the southeast corner, reached by walking straight ahead across the park, but the park is well worth walking around, particularly on the eastern side. Most of the ground belonged to a sizeable country estate that was extended over time. The property was then given to the London County Council in 1889 as the mansion had become derelict. One of the attractions of the location was a number of natural springs feeding ponds like in Hampstead Heath, a useful feature in older times.

Waterlow Park

Waterlow Park lodge

The building you see directly on Swains Lane is just the lodge. It is a fanciful example of neo-gothic architecture, a very fashionable style in the late Georgian period. The chimneys are particularly noteworthy. The mansion itself is located above the ponds on the eastern side of the park; it burnt partly down in 1963 and is now of limited interest despite having some walls from 1580. The real attractions in Waterlow Park are the views towards central London, the ponds and the two nice formal gardens.

Waterlow Park mansion

Waterlow Park

Waterlow Park in spring

 

Former kitchen garden

One is a kitchen garden converted into an elegant herbaceous border. The other one below the mansion is embellished with lovely baroque statues and urns. It has formal flower beds around a central fountain. Although it is not big and the planting is not remarkable, it really has a good variety of atmosphere and I give you as usual a generous number of pictures in order to give you an idea.

 

Statues in Waterlow Park

Formal garden in Waterlow Park

Waterlow Park

 

Open space in Girdlestone Walk

R Dartmouth Park Hill

Just before a church L into Anatola Road

Ahead into Girdlestone Park, exit at the southeast corner near the tennis court

This is just a small neighbourhood open space.

Ahead Vorley Road

L Junction Road

ARCHWAY

Archway Underground station

The station opened in 1907 on the new Underground line. It was originally called Highgate because passengers for this village alighted at what was then the terminus and transferred to a cable tramway. The name was changed to “Archway (Highgate)” in 1939 using the name of a nearby pub, then to “Highgate (Archway)” in 1941 when the Underground line was extended towards the new station at Highgate proper. The name was simplified to Archway in 1947.

The original station building was demolished in 1963 as part of a scheme to build a major new urban centre in this area. This involved a shopping centre beneath a bulky office tower, something also done in locations like Elephant & Castle or Hammersmith. The building had become very outdated in terms of insulation and construction materials and was converted in the 2010s to luxury flats. The station concourse is now just a porch within the ground floor commercial area.

Tower block above Archway station

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Piccadilly Tube line walk 15: Sudbury Town walk to Rayners Lane

Walk 15

SUDBURY TOWN walk to RAYNERS LANE

2 1/4 hours

A suburban train line was built for what is now the District Line between Acton Town and South Harrow via Sudbury Town in 1903. The line was extended to Rayners Lane in 1910 in order to provide a connection with the Metropolitan Line. The line was transferred to the Piccadilly Line in 1933.

Routing note: This walk connects in Sudbury Town with walk 14. It connects in Rayners Lane with Metropolitan line walk 4.

Please note that you will use woodland paths that could be muddy at the start of the walk. The end of the walk beyond South Harrow station is mostly along suburban roads due to a lack of alternatives.

SUDBURY TOWN

Sudbury Town Underground station

The station opened in 1903 on the new District line branch running between Ealing Common and South Harrow and was kept when the line transferred to the Piccadilly line in 1932.

The station building was rebuilt in 1932. The design is by Charles Holden and is actually very similar to that of Alperton station. You can see in Sudbury Town how the design works better for a station where there is no embankment to shadow the tall windows. For some reason, Charles Holden chose exactly the same shape in Sudbury Town than for Acton Town but with less windows.

Sudbury Town station at night

I give you a second picture taken at night because this shows well the effect Charles Holden liked to get. Even without some kind of tower, the station does stand out as a landmark in the suburb through the glow of the concourse lights.

Exit the station at the back (not on the main forecourt). This may be marked “Orchard Gate”

Cross the residential road into Crossgate

At the end L Whitton Avenue East

Very soon R Ashness Gardens, the road turns R and then L again

L after house number 59 into a footpath between two golf courses

The path turns R after about 1/4 mile and leads towards Horsenden Farm, now an information centre for the nature reserve

Walk down the access road to the main road and turn R

Look for the typical Capital Ring wooden signpost

Very soon R again in a footpath uphill. From now on, you can follow the well-marked Capital Ring, a long-distance path around London. The path is marked with green-and-white flags or roundels and is easy to spot. I copy in italics the description given in the official brochure for the section across the open spaces of Horsenden Hill.

Turn right into the wood to start the steep climb up Horsenden Hill. Follow the steps up to a kissing gate. This area is used for cattle grazing in the summer; the cattle are friendly but please keep dogs on leads at this point. Continue ahead to the corner of the field and a second set of steps, beyond those is a bench with a lovely view. At the second kissing gate you emerge into an open field which is the location of a reservoir, cross this, bear right to a third set of steps to reach the summit of Horsenden Hill.

Summit of Horsenden Hill

Horsenden Hill is both an important nature reserve and a protected archeological site. It rises 84 m above sea level and offers therefore extremely extensive views. This made it very useful in Neolithic times as you had better chances to spot game from the hilltop. It continued to be a popular location during the Iron Age as there are clear signs of fields and domestic activities (pottery in particular). In Europe, it would probably have been a prime location for a medieval fortress but England had one single ruler since 1,066 and there was no need for such castles except in the more exposed border lands.

View north from Horsenden Hill

From the hilltop, the only direction in which you have little view is the North because Harrow Hill is about as high as Horsenden Hill. Towards the East, you look towards Wembley and a bit right of this towards the City of London and Canary Wharf.

 

Wembley Stadium from Horsenden Hill

City of London from Horsenden Hill

Towards the Southeast, you see easily the London Eye and in the background the high hill of Crystal Palace.

London Eye from Horsenden Hill

The view south and west is extremely far because of the width of the Thames Valley. It is difficult to point out landmarks in these more rural directions while you do see quite well the queue of planes waiting to land at Heathrow Airport.

View South from Horsenden Hill

View West from Horsenden Hill

Horsenden Wood

Keep ahead across the summit, where a second disused reservoir lies beneath the surface. Pass the Capital Ring signpost and continue on the same line on grass towards Horsenden Wood. Fork half left downhill into the woods with its beautiful old trees (predominantly oak and hornbeam but you may notice a Wild Service tree to the left) and follow the constructed woodland path, with sleeper bridges down through the woods. At a tarmac footpath, turn right for about 40 metres, the left on an indistinct path, keeping parallel to the garden fences over to the right.

Old trees in Horsenden Wood

The path emerges from the wood at a major path junction by the end of Whitton Drive. Turn left along the tarmac path that follows a hedge and ditch. At the end, by the Ballot Box pub, turn right along busy Horsenden Lane North.

Ahead Melville Avenue

Ahead Rosehill Gardens (you leave the Capital Ring here for a few hundred yards as it detours along a boring suburban road)

At the end L into a paved footpath along the last house (no need to go near the towers)

Glimpse of Allen Court estate

The towers are correctly called Allen Court and this was a notorious housing estate. When it was built in the 1960s, the apartments offered modern conveniences like indoor toilets that were quite welcome compared to the derelict Victorian houses many social housing beneficiaries had to live in before. The location had been chosen with the idea that many of the residents would find jobs in factories in Park Royal, three Underground stations away.

Ridding Lane open space

But little thought was given to shopping or leisure activities and the tower residents did not mix well at all with the typical suburban semi-detached house owners in the area. The estate turned into a no-go area when the proportion of jobless young people skyrocketed in the 1970s as factories closed. The borough was unable to do much about the situation until 2010, when a plan was published to demolish the towers and build more sprawling but less overwhelming blocks instead. Demolition is also sensible because apartments from the 1960s were very badly insulated and therefore terribly expensive to heat properly.

Ahead along the edge of the green space until the footpath merges into a narrow access lane parallel to the Underground tracks

At the end R Greenford Road

SUDBURY HILL

Sudbury Hill Underground station

The station opened in 1903 on the new District line branch running between Ealing Common and South Harrow and was kept when the line transferred to the Piccadilly line in 1932.

The station building was rebuilt in 1932. The design is by Charles Holden and is a more modest version of the Sudbury Town station. The main differences are the concrete awning and the single clerestory window in Sudbury Hill instead of two.

Cross the Underground tracks

Ahead on Ford Road crossing train tracks

L South Vale

R Green Lane (a footpath with a clear Capital Ring flagpost)

Green Lane footpath

As the picture shows, this path is a very surprising way of climbing the hill. You don’t really feel like being near a train and Underground station in transport zone 4. The road you will be walking along for a long distance afterwards is also very pleasant and quite green, with sizeable villas. It is actually a private road with a barrier and older maps mention a toll. I know of very few such private toll roads in London (one is in Dulwich).

 

Arts & Crafts villa in South Hill Avenue

The sizeable property on the picture is a nice example of Arts & Crafts, a style that had some following in the 1900s among more discerning middle class citizens. The more usual style was bombastic, using factory-made ormanents and a mix of details from all periods in architectural history. Arts & Crafts extolled supposed medieval preference for quality and inventive handcraft. The shapes are simple, only one material is used (usually bricks) and any ornament is a testimony to the qualifications of the mason (here the horizontal frieze) or the carpenter (the bow window) and is a one-off design. This concept was quite expensive and was logically used mostly on really affluent villas like here.

You leave the Capital Ring trail at the end of Green Lane. The trail continues uphill while you turn L downhill into South Hill Avenue

At the end L Northolt Road

SOUTH HARROW

South Harrow Underground station

The station opened in 1903 on the new District line branch running between Ealing Common and South Harrow and was converted to a through station when the line was extended to Rayners Lane in 1910.

The original station building was converted later to depot facilities and a new station building was erected in 1935 on the occasion of the transfer of the line to the Piccadilly line in 1933. The building was designed by Charles Holden like most stations on this branch of the Piccadilly Line but I guess he was asked to plan a more modest station due to economic conditions in the 1930s.

South Harrow station entrance

Instead of a landmark geometric block with imposing clerestory windows, he designed a cascade of three boxes, the lower one in plain concrete, the upper ones in bricks with a few windows. The geometric lines are blurred by ugly railings added later in order to enable workers to inspect the roofs safely. An other reason for the design might be that Charles Holden’s designs were less suited to stations where the tracks are on top of an embankment.

R Eastcote Lane

This long road is a good example for “Metroland” as such developments came to be called in the 1930s. The Metropolitan Railway had discovered that an activity as a developer was much more profitable than running a railway (it still is today !). It therefore bought huge farm estates in reasonable distance from central London, built a suburban railway to ensure that commuting was possible and sold the land piecemeal for housing at much higher prices than it had paid. The company was criticised after a dozen years for creating soulless suburbs with very limited shopping, no room for schools and sports grounds and very little in terms of public open spaces like parks. As Metroland goes, Eastcote Lane is unusual for being less boring than usual: it has several curves and the road is wide with grass verges.

St Paul’s South Harrow church

Towards the end of Eastcote Lane, the road meets Corbins Lane from the left. There is a spectacular church a few yards into this side road, St Paul’s South Harrow. It is the Anglican parish church for this part of Metroland and is a stunning, listed design from 1937. It is a very uncompromising style of Art Déco. You find here the love for pure geometrical shapes, a rounded bow, clerestory windows, the colour white, all rather typical elements. But there are strictly no ornaments like sunrays that were popular on commercial buildings like cinemas. The side walls of the church nave have no windows, which is unusual and unnecessarily harsh. What you do get is faint reminders of gothic shapes (a buttress and a gabled portal) that are difficult to reconcile with Art Déco.

At the roundabout ahead into Rayners Lane

When you reach a small car park opposite the mouth of Maryatt Avenue, turn L into Newton Ecology Park

Newton Ecology Park

This is a small nature reserve taking advantage of the special ground as it is located at the confluence of two brooks, ensuring good water supply for a pond. But the ground is of bad quality, most of it being piles of construction rubbish spread over clay, and no one knows whether the rubbish was contaminated by metals. The park is quite small and not really maintained except for mowing the grass; a community group that intended to tend to a healing garden soon gave up. This being said, the park is a rare piece of open green space in the Metroland area and is worth enjoying at leisure.

Cross the park ahead towards the main road

R Alexandra Avenue

RAYNERS LANE

Rayners Lane Underground station

The suburban train line through the station was opened by the Metropolitan Railway in 1904 and the station itself was added in 1906 as a plot used in many places by this railway company to encourage suburban development and therefore commuter traffic. A junction was added in 1910 in order to provide access to the railway to Acton and Westminster, operated at the time by the District Railway. Both lines were taken over by the Underground and the District Line branch switched to the Piccadilly Line in 1933.

Rayners Lane station seen from the platforms

The station building was rebuilt in 1932. The design is by Charles Holden and is quite similar to that of Sudbury Town station. The main differences is that the Rayners Lane concourse is more a cube than a rectangle and that the windows are not paired. The view from the platforms is more interesting than the view from the street, showing much better the love of Charles Holden for glass panels.

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Piccadilly Tube line walk 14: Acton Town walk to Sudbury Town

Walk 14

ACTON TOWN walk to SUDBURY TOWN

2 1/4 hours

A suburban train line was built for what is now the District Line between Acton Town and Sudbury Town (continuing to South Harrow) in 1903. The line had limited success and was transferred to the Piccadilly Line in 1932.

Routing note: This walk connects in Acton Town with Piccadilly Line walk 8. It connects both in Acton Town and in Ealing Common with District line walk 2. Between the two stations (a short walk of minor interest anyway), I use the same route for both lines. Finally, you can connect in Sudbury Town with walk 15, probably the most convenient of the connections.

ACTON TOWN

Acton Town Underground station

The station was opened in 1879 under the name Mill Hill Park on a suburban railway linking Hammersmith with Ealing Broadway, converted later to the present District line. A branch was opened by the same railway towards Boston Manor and Hounslow in 1883. An additional branch providing a connection with the Overground line through South Acton was opened in 1903 but closed in 1959.

The extension of the Piccadilly line in 1933 led to the station being rebuilt and renamed. The new line took over the Hounslow branch.

The station building is a listed work by Charles Holden and the design was used for three stations (the others are Oakwood and Sudbury Town). It is a plain box but is quite impressive because of its height and of the very wide awning. This is a testimony to the taste of the 1930s for very strict geometric shapes and no decorative fussiness.

Exit the station and turn L on Gunnersbury Lane

R Gunnersbury Crescent, the road turns L

At the end R Gunnersbury Gardens, the road turns L

R Carbery Avenue

Tuodr revival development

The road was developed mostly in the 1930s and you will see a lot of houses in the “stockbroker Tudor” style in Acton as well. The style appealed apparently a lot to the burgeoning middle class of people working in offices and involves black wooden beams on a white background as a reference to “good old England” from the glorious period of Henry VIII.

 

 

Arts & Crafts house in Carbery Avenue

The house on the picture is interesting because it is in a very different, older style. It is typically “Arts & Crafts”, a style popular around 1900 with a minority of discerning people who patronised traditional handwork and eschewed bombastic neo-everything buildings popular at the time. Typical hallmarks of Arts & Crafts are easy to recognise on the house as the door, the doorway and the small glass window are obviously made to order by trained craftsmen and not ornaments moulded in a factory.

At the end R Kinsgbridge Avenue

Soon L Tring Avenue

R Leopold Road, the road turns L

The station is on the main road just a few yards to your right

EALING COMMON

Ealing Common Underground station

The station was opened in 1879 on a suburban railway linking Hammersmith with Ealing Broadway, converted later to the present District line. The name of the station was changed to “Ealing Common & West Acton” in 1886 but reverted to the simpler version in 1910.

A branch was built in 1903 to link Ealing Common and Sudbury and was converted in 1932 to the present Piccadilly Line. The station was rebuilt on the occasion.

Ealing common station

The station building is an interesting design by Charles Holden like many Piccadilly line stations built in the 1930s. Rather than using the Piccadilly line scheme with brick walls and high geometric shapes, it reminds of the scheme used for a few stations on the Northern line with rather expensive Portland stone and is a nearly exact copy of Hounslow West station. The Charles Holden signature remains evident with the pure geometric shape of the concourse (a highly unusual heptagon) and the upper floor windows all around.

As you can see on the second picture, expensive Portland stone was only used for the main concourse. The platform staircases are plain brick with clean but simple and practical shapes and no unusual quantity of windows.

From Leopold Road, cross the main road into Wolverton Gardens

Edwardian development in Wolverton Gardens

I mentioned before that Arts & Crafts was a minority style in the 1900s. The typical style was more bombastic, involved moulded ornaments and made use of shapes from different periods in architectural history. The houses in this road were built in 1899 in the typical style for affluent Edwardian suburbs. The central gable on the picture is inspired from Dutch Renaissance, the porch combines neo-classical columns with a medieval pointed arch and the heavy cornices between the floors are early baroque. Also typical for the 1900s is the combination of two colours, one of which is reddish brick.

Ahead Inglis Road, the road turns L

House in Inglis Road

I took a picture of a house in Inglis Road because it looks very different from those in Wolverton Gardens. It is an example of a very subdued version of Arts & Crafts, the kind of design you could get when you would liked the simpler shapes but could not afford one-off handcraft.

R Hanger Lane crossing two sets of railway tracks

R Queen’s Drive

The station is down a few steps at the foot of the bridge over the Underground tracks

NORTH EALING

North Ealing Underground station

The station opened in 1903 on the new District line branch running between Ealing Common and Sudbury Town and was kept when the line transferred to the Piccadilly line in 1932.

The station building is a rather traditional suburban station, the upper floor and the many chimneys attesting to the fact that there was presumably a flat for the station master above the concourse. The building has no specific style but the mix of materials is quite typical for the time of construction with cement walls, windows framed with bricks and a neo-classical white cornice above the awning.

Continue in Queen’s Road

L Links Road

Mock village green in Hanger Hill Estate

You are crossing a particularly pleasant suburb, Hanger Hill Estate. It was developed between 1928 and 1936 on the basis of a single master plan designed by two architects and this explains why all houses are similar. They were obviously fully aware of the garden suburb movement, including many green spaces and rows of fine trees between the houses. There is even a mini-green with a pond.

Hanger Hill Estate

Hanger Hill Estate

Because Acton was a moderately attractive suburb at the time, demand did not justify houses taller than three stories and this combined with the width of the streets gives a strong feeling of space and greenery. The houses are all in mock Tudor style (more elegantly called “Tudor revival”) but include particularly large windows on both ground and first floors. One of the pictures shows you that the nice design is just for show as the back of the properties is plain gray concrete. Obviously, this is now a rather expensive suburb (a typical 2-bedroom flat may cost some 600,000 £, double the price of outer suburbs).

Masons Green Lane

L Monks Drive

Ahead on the public footpath (Masons Green Lane)

This long, pleasantly quiet footpath was originally a track between fields linking a manor house with the centre of the parish.

 

 

PARK ROYAL

Park Royal Underground station

The station opened in 1932 on the occasion of the transfer of the existing line from the District Line to the Piccadilly Line. There was a station nearby on the District Line called Park Royal & Twyford Abbey that had been opened in 1903 but it was not convenient as the showgrounds it had been built to serve had closed in the meantime. The station was renamed temporarily “Park Royal (Hanger Lane)” in 1936 but this was dropped in 1947.

The station building is a very imposing brick building in the typical style of the 1930s but it is only inspired and not designed by the Underground consultant, Charles Holden. The architects kept the idea of geometrical shapes without any unnecessary ornaments but they liked playing with shapes (like in Osterley station, also inspired but not designed by Charles Holden). This leads to the cascade of rectangles marking the platform staircases, the flat cylinder of the concourse and a very tall tower meant as a local landmark. The mix of shapes and the more moderate use of windows is the main difference with Holden designs. Seen from the right angle, it is one of the most interesting designs on the Piccadilly Line.

Park Royal station tower

 

Combination of shapes

Cross the dual carriageway using the subway for pedestrians and cyclists

Ahead across the tracks

L on the wide paved path passing under a large road roundabout

Ahead into the open space between the tracks and Lakeside Drive

Development along Lakeside Drive

This open space does not seem to have an official name although it has clearly been developed as a park. I have seen it called inofficially West Twyford Park. I think it was planned as a contribution by developers for being allowed to build several large towers along Lakeside Drive. Some of those have flats but the borough actually planned this area rather for business and commercial use. You are just skirting the western end of it. It was originally a large field used for a few years as showgrounds for the Royal Agricultural Society (therefore the name Park Royal) but was soon sold to factories.

West Twyford Park

Landscaping in West Twyford Park

The park is still young and trees will look very different when they mature but you can already get a feeling. Construction rubbish was used to create hills that also shield the park from the Underground line and its associated noise. In line with fashion in the late 2000s, the planting is mostly ornamental grasses in several shades but no flower beds as these cause high maintenance costs boroughs are keen on avoiding. As parks go, you can never forget that it is just a strip of land between the Underground and the towers. But it will still be convenient for walking your dog or have a short pause away from the office at lunchtime.

Follow the direction of Lakeside Drive as it turns R

Exit the park near the small playground on Bodlam Way, walking away from Lakeside Drive

Soon R Twyford Abbey Road

Glimpse of Twyford Abbey manor

Twyford Abbey is actually the site of an ancient manor rebuilt in the 19th century in a fashionable neo-medieval style with mock battlements and crenellations. It was used later as a retirement home but was vacated as derelict in 1988 and has apparently been bought by a developer to be converted into the usual luxury flats, taking advantage of the very spacious grounds. When I walked along the grounds, it was not easy to look at the building as it was quite well hidden in its park.

Walk along the road until you reach the canal. Go down to the towpath

L on the canal towpath

Paddington Arm in Twyford

The canal is the Paddington Arm of the Midlands Canal, opened in 1801 to bring products from the Midlands closer to the consumers in London. The canal banks became lined with heavy industrial premises that only closed in the 1960s with the de-industrialisation of Britain. Leisure traffic is also quite scarce as there is no large marina on this canal arm.

The first picture shows the canal more or less in the spot you reached the towpath. The view is taken towards central London and this is not the direction you want to follow.

Barge approaching the canal bridge

The second picture shows one of the major attractions on the canal, the bridge over the North Circular Road. Engineers normally try not to have a canal crossing over anything because of the risk that the bridge may weaken one day due to the weight of the water in the canal. Obviously, if a bridge broke, the canal would empty into the road below, causing huge damage as all the water between the next available locks would cascade down.

 

Dual channels of canal bridge

Engineers do use canal bridges when the canal has to cross a relatively narrow valley as is the case here with the river Brent. When the North Circular Road was built as a motorway in this area, it was sensible to use the unbuilt flood plain of the river Brent but this did force the engineers to build the canal bridge. Interestingly, the canal is split here into narrower channels as this lowers the weight. Having two channels made it possible for boat traffic to cross without waiting for access to be available. This worry appears overdone nowadays but commercial barge traffic was still quite strong when the canal bridge was planned in the 1960s.

Paddington Arm approaching Alperton

The faintly visible blue bridge on the former pictures is a footbridge within Northfield Industrial Estate. The canal then curves to the left and passes a second footbridge. It then curves slightly to the right when it reaches the third footbridge which is the one you need to use.

Just before passing under railway tracks, cross the canal on a white footbridge

This leads into Atlip Road

At the end L for the station

ALPERTON

Alperton Underground station

The station opened in 1903 on the new District line branch running between Ealing Common and Sudbury Town and was kept when the line transferred to the Piccadilly line in 1932. It was originally called Perivale Alperton but the name changed already in 1910.

The original station building was rebuilt in 1932. The design is by Charles Holden, the celebrated consultant for many Piccadilly line stations. Most of his stations involve buildings above the tracks while the tracks are elevated here. This prevented him from using the light-filled geometric shapes he liked but the rectangular shape of the concourse and the tall clerestory windows are in line with his usual style, just less effective.

The station had an unusual feature at the start. An escalator salvaged from a festival fair was used to ease access to the elevated platforms, something very rarely done in London as escalators are normally used mostly to access deep level platforms underground. It is quite interesting to note that the escalator is still in position but that it is not in use any more. Speak of making life easier for commuters…

Continue along Ealing Road passing under the tracks

R Bridgewater Road

R Bridgehill Close

Cross into One Tree Hill Recreation Ground using the underpass

One Tree Hill Recreation Ground

This is a rather sizeable park, one of several parks in London using the same name (it was even used as the name for a soap opera). The park has obviously many more than one tree nowadays and is particularly attractive for the sweeping views you enjoy from the top of the central hill. The view is very good towards Wembley to the north where you see the stadium and the Hindu temple. You also have a nice, surprisingly rural view west towards an important nature reserve, Horsenden Hill.

 

View towards Wembley Stadium

Hindu temple in Wembley

View towards Horsenden Hill

Turn L within the recreation ground in order to keep parallel to the tracks

Exit the recreation ground at the very end in Farm Avenue

At the end L Chaplin Road

L Harrow Road

Former manor buildings near Barham Park

From where you stand, you can see on the other side of the main road some of the buildings of a manor now used as a borough library. The park behind these buildings is well worth visiting but I do not include it on the present walk because I did so on a Marylebone network walk.

When you come close to a big roundabout, keep L and you will soon see a church

Cross the main road at the traffic lights near the church

Ahead Station Approach

SUDBURY TOWN

Sudbury Town Underground station

The station opened in 1903 on the new District line branch running between Ealing Common and South Harrow and was kept when the line transferred to the Piccadilly line in 1932.

The original station building was rebuilt in 1932. The design is by Charles Holden and is actually very similar to that of Alperton station. You can see in Sudbury Town how the design works better for a station where there is no embankment to shadow the tall windows. For some reason, Charles Holden chose exactly the same shape in Sudbury Town than for Acton Town but with less windows.

Sudbury Town station at night

I give you a second picture taken at night because this shows well the effect Charles Holden liked to get. Even without some kind of tower, the station does stand out as a landmark in the suburb through the glow of the concourse lights.

 

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Piccadilly Tube line walk 13: Heathrow Terminal 5 to Terminals 2 & 3

Walk 13

HEATHROW TERMINAL 5 to TERMINALS 2 & 3

1 1/2 hours

There are two Piccadilly line branches serving Heathrow Airport. One branch opened in 1986 serves Terminal 4 and then Terminals 1,2 & 3. The other branch serves Terminals 1, 2 & 3 since 1977 and then Terminal 5 since 2008.

Routing note: This walk connects in Heathrow Terminal 5 with walk 12. It connects in Heathrow Terminal 1 with walk 11 but I recommend you combine rather walks 12 and 13 than walks 11 and 13.

Although the walk will be noisy because of the planes, you get a compensation in terms of plane spotting and also because there is some pleasant farmland around the airport.

Please be aware that pedestrians are not allowed to walk all the way to either Terminals 2 & 3 or to Terminal 5. For Terminals 2 & 3, you will need to take a bus from the spot at the end of the walk, which is the nearest to the terminal you can get.

HEATHROW TERMINAL 5

Heathrow Terminal 5

The station opened in 2008 on an extension of the Piccadilly line beyond Terminals 1, 2 & 3 and is now the terminus of the line.

There is no station building, just a concourse inside the airport terminal. Pedestrians are not permitted to walk to the terminal and you will need to take a bus to the first stop away from the terminal (Moor Bridge stop on the line towards Slough is best).

The bus stop is on Bath Road just after a bridge. This is where the bypass route from my walk 12 joins walk 13.

Just after the bus stop R into Accomodation Lane (marked as a public footpath)

Paddock with Terminal 5

The picture shows the airport terminal in the background and a horse paddock in front. Similar views around most of Heathrow airport surprised me because you might expect an airport accessible by Underground to be surrounded by more commercial estates and office developments. I may be biased by comparisons with some European airports.

 

 

Heathrow incinerator

From Accomodation Lane, you have a good view of what looks like an aircraft hangar but is actually a nicely designed waste incinerator. It is a very large facility that burns about half of the considerable waste generated by the airport and its associated development. This is a very sensible facility as the previous solution was much more hazardous disposal through landfills. The facility is coupled with a high-temperature incinerator for hazardous waste (i.a. contaminated in hospitals) and this is quite controversial as some experts are not really confident that such waste should be burnt so close to a huge city like London, particularly considering that the normal wind pattern blows the exhaust towards Hounslow.

When I walked here, I was shocked to find a sizeable illegal dump along Accomodation Lane, probably left by motorists taking advantage of a small parking bay on the main road. I hope this will have been cleaned since and I actually very seldom found such situations on any walk in London. The more common sight is bits of household waste left by passers-by in dark corners of less used footpaths.

Accomodation Lane North

There should be a underpass to cross the next busy road that runs on an embankment. According to confusing maps, the underpass would be just a few yards L walking along the embankment but I did not notice it locally. Crossing this particular road is seriously dangerous as traffic is fast and heavy but it is a recommended cycle route and I guess there should indeed be a subway somewhere ! Anyway, cross the bypass road and continue in Accomodation Lane. The path is much more enjoyable by now and soon reaches an area that is managed for visitors as a wilderness area.

On reaching a footbridge over a river, cross the river

Overlooking Harmondsworth Moor

You can just walk along the river all the way to the second bridge (the first bridge only gives access to the Visitor Centre) but you can also turn L into the path up the hill to get a good overview of Harmondsworth Moor. This is a large and particularly wild country park that was actually only landscaped in the year 2000 when the borough recovered land that had been used for gravel extraction during the construction of Heathrow airport.

I borrow here a short description from the Harmondsworth Moor official brochure:

At the top of the hill is the Keyhole, a landscape feature constructed from the old Waterloo Bridge in London that was demolished in 1935. These stones were used extensively in the parkland reconstruction to make many interesting features around the lake and pond margins and high points.

From the top of the hill take the middle path downwards keeping the river. Follow the path to your right and keep on the path to a kissing gate where you turn right to cross a bridge over the Wraysbury river. This name relates to a short arm of the Colne River.

River Colne in Harmondsworth

Ahead into the end of Accomodation Lane crossing the main arm of the Colne River

Ahead Moor Lane (marked as a public byway)

The road runs quite close to a small lake caused by digging for gravel. It is now a rather nice setting for the headquarters of British Airways.

Waterside offices with Swan Lake

 

Duke of Northumberland’s River in Harmondsworth

Moor Lane soon crosses the Duke of Northumberland’s River, an artificial channel that diverts river Colne water towards the duke’s estate in Isleworth where it ensured water for a series of mills, adding to the Duke’s income from 1538 onwards. The birdge itself is a pretty humpback bridge.

Moor Lane then turns slowly L and reaches finally the village green

 

Village green in Harmondsworth

The village green is well worth a few moments. It has quaint cottages, a supposedly old pub, a typical red telephone booth and access to the churchyard. The parish church has some ancient parts that date back to the 12th century while most walls were built in flint in the 1500s. I was unable to enter the church or even look at the Norman door as it is protected by a locked porch.

Harmondsworth church

 

Great Barn in Harmondsworth

At the back of the churchyard, you will see the impressive elongated shape of the so-called “Great Barn”. The huge structure is dated back to 1476, when it was built as a tithe barn for the bishop of Winchester who had bought the land. I have never been inside because it is only open a few times a year. Pictures on the English Heritage website show a stunning oak frame. I have seen similar structures in central French villages but it is indeed the only one in London and also the largest remaining medieval barn in the whole of England.

Tithe Barn in Harmondsworth

As usual with English Heritage, you get to enjoy the architecture without any of the explanations panels and niceties that the National Trust likes to provide. The property was maintained by a farmer and used regularly until the 1970s but alarm was raised when it was purchased by a mysterious offshore company in 2006, possibly in prevision of a discussed extension of Heathrow airport, and English Heritage stepped in in 2011.

 

The Lodge in Harmondsworth

Ahead High Street

Ahead Holloway Lane

Soon R Harmondsworth Lane (there is also a road sign for “Sipson 1”)

The property at the corner of Harmondsworth Lane with Holloway Lane is a nice 19th century town house. The doorway on the north side has an interesting, unusual shape. The “Lodge” is apparently used as part of a nearby school.

View reminding of Flanders fields

Further along Harmondsworth Lane, you are again in the middle of wide open fields with rows of poplar trees along ditches. It actually reminded me of the landscape of Flanders.

 

Fields along Harmondsworth Lane

At the end R Sipson Road

Old pub in Sipson

There are two interesting buildings in this road. The first one just at the corner with Harmondsworth Lane is a pub built originally in the 16th century. The front was redone in the 19th century but the overall shape, in particular the steep, low roof, shows that it is older.

The second building a little further along Sipson Road looks like a former church. It is not the parish church and most of the old village of Sipson was actually demolished when Heathrow airport was built. But this was indeed a nonconformist (baptist) church that has been converted into apartments. You cannot help but wonder about the feeling you get with this type of windows in your living room. Must be interesting in terms of arranging the room.

Former Church in Sipson

 

Recreation ground in Sipson

R Ashby Way

Ahead across the recreation ground using the paved path towards the exit near the playground. This is just a standard sports ground.

R Sipson Way

L along Bath Road to the bus stop (see below for the reason). In order to see the terminal, you need to walk a bit further than the bus stop and you can come back afterwards.

HEATHROW TERMINALS 2 & 3

Nearest access for pedestrians

The station opened in 1977 under the name Heathrow Central and was the terminus of the Piccadilly line. It was renamed Heathrow Central Terminals 1, 2, 3 in 1983 and then Heathrow Terminals 1, 2 & 3 in 1986. When the airport terminal 1 was closed in 2016, the station was renamed again.

There is a station entrance at ground level beneath a car park but the main entrance is just an underground corridor within the airport terminal. It is not allowed to walk to this Underground station because the access road runs under a runway, using a long tunnel with very unhealthy exhaust gas from the buses, coaches and cars. My picture shows a roundabout from which you can take a bus. It is the closest you can get as a pedestrian.

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