Raynes Park

Raynes Park is a pretty distinctive station, although not for architectural reasons. What makes it stand out from the crowd is the very large gap between its two island platforms. This happened here as there are two fast lines which pass through the middle here but do not stop, causing the gap between the platforms to be much larger as a result.

The platforms are also not directly opposite each other as would usually be the case – one starts coming to an end as the other begins. This means it is a rather long, high footbridge that links platforms 1 and 2 with 3 and 4. The station first opened on 30 October 1871 and is a fairly busy commuter stop, served by 12 trains per hour Mondays to Saturdays.

The Cavern Freehouse, 100 Coombe Lane, SW20 0AY

Coming out of Raynes Park station on the north side, there is a parade of shops in 1930s buildings which all feels very suburban.On a Twitter recommendation, we decided to go to The Cavern which is a couple of minutes walk west on that same street, Coombe Road.

The Cavern is a live music pub, with particular homage paid to The Beatles as the name would suggest. Now Beatles themed or inspired bars are ten a penny in Liverpoot but in Zone 4 South West London its a much more surprising phenomena. However its not just the Fab Four who are celebrated on the walls of the pub – I spotted pictures of Rod Stewart, The Scorpions and Phil Collins to name just a few.

The Cavern has all the hallmarks of a small live music venue, with lots of bar stools, exposed brick work and of course the stage itself. It even has its own branded t-shirts. There is live music here most evenings except Mondays and Tuesdays. They also have a jukebox too but I didn’t have a chance to assess their 80s rock selection. The band hadn’t come on yet on the Friday evening we dropped in but the place was already filling up. The Cavern also a small seating area outside at the front of the pub.

The Cavern had three ales on tap, London Pride, Doombar and the local Common Pale Ale which seems a fixture in these parts. It made me wish bigger venues would have a few ales once in awhile rather than the usual expensive Tuborg in a plastic cap. They also have room for a pool table here at the back of the pub and a quiz machine too. There are also a couple of TV screens in The Cavern, showing BBC News which was probably the most un-rock and roll thing here.

I always like stumbling on somewhere a bit different and The Cavern certainly fits the bill. A live music venue packed with classic rock memorabilia is definitely not what I expected in Raynes Park. It’s definitely worth a visit!

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Wimbledon(Rail)

Wimbledon is one of London’s oldest railway stations, first opening back in May 1838. The station was resited in 1889 to coincide with the extension of the District Railway down from Putney Bridge. The station was rebuilt again in 1929, this time with a Portland Stone ticket office. Today the station is a busy transport interchange, served by tube, several rail operators as well as tram services too. Over 20million passengers used the rail station alone in 2015/16. Its future could be busier still should Crossrail 2 get the go-ahead as the new East-West line is scheduled to have a station here.

On a completely different note, the station used to be home to an airedale terrier called ‘Laddie’ which had a coin box strapped to its collar as it carried out collections for a care home for old railway workers. After he retired in 1956, he then went to live at the home he had been collecting for. After his death in 1960, he was stuffed and placed in a glass box on Platform 5 where people could continue to donate to the home. He finally left for good in 1990 and now lives in the National Railway Museum, York.

Dog and Fox, 24 High Street, SW19 5EA

When doing Wimbledon tube station, I visited The Alexandra which is very close to the station. This time around I decided to venture a little further, heading up Wimbledon Hill Road to the Dog and Fox in Wimbledon village and not too far from the Common. It’s just 15 minutes walk up the hill but only a few minutes on the bus if you’re pressed for time.

The pub has an expansive, modern interior with a large open plan room surrounding the bar and a separate dining area to one side of it. This main section has plenty of cosy armchairs if you’re lucky to find one free. One of the walls is decorated with loads of old tennis rackets but in general the tennis connection is kept thankfully low key. The pub also has a small outside seating area covered by a conservatory type roof by its side entrance.There is also a 17 room ’boutique hotel’ above the pub too which seems to have good reviews if google and tripadvisor are anything to go by – I suspect it might be out of my price range.

The Dog and Fox is a Youngs pub, marking my third in succession on the trail – it is their South West heartland afterall. They had a few more guest ales on here than you sometimes see in a Youngs pub, keeping it local with the ‘Common Pale Ale’ from Wimbledon Brewery as well as Hopstuff’s Oatmeal Stout and the excellently named ‘New Years Resolution’ beer, although sadly I can find no reference of it anywhere online. I went for a pint of Youngs Special which was particularly good here. The food is generally the typical Youngs gastropub offerings, although they do have a brunch menu from 11.30am to 4pm Mondays to Saturdays with Eggs Benedict and the like all available.

We visited early on a Friday evening, it wasn’t too busy when we first arrived but got noticeably busier over the course of our time here. The lights dimmed and the music went up after 6pm. The lively atmosphere here made me think it could also serve as a pre-drinks venue before people head onto bars and clubs. In that spirit, the friendly barman suggested following up our ales with a Jagermeister but I politely declined, nothing good could ever come of that…

Dog and Fox is another good modern Youngs pub. Having a drink or two here is a suitable reward for walking up Wimbledon Hill!

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(For Wimbledon tube, I visited The Alexandra in October 2013)

Earlsfield

Earlsfield returns me back to the South Western Main Line after my journey around the Hounslow loop from Wandsworth Town onwards. It opened in 1884 on a line which had been operational since 1838, when services had first started running between Nine Elms and Woking.

Coming here from Waterloo, I noticed so many trains on the departure board were stopping at Earlsfield. It is served by 16 trains an hour during a standard non-rush hour service during the week which must make it one of the most well served rail station outside of Zones 1 and 2. It is a busy station and was used by over 7million passengers in the 2015/16 financial year.

The station was upgraded in 2011 with a rebuilt entrance at street level as well as the installations of lifts up to the platforms. On leaving the station, there is a sign which reads ‘welcome to my world of fresh air and laughter’. Now I don’t know the area well enough to pass judgement on the laughter point, but given the amount of traffic coming down the main road I’m not too sure there is a world of fresh air here. It was installed as part of an art project called ‘Step Beyond’ in 2013 and was only due to be up until May 19 of that year however it still remains, nearly four years on…

The Halfway House, 521 Garratt Lane, SW18 4SR

Earlsfield is a lively Wandsworth suburb with a decent range of restaurants and pubs located on and around Garrett Lane, the main road running through the area. We went for The Halfway House, a minute’s walk from the station south down Garratt Lane.

The Halfway House has a smart, modern interior. There is a model house towards the front of the pub, it looks a bit like a grand doll house and I assume it is the Halfway House in question. The middle section of the pub has rather jaunty wallpaper depicting various birds like herons and puffins and the back area has ships and whales painted onto the wood-boarded area of the wall, with ‘have a whale of a good time’ written on the mammal. There is also a conservatory area which opens out to the pub’s garden which is quite small but is enlivened by a slightly psychedelic colourful mural under their wooden smoking shelter as well as seats thatlook like bottle tops.

Benefiting from a day off, we popped here mid-afternoon on a Friday afternoon. We were able to get seats although the pub was already fairly busy, clearly plenty of people had got that Friday feeling and clocked off early, starting their weekends here. We sat in the heron wallpaper area where there was also a roaring fire on the go, good for a cold winters day.Being back in Wandsworth, it’s not much of a surprise to find The Halfway House is a Youngs pub, being so close to their former brewery just up the road. It was their usual suspects on the ale front(bitter, special and winter warmer) and the familiar Youngs menu of classic dishes and gastropub offerings.

There are also pictures on the walls of historical figures with a connection to Wandsworth, I noticed a display commemorating Charlotte Despard who moved to Wandsworth in 1890. A suffragette and political activist who set up soup kitchens and health clinics for the unemployed, she also ran for Parliament in Battersea North in 1918 for the Labour Party, immediately after women had gained the vote. She lost but got 33% of the vote. She also has a pub named after her in Archway, perhaps I’ll visit it when I’m north of the river. There is also a similar display for Sean O’Casey, an Irish playwriter, film-making and poet who lived on Prince of Wales drive by Battersea Park.

The Halfway House is another solid Youngs offering and continues a run of fine pubs in South West London. One to check out if you’re in this neck of the woods and even if you aren’t, so many trains go to Earlsfield it’s very easy to visit!

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Barnes Bridge

Barnes Bridge brings to a close my journey on the Hounslow Loop section of South West Trains. It opened on 12 March 1916 – its rare to find stations that opened during the First World War, many actually closed during this period as part of wartime economy measures.

Architecturally it’s pretty unremarkable at platform level and the platform canopies are modern and functional, an ornate bit of ironwork remains at the entrance to the station before taking the steps up to the platform. My favourite aspect of this station is the view – the platforms are just before Barnes Railway Bridge so looking north you get a great view of it and over to the north side of the Thames.

The White Hart, The Terrace, SW13 0NR

As the station is located right on the Thames, it is no surprise we went for a riverside pub here. The White Hart is a few minutes walk west from Barnes Bridge on a road called The Terrace. It’s in a grand old building complete with flag-pole(although no flag!) so is very easy to locate. There has been a pub on the site since 1660 and the current building dates from 1899 according to its website.

Inside its one large room with a bar in the centre and an open plan layout. The tall ceiling also makes it feel more spacious here. We visited here on a Sunday afternoon and the pub was pretty busy with plenty of people here having a roast dinner. I think the pub also has an upstairs restaurant called ‘The Terrace Kitchen’ which we missed on our visit. The link to it on the website doesn’t work at the moment so I’m not sure if it’s still open. There is a decent photo of it here.

The White Hart is a Youngs pub so had their usual ale offerings of their own Youngs Bitter and Special, as well as the ‘Tower Special Pale Ale’ from the nearby Wimbledon Brewery. The food menu is a mix of pub classics like fish and chips and more gastropub fare like blue cheese and walnut salad as well as roasts on a Sunday. I went for their burger which cost £12 which seems to be the norm price wise round these parts. It was a very hearty portion with a decent amount of chips so I did manage to get my money’s worth.

Decor wise, the walls are fairly uncluttered but there is a stag’s head on one of them, I also spotted a glass stag on one of the tables too. There are also some canoe oars on the wall, understandable given the proximity to the river – the Oxford and Cambridge boat race also passes past the pub, I can imagine it must be absolutely heaving here that day. The pub also has a small terrace overlooking the Thames with an amazing view. This would be a great place for a pint in the spring and summer. There is also a decked garden area to the side of the pub with a few tables. They also have a collection of board games to help while away an afternoon here.

The White Hart is a good pub in an excellent location right by the Thames. It is definitely worth a visit, especially for its great riverside terrace. One to remember for the spring and summer and a much better option than plenty of central London riverside pubs.

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Chiswick

Chiswick Station is my penultimate stop on the Hounslow Loop line before it ends up back at Barnes. It opened in 1849 and managed to retain both a very charming station building on Platform 1 as well as a traditional footbridge too. I imagine the residents of this well heeled part of West London would expect nothing less.

Bulls Head, 15 Strand-On-The-Green, W4 3PQ

While there are a fair few pubs near Chiswick Park tube, things are much quieter by the rail station. There is the ‘The Old Station House’, which I assume must have been just that but it looked more like a bar and restaurant so we decided to cast the net wider.

In the end, we went for the Bulls Head. It’s just over a 10minute walk from the station, heading West, and is situated on the riverfront just before the Kew Railway Bridge. The pub dates back to the 18th Century and certainly looks like an old country pub from the exterior. Inside it is low ceilings and wooden beams throughout, but the colour schemes and decor have more of a modern chain pub feel to them and are a bit generic. Curiously enough, they were advertising a ‘Psychic Night’ coming up here the following day – I didn’t think it seemed that kind of pub!

It is part of the ‘Chef and Brewer’ chain, which is owned by Greene King. As a result, a majority of the ales come from their brewery including Abbott, Ruddles Best and their IPA. Other beers available included Rocking Rudolph(hanging on past December!) and Adnams Ghost Ship. I am not a massive fan of Greene King ales which poses a problem whenever I visit their pubs. In the end I went for Ghost Ship,a beer I am unsure about and remained so after this. It’s just a bit too sweet for me. Food wise it is mainly pub classics – as indeed a section of their menu is called, with mains like fish and chips and burgers priced around the £10.99 mark.

The pub also has a children’s menu and there were plenty of families here on our Sunday afternoon visit so the inside of the pub was quite busy. We took advantage of it being a very sunny January afternoon and sat outside. This is where the Bulls Head came into its own as the tables outside have a lovely view out onto the Thames and the leafy south side of the river. It felt like the perfect spot for a Sunday afternoon and I can imagine how nice it must be in the Summer here when its really hot and you can enjoy a refreshing pint in the sun by the river.

Overall I’d say the Bulls Head is an alright but unremarkable pub inside, fine for a quick pint but not worth going out of your way for. However if the weather’s good, definitely get down here as the little outside area is a really scenic spot for a drink.

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Kew Bridge

Kew is one of my favourite spots in London and is served by two separate National Rail stations which is great as it means two more visits here for me, having already visited Kew Gardens tube station back in June 2003. Kew Bridge station is first of the two stops I’ll be making here for the second leg of the blog and first opened in 1849. Originally served solely by the London and South Western Railway, from 1862 until 1940 the station also had services from the North and South Western Junction Railway, heading up to South Acton and beyond. These platforms, a short distance from those currently in operation, were still visible in the mid 2000s as these photos show.

The original listed station building here at Kew Bridge, designed by Sir William Tite(whose station building also survives at Barnes) is sadly no longer in railway use. At the platform level, its more of the modern triangle shaped roof bus shelter type constructions that have been a regular fixture across the South West Trains stations I’ve visited so far.

The Express Tavern, 56 Kew Bridge Road, TW8 0EY

The Express Tavern is a very apt name for the pub here as its a mere one minute walk from Kew Bridge station. It’s on the same side of the road as the station exit so simply head south and you’ll find it.

Its an expansive pub with a number of different sections, the front of the pub is divided into two rooms, both of which are served by the same bar which spans them both, as well as back room too. It also has an equally expansive beer selection. There were 10 ales on tap on our visit, for the purposes of completeness I’m going to list them all. Bass, Lock Keepers, Harvey’s Best(hurrah!),  Routemaster Red from Southwark Brewery, Summer Down Under from Twickenham, Grumpy Guvnor from Franklins, Copperleaf Red from Wimbledon Brewery ,Anvil from Allendale Brewery, Frostfair from Reunion Ales and finally, the Four Chimneys from Sambrooks. A great range of beers from mainly local breweries. I was feeling old school so I went for Bass initially but of course couldn’t resist a Harveys for the road.

There’s also a good range on the food front too – from ribs and piri piri chicken through to pie and mash and fish chips, as well as a range of burgers and pizzas. On Mondays, its buy one get one free on the pizzas which we took full advantage of,  I had a great stonebaked pepperoni pizza which was really tasty. On Wednesdays, you can get a rib-eye steak, chips and a drink for £12.99

According to a fact sheet at the back of the pub, it is thought that The Express Tavern was built way back around 1794 to 1797. Decor wise, it certainly does have a historic feel with its stained glass, old fireplaces, traditional leather backed seating and paintings of Kew when it was still all countryside round here. I really liked the old clock and Express Tavern sign near the bar, as you can see from the gallery. They also have a record player here and plenty of vinyls beside it too. The music had a very 60s/70s theme with Joe Cocker, The Rolling Stones and David Bowie all playing during our time here. At the top of one of the walls of the back room there are caricatures of ’70s politicians including Tony Benn, Denis Healey and Jim Callaghan.

On top of all this, The Express has a decent sized beer garden as well. On the chilly January evening we visited this was unsurprisingly empty but the majority of the seating was covered by an awning and with electric heaters provided too, adding further protection from the elements.

The Express Tavern is an excellent pub. It serves up both a great beer selection and good food in a pub with real character. The Express provides yet another reason to visit Kew. If people living round here weren’t already lucky enough, they have a top pub like this on their doorsteps too!

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Brentford

Brentford Station first opened by the London and South Western Railway in 1849. It was called Brentford Central for a period between 1950 and 1980, reverting to its previous name after that.

The station was significantly modernised at the turn of the century with lifts to the platforms and a new footbridge and entrances. These refurbishments to the station were paid for by Glaxo Smith Kline following the opening their new headquarters(following the merger of Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham) in GSK House near the station in 2002.

The Pub: The Griffin, Brook Road South, TW8 ONP

As well as being home to the huge pharmaceutical company I just referred to, Brentford also is the location of a football league club of the same name, based at Griffin Park a short walk from the station. Brentford has not previously been a happy hunting ground for me – many years ago, before I’d moved to London, I saw my local team Brighton lose here 4-0 in a midweek fixture. I think it is relentlessly unsuccessful evenings such as those which are actually good preparation for some of the disappointments life can throw at you. On a happier note, the ground is also famous for having a pub by each of its four corners. We chose to go to The Griffin, sharing its name not only with the ground but also the nearby Fullers brewery. It’s located on the Braemer Road edge of the ground.

Inside, its very much a traditional pub, complete with carpet, old red seats and wooden bar. There are shelves with a variety of trophies on(one or two very large) in one corner of the place – they also have a dart board which make explain the trophies.There were two ales available on tap during our visit, London Pride and Olivers Island. I went for Pride and it was a particularly good pint which perhaps isn’t surprising given how close we are to the brewery. They also have a back garden with a couple of yukka plants in it My friend told me that on match-days they can serve pints out there via a serving hatch out of the pub.

The Griffin does food everyday bar Mondays – the weekday we visited sadly so had to make do with some pork scratchings.  The rest of the week you can get pub staples like Fish and Chips for £11.50 and a range for Burgers for £10.50. However there is more variation on the menu than you might expect, with Basil Pappardelle with chargrilled artichoke available and even a ‘Lobster Specials’ Menu. Finally, they also have a ‘bar snacks’ menu too with cheesy chips, ribs and the like. Quite frankly, providing you aren’t here on a Monday you’re spoilt for choice.

Being here on a Monday evening, the pub was fairly quiet but there were still a few people here enjoying a quiet pint. I very much enjoyed the fact they had Absolute 80s on, playing classics like ‘The Sun Always Shines On TV’ and ‘Cuddly Toy’ by Roachford,  the latter of which now always makes me think of the Alan Partridge film. Talking of TV, The Griffin was used for the pub scenes for the 2005 movie about football hooliganism, ‘Green Street’, starring everyone’s favourite Hobbit Elijah Wood as an American student who gets involved in hooligan culture. My advice if you’re thinking of seeing the film is come down the pub instead…

With plans for a new stadium progressing, Brentford’s time at Griffin Park will soon be coming to an end. It will be interesting to see how The Griffin and indeed the other pubs here cope without the large matchday incomes. I asked a similar question back in March 2014 when visiting The Boleyn Tavern by Upton Park, I’ve not been back since the Hammers move out so do wonder how its getting on.

The Griffin is a great old school pub with character. Whatever happens once Brentford leave Griffin Park, I hope Fullers(or whoever owns the place in the future) don’t change this traditional boozer.

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