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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