Metropolitan Tube line walk 12: Moor Park walk to Watford Metropolitan

Walk 12

MOOR PARK walk to WATFORD Metropolitan

2 1/4 hours

The train line opened originally as a suburban railway line in 1925. London Underground took over the line together with the whole Metropolitan network in 1933, which explains why the Underground runs in this case outside of London borders. There is also a connection between Rickmansworth and Watford but I did not write a route in this case because it is only served at rush hours and is outside of London.

Routing note: This walk connects in Moor Park with walk 7 (the more convenient connection due to the way I wrote the description) and with walk 8.

My route uses unpaved public footpaths and may be muddy after rain.

Please note that Croxley and Watford stations are outside of normal London transport fare zones and that your travelcard might not be valid at these stations. Depending on where you start, you might want to check whether an Oyster card would be cheaper or not than a one-day travelcard valid for all zones.

MOOR PARK

Moor Park Underground station

The station opened in 1910 on the existing train line towards Amersham. It was rebuilt in 1925 when the junction towards Watford was added. Originally, the station was called Sandy Lodge after the nearby golf course and non-golfer traffic was minimal. The name changed to Moor Park & Sandy Lodge in 1923 as a large private estate was being built near the station. The name was simplified to Moor Park in 1950.

The station building is from a large refurbishment project in 1961. It looks very modest and suburban with even wood cladding over the brick walls. This is appropriate considering the wood behind the station but very unusual. In terms of shape, the building as about as exciting as the one in Northwood, which is to say not very inspiring.

Exit the station on the rear side towards the golf courses

Ahead Sandy Lodge Lane

Cottage on Sandy Lodge Lane

As the name says, the road runs along the golf course. It is one of three golf courses built over the years on the grounds of the local mansion, actually a sizeable property you pass on my route number 8. This one was the first one, completed in 1910, and gave the original name to the Underground station. An exclusive gated community was built in the 1930s around the golf courses.

My pictures give an idea of the rather upmarket style of this suburb, where houses seldom sell under 2 million £. Most of the suburb is actually on the western side of the tracks, not along Sandy Lodge Lane.

Front garden on Sandy Lodge Lane

The third road to your left is the entrance to the Merchant Taylors’ School and has a pretty flower bed near the crossroads. This is one of the schools set up by the City guilds for charity purposes, in this case in 1561. It moved in 1933 and is now a normal “public” school.

School entrance

Public schools went through a difficult time in the 1860s because of alleged abuses of pupils and occasional revolts of students. Parliament later passed a law to influence curricula when it became clear that neither schools nor parents cared much about what the students learnt as long as they were admitted to university, which was a given at the time if your parents were rich or influential enough.

After passing the school road (East Drive), you reach a public footpath on your L

Take this short public footpath towards a bend in a major highway

Ahead along the highway for a few yards

Very soon L Footpath towards the river Colne

Hamper Mill

This is a lovely countryside setting with old Hamper Mill straddling the river. The mill is ancient, being already mentioned in the Domesday Book in the 11th century. It was a grain mill before being converted to a cloth mill and later to a paper mill. It was well known for quality work, which is proven by the fact that it was also used once to forge stamps. It has been a private residence for many years.

 

 

Footbridge over the river Colne

The river Colne is a short tributary of the Thames that dug a very useful valley through the high hills of the northern suburbs, enabling the Grand Union Canal to link the Midlands with London with less locks. But the valley bottom itself is prone to floods and the reason it is so useful nowadays is that it is not much built on and therefore an important corridor for wildlife.

The footpath leads along Hampermill Lake towards Brightwells Farm

Hampermill Lake

Hampermill Lake is one of many artificial lakes in the Colne valley. Nearly all of them are former sand and gravel pits dug when it became more profitable to sell construction materials in London than to keep meadows. Waterfowl and fish are of course happy about the lakes; Hampermill Lake is private and you will therefore see few people fishing here.

 

Footpath towards Brightwells Farm

 

View from Brightwells Fame over the Colne River valley

L into the next public byway after the farm walking along the edge of King George V Playing Fields. You are on Ebury Way.

Fields near Brightwells Farm

 

Ebury Way

Ebury Way has its name from Lord Ebury who owned the mansion in Moor Park. The track itself was originally built as a short railway linking Rickmansworth and Watford and used primarily to transport produce like watercress, an important crop in the waterlogged Colne valley. The line was completely separate from the Underground line opened much later and aiming at a connection with existing networks.

Paved Ebury Way crosses under a busy highway

When you reach the next open space, R along the edge of Common Moor

Common Moor

The moor has been drained and is now a heath with low grass but the name shows that the river Gade, a Colne subsidiary, was also prone to flooding. As opposed to the fields you walked past before on Ebury Way, the moor was a common and was therefore not available for improvement. This enables the local authorities to manage it as a nature reserve, the main attraction being the waterside plants along the river.

Heath on Common Moor

 

River Gade in Croxley

 

Grand Union Canal in Croxley

The footpath ends with bridges over the river Gade and the Grand Union Canal

The canal uses the Gade River valley to lead north towards the Midlands. It is fed by the river but the flow would not be sufficient to ensure navigation and it is therefore separate.

R on the canal towpath past the locks

If you wish to go to Croxley station, turn L uphill on the old access road (Mill Lane)

At the end L on the main highway for the station

CROXLEY

Croxley Underground station

The station opened in 1925 with connections to Moor Park, to Watford and also to Rickmansworth. It was originally called Croxley Green but there was a station with the same name on an other train line and it was obviously sensible to change the name, which was done in 1949. The Rickmansworth shuttle service was suspended between 1960 and 1987 but a few trains run again on this line in order to bring commuters from Amersham to the many jobs in Watford.

The station building is a sizeable brick structure with a gabled first floor over the full length. This is in stark contrast to the very modest buildings on the Amersham line. The building looks a little like a shopping parade, which the Metropolitan Railway liked to develop as it was also very much promoting housing in the suburbs on land it had acquired and developed itself.

Grand Union Canal

If you did not go to Croxley station, just continue on the canal towpath after the locks

Canals had become very important for the English economy by the 18th century, carrying goods from the Midlands to the markets in London and to the docks for export to Europe. They were much more reliable than horse-drawn carriages on turnpikes that were often in a bad state of repair and might charge tolls. By the 1780s, large quantities of goods went down the Oxford canal and then down the Thames, but this was very problematic because the river often did not have enough water for heavy loads.

House boat on the canal

The new canal (called the Grand Junction Canal) shortened the Oxford route by 60 miles and was opened in sections around 1800. It became very busy and very profitable, attracting competition from one of the earliest long-distance railways as early as 1838. The canal survived by carrying heavy materials like coal that were not time sensitive but profit went down. It was nationalised along with the railways in 1948. It is too narrow for profitable transportation of goods as Britain invested much less in canals than Germany, the Netherlands and to some extent France. The canal is quite popular with leisure craft and house boats nowadays.

Boat crossing unter a road bridge

Pass under a main road and the train line

Watercress Farm near Cassiobury lock

You reach the Cassiobury lock soon after the train line. Near the locks, you might notice a cress farm, one of very few surviving farms from what has been an important industry in this area. Cress is a small plant that grows best with roots fully immersed in water, explaining why cress farms look a little like ponds. Cress was already eaten in antiquity, but it is only edible fresh and was therefore a delicacy difficult to get away from production areas. When you buy cress in a supermarket, it is enclosed in plastic (shame on you for the un-ecological packaging !) and under light pressure to avoid crushing the leaves in the display booth.

River Gade in Cassiobury

At the next bridge after the train line, cross the canal into Cassiobury Park

Soon after the bridge L on the unpaved footpath (rather than on the paved cycling path straight ahead)

The path crosses several arms of the river Gade in a lovely woodland setting. Do enjoy it because the park you cross afterwards is just plain grass. There is just one flower bed at the top of the park near the car park. Actually, if you have the time, you can take informal paths along the river for a little longer and turn R later up the hill towards the large open space and the car park.

Weir on the river Gade

 

Leaving Cassiobury Park

Cassiobury Park was landscaped on the grounds of a major mansion, Cassiobury House, the main residence of the Earls of Essex from the 17th until the end of the 19th century. The house was outdated and the owners sold first part of the grounds for a new suburb (in 1909 although most houses were built in the 1920s in connection with the new Underground line) and the rest to the borough in 1922 in order to pay the inheritance tax burden. The house itself was demolished in 1927 and the gardens were converted to the present grassy expanse.

Cassiobury Park

Continue on the path all the way to the car park

R out of the park and directly L Cassiobury Park Avenue

The avenue leads directly to the station

WATFORD Metropolitan

Watford Metropolitan Underground station

The station opened in 1925 and is actually located quite far from the town centre. This was not intentional but the town council objected to the original route planned by the company and other routes demanded an extremely expensive tunnel. As services from Watford Junction into London are much faster than those from Watford Metropolitan, the station remains a rather minor terminus.

 

 

Colour scheme from the 1920s

The station building is quite unusual and looks a lot like a large house in the suburbs. This was intentional, the architect wanting to include the station in the surrounding architecture as advocated by the Arts & Crafts movement. This was becoming old-fashioned by the 1920s but still influenced urban planning and was in line with the style used by the Metropolitan Railway in the suburbs it developed. The building is listed because it is unusual but also because of the original decoration inside.

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Metropolitan Tube line walk 11: Chalfont & Latimer walk to Chesham

Walk 11

CHALFONT & LATIMER walk to CHESHAM

2 1/2 hours

The train line opened originally as a suburban railway line in 1889. London Underground took over the line together with the whole Metropolitan network in 1933, which explains why the Underground runs in this case outside of London borders, Chesham being the station located furthest from London in the entire network.

Routing note: This walk connects to walk 10 in Chalfont & Latimer.

My route uses unpaved public footpaths and is likely to be muddy after rain. The Chess Valley Walk and the different public footpaths are usually signposted but not in a reliable manner. I use primarily the route description given in the leaflet issued by the local authorities. It has also a schematic map to be found unter http://www.riverchessassociation.co.uk/chess-valley-walk.html

Please note that both stations on this walk are outside of normal London transport fare zones and that your travelcard might not be valid at these stations. Depending on where you start, you might want to check whether an Oyster card would be cheaper or not than a one-day travelcard valid for all zones.

CHALFONT & LATIMER

Chalfont & Latimer Underground station

The station opened together with the train line in 1889 and was originally called Chalfont Road. The present name was given in 1915. A junction towards Amersham was added in 1892. The Amersham line being also served by a long-distance railway, it soon became the main line while the Chesham branch was downgraded to a shuttle service. As this caused congestion issues, including with park & ride facilities, the two lines have been set back on an equal footing in 2010 and both have direct connections with London.

Platform when Chesham was on a shuttle line

The station building is a very plain, low brick building like all stations on the 1889 line. It does have an awning, in this case supported by wooden posts that give it an appropriate, slightly rural look. The more interesting look is along the platforms with the valance supported by elaborate cast iron pillars, a design also used for the other stations on the line.

The following descriptions are taken from the leaflet mentioned above. I use a different script in order to make the source clear.

Chess Valley in Latimer

From the station ticket hall, cross the access road and go down the steps opposite to Bedford Avenue. Turn left for around 100 metres and then first right up Chenies Avenue. At the junction with Elizabeth Avenue go straight across, walk all the way to the end and then take the path into the woods. Bear half right, cross over a bridleway and through a barrier. There are two paths ahead, take the left-hand one down to a wide track. Turn right and almost immediately left and follow this down to go through a gate. Turn left and follow the fence to a gate at the road. Cross it and go through the gate the other side. Cross the field, through the next gate and along the driveway. Go over the bridge and then follow the driveway uphill towards a lane. Near the top, turn left through a gate to join the main Chess Valley Walk.

River Chess in Latimer

 

Cottage in Latimer

If you are interested in a short detour, you can walk a few yards up the road to the church in order to look at Latimer before coming back.

The village is made up of a number of 17th and 18th Century houses around a village green.

You can also have a look inside the church if it is open; it is a 19th century neo-gothic structure with a few monuments due to the connection with the lords of the manor.

Nave of Latimer church

 

Latimer House

Latimer House (Place) was built in 1863 after the original Elizabethan house was destroyed by fire. Once the seat of the Cavendish family, during World War 2 the house became an interrogation centre for senior prisoners of war , including Rudolf Hess. It is now the Latimer Place conference centre and hotel. Below the house is Latimer Park Farm which from the 1st Century was the site of a Roman farm villa.

 

Chess Valley near Blackwell Hall

Pass through the gates and walk past the front of Latimer Place. This section has the finest views of the whole walk. Go through the next gate and follow the path along the edge of the wood uphill around the top of the field. After about a third of a mile, as the path descends, look for a gate on the right. Go through, turn left and continue downhill to another gate at an entrance to a field. Cross that and, keeping to the right of the hedge, continue all the way to Blackwell Hall Lane. Bear left down the lane.

Blackwell Hall: The site of the ancient manor of that name, the current house dates from the tudor period. From medieval times, the manor had its own corn mill the last of which was demolished around 1860.

Former quarry downstream of Chesham

After a few paces turn right along the gravel driveway to Blackwell Lodge. Go around to the left and then ahead through a gate into a field. Continue in the same direction through three further gates to drop down to a bridleway. Turn left onto a busy road and then left along it past the recycling centre.

Turn right into Holloway Lane. Where this bends left, bear half right along a track to the right of Watercress Cottage. After around 300 metres look for a possibly hidden metal gate on the right and take the path as it winds its way through an industrial site. Cross a metal bridge and turn immediately left to walk along the river bank to the site of Canons’ Mill.

Canons’ Mill: This was the site of a Saxon corn mill, referred to in the Domesday Book. It was owned by the canons of Missenden Abbey from the early 12th century . It last worked in 1937 and was demolished around 1960.

Chess River in Chesham

Here, turn left and immediately right to follow the riverside walk. The path then emerges from the trees onto Chesham Moor, follow the river to take the small concrete footbridge at the end.

Chesham Moor: The Moor (an old english name for marsh) is actually a larg e island. It was created in the 10th century by Lady Elgiva who diverted the Chess and built Lord’ s Mill.

Go over Bois Moor Road and past the tennis courts and swimming pool. At the end of the terraced houses, cross the road and then turn left to follow the river bank all the way to the roundabout at the main road.

Cross to a brick wall, turn right and, after a few paces, left into Meades Water Gardens.

Meades Water Gardens: Originally the location of the leat for Amy Mill, of which now only the sluice gate remains, the site was then converted for use as watercress beds and later ornamental gardens. In 2008 the river was restored as part of a project to regenerate the gardens.

High Street in Chesham

Follow the path through the Gardens to emerge into Germain Street. There is an option here to turn right and follow Germain Street into the High Street and the Station. Otherwise, turn left and then right down Water Lane. At the end turn right past the Queens Head and then right again along Church Street.

After 150 metres, cross the road and then take the path to the right of the entrance to The Bury.

The Bury: Built as a country house for William Lowndes, Secretary to the Treasury , the Bury was completed in 1716. Nearby Lowndes Park was once part of the grounds of the older manor Bury Hill House (now demolished). The park was donated by the Lowndes family to the people of Chesham in 1953.

Clock tower in Chesham

Go through two sets of iron gates into Lowndes Park. Take the main path ahead and turn right downhill just before the end. Go through the entrance, over the pedestrian crossing and along Blucher Street into the Broadway shopping area. Turn right into the High Street and then left up Station Road to finish the walk at the Metropolitan Line Station.

Chesham is a significantly larger town than Amersham (about 50% more residents) but has never been a market town and was not on a coaching road. As a result, it did not develop a historical townscape. The only local landmark is the clock tower at the lower end of High Street, actually a copy from 1995 as the original one from the 19th century was demolished together with the old town hall.

CHESHAM

Chesham Underground station

The station opened in 1889 as a temporary terminus on the new suburban train line from London. The Metropolitan Railway intended to continue the line towards Tring but changed its mind and built the railway through Amersham and Aylesbury instead so that Chesham remained a terminus.

Because it was meant as a rural through station, it only got a small brick shed as a station building. An awning supported on wooden posts was added like in Chalfont & Latimer and provides a rural look in line with the character of the area. The station is listed, but this is more linked to the fact that it has also kept ancillary buildings like the nice point control building.

Ornate platform in Chesham

Point control building in Chesham

 

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Metropolitan Tube line walk 10: Chorleywood walk to Amersham

Walk 10

CHORLEYWOOD walk to AMERSHAM

3 1/4 hours

The train line between Chorleywood and Chalfont & Latimer opened originally as a suburban railway line in 1889. The extension towards Amersham opened in 1892. London Underground took over the line together with the whole Metropolitan network in 1933, which explains why the Underground runs in this case outside of London borders.

Routing note: This walk connects with walk 9 in Chorleywood and with walk 11 in Chalfont & Latimer. An other suggestion if you are looking for a really serious walk is to walk back to Chorleywood using the route from my WAAL series (first half of walk 16, passing through lovely Chalfont St Giles).

My route uses unpaved public footpaths and is likely to be muddy after rain. The different public footpaths are often signposted but not in a fully reliable manner. I think my description will nonetheless be clear enough.

Please note that all three stations on this walk are outside of normal London transport fare zones and that your travelcard might not be valid at these stations. Depending on where you start, you might want to check whether an Oyster card would be cheaper or not than a one-day travelcard valid for all zones.

CHORLEYWOOD

Chorleywood Underground station

The station opened together with the train line in 1889 and was originally called Chorley Wood. The name was changed to “Chorley Wood & Chenies” in 1915, shortened again in 1934 and modified to the present spelling in 1965.

The station building is a very plain, low brick building like all stations on the 1889 line. It does not even have an awning.

 

Affluent suburbia in Chorleywood

Exit Chorleywood station using the side entrance to the car park from the outwards platform. Walking along the fence, you immediately reach a long flight of steps leading to the high street as the village is much lower than the tracks. Turn right into the high street and follow the direction for about 500 yards as the road becomes a mere residential street (Whitelands Avenue) after a crossroads. This is a nice suburb with well kept houses and flowers in the front gardens.

Carpenters Wood

You can ignore the three first streets that branch off on the left after the crossroads where the high street turned more modest. Some way after the third street, you will find a public footpath between two houses on your left providing access to the forest. The aim is to continue in the same direction, but now within the forest along the back fences of the gardens. The path is pretty obvious; unfortunately, it may be quite muddy as it is very popular with people walking their dogs. The path is actually marked as a public footpath from time to time; when it finally leaves the garden fences, it continues slowly downwards within the wood towards a subway under the tracks.

Byway between Chorleywood and Chenies

Cross under the tracks and continue straight ahead using the muddy farm track, going slowly uphill towards a major road. Cross the road with due care. Continue along the country lane in front of you marked “Chenies” all the way to the village green and turn left at the green to go to the church. The houses around the village green look rather well kept.

 

Nice cottage in Chenies

The reason is that the village was a private property of the lord of the manor so that he chose who was allowed to live on the village green and made sure that the houses were kept in good order. The village was sold in 1954 by the last owner, the Duke of Bedford, who was facing inheritance duties in excess of 400 million £ (and a pound was worth much more in 1954).

Village green in Chenies with palace lodge

I was lucky enough to find the church open when I passed it. If you are as lucky, do visit.

Chenies church

 

Nave of the church in Chenies

The church goes back to the 15th century and houses a corresponding collection of memorials as well as Norman fonts from the 12th century. The family chapel of the Dukes of Bedford is normally closed off but can be seen through the railings. It was built in 1556 and houses a magnificent series of family monuments as well as a gothic statue of Saint Andrew.

 

Monument in the church in Chenies

Mémorial chapel of the Dukes of Bedford

You are also welcome to visit the castle and its well-known gardens between Easter and October if you can spare the time.

Chenies Manor

Most of the castle was built in the 16th century. A giveaway are the inventive shapes of the many brick chimneys, a popular embellishment in Tudor times.

Tudor chimneys of Chenies Manor

Both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I paid visits to the owners. According to some reports, this is the castle where Katherine Howard, one of the wives collected by Henry VIII, indulged in the activities that led to the king being furious enough to have her beheaded. To be honest, she was queen for little more than a year (in 1541).

Front entrance of Chenies Manor

The king was obese and suffered under an illness causing him to smell disgusting, but the family was still willing to consider an affair for Katherine for political reasons (they saw themselves as a leading family in England but had suffered a drop in reputation because of their supposed involvement in the misdeeds of Anne Boleyn, a cousin of Katherine).

 

 

Chenies Manor with garden

The young queen had already been unduly interested in a series of teachers, musicians, secretaries and courtiers when she was a teenager and she was also not particularly bright: she could just about read and she stupidly insisted not having signed her engagement to a specific courtier, the solution that the king would have used to cancel the royal wedding (because of bigamy) and to send her in exile instead of having her put to death.

 

Formal garden of Chenies Manor

View towards the Chess Valley from Chenies

Take the road between the manor and the church, it continues as a byway keeping on higher ground above the river Chess. The tracks gives you nice views of the valley. The village in the background on the second picture is Latimer, which you skirt on my route 11. Actually, the picture is cheating because I used powerful lens.

 

View of Chess Valley with Latimer House

Byway near Chalfont

The byway ends at a small car park at the edge of the wood

Walk L along the car park, then directly R into the next public footpath between meadows (signposted).

At the end near the stile L on the next public footpath

Ahead Chessfield Park (a road)

Half R along the main road (A404 Amersham Road)

The road leads directly to the station

CHALFONT & LATIMER

Chalfont & Latimer Underground station

The station opened together with the train line in 1889 and was originally called Chalfont Road. The present name was given in 1915. A junction towards Amersham was added in 1892. The Amersham line being also served by a long-distance railway, it soon became the main line while the Chesham branch was downgraded to a shuttle service. As this caused congestion issues, including with park & ride facilities, the two lines have been set back on an equal footing in 2010 and both have direct connections with London..

Ornaments on the platform

The station building is a very plain, low brick building like all stations on the 1889 line. It does have an awning, in this case supported by wooden posts that give it an appropriate, slightly rural look. The more interesting look is along the platforms with the valance supported by elaborate cast iron pillars, a design also used for the other stations on the line.

Use the “private footpath to Bedford Avenue” opposite the station building, actually a set of steps

Scraggly strip of wood

L along Bedford Avenue

Walk parallel to the tracks and to the end of the car park

Ahead on a public footpath along the tracks, merging at the end into Marygold Walk (a residential road)

At the end of Marygold Walk R into Cavendish Close

R across the small open space to reach Elizabeth Avenue, L along the avenue

At the end R and immediately L on the signposted public footpath through the strip of wood

Punlic footpath near Raans Farm

At the end L on a public footpath towards the tracks

Ahead across the tracks using the footbridge

 

Playing with shapes of the footbridge

 

Open space along White Lion Road

Ahead along a small recreation ground

R White Lion Road

L White Lion Close

The road turns into a public footpath. Continue ahead turning slightly R

The path ends with a short section across a wood

Cross the main road (A404 Stanley Hill) into the next public footpath (signposted)

At the end L Quarrendon Road

At the end ahead using the passage towards First Avenue (near house number 129)

At the end of the avenue L down the main highway towards the bridge over the river

Amersham church and and the Misbourne River

Before the bridge R on the riverside path. It is initially paved and well signposted

Continue along the river until you see the church

 

Church in Amersham

Nave of the church in Amersham

There is not much in the church that would be really old, although there are a few nice glass windows. What I enjoyed more in the church is a number of interesting memorial sculptures and brasses. By the way, I have been wondering why memorial brasses are quite frequent in English churches while they are unknown on the Continent – I suppose this might be due to European authorities requiting metals for war efforts on a regular basis.

Monument to William Drake

The church is particularly noted for several monuments devoted to the Drake family, who settled in Amersham in the early 17th century and pretty much lorded over the whole town, owning most of it, naming the vicar and representing it in Parliament. The oldest monument, showing blind William Drake (look at his eyes) mentions that his mother was supposedly the only surviving of 32 siblings – difficult to believe.

 

Gilded monument in the church in Amersham

The two other monuments I took pictures of are apparently not related to the Drake family. Taking into account the style of the columns and the wig of the gentleman, they will be from the 18th century.

 

18th century monument in the church in Amersham

If you can afford the time, I suggest you detour here past the church to the main street and have a look at the different interesting buildings. You are in the middle of a historic town as Amersham was part of the dowry of the queen under William I and was awarded market rights as early as 1200. My picture shows a plaque set by the local historical society and giving an overview of notable events.

Historical notes about Amersham

 

Main street in Amersham

The main street is extremely unusual compared to any other town in the London area: it is very wide with large gateways enabling coaches and carriages to turn around easily. This is actually the same idea as in pioneer towns in the American Far West. The house fronts are from a number of different periods but many of the properties have walls going back to the 14th century, particularly those facing the inner yards.

Old house in Amersham

Courtyard of a former coaching inn

I have also heard thay many of the walls are painted with medieval frescoes. As the town is so ancient, it features regularly in films and box-office success “FourWeddings and a Funeral” was filmed in one of the town inns. The roughly paved sections in front of the buildings are not part of the public pavement; they were originally an important part of the houses as they were used by the merchants to show their merchandise.

 

Courtyard in Amersham

Typical coaching inn entrance

 

Guildhall in Amersham

The Guidhall dates back to 1682 but had to be modified: the clock had to be moved because it was too distracting for the workers in the brewery in the back street and the arcades had to be closed off in order to get rid of vagrants. I was lucky enough to get a look at the upper level as it sheltered an art exhibition when I visited, but the outside impression is actually the main attraction.

Do not hesitate to turn right along the high street to have a look at the many beautiful houses, ending at a water mill on the right at the end of the urban area.

 

Georgian house

Early 19th century house in Old Amersham

Old house in Old Amersham

Timber on an old house

 

House with notice to beggars and musicians

Once you are back at the guildhall, continue down the high street passing a small house on the right side with a quaint sign threatening “Common Beggars, Ballad Singers and other Vagrants” with being “apprehended”. The sign is dated 1811 and therefore historic enough in its own right.

On the left side, you pass a pleasant flower garden around the town memorial. This is the right place to remind you that the last woman who was hanged in England is buried in Amersham. In addition, eight heretics were burned at the stake here in 1521. It is interesting that Henry VIII had these protestant heretics burned, proving indeed that his only reasons for the anglican schism from Rome were his worries about an heir and his greed – you could argue greed was understandable as Henry VIII had good reasons to fear an expensive war against either the French king or the German emperor (a close relative of the woman he had divorced).

 

Mémorial gardens in Amersham

Mémorial Gardens

If you wish detailed information about the buildings, you can visit the Amersham Museum (but the opening times are extremely restricted) or you can more conveniently look at their remarkably detailed website http://www.amershammuseum.org.

Old Amersham from the station footpath

Come back afterwards to the church and walk to the end of Rectory Drive where you can cross the river

L and soon R along the edge of the cemetery

Ahead on the paved public footpath uphill all the way through a wood until you reach the railway tracks. Before reaching the wood, turn around to enjoy the view, one of the most bucolic you can enjoy on any of my Tube walks.

R along the tracks to the station

AMERSHAM

Amersham Underground station

The station opened together with the new train line in 1892. Metropolitan line services, operated as a suburban railway, continued beyond Amersham towards Aylesbury. This line is now operated by a long-distance train company. Between 1922 and 1937, the station was called “Amersham & Chesham Bois” but this obviously caused confusion with the actual Chesham station.

Valance and cast iron ormaments on the platform

The station building is a very plain, low brick building like the other stations on the line. It does not have an awning with posts but it has a small valance in the typical late Victorian style.

 

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Metropolitan Tube line walk 9: Rickmansworth walk to Chorleywood

Walk 9

RICKMANSWORTH walk to CHORLEYWOOD

2 hours

This line opened originally as a suburban railway line in 1889. London Underground took over the line together with the whole Metropolitan network in 1933, which explains why the Underground runs in this case outside of London borders.

Routing note: This walk connects in walk 8 in Rickmansworth and with walk 10 in Chorleywood.

My route uses unpaved public footpaths and is likely to be muddy after rain. The Chess Valley Walk and the different public footpaths are usually signposted but not in a reliable manner. I think my description will nonetheless be clear enough. You might also want to print the convenient leaflet made available by the Chilterns Conservation Board (look for “Chess Valley Walk” in your search engine to get the PDF link).

Please note that Rickmansworth and Chorleywood are outside of normal London transport fare zones and that your travelcard might not be valid at these stations. Depending on where you start, you might want to check whether an Oyster card would be cheaper or not than a one-day travelcard valid for all zones.

RICKMANSWORTH

Rickmansworth Underground station

The station opened as the terminus of the suburban train line from London in 1887. It became a through station in 1889 when the line was extended towards Chorleywood and Chesham. A junction towards Watford was added in 1925 although trains to Watford bypass the station normally.

The station building is a plain, low brick building quite typical for a late Victorian minor suburban station. A rather unusual cast iron awning was added later on in order to enliven the building and this is a good idea.

Nice station awning

Leave the station on the north side towards the busy roundabout with main highways.

Cross first Rectory Road using the somewhat inconspicuous subway

Ahead on Victoria Close

Just before the next crossroads, there is a paved path on your right. Take it to reach the footbridge across Chorleywood Road

Chess Valley Walk signpost

After the footbridge ahead on the footpath along Rickmansworth Park until you reach the Priory (do not follow the paved road when it turns R !). There should be a signpost for the Chess Valley Walk here. The walk is quite popular considering the many websites that mention it. It is usually walked in the direction opposite to mine for no obvious reason but is signposted in both directions.

The footpath turns L near the church and reaches the river Chess a little later

Follow the river on the Chess River Walk. As long as you keep relatively close to the river and do not cross it, you cannot go wrong

Footpath on the Chess Valley Walk

 

Grounds of the Royal Masonic School for Girls

The river marks the lower limit of the grounds of the Royal Masonic School for Girls, originally founded in 1788 to educate girls of freemasons who would fall indigent through illness or accident. The school is now open to all children whose parents can afford the fees. Parents should also be accepting of a few unusual school traditions such as a gymnastics drill akin to paramilitary training. The present building was renovated in 1934 and you cannot see much of it from the riverside.

River Chess

You do not walk directly along the river most of the time as the meadows are private, but you will have occasional glimpses like on my picture. The river has quite a few problems due to it flowing through suburbia. For several years, it had nearly fully dried out, which seems to have been reinforced (although not caused) by excessive take from a water bottling plant. Later on, the river was heavily polluted by a leak in the Chesham waste treatment plant that was only dealt with after five months. The river is too rich in nutrients due both to the treatment plant and to the industrial-scale use of fertiliser and manure in surrounding farms, causing vegetation to grow so much that it has to be ripped out by volunteers.

Chess Glen House

After the grounds of the school I mentioned before, you get a glimpse to your right of a sizeable country house on the other side of the river, Chess Glen House. It was built in the 1840s for a local businessman who owned one of several paper mills that took advantage of the river to power the machinery.

The path ends with a section squeezed between the M25 motorway and the river.

 

Nice properties near the M25

Surprisingly enough considering the noise level caused by the motorway, the houses in this area are very upmarket properties. The comment is also valid for most houses in Chorleywood although you do not really see the nicest ones on this walk.

Cross the M25 using the road bridge

Soon after the bridge, the Chess River Walk starts again on your R

Follow the walk towards the wood. Ignore the first path to your L but take the second one across Chorleywood Common.

Chess Valley from Chorleywood Common

Climbing from the valley, you get an increasingly pleasant view of the greenery below, justifying the prices asked for properties in the villages around you.

The footpath ends at the corner of sports fields. L here into the access road passing later a lawn cemetery

 

 

From the access road, you have a very good view of Chorleywood House.

Chorleywood House

It was rebuilt in 1892 for the sister of the Duke of Bedford but was sold after her death to local businessmen who planned to landscape a golf course in the grounds. They were unable to get the funding and the property was bought by the local council in 1940. By now, the building has been converted to flats and sold while the grounds remain in public ownership. I was too lazy to tour the grounds but you should not hesitate to do so if you can afford the time as local volunteers did remarkable work restoring ponds and a formal garden.

Chorleywood parish church

At the end of the access road, you get a glimpse left of Chorleywood parish church on the other side of the meadow. It is not really something special as it was consecrated in 1870 and has no historical monuments inside, but it lies quite nicely.

At the end of the access road, continue ahead into a public footpath first through the wood and then along the edge of Chorleywood Common. The path is quite obvious. The wooded section is particularly delightful.

Wood in Chorleywood Common

Chorleywood seen from the Common

Exit the common into a minor road called Colley Land

At the end ahead using the short passage

L along the tracks for the station

CHORLEYWOOD

Chorleywood Underground station

The station opened together with the train line in 1889 and was originally called Chorley Wood. The name was changed to “Chorley Wood & Chenies” in 1915, shortened again in 1934 and modified to the present spelling in 1965.

The station building is a very plain, low brick building comparable to that in Rickmansworth but without the interesting awning. What it does have is an unusual valance over the platforms. Instead of the usual flat awning, it is built as a series of gables.

Platforms of Chorleywood station

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Metropolitan Tube line walk 8: Moor Park walk to Rickmansworth

Walk 8

MOOR PARK walk to RICKMANSWORTH

1 3/4 hours

This line opened originally as a suburban railway line in 1889. London Underground took over the line together with the whole Metropolitan network in 1933, which explains why the Underground runs in this case outside of London borders.

Routing note: This walk connects in Moor Park with walk 7 (the more convenient connection of the two due to the way I wrote the description) and with walk 11. It connects in Rickmansworth with walk 9.

My route uses a public footpath across a golf course over a longer section. The path is unlikely to be very muddy but may well be wet and pets have to be kept on a short leach.

Please note that Rickmansworth is outside of normal London transport fare zones and that your travelcard might not be valid at this station. Depending on where you start, you might want to check whether an Oyster card would be cheaper or not than a one-day travelcard valid for all zones.

MOOR PARK

Moor Park Underground station

The station opened in 1910 on the existing train line. It was rebuilt in 1925 when a junction towards Watford was added. Originally, the station was called Sandy Lodge after the nearby golf course and non-golfer traffic was minimal. The name changed to Moor Park & Sandy Lodge in 1923 as a large private estate was being built near the station. The name was simplified to Moor Park in 1950.

The station building is from a large refurbishment project in 1961. It looks very modest and suburban with even wood cladding over the brick walls. This is appropriate considering the wood behind the station but very unusual. In terms of shape, the building is not very inspiring.

Exit the station and walk ahead across the roundabout

Ahead Main Avenue

Main Avenue in Moor Park

This road crosses a private estate built in the 1930s. The development aimed at the upper middle class, offering life in a privileged environment between three large golf courses. According to press reports, the area has become particularly popular with Asian residents. You might notice that most houses do not have a fenced front garden, just an open lawn. This was imitated from American suburbs and also inspired the garden suburb movement.

At the end L Astons Road

soon R Track across the golf course towards the club house

Moor Park Golf Course

There are actually two golf courses, one on either side of the central mansion. The upper course is a well-known championship course. Obviously, if you are just walking across the courses following the main tracks, you still need to pay attention to players and errant shots. The golf courses are unsurprisingly private property but there is a restaurant open to the public in the main building and you should not encounter difficulties if you keep to the official roads.

Moor Park Mansion

The mansion is an imposing pile in the typical neo-classical style of the mid 17th century, including many columns from ground floor to the roof eaves, a balustrade hiding the roof and an oversize portico marking the main entrance. Based on the Internet site of the golf course, there is a magnificent staircase and main hall with trompe-l’œil frescoes from the 1680s, but you are not allowed to walk around inside except on very occasional guided tours.

 

Golf course views

The mansion and the grounds were purchased by the local authorities in 1923 like many aristocratic properties in the suburbs when owners decided they could not afford the maintenance costs of properties they seldom used. The golf course operator first leased the grounds and bought them outright in 1994.

When you reach the mansion used as a club house, turn L on the access road. It merges at the end into Anson Walk (a minor road)

Exiting the grounds of Moor Park Golf Course

Note the regal arch marking the exit from the golf course property. It was very obviously built at the same time than the mansion. There were a few other scattered remnants of the time when the grounds were a park around the mansion but they were later collected and are now displayed close to the mansion in order to ensure they are not damaged accidentally.

At the end R along the main highway A404 (Batchworth Heath Hill a.k.a. London Road). This is a busy road but there is initially a very wide grass shoulder you can walk comfortably on. Later on, there is a paved path separate from the road itself.

Abode of exotic dancers on London Road

At the start of this section, I noticed an amusing coincidence. Just opposite the exit from the golf course grounds, a little house announced proudly “exotic dancers”. You might wonder whether the golfers are the typical clientele of this establishment, but the location is probably rather due to the fact that the roundabout is easy to reach from several directions. By the way, the house is a not uninteresting construction in flint, an unusual material for anything else than a large public building like a church or palace.

Soon R Park Close

Soon L into public footpath S4 (there is a signpost at the road bend)

The public footpath crosses the whole length of two golf courses and ends after the club house of the second golf course on the access road

Crossing the golf course

View from the public footpath

You have many very pleasant views of the golf courses from the footpath. At one point, you also overlook the mansion you walked past before. Towards the end of the path, you also get a very nice view of the Chess River valley.

Overlooking the Chess River valley

Overlooking Rickmansworth

Exit the golf course area following the access road

L Moor Lane (cross the road first in order to be on the side with the houses)

Keep R along the roundabout

Ahead along A404 (a divided highway also called London Road) in order to cross the canal

Rickmansworth Pumping Station

You first pass the brick building of the pumping station. The part that houses the machinery has tall windows that remind me of a mansion orangery. It was actually typical architecture for pumping stations as there is a very similar version in Tottenham.

Shortly afterwards, you cross the Grand Union Canal just downstream of a lock.

Grand Union Canal in Rickmansworth

The canal was built around 1800 because the only former solution for companies from the Midlands sending goods to London was by using the Thames after Oxford, a difficult situation as the river was often too low and too unreliable for heavy barges. Most canals declined in the late 19th century as an increasing proportion of goods could be carried more cheaply by railways, but the Grand Union Canal survived thanks i.a. to coal transportation to London factories and is now used by many leisure craft and house boats.

There is a very cute miniature canal with locks and old-fashioned billboards just below the lock.

Miniature canal with old-fashioned billboards

From the road bridge, you get a good view of the Rickmansworth lock. The river that joins the canal here is the river Chess, the original river course in the valley. There are some very nice properties along the river but they have to be well protected against rising water levels as the Chess is notorious for floods after heavy rains. This is now kept in check better by a large number of artificial lakes converted from former sand and gravel mining activities.

Rickmansworth Lock

 

Rickmansworth bascule bridge

I also noticed a cute bascule bridge over the river. The water arm gives access to a marina, explaining the necessity for such a bridge. They were commonplace in the 19th century, particularly around docks, and some were even used on major railway lines (such as in Sète in France). Except in the Netherlands, they are rare nowadays and might remind you primarily of a well-known painting by Van Gogh showing such a bascule bridge in Arles.

Ahead Church Street

St Mary’s Rickmansworth

You walk past St Mary’s parish church, an unusual church that is shared between the official Anglican faith and the Methodist church. Few parish priests are willing to allow such sharing with what they consider as a somewhat deviant denomination. The church originates in the 13th century but I don’t think the present building is particularly old.

 

 

Pub in an old building

At a bend in Church Street, you walk past nice old buildings, one a pub and the other one an interesting property with windows in the neo-gothic style of the 1820s. Rickmansworth was a sizeable town in the 18th century with several successful textile businesses. Its decline was brought about by the railways when the main line to the Midlands was built through Watford rather than trough Rickmansworth. One disadvantage of the town was the climate as the area along the river is prone to cold fog in winter: the town holds the record for the largest temperature swing in Britain when fog dissipated one morning in 1936 and the temperature rose from 1° to 25° over one single day.

Building with neo-gothical windows

L High Street

At the end R Station Road

After the underpass L for the station

RICKMANSWORTH

Rickmansworth Underground station

The station opened as a the terminus of the new suburban train line in 1887. It became a through station in 1889 when the line was extended towards Chorleywood and Chesham. A junction towards Watford was added in 1925 although trains to Watford bypass the station normally.

The station building is a plain, low brick building quite typical for a late Victorian minor suburban station. A rather unusual cast iron awning was added later on in order to enliven the building and this is a good idea.

Nice station awning

 

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Metropolitan Tube line walk 7: Northwood Hills walk to Moor Park

Walk 7

NORTHWOOD HILLS walk to MOOR PARK

1 3/4 hours

This line opened originally as a suburban railway line in 1887. London Underground took over the line together with the whole Metropolitan network in 1933.

Routing note: This walk connects in Northwood Hills with walk 6. It connects in Moor Park with walks 8 and 11.

My route uses extended sections of unpaved public footpaths. Due to the lay of the land, they can be quite muddy after rainy weather.

NORTHWOOD HILLS

Northwood Hills Underground station

The station opened in 1933 on the existing line in order to encourage real estate development in the area.

The station is a simple brick structure like the neighbouring stations but it has an elaborate roof that reminds a little of a country cottage and therefore works better as a focal point within the suburb.

Exit the station and turn L on Joel Street

Soon R into an unmarked public footpath towards York Road

Ahead Highland Road, turns L a bit further

Northwood Hills Recreation Ground

R near house number 44 into Northwood Hills Recreation Ground

This is just a neighbourhood open space, probably left over when the area was developed as it lies between a cemetery and a train line. It has no amenities of particular interest or flower beds.

Ahead across the open space, exit near the bowling green

If you prefer a paved path, walk to the central pavilion and take the access road soon crossing allotments

At the end L Chestnut Avenue

At the end of the road, continue ahead on the marked public footpath along the cemetery fence

The public footpath reaches a fork a little later. Take the right-hand footpath (number 36)

The path is now the boundary of a golf course

Continue ahead past the clubhouse and car park to the next crossing of public footpaths. Leave path number 36 and turn L on the path between two golf courses

The path ends at the edge of a wood.

Pond in Ruislip Nature Reserve

The wood in front of you is part of a large set of six woods that are only separated by a few roads and therefore constitute an important wildlife reserve managed by the borough. The pond on my picture is part of a string of ponds on the upper course of a brook that ends up feeding Ruislip Lido, a popular place for weekend picnics. It does not feature on any of my routes because it is quite far from any train or Underground line.

 

House in Linksway

Turn R on a new footpath marking the western boundary of the same golf course

As usual, the houses overlooking the golf course are only accessible to seriously affluent people and this is reflected in the size of the gardens and of the houses themselves. Unfortunately, most of these houses are not very interesting in terms of architecture.

 

Northwood Golf Course

At the end, cross the road into a wooded open space called “The gravel pits”. Turn R towards the main road following the public footpath

Cross the main road into Green Lane. The road has a small sign mentioning that it leads to the Underground station

House on Green Lanes

This is a very affluent part neighbourhood and some of the villas along the road are really nice to look at. There is a large variety of architectural styles although no house ranks as a masterpiece.

 

House on Green Lane

NORTHWOOD

Northwood Underground station

The station opened in 1887 together with the train line.

The station is an ugly brick shed rebuilt in the 1960s. The utterly ugly and uninspiring style is quite typical for stations built during that period, when the Underground was seen by public planners more as a necessary evil while the glamorous commissions were linked to motorway interchanges.

Just after the bridge over the tracks, turn L into Eastbury Road

Soon L on the signposted public footpath along the tracks

Cross the tracks using the next footbridge

Ahead to the next road

Ahead on a public footpath (starting near house number 17)

London boundary path

This is an interesting footpath as it is actually the boundary path for London. This implies that the London Transport fare zone 6, that includes Moor Park Underground station, actually goes beyond the borders of the metropolis here, an unusual occurrence.

The border of the borough of Hillingdon is marked in one spot by a white post called a coal-tax post. The tax had been collected originally in the 17th century to finance public works in the City but was extended over time.

Coal-tax post

One extension was that the tax was used to finance i.a. a sewage system and the purchase of toll bridges over the Thames in order to enable free crossing. An other extension was to widen the collection area to the whole of London including suburbs. On all roads leading into London, posts were set up in 1861 in order to show from where on the tax would be payable. The tax was very unpopular, particularly in those suburbs that did not have the issue with toll bridges, so that it was scrapped in 1890.

At the end R Kewferry Road

Ahead Bedford Road (a private road through a gated estate)

House on Bedford Road

You are crossing here a private estate built in the 1930s. The development aimed at the upper middle class, offering life in a privileged environment between three large golf courses. According to press reports, the area has become particularly popular with Asian residents. I give you a few examples of the type of houses you can see. What might strike you is that most do not have a fenced front garden, just an open lawn. This was imitated from American suburbs and also inspired the garden suburb movement.

 

Houses in Wolsey Road

After passing Heathside Road and an electricity pilon, take a public footpath R (there is a signpost with a white and green roundel with the London Loop logo). Follow the London Loop signs across two roads until you cross under the railway tracks using narrow Westbury Road

L on the footpath directly along the tracks

Sandy Lodge Golf Course

You walk here along the edge of a large golf course, one of the three around Moor Park development. The footpath runs through a strip of mature wood and is particularly pleasant in autumn.

 

Moor Park wood

Moor Park wood

The footpath ends at the station

MOOR PARK

Moor Park Underground station

The station opened in 1910 on the existing train line. It was rebuilt in 1925 when a junction towards Watford was added. Originally, the station was called Sandy Lodge after the nearby golf course and non-golfer traffic was minimal. The name changed to Moor Park & Sandy Lodge in 1923 as a large private estate was being built near the station. The name was simplified to Moor Park in 1950.

The station building is from a large refurbishment project in 1961. It looks very modest and suburban with even wood cladding over the brick walls. This is appropriate considering the wood behind the station but very unusual. In terms of shape, the building as about as exciting as the one in Northwood, which is to say not very inspiring.

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Metropolitan Tube line walk 6: Harrow-on-the-Hill walk to Northwood Hills

Walk 6

HARROW ON THE HILL walk to NORTHWOOD HILLS

2 3/4 hours

This line opened originally as a suburban railway line. The section from Harrow to Pinner opened in 1885, the section from Pinner to Northwood Hills in 1887. London Underground took over the line together with the whole Metropolitan network in 1933.

Routing note: This walk connects in Harrow-on-the-Hill with walk 3 and in Northwood Hills with walk 7. It connects in Harrow also with walk 4 but the way I have written the route makes this connection less convenient.

Please note that this walk uses longer sections of unpaved tracks. The riverside paths in particular can be quite muddy depending on the weather. In order to feel comfortable that you can follow my directions, I suggest you take a copy of the Local Cycling Guide 3 available free of charge from TfL as it is perfectly reliable for the more confusing section between Eastcote House and Northwood Hills.

HARROW-ON-THE-HILL

Harrow-on-the-Hill Underground and train station

The station opened in 1880 on the new train line from Baker Street. It also became a train station on a long-distance line between Marylebone and the Midlands in 1899. It is now used both by the Metropolitan line and by Chiltern Railways. A branch railway opened in 1904 linking Harrow with Uxbridge.

The station was called plain “Harrow” at the start but the Metropolitan Railway wanted to pre-empt competition on other lines that had stations named after Harrow (“Sudbury Hill Harrow” as well as “Harrow & Wealdstone”). It therefore tried to stress the vicinity to the hilltop town by renaming the station Harrow-on-the-Hill. It is said that the tracks were actually planned to run closer to the hill but that the management of elite Harrow School objected to the disturbances to be expected from whistling and steam belching locomotives (they may also have been worried about too easy an access to the distracting pleasures of London for students old enough to take a train).

The present station building is obviously Art Déco but more in the style of Scandinavian Art Déco. This involves a very limited grid of geometric shapes. The access from the south is the nicer one but is also a rather subdued design. It is also very inconvenient for such a major junction as travellers have to go up and down long flights of stairs to access the platforms.

Exit the station through the main (North) exit. On this side, you have to walk through a shopping centre.

L College Road

At the end of the road, follow the footpath as it turns R and drops beneath the main road. Cross under the roundabout into Roxborough Road

Roxborough Road roundabout

This is a really unusual roundabout. It is obviously quite expensive to build elevated roads on pillars and it also has the unpleasant consequence of exposing the higher levels of the surrounding buildings to an additional level of noise. The space reserved for pedestrians and cyclists underneath the road risks being gloomy and attracting unsavoury characters. Surprisingly enough, this does not seem to be the case in Harrow.

Soon L into Harrow Recreation Ground as indicated by a small brown signpost

Gate for Harrow Recreation Ground

The entrance to the grounds is protected by a rather elaborate cast iron gate from 1911. I am not sure which style the designer was inspired by, probably 17th century Renaissance from France or Italy.

When you reach the cemetery fence, turn R along the edge of the recreation ground

You can detour into the cemetery at one point

Continue otherwise on the path along the edge of the open space passing a pavilion, a bowling green and tennis courts.

Rose garden in Harrow Recreation Ground

Harrow Recreation Ground was originally farmland and was purchased by a group of residents and gifted to the borough in 1885 in order to ensure sufficient greenery and sports facilities close to the quickly growing centre of the suburb. This explains why the grounds are significantly larger than the neighbourhood parks the Metropolitan Railway set aside when it planned new suburbs on the land it owned. The park has few flowers, mainly a few rose bushes, and the trees are nice but not particularly impressive. It is just a nice place to walk through.

Harrow Recreation Ground

Exit the open space at the very northern end through a short passage

L Cunningham Park

Ahead Kingsfield Avenue

L Allington Road

When the road turns R, continue ahead into Apsley Close

At the end ahead on a public footpath

You are here in the midst of a typical Metropolitan Railway development. The company had managed to include in the authorisation law that it would be allowed to hold land. Parliament realised later that this could significantly impede urban development and create local monopolies, so that later railway companies were only allowed to hold land they actually needed for operational reasons.

The Metropolitan Railway owners and managers created a sister company that undertook the development of the large farming estates the company had bought. The extremely profitable real estate business was done in an industrial manner, with large areas of land being covered in identical houses of a size deemed appropriate for the likely purchasers. Focal points like local parks and shopping parades were located at carefully calculated distances (about every 1/2 mile).

People started to look for a life in the suburbs after World War I. On the one hand, the economy was growing quickly and created better paid jobs in services like trade and insurance rather than just poorly paid industrial jobs. On the other hand, stable jobs enabled banks to develop mortgage offers.

Metroland (the name used by the company in advertisements) was very successful but caused problems. As long as people went to the shops and walked to the park every day, the streets were reasonably lively. But the increasing use of cars and the possibility to store food in refrigerators led people to increasingly isolate themselves in their houses with gardens. Nothing in the straight, boring streets attracted people outside. The lack of a sense of community contributed to domestic problems and disputes between neighbours. Urban planners turned in the late 1930s to a different concept, that of the garden suburbs.

at the end R Canterbury Road

L Durham Road

soon R Cumberland Road

At the end half L on the main road (Station Road) for

NORTH HARROW

North Harrow Underground station

The station opened in 1915 on the line built 30 years before when real estate development started to justify it. It is a rather unusual case of a station being opened during World War I when it was actually more customary to close individual stations due to staff shortages.

The station concourse is hidden below the tracks and the entrance is only marked through an inconspicuous neo-classical stone lining.

Cross under the tracks at the station

R Northumberland Road

After Suffolk Road, you reach a brook flowing through a narrow open space

Follow the clearly marked cycling route using the riverside path, you are in Yeading Brook Open Space

Entering Yeading Brook Open Space

Yeading Brook (named after the village where it flows into the river Crane) is a minor undertributary of the Thames. The nice thing about it is that Metroland planners were worried about possible floods and kept a narrow band of open space free of construction along most of the course of the river. It is possible to walk along the river for a longer distance (with detours due to railway lines) but explorers need to take into account that the path is usually not paved and unmarked. I have used it for several of my routes when it is convenient. In this particular section, the riverside open space is landscaped as a neighbourhood park and there is even a rather cute footbridge at the southern end.

Yeading Brook Open Space

 

Autumn colours

 

Cutesy footbridge

The path crosses a minor road and bypasses a roundabout

At the end of the path R across the brook into Whittington Way

R into Pinner Village Gardens Recreation Ground

Pinner Village Gardens

This is a typical Metroland park planned together with the suburb in the 1920s. As such, it is primarily an open grassy space with pleasant trees lining paved paths. The trees do not rise to spectacular size because the park is actually not very old. The one interesting detail is a bird fountain in the middle of a shallow pond.

Bird fountain in Pinner VIllage Gardens

 

Marsh Road exit of Pinner Village Gardens

The park website mentions raised flower beds and a rose garden, which I find confusing. I think the flower beds towards the Marsh Gate exit are meant; I might possibly have missed the flowers because I was there in late autumn and because grasses were extremely fashionable with park managers in that year. I give you a picture of the exit towards Marsh Road also because it has an airy atmosphere rarely seen in suburbs. The trees in the backgound are rather unusual in London and might be Caledonian pines.

Cross ahead to the northern exit

L Marsh Road

Cross under the tracks. The station is up a short ramp right after the underpass

Pub on Marsh Road

Just before reaching the underpass, I noticed an interesting building used currently by a pub. The freestanding house is nicely symmetrical with a generous splattering of cornices and other decorative features built out of bricks. The colour mix is quite typically late Victorian but the elaborate cornice under the roof eaves is really unusual and may well be Arts & Crafts, a style very seldom used for pubs.

PINNER

Pinner Underground station

The station opened in 1885 as a temporary terminus on the new line coming from Harrow. It became a through station in 1887 when the extension of the line towards Moor Park opened.

The station building is the original one and is a plain, low brick building with very little in terms of decoration. The architectural style reminds much more of a modest suburban train station than of an Underground station and this corresponds to the image the Metropolitan Railway had of itself. Although its trains continued beyond the Baker Street terminal all around central London, the company saw itself as a suburban company and tried to avoid nationalisation in 1933 by using this argument.

Keep on Marsh Road and cross the brook

High Street in Pinner

You are here quite in the middle of Pinner, a seriously affluent part of the borough that grew around an old village. Because it was still a somewhat rural area in the Metroland era, the borough managed to pass conservation orders in time and keep a lovely high street with a series of old buildings with just one upper floor. As usual, medieval looking buildings with wooden beams painted black will be pubs (which does not necessarily mean that the front is as old as it looks but it will look good on your nostalgy album).

Possibly old pub in Pinner

 

Actually old pub in Pinner

One of the pubs does not play the game of mock medieval because it does not need to, being in an actual building from 1580 – that’s what it says on the street front, at any rate. The protruding first floor is indeed an old design as Victorians could not do this with the bricks they usually used for walls.

Looking towards Pinner parish church

From the roundabout, you can have a look uphill to the parish church partly hidden by an other mock-medieval pub (easy to spot as the black beams are suspiciously regular and perfectly symmetrical). Do not hesitate to detour the few yards to the church as it has a nice old tower from the 15th century. Most of the walls were rebuilt in Victorian times. As my picture shows, there are somewhat unusual roof level windows. They were added in 1880 at a time when mock-Tudor was actually not particularly fashionable and may be influenced rather by the Arts & Crafts interest for old handicraft.

Pinner parish church

 

Embroidery in Pinner parish church

There are a few interesting details inside if you find the church open. I did not pay too much attention to the monuments but I did notice a nice piece of embroidery showing many village landmarks. It is quite a good design and the workmanship is exceptionally good for such amateur work, with extremely fine design lines rendered without any blurring. I saw similar embroideries in a few other London churches but rarely of that quality.

 

Monument in Pinner churchyard

When you leave the church, don’t miss the seriously quirky monument in the churchyard in form of a section of pyramid with a coffin protruding from one side. It was designed by a botanist in the 18th century.

L Chapel Lane passing again under the tracks

L into Pinner Memorial Park

 

Pinner Mémorial Park

This park is the starting point of a walking route for which the borough has published a useful leaflet. The Celandine Route is named after a local flower but is actually more or less a Pinn River Valley walk, leading along the river for most of its course between Pinner and Ickenham. My route follows this walk for over a mile and I therefore copy here in italics the descriptions from the leaflet. They might help because the walk is only signposted occasionally.

Autumn flowers in Pinner Memorial Park

The park comes with a small mansion. Both were bought by an association of wealthy Pinner residents, put into a trust and gifted to the borough. The name of the park comes from the intention to commemorate the victims of the two world wars. The mansion has a faintly distinguished history, having been the property of a grandson of admiral Nelson in the 19th century. It is now used as a community centre and also houses a small museum devoted to a leading early 20th century illustrator, Heath Robinson, who lived in Pinner for 10 years until 1918. Please note that the museum charges admission and has limited opening times.

Spring flowers in Pinner Memorial Park

The park is very nice indeed with a lovely pond and a number of interesting flower beds. The overall concept is inspired by the typical three-tier system used by gardeners in the royal parks but the choice of vegetation is very different. Instead of contrasting colour blocks made of formal flowers, you have lavender and high rose bushes in carefully coordinated colours. I give you pictures taken in June and others taken in late October, showing that the park does not look interesting only in summer.

Here the route leaves the river for a while as it disappears underground. Walk along the path through the park and turn left at the play area and before the aviary to walk around the edge of the lake.

Turn to the left of West House and follow the path to the gate passing the small dog cemetery dating from the 19th century.

Cross West End Lane with care and turn left past the school. On your left is Rose Cottage with its rose decoration on the front. This cottage was built when West End was part of a hamlet.

Continue along the road crossing two other roads until Cranbourne Drive, then turn right and enter Cuckoo Hill allotments.

Walking along the river Pinn

Here the walk rejoins the river. Walk straight ahead along a wide path through some woodland and on reaching the open grass area keep to the path on the left. In spring a common yellow flower called celandine can be seen here and at many places along the walk.

 

Many of the open spaces between Eastcote and Ickenham are managed as hay meadows, to encourage wildlife, and increase biodiversity.

View on the Celandine Walk

You are now entering the London Borough of Hillingdon.

 

Entering the borough of Hillingdon

Cross Cheney Street and enter Long Meadow open space where cows used to graze; walk ahead past a group of poplar trees.

These trees are called Hinman Copse named after Margaret Hinman who was a great benefactor to Eastcote during the 1940 and 50s. Here a bird called the treecreeper may be seen.

Grounds of Eastcote House

At the wooden bridge it is possible to cross the river and enter Eastcote House Gardens containing 16th Century buildings, such as the Stables, Dovecot and Walled Garden. The Walled Garden has recently been replanted as has the rockery in the orchard.

Walled Garden in Eastcote House Gardens

 

Walled Garden in spring

Topiary in Eastcote House Gardens

Eastcote House itself was demolished in 1964 as it was derelict after having been used for a number of government bodies over the previous decades. I give you pictures of the different attractions mentioned in italics just above. One attraction not mentioned in the leaflet is the row of well maintained topiary.

 

Stable block in Eastcote House Gardens

Return to the road and cross Eastcote High Road with great care. Walk through Haydon Hall grounds; on the left there are the remains of an old lake now enjoyed by local young cyclists.

Kings College Playing Grounds

Walk past the large sequoia tree and other conifers and go through gate. Cross road with care, turn left along Joel Street to bridge and T-junction. Turn right to walk past tennis courts, and a mock Tudor building (a substation).

Walk through Forge Green Open Space which used to be the site of a blacksmiths forge.

Turn right over footbridge and then immediately left with the river on the left. Follow the riverside path as it crosses over two roads and enter King’s College Playing Fields.

Entering Park Wood

You need to leave the riverside path when you reach the next road and an athletic track. Turn R on Kings College Road

When the road ends at the second roundabout, continue ahead on a track across Park Wood.

This is one of five woods managed by the borough. Although they are separated by roads or open spaces, they can be understood as one single stretch of countryside that is quite important for wildlife. Some of the woods were little used in past centuries because there was no large settlement nearby and are considered quite similar to what natural wood would have looked like in neolithic times. This is indicated by the mix of trees including wild service trees. In areas that were used more, the dominant tree is hornbeam. My picture shows that the more accessible stands were coppiced: they would be cut near the ground every 20 years or so, encouraging growth of many thin trees that could be used for a number of tools as hornbeam wood is particularly hard.

Coppiced trees in Park Wood

Continue straight ahead as long as possible. At the end, you reach a miniature railway on the bank of Ruislip Lido reservoir.

R along the miniature railway for a short distance. Ignore the first path to your R but take the second one, walking towards the North-East.

Looking towards Pinner Hill

When you exit the wood, you have a nice view over the lower ground with the Pinn River valley. The hill opposite on the other side is Pinner Hill with the particularly elegant suburb of Pinnerwood Park, graced with numerous sizeable villas in manicured gardens.

The path reaches the end of Wiltshire Lane. Ignore the road and continue on the wood path in about the same direction as before. Continue on the path until you reach a cycle path and a recreation ground with a pavilion. You can see the tracks a bit further in front of you

Northwood Hills Recreation Ground

R to exit the recreation ground, then L on Highland Road towards the tracks.

The road turns R a first time. When it turns R a second time and switches to York Road, turn L on the unmarked footpath

Cross the main road for

NORTHWOOD HILLS

Northwood Hills Underground station

The station opened in 1933 on the existing line in order to encourage real estate development in the area.

The station is a simple brick structure like the neighbouring stations but it has an elaborate roof that reminds a little of a country cottage and therefore works better as a focal point within the suburb.

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