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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