Central Tube line walk 2: Holland Park walk to North Acton

Walk 2
HOLLAND PARK walk to NORTH ACTON
2 3/4 hours

The original Central line opened in 1900 and ran from central London to Shepherd’s Bush. It was extended towards Ealing Broadway via North Acton in 1920.

Routing note: This walk connects in Holland Park to Central line walk 1 and in North Acton to Central line walk 3. It also connects in Shepherd’s Bush to Overground network walk 8.

Unfortunately, there are several locations on this walk where road and footpath signs are either missing or difficult to spot. I suggest you use a map (such as the Transport for London Local Cycling Guide 6 available for free) or check on your smartphone whenever in doubt. This inconvenience is compensated by the fact that you will be crossing a remarkable variety of urban environments.

Please do not copy the pictures from this entry without my prior consent. I am allowed to post them but some of them are by other persons and their rights are reserved. Thank you.

HOLLAND PARK

The station opened in 1900 together with the Underground line.

The station building is the original design by architect Harry Bell Measures who used a wall covering in cream tiles on several stations. The decoration is moderate considering the design of many buildings of the same period. Looking at the building, it is easy to imagine that it was actually planned as the ground floor of an office building, but no investor was found in this residential area and the Underground company was stuck with a flat corner building. The steel drum at the back of the building houses the lift machinery. Many stations have such a machine room but it is seldom visible and this one is particular well proportioned.

Exit the station and walk R downhill on Holland Park Avenue
L Holland Park (a road)

The road is a development from the 1870s with exquisite town houses, one of which is an embassy. The houses were meant for one seriously affluent family each and are optically detached from the neighbouring houses. In Belgravia and much of Notting Hill, houses have neo-classical porches on columns while this particular development chose more modern cast-iron porches.

Ahead Abbotsbury Road
L into Holland Park

The park is a major attraction and probably one of the most beautiful and varied parks you can visit in London. It is set in the grounds of the former mansion of Holland Park, bought by the borough in 1952 after World War II had heavily damaged the main building. I suggest touring the grounds walking broadly clockwise around them, but you might obviously wish to concentrate on specific areas you are more interested in and the park maps will help you to do so. You might also have a look at the well written overview under following link: https://www.parksandgardens.org/places/holland-park

Sundial in Holland Park

After the initial climb away from the D-shaped entrance garden, you get a choice of several paths to your left. The first one (the Chestnut Walk) crosses a wooded part of the estate and leads to a “sun garden” landscaped in 1988 with a particular consideration paid to handicapped visitors. The second path is the Lime Tree Walk and leads directly to a pond I will mention later. The third path leads to the Kyoto and Fukushima gardens and is the one I recommend taking to begin with.

Kyoto Garden in Holland Park


The two gardens have an obviously Japanese name. The Kyoto garden was financed by the Kyoto Chamber of Commerce in 1991 to commemorate a Festival of Japan held in London. The Fukushima garden was financed by donations in commemoration of assistance to the victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011.


You may be aware that there are as many styles of Japanese gardening as there are styles of landscaping in England. The style chosen for the Kyoto garden is inspired by 19th century gardens in urban locations in Japan. It is a garden meant for strolling leasurely around, stopping every few steps to check whether there is not a new interesting perspective and relaxing from the surrounding world that is efficiently hidden behind the hills. Japanese usually visit a garden walking slowly in a specific direction (often clockwise).

The garden did not give me exactly the same feeling as in Japan. This is due partly to it not being enclosed as thoroughly and having a large lawn.

The paths are also a little more straightforward and more even.

Path in Kyoto Garden

The waterfall is particularly impressive.

Waterfall in Kyoto Garden

And finally, the plants grow faster in Britain due to the different climate.

Traditional fountain in Kyoto Garden

For all these reasons, I did not feel transplanted to Japan, it is an evocation and not a copy. The garden is wonderfully maintained by the borough and this is important because a Japanese garden must look pristine. It is a wonderful place to relax and meditate assuming you don’t mind standing as there are no seats (they would probably attract activities that do not fit with the atmosphere of the garden).

Lake in Kyoto Garden
Woodland Pond in Holland Park

After enjoying the beautiful garden, go back to the crossroads with the three paths and take the Lime Tree walk. The lime trees had to be replaced after a storm and are young. They lead to a nice little pond with a statue of Lord Holland. He was an important politician in the early 19th century but Holland Park got its name from an ancestor who was created Earl Holland in 1624. The gardens are also not his work, most of them were created in the 1890s. The statue and the pond behind it are framed by camellias that bloom very nicely in May.

Statue of Lord Holland

From the statue, the so-called Acer Walk leads to the former mansion. The walk was lined in the 19th century by a famous row of rose bushes but these declined due to old age and could not be replaced as this particular sort is not grown any more. The borough therefore decided to plant miniature acer trees and azaleas.

Acer Walk in Holland Park
Garden of Holland Park Youth Hostel

Beyond a lawn used in old times for garden parties, you reach the remnants of the mansion. I suggest you walk around the building starting L in order to see the eastern front, the only large remains of the property. After the wartime destruction, this wing was converted into a youth hostel. It is actually not this unusual, there are youth hostels in other former castles (Carbisdale Castle in Scotland is a famous example) and the very first youth hostel was indeed opened in the 19th century in the German medieval castle of Altena.

Holland Park Mansion


The mansion was Jacobean (it was finished in 1614). The set of protruding pilasters with details changing between the ground and the first floors was popular and the rounded gables are also typical of this short-lived style. When you continue walking around the building, you reach the former main courtyard where you can see further rests, but these reach only to the ground floor level. The courtyard was used in the past by the borough as a location for an arts festival.

Dutch Garden seen from the terrace


Continuing around the building, you finally reach the terrace overlooking an impressive formal garden. The terrace was a famous dahlia garden until the 1950s but is now more traditional.


The formal garden below was called the Portuguese garden when it was designed in 1814 by the Portuguese librarian of Lord Holland but the owner changed the name to “Dutch garden” later on when this appeared more fitting to his political opinions regarding the two countries. The garden has little to do with either. It is an interesting mix of a knot garden with the typical low box hedges and of a flower garden. The planting concept differs from royal gardens in that there is only one type of flower in every “box”, enabling very interesting blocks of colour. I give you pictures taken in different seasons.

Statue of Milo of Croton

In the middle of the garden, there is a statue of Milo of Croton splitting a tree trunk, a present by the Friends of the park in 2003. There are very popular benches under arcades on the side of the garden, a very convenient place to relax.

Napoleon Garden in Holland Park

Below the Dutch Garden, you reach the so-called Napoleon Garden, a quadrangle of traditional English flower beds around an armillary sphere. There are some brick structures behind the garden, remnants of the stables.


If you turn L from the Napoleon Garden, you come down a few steps into the Iris Garden. It will obviously be particularly enjoyable in spring and has a very nice contemporary fountain in the middle.

Iris Garden in Holland Park

There are several buildings around this garden, one of which with a peculiar thatched roof and a circular shape. It was an important amenity for the owners of the mansion, who expected to have elegant parties frequently. The building was an ice house, where you could keep over the summer ice gathered in winter from the meadows along the lower Thames.

Ice house in Holland Park
Iris garden in winter

Along an other side of the Iris Garden, arcades worked as a limit between the formal gardens of the mansion and the park outside. The building with a clock that overlooks the arcades was the stables block, the clock being important in order to inform drivers and other staff at a time when the mansion owners had got used to order services for a specific time while very few people could afford their own watch. The arcades have been graced with a large wall painting showing a garden party in the heyday of the mansion around 1900. In order to protect the painting, the arcades are not accessible to the public.

Garden party in Holland Park around 1900
Holland Park Orangery

On the third side of the Iris garden, you will find the Orangery with its tall ground floor windows. You get a good feeling for the room if you look through the end window. Orangeries had fallen out of fashion by the mid-19th century because you would keep fragile plants in a winter garden or a conservatory, so that the mansion owners converted the Orangery into a ballroom. The room does not seem to be used currently; in other locations, I have seen orangeries being leased for weddings or conferences to great effect.

Orangery converted into a ballroom
Rose garden in Holland Park

At the back of the orangery, you find the last of the formal gardens in Holland Park, the rose garden. As roses grow well in London and do not demand too much care, it is a logical attraction in many parks. You are now close to the main car access.

Exit the park at the southern end near the cafeteria and the cricket field
R (downhill) Ilchester Place

Ilchester Place


This is one of the most expensive streets in London with the houses selling for £15 million and more. The superb houses are reminiscent of Georgian architecture but they look somehow newer and the entrance doors are all different. In addition, some of the houses are smothered in ivy or wisteria, something Georgian house owners would have found most disorderly and unwelcoming. The houses were actually developed in the 1920s and there are indeed some similarities with the construction style of Hampstead Garden suburb from the same period.

Cross Abbotsbury Road into Oakwood Court

Oakwood Court

This development is clearly less elegant. It has a whiff of “pile them high” and is actually particularly bulky for a development partly from 1899 when lifts did not exist. My picture shows an extension from the 1930s with lifts but it is similarly densely populated.

At the end R Addison Road, the road curves a little L along a school near traffic lights

Town house on Addison Road


Addison Road is again to a large extent a late 19th century development and the left-hand side of the road has a row of large town houses in sizeable gardens. Comparing with the houses at the beginning of my walk, you are back here in a standard model of neo-classical residential properties with porches borne by columns. One house had an interesting addition in form of a sculpture of two (supposedly) nude gentlemen over the porch, a good idea to make the house look a little different.

My other picture shows a very different house on Addison Road, inspired by Renaissance architecture and using coloured tiles that were very popular around 1900. I cannot imagine that such an unusual house was part of a commercial development and it might have been designed by an artist rather than by an architect.

Artistic house on Addison Road

When you reach the crossroads of Addison Road with Holland Park Gardens, you notice easily the unusual colour of the building on the corner. Pale pink stone with a mock-Dutch gable is definitely a bit strange and I suspect it is the reconstruction of a 19th century building with modern materials when an obsolete public building was converted to luxury flats.

Nearly opposite and on Addison Road proper, you may notice the interesting door and staircase leading to Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School. The building itself is kept in a not so exceptional neo-medieval style, but the ramp is a very unusual example of Art Nouveau ironwork, re-interpreting the flowing shapes of plants.

Art Nouveau staircase ramps

Across Holland Park Avenue along Royal Crescent

Royal Crescent

This is a typical development for the Notting Hill area with white columns. It dates back to 1839 and was clearly inspired by the Royal Crescent in Bath. But it differs in having façades painted white instead of the grey stone typical for Bath. The crescent is also broken into two sections, the reason being there is a sewer under St Ann’s Road preventing a house from being built on that spot. As usual in Notting Hill, there is a very nice community garden at the disposal of the residents of the crescent. And as usual in Notting Hill, there is hardly ever anyone taking advantage of the private park.

Royal Crescent garden

Walk all along the crescent, coming back to the main road
R along the main road, then across the large roundabout using the subway (a little further on your R) or the surface crossing (long waiting time for the traffic light)
Cross the train tracks and walk past the bus interchange

SHEPHERD’S BUSH

Shepherd’s Bush Underground station

The station opened in 1900 as the terminus of the Underground line from central London. The line was extended by a few hundred yards in 1908 to a makeshift station serving an international exhibition while the present line towards North Acton was opened in 1920. There were two other stations called Shepherd’s Bush. One is located quite far away on the Hammersmith & City Underground line and was renamed in 2008 Shepherd’s Bush Market in order to avoid confusion. The other station is used by London Overground trains and is close to the Central Line Underground station but there is no direct connection.

The original station building was replaced in 2008 by the present structure. It is a seriously grand station in contemporary materials (glass and steel). The ticket hall is very high because the architect was asked to provide a visual connection to the nearby shopping centre. The new building was actually financed to a large extent by the shopping centre as one of the conditions for the building permit. The new station was criticised for not providing lifts to the platforms, thereby preventing handicapped people from using the station to go to the shopping centre. The planners answered that the very complex layout of utilities in the vicinity would have added unreasonable costs if they had had to be diverted in order to install a lift.

Ahead past the station on Uxbridge Road
When you reach the green space (Shepherd’s Bush Common), keep rather L along Goldhawk Road

Shepherd’s Bush Green

The common is officially called Shepherd’s Bush Green and is a noisy, triangular patch of grass lined by beautiful alleys of mature trees. There are a few monuments on the green but they are not particularly interesting. You do get a picture with flowers although I had to look hard for the appropriate viewpoint. The name Shepherd’s Bush seems to come from the time when the common was used for grazing cattle as shepherds would lie on bushes to keep a better (and more relaxing) overlook over the flock.


Otherwise, the common does not have formal flower beds as it is not a “park”. The borough tried several times to set up a park after it had bought the common from the Church in 1871, but local residents objected because this would have implied that it would have been closed at night. Other residents did complain that the common was used for immoral pursuits such as gambling and as a camping ground for vagrants. In the end, nothing was done.

I do not comment here on the buildings along the Goldhawk Road side of the common. Some are interesting but I comment already on them in my Hammersmith & City line walk 2.

Ahead along Goldhawk Road
Just before the bridge under the Underground tracks R
Walk the length of Shepherd’s Bush Market along the Underground embankment

The stalls are located along the train viaduct all the way between two Underground stations served by the Hammersmith & City line. As the ground belongs to London Transport, there are discussions to make a more profitable use of the location, for example with a real estate development combined with a shopping centre, but no decision is likely to be taken quickly. The market is catering to working class clients and to immigrant communities, so that it definitely looks different from the pretentious and soulless Westfield mall that overlooks Shepherd’s Bush station.

(if the market is closed, I think you can use a service road along the market fences) Cross under the tracks on Uxbridge Road past a station called Shepherd’s Bush Market
Soon R Frithville Gardens
Ahead into Hammersmith Park

Japanese Garden in Hammersmith Park

The park is in the middle of a heavily urbanised area with many council estate buildings, a striking contrast with Holland Park.

The park has significant attractions. It was landscaped on ground left over after exhibition buildings from the 1900s were pulled down after World War II. Most of the ground was used for council estates and a park in the middle was essential.

Hammersmith Park


It was also chosen in order to preserve a small Japanese garden set up in 1910 on occasion of an exhibition at a time when anything Japanese was the absolute not-to-be-missed attraction. The garden was neglected later on but not destroyed and volunteers tried to restore it in the 1980s. You will notice some Japanese plants and the usual interesting combination of closely cropped lawn with well pruned bushes, but the water features are modest compared to the major show garden in Holland Park.

Apart from the Japanese garden, the borough also maintains nice formal flower beds in a more typical urban park style. This is a commendable effort in an area of London that is not among the most affluent.

Former BBC studios

From the park, you have a good view towards a flattish round building. This is a listed building that was part of the BBC studios until 2013. It has been converted into residential flats since but the core circular building was kept as an entertainment venue as it is listed along with much of the decoration inside. It was built in the early 1950s and the materials are not very impressive due to funding constraints at the time but the shape is impressive. Circular buildings actually have been quite popular for radio institutions in other locations as well: Radio France in Paris had a similar layout.

Exit the park at the northern end near the football ground
R South Africa Road
At the end of the road, you can detour R to the Underground station

WHITE CITY

White City Underground station

The Central line opened a station in the vicinity of the present one in 1908. It was called Wood Lane and was served by a loop from Shepherd’s Bush. The present station was opened in 1947 when the Central Line was extended as a full service line beyond Shepherd’s Bush towards Ealing Broadway.

The station had been designed in 1937 and the building reflects clearly the Art Déco principles of the 1930s. It is inspired more by the Dutch / Scandinavian style of Art Déco, which stresses the use of bricks and simple geometric shapes. Large glass panels had become affordable and were used to good effect to lighten the ticket hall. Don’t hesitate to have a look at the ticket hall inside to get a feeling for the airy proportions and the feeling of natural light. The very straightforward but well proportioned design won an award.

Ticket hall at White City

The platform awning is carried by an unusually spindly set of steel pillars painted in mint green, a very unusual colour for the Underground. Another oddity is that trains run on the right track in White City (like in Germany) instead of the normal left track. This is because the station reused the tracks from the Wood Lane loop while those only provided for one single platform.

Coming from South Africa Road, L (northwards) along busy Wood Lane

This area was rebuilt over the last years and is now a rather soulless landscape of huge office buildings. If you look hard for something positive about it, there is a green space along Wood Lane for part of the way and some of the buildings have tried to break the boring straight rows of steel and glass fronts with a cylindrical pavilion or some other decorative gimmick.

Cross under the motorway along Wood Lane
Ahead on Wood Lane

Nightingale House

You are back in a residential area. When you reach Du Cane Road, look at an estate on the left-hand side called Nightingale House. It is a typical Art Déco housing estate built in what was a fashionably modern material, whitewashed concrete, and using only geometrical shapes instead of decorative details. The staircases are not enclosed in order to improve air quality in the building. I find it sensible and laudable but I have always wondered how safety and security experts were convinced of allowing it.

Pub building on North Pole Road

Wood Lane finally turns into Scrubs Lane. There are two interesting buildings near the crossroads. On the right-hand side, there is an odd-looking pub. It has no upper level and the front on North Pole Road is graced with a neo-classical porch while the front on Wood Lane has an elaborate door frame in the style of the 1700s. I guess the building had a different purpose originally.

School on Scrubs Lane


Opposite the pub, you walk past the sprawling complex of a school. The main building directly on Scrubs Lane is a magnificent example of Art Déco in the Scandinavian style. It is an extremely complex combination of plain cubic shapes, so that the building looks somewhat appropriately like a pile of play cubes. An impressive counterpoint is given by a rounded protrusion rising like the prow of a ship. This was very popular in the 1930s as people were fascinated by modern technology such as fast steamships making exotic colonies more accessible than ever before. The long bands of glass windows (vertical on Wood Lane, horizontal away from the road) reflect the idea that a lot of daylight is very good for health (you do feel more easily depressed in winter, don’t you ?).

Ahead Scrubs Lane

You will soon an open space on your left. Walk in but you can keep temporarily close to Scrubs Lane. Follow the perimeter path as it turns slowly L and continues at the foot of the train line embankment
You are in Wormwood Scrubs

Wormwood Scrubs

This really large area of grass with occasional hedges and few trees has an interesting origin. It was bought by the Government in 1879 in order to have sufficient space close to the central London barracks for military exercises. As the land was not needed constantly, it was declared a common with the special provision that the Army could close it off when needed. Although it is hardly ever closed off for maneuvers nowadays, the Army still owns it and can use it. This explains why there are no amenities that might make it more of a park or nature reserve. There have been many attempts over the year to discuss developments in some areas, but campaigners have been able to defeat nearly all of them.

Crossing the open space is a special experience because it is indeed one of the largest unlandscaped open spaces in London along parts of Epping Forest and areas in Northolt. There are occasionally isolated gentlemen wandering about with no apparent purpose and I have been wondering whether they are plainclothes policemen checking that no one is having inappropriate intentions regarding the inmates of the nearby prison.

Cross the open space aiming half L for the playground. This might be a little difficult to target if trees hide the view, so check on a map. You need to exit the open space so that you can take Erconwald Street near the primary school.
To add to the difficulty, there is no street sign here. Erconwald Street leads away from the open space at the corner of house number 43 Braybrook Street. An other help is that there are cycling route signs painted on the road.

East Acton estate

You are crossing a rather pleasant suburb developed in the 1920s. Like in some other parts of Acton, the ground owner chose to have a limited number of affluent buyers rather than a mass of lower-income buyers and the suburb was landscaped accordingly with proper hedges protecting small front gardens. The properties have rather simple shapes but steep roofs are meant to remind a little of cottages in the countryside. It is not a garden suburb in the sense that there are not many open spaces between the houses, but many trees were planted along the roads.

Erconwald Street

Follow Erconwald Street past the station

EAST ACTON

East Acton Underground station

The station opened in 1920 together with the Central Line extension from Shepherd’s Bush to Ealing Broadway. The station is not really close to Acton and it would probably be more fitting to call it Wormwood Scrubs but this sounded too much like the eponymous prison.

The station building is a rather pretty little cottage that looks quite out of place in a catalogue of Underground stations from the 1920s. The reason is partly that the Central line extension was suggested originally by a railway company who hoped to get transfer passengers for its Ealing Broadway interchange. The architect of the railway company may have been asked to design the station and it does look similar to a suburban train station. It fits also better with the style of the residential houses built around the station in the following years.

After the tracks R Fitzneal Street (there is a street sign but it is a bit hidden, it is the road blocked for cars by a barrier)

Houses in Fitzneal Street

You are obviously still in the same development from the 1920s.

At the end R Old Oak Common Lane
Just after house number 187 and just before Brunel Road, turn L into an unmarked footpath at the rear of the row of houses. This leads to a footbridge over train tracks
on the footbridge

Brunel Road footpath


The footpath is a surprising bit of wilderness after the well kept suburb around East Acton station. From the footbridge, you have a good view towards central London over the wide green spaces of Wormwood Scrubs in the foreground.


Ahead into Perry Avenue along an other train line (not the one you just crossed)
At the end R into Cotton Avenue
Soon R Vardon Close
Continue along the container park to the main road
R along the dual carriageway, you will cross train tracks
At the next traffic lights R Wales Farm Road

Commercial building in Wales Farm Road

You cannot avoid a somewhat boring stretch along this very busy road through an area of London full of warehouses, large shops and construction sites. In a way, it rounds up the impressive variety of urban environments you have been crossing on this walk. The commercial buildings along the road are usually boring boxes in corrugated iron meant to be as cheap and as fast as possible to build but I did find one that made an effort to look a bit different. Very strong colours were popular in the 1990s. One of the reasons they are less used since is that many companies have adopted branding policies in the 2000s involving specific colours so that they have little choice for their buildings now.

Just before a bridge over a train line, you should see a small Underground roundel showing a footpath L to

NORTH ACTON

North Acton Underground station

The station was originally a train station opened in 1906 on a railway from London Paddington to Ruislip. The idea was to provide a new access to London for trains from the Midlands. The station had little success in an area with few residential units and closed already in 1913. In 1920, the Central Line opened an extension between Shepherd’s Bush and Ealing Broadway and a station was opened in North Acton in 1923. The junction between the Central Line and the old train line was reopened in 1947, enabling the Central Line to run also towards Ruislip.

North Acton station

The station building looks like a modest suburban train station and is probably a 1923 design. The train company who originally suggested the extension of the Central Line did not expect much traffic and was not interested in an impressive building. Traffic only picked up later due to new industrial activities in the vicinity. My second picture gives you a fair impression of how North Acton probably looked like when it was just a rural station on a suburban train line.

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