Elephant and Castle

As an area, Elephant and Castle has a bit of bad reputation.  This is no doubt due to the rather unwelcoming roundabout that greets you as you get off the tube here and the drab 1960s buildings that dominate the area.While that is true, it is incredibly close to Central London and you can easily walk to Waterloo and the South Bank in less than half an hour.

Elephant and Castle first opened on the City and South London Railway on 18th December 1890. Sadly, like Borough, no original features of that station now remain.    Further services arrived in August 1906, as part of the Baker Street and Waterloo Railway, later thankfully shortened to the Bakerloo Line.   The original building for the Bakerloo Line Station thankfully still remains and one of the classic Leslie Green style designs seen throughout the network. There is also a nice touch there, in the shape of a print of Elephant and Castle from what I assume was the Edwardian Era.

One of the other things you have to navigate when getting off at Elephant and Castle Station is the subway underneath the roundabout.  It is like some sort of modernist maze, there are so many entrances and exits it can take ages to get to where you want to go.  On our visit, a man had clearly given up and was wandering over grass embankments, asking us how to get to Nandos.  I assume he got there..

I often imagine more of London would have looked like this area, had widespread rebuilding taken place in the 1960s,  I’m very glad it didn’t!  The first time I visited E&C back in the mid 1990s, the shopping centre had been painted pink to make it more distinctive. Thankfully it isn’t anymore..

The Pub: Prince of Wales,  51 St. George’s Road,  SE1 6ER

Given everything I knew about the area immediately around the station, my hopes weren’t high for a pub here.   Having ruled out the Wetherspoons above the station, we set off up St Georges Road in the direction of the Imperial War Museum.

Having done some prior research, my friend had found decent reviews of a place called the Prince of Wales, so we came across that a few minutes up the road and popped in. It looked like a fairly traditional pub from the exterior, which is actually quite a nice building. The missing ‘e’ from the sign was perhaps an omen of things to come.

The Prince of Wales is divided into two rooms, one smaller room with a pool table inside, and a larger one backing onto the garden.  Both were very busy on the Saturday afternoon we visited.   Sadly there were no ales on tap so we went for a Kronenberg.    We initially tried to find a spot in the main room but had to hover by the bar. It definitely felt like a locals pub and a few eyes were certainly on us.  We then moved into the pool room which was more welcoming.

Regrettably this wasn’t an enjoyable visit, it’s one of the few times I’ve felt I’ve stumbled into a locals pub at a bad time!    Perhaps you’d be better placed visiting The Rockingham Arms(the Wetherspoons) afterall..

Borough

75 Stations in and I’ve finally hit the first to open that was truly ‘Underground.’   All that have come before fall into what are now called sub-surface lines – while they are obviously in many places below street level, they were constructed via a technique called ‘cut and cover’,  where roads were effectively dug up with the tracks put underneath and then re-roofed.   This means the tracks are only just below street level, which is why you can sometimes get mobile signal on stretches of the District and Circle Lines.

Borough Station first opened on 18th December 1890,  as part of the City and South London Railway, the first ‘deep-level’ tube.  The original section of the line ran from Stockwell to King William Street, however the latter had a short shelf-life and closed in 1900 when a station was constructed at London Bridge instead.

The CSLR was quite a trail-blazer, not only was it the first deep-level tube, but it was also the first to offer one flat fare rate.  Then again with tiny slits for windows(due to the fact it was assumed passengers had little to see in the tunnels) and carriages that got nicknamed ‘padded cells’, perhaps its not surprising..

The station closed during the 1920s to expand the tunnels to improve capacity and allow more modern trains to run. It became part of the new unified Edgware, Highgate and Morden Line which in turn became the Northern Line in 1937.  Sadly for somewhere with such history, Borough Station building itself dates from a 1960s-rebuild and has a drab, functional feel.

The Pub: The Royal Oak, 44 Tabard Street,  SE1 4JU

Borough Tube is very much on the cusp of Central London, with London Bridge just up the road. The Royal Oak pub is a few minutes from the tube, down Tabard Street. The area immediately around the pub is a mixture of old shops and houses with new apartment blocks looming above.

The Royal Oak has a traditional, tiled exterior. The interior also has a traditional feel with a wooden bar that spans both the two rooms the pub is sub-divided into.  The pub itself is one of two London outposts of the Sussex Brewery, Harveys. As a native Brightonian,  The Royal Oak often served as my home from home when living in London.

The walls are decorated with a combination of images of the Harveys Brewery itself in Lewes, as well as posters from old London Music Halls. My personal favourite though is a TfL advert from around 10 years ago that could serve as an inspiration for the blog – ‘Pubs and Bars by Tube and Bus.’

As a Harveys pub, you get their strong range of ales – Sussex Best is my favourite but other offerings include Armada Ale and a number of seasonal offerings. Bonfire Boy is very popular around Fireworks Night, another claim to fame for Lewes.

On the food front, it’s good solid fare –  steak and ale pies, fish and chips etc, and ample portions too!  The Royal Oak has always been one of my favourite pubs in London.   After a visit to Borough Market, it’s well worth going slightly off the beaten track to pop in here for a fine pint in a traditional setting.

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Chorleywood

Chorleywood was the last stop in my outer Metropolitan Line trilogy, this time in Zone 7. I think it is probably the leafiest of any of the Underground Stations I’ve visited so far, with one platform seemingly backing on to a small grove of trees.

It first opened as Chorley Wood(with the space), before becoming Chorley Wood & Chenies in 1915. It lost Chenies in 1934 and then thirty years later was standardised to its current title.

In 2004, an area of Chorleywood, Chorleywood West, was ranked to be the neighbourhood in England with the highest quality of life according to a Government Department.  Perhaps it’s due to Chorleywood being synonmous with a revolutionary technique that transformed the breadmaking industry?

On our visit,  Derek Acorah appeared to be nearby for a live show-  there goes the neighbourhood..

The Pub: The Rose and Crown, Common Road, Chorleywood, WD3 5LW

The pub is a short walk from the station, heading along Station Approach Road until crossing to Common Road and heading up the road a few minutes.

The Rose and Crown is located right beside Chorleywood Common, 200 acres of wooded land.  This backdrop is a world away from some of the central London pubs I’ve visited packed in tightly amongst offices, shops and busy roads.  Cows used to graze on the common until World War One.  In recent years I believe cows have been re-introduced in small sections of the common, but this has proved somewhat controversial with a local media report in 2011 claiming a woman was chased by several of them during a walk.

From the exterior,   the pub like a charming small country house. It is divided into a rather cosy front room bar area as well as a larger dining room area at the back.   It was pretty full when we visited so we propped ourselves up at the bar. The pub wasn’t serving food till 6(we arrived at 530) so we made do with Mini Cheddars from the bar.

There was a good showing on the ale front, with Mid-Autumn Gold and the locally brewed Crow’s Nest alongside the standard staples of London Pride and Youngs. The pub prides itself on using local ingredients for its food, beer etc as laid out on a chalk board by the bar. Banter is in turn, provided by the locals it says!

Further adding to the country pub vibe, a dog was sat down in the front room of the pub and at one point, had a quick look behind the bar.  We had a quick chat with the barman and a couple of the locals, all of whom were really friendly.

The Rose and Crown really clicked for me. If you find yourself up in Chorleywood for any reason, definitely pop in!

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Chalfont & Latimer

Moving ever so slightly back towards Central London my next stop was Chalfont & Latimer, in Zone 8.  It began life as Chalfont Road when it opened in 1889, gaining its current name in 1915.  It is the location where a short branch of the Met line heads off to Chesham, with the other section carrying on up to Amersham.

Chalfont & Latimer also has quite a rural feel to it with the mossy ticket office building even looking a bit like a village house. There are some nice intricate details on the pillars holding up the platform canopes alongside some traditional looking signage.

As well as the Met line, it is also served by National Rail services into Marylebone. Again, like Chesham, the frequency of Underground services here is much more akin to National Rail services,  with a frequency of four trains an hour into central London.

The station is located right by the busy A404, with a London Underground roundel attached on a post by that road to catch the eye of passing traffic.

The Pub:  The Sugar Loaf, Station Road, Little Chalfont,  HP7 9PM

The Sugar Loaf is only a couple of minutes walk from the station, heading along the A404 in the direction of Amersham.

Interior wise,  it has the vibe of a contemporary country pub.  There is plenty of wood panelling but the white walls feel like they can’t have been painted too long ago.  On the ale front, there is the ever reliable Landlord from Timothy Taylor, as well as two other solid offerings in Bombardier and Wells IPA.

The pub also has a dining room area in what feels like a conservatory, which in turn backs onto their grassy beer garden.  We didn’t go for any food but their website suggests it is solid pub fare, burgers, steaks, sausage and mash. Good winter food!

There is a side room by the bar with a pool table in it, this also has a TV that I assume is for the football.  It was showing BBC final score during our visit, a banner outside the pub also suggests they have a BT/Sky Sports subscription.

While it wasn’t rammed on the Saturday afternoon we popped in, it certainly had a healthy amount of customers. I’d rank the Sugar Loaf as a solid, if unspectacular, pub.  A definite improvement on our Chesham episode mind you!

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Chesham

Chesham is very much the northern limits of London Underground.  According to wikipedia, it’s 25miles north west of Charing Cross,  making it the furthest station from Central London. It takes around one hour to reach it from Baker Street during the week.

It opened on 8th July 1889 on the Metropolitan Railway. The station itself is quite leafy and has an impressive garden. Back in 1993, it even picked up the accolade of winning the London Underground Garden Competition.  Sadly I think that came a few years too early, had it been in the late 1990s it could have surely cashed in on the ‘Ground Force’ and garden makeovers fad that was doing the rounds then.

It’s currently served by two trains an hour off peak into Central London. I know that seems a world away from Zone 1/2 residents, used to a turn up and go frequency but I guess when you get this far out, the tube is much more like a standard mainline rail service.  So unless you want to enjoy the award winning garden at length, check the timetable before you set off!

The Pub: The Waggon and Horses, 152 High Street, Chesham, HP5 1EF

The Waggon and Horses is a short walk from the station, down Station Road to meet the pedestrianised High Street.   It’s a standard enough looking pub from the outside and has a traditional interior.

At £3.30 for a pint of Doombar, the beer was fairly reasonably priced.  The pub was pretty quiet on a Saturday afternoon and the woman behind the bar was a little confused when I started taking photos.  After I explained it was for this blog, I’d say she was less confused, if only marginally.

I think it might get a bit more rowdy on Saturday Nights, as there was a ‘zero tolerance on drugs’ notice stuck to the door.  When we arrived ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ was playing by Sinead O’Connor, so it hardly felt rowdy.

The Waggon and Horses is a traditional pub really, complete with pool table and fruit machine, with little in the way of decoration on its rather plain walls. It’s not a bad pub, don’t get me wrong.   The beer was perfectly fine and decently priced. That said, it doesn’t really offer anything special or measure up to some of the charming pubs we recently visited on the Met Line at Pinner and Rickmansworth, to name but two.    Not really worth the journey!

Wimbledon

Wimbledon!  Surely one of the most well known ‘areas’ of London, thanks no doubt to the tennis tournament and to a lesser extent, the Wombles.  Well as readers of previous entries will know, if you are travelling to the competition, you are best off getting off at Southfields.  As for the Wombles, I think their litter picking may have been outsourced to Serco or Capita a few years back..

While services on what became the District Line started from Wimbledon in 1889, the mainline railway station itself dates back to 1838. Nowdays it is a significant transport hub with the District Line,  South West Trains and the Croydon Tramlink all serving the Station.

The Pub: The Alexandra, 33 Wimbledon Hill Road,  SW19 7NE

Wimbledon feels like a large-ish town centre in itself, with plenty of shops in the immediate vicinity of the station, as well as the aptly named ‘Centre Court Shopping Centre.’  En route to the pub we also came across the latest in my strange statues/artwork collection – something that appeared to be a Deer opposite the Waitrose.

A short walk up Wimbledon Hill Road will bring you to The Alexandra.  I’ve been told it is one of the flagship pubs in the Youngs Portfolio. When we visited on a Saturday evening, it wasn’t hard to see why. The place was heaving but we managed to grab a seat in the downstairs sports bar.   I really liked the traditional wooden interior and visible beams. Also just visible in the photo from the gallery is a old mirror for Hoopers Mineral Water – another nice touch.

I also think it makes a refreshing change that somewhere branded as a sports bar/area actually has character. Plenty of places in London think its enough to throw a few football/rugby shirts on the wall and cover the wall with TVs.

As well as the sports bar, there is also the slightly more modern looking Green Bar, as well as The Lounge Bar which I think was closed/hired out when we were there. The Roof Terrace was open but it was was rammed to capacity. Given it was getting on in the evening by the time we visited,  we didn’t get a chance to try the food but the menu looks like good solid pub fare.

The Alex, as many people call it,  seems a really lively, vibrant pub.  I would definitely recommend  it to anyone passing through Wimbledon. I would assume most people who live locally probably know it only too well!

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