Bank

Bank Station gets a fair bit of stick from Londoners, all things considered.  It topped a poll by YouGov last year for the most hated tube station, which I would imagine is due to its complexity.  If you include Monument as part of the wider complex, it is served by no less than five Underground lines, as well as the DLR.  The various lines are linked by a confusing network of escalators.   Shortly after I first moved to London, we managed to lose one of my friends in the station for the best part of an hour as they used the lift but we had no idea where the lift came out!

Bank Station first opened as ‘City’, on the Waterloo and City Railway.  Up until 1994, the Waterloo and City Line was considered part of the British Rail Network but was sold to London Underground for the nominal fee of £1 as part of rail privatisation. The Waterloo and City platforms are also served by the only vertical travelator on the whole network, which in my eyes redeems the station somewhat!

The City and South London Railway arrived in 1900 –  the chief engineer for that project, James Henry Greathead is commemorated with a statue by the station. His invention, the travelling shield,  made the construction of the deep level tube lines possible  The Central London Railway service also started later that year. The most recent addition, the DLR platforms, opened in 1991.

The City and South London Railway ticket hall was built on the site of the crypt of the church of St Mary Woolnoth, which is still standing.  Until a major refurbishment of the station in the 1990s that ticket hall still had a distinctly crypt feel to it, as a photo in Andrew Martin’s excellent book ‘Underground, Overground’, shows clearly.

The Pub: Jamaica Wine House, St. Michael’s Alley, Cornhill, EC3V 9DS

Heading up from Bank Station onto Cornhill, the Jamaica Wine House is down the narrow St. Michael’s Alley,  one of those typical narrow passageways you find at the heart of the city. The building looks very historic from the exterior, which is perhaps not surprising considering it dates from 1652 when it was London’s first coffee house. Its own website states that Samuel Pepys,  Londoner and diary extraordinaire,  used to frequent it.

The interior is also suitably traditional. The downstairs is divided into sections with plenty of wood panelling throughout.  As a Shepherd Neame pub, the first I think I’ve visited on the trail so far, you get their usual selection of ales such as Spitfire and Master Brew.   We visited at what must be its peak time, 5pm on a Friday so it was pretty busy with workers from the nearby banks and other businesses. There is also a more modern looking wine bar upstairs,  but we stuck in the pub area.

I really liked The Jamaica Wine House. To me, it is a great example of the kind of traditional pubs which really add something to both the character and spirit of life in London.   It is certainly worth a visit, but bear in mind like much else in this area, it is closed at weekends!

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Wembley Park

Wembley! ‘The Heart Of Football’. Pele’s words, not mine.  Wembley Park Station predates the original incarnation of the stadium first opened on the Metropolitan Line on 14th October 1893. It was built to serve the pleasure gardens created at Wembley Park by Edward Watkin, the then chairman of the Metropolitan Railway.

The original park was sold on by the company when the site was selected for the British Empire exhibition of 1924. The stadium that was built for the exhibition of course became the original Wembley Stadium, itself subsequently demolished in 2002 with the replacement finally opening in 2007.

Today, the station is served both by the Metropolitan Line and the Jubilee Line(transferred from Bakerloo in 1979) which calls at the intermediate stops between there and Wembley Park. It was comprehensively rebuilt in the early 2000s to deal with the demands of the new stadium.  Having used it after several match days,  I have to say it does work fairly well. You have to be fairly quick on your toes after the full time whistle goes mind you or you’ll be shut behind Police Horses controlling entry to the station for awhile.

The Pub: Watkin’s Folly, 1 Empire Park, HA9 oEW

Wembley Park Station feels rather deserted on a non-match day.  The new arch of Wembley looms large on the horizon, but no-one’s home.It was rather rainy and bleak on our visit so we tried to head somewhere close to the station. We stumbled on a place called ‘Watkin’s Folly.’   This refers to the tower Edward Watkin had started to build as part of his amusement gardens at Wembley.    At a proposed 358 metres, it would have been taller than The Shard and loomed large over London.  Sadly it never quite got off the ground(excuse the pun..) and work stopped at 47 metres. It was demolished in 1907.

Like Wembley Park Station,   the pub was very quiet on our visit.  I would imagine it would be absolutely rammed on match days and probably not that enjoyable.   The seating is red throughout with a mixture of sofas and chairs. With the lights on the ceiling changing colour periodically combined with the shiny floor, it has a bit of a Casino vibe to it.  There were no ales on tap during our visit so we settled for a Kronenberg. We didn’t eat here after the fine food at Amersham, but it does both traditional English dishes and Indian Tapas.

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with Watkins Folly.  However if you are after a drink before matchday, I would recommend perhaps going around Baker Street to The Volunteer or Great Portland Street to The Albany before jumping on the Met line.   That said,  it might be worth a go before a gig at Wembley Arena. The drinks will certainly be cheaper than they are inside the arena!

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Amersham

As far as the tube map goes, Amersham is at the very edge, the northern limit. However Chesham is actually the furthest in miles from Central London.  The station first opened on 1st September 1892 on the Metropolitan Railway and was renamed to Amersham and Chesham Bois, reverting to its original name in 1937.

While Amersham now marks the end of the Metropolitan Line, this wasn’t always the case.  Up until 1961, the Metropolitan Line extended as far as Aylesbury as this map shows , while the old Metropolitan Railway that preceded it went as far as ‘Verney Junction’, 50miles north of Baker Street, until 1936.  The service north of Amersham is now solely provided by Chiltern Railways as part of the National Rail network.

Amersham Station itself has quite a British Rail look with plenty of paintwork in the traditional BR Red seen across the rail network in the 1980s and 1990s.  I rather liked the old footbridge connecting the two platforms. The more functional red one behind it is far less attractive!

The Pub: The Saracens Head Inn,  38 Whielden Street, Amersham, HP7 OHU

First things first, I will admit The Saracens Head is a fair walk from Amersham Station.  But all the suggestions I received via friends and on Twitter was to head into Old Amersham. Plus if you’re going to come this far out, might as well strive to find a good place. Given it’s the last station on the line, there are also no fears about straying too close to another station!

Once you’ve completed the walk into the picturesque Old Amersham down either Rectory Hill or Station Road, you will find The Saracens Head on Whielden Street, which is just off The Broadway.  From the exterior, it looks like a very traditional pub, or should I say inn, because there are rooms for the night above the pub. The building itself apparently dates from 1530, which surely must make it one of the oldest I’ve visited so far!

Inside, it feels like a classic country pub complete with low ceiling and wooden beams. There was also a roaring fire on the go on our visit. The walls are decorated with photos of Amersham in days gone by.  The small outside courtyard serves as a garden.  On the ale front,  we went for Old Speckled Hen, there are also other Greene King ales available.   The food is also impressive too, I had a lovely Lasagne, perfect for a drizzly winter day.  The ‘Jerk Chicken Caesar Salad’ looked very intriguing, but I felt like something more hearty after our long trip to Zone 9.

Regular readers may remember Derek Acorah was holding court recently up in Chorleywood, perhaps he should have come here instead. The pub’s website says two ghosts roam the building, one is apparently a serving wench from the 17th century while the other remains a mystery. I’m sure Derek could clear that one up in minutes…

While there is no denying Amersham is a very long way from central London,  The Saracens Head is a top pub and well worth visiting if you’re in the vicinity.

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Stockwell

Stockwell Station opened as the southern terminus of the City and South London Railway on 18th December 1890.  At street level, the station has been rebuilt twice – first in the 1920s ahead of the Modern extension of the line and more recently at the start of the 1970s when the Victoria Line service started here in 1971.  This again means the buildings are pretty unspectacular.

The station is also associated with the tragic killing of  unarmed and totally innocent Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes,  shot by Police Officers the day after the failed 21st July 2005 bombing attempt on the Underground Network after a case of mistaken identity. There is a shrine to De Menezes outside the station.

When the Victoria Line was being upgraded about five years back and was shut most Sundays,  I would get the replacement bus here to Brixton at the crack of dawn to get to the Ritzy where I worked at the time.  What immediately grabbed my attention and something I’ve always liked since is the former deep level air raid shelter that now has a very colourful mural painted on it, commemorating those who lost their lives in war.

The Pub:  Queens Head, 144 Stockwell Road, SW9 9TQ

Exiting Stockwell Station, you don’t really get the feeling there are any pubs in the immediate vicinity.  We weren’t 100% sure ourselves on where to go in this instance,  so we began heading up Stockwell Road in the direction of Brixton.  It took a few minutes but we eventually stumbled on the The Queens Head.  From the exterior, you already get the feel this more of ‘Queens Head’ in the style of the Sex Pistols, rather than a traditional regal pub.

The interior itself continues on this punk/alternative scene.  With the candles in old wine bottles and comfy yet slightly weathered sofas, I have to say it felt rather similar to a pub I might find in my home city of Brighton.   With Doombar on tap, all was well on the ale front.  There is also an old piano in one corner of the pub.  Initially I thought it may just be a relic of a bygone era but after doing some post-visit research,   The Queens Head hosts regular open mic/spoken word events so I assume the piano plays an active role in that.

There is also a pleasant enough beer garden out the back which would no doubt come in handy if we luck out in 2014 Summerwise like we did last year.   The pub was fairly quiet on our midweek early evening visit but had a welcoming vibe.  It’s not too far from Brixton tube either, so if you’re in the area and fancy going a little bit further from the Dogstar and co for your pints,  I strongly recommend popping in here.  The open mic nights also sound pretty lively so maybe time your visit around then!

Oval

When you think of Oval cricket always springs to mind, due to the ground of the same name.  With the recent demolition of England in the Ashes, perhaps that’s not such a good thing..

The station opened on the same day as the first stretch of the City and South London Railway, 18th December 1890. Sadly like all the stops on this part of the line bar Kennington, the original building was demolished in the 1920s.  The current station building is relatively non-descript and was modernised in the late 2000s. The old school lighting by the escalators is an endearing feature mind you.   The walls of the station have also been brightened up by images of cricketers in action, just in case you forgot where you were.

The underground river Effra(a name familiar to all Brixton residents) flows under the station. According to Ed Glinert’s comprehensive London Compendium, it flooded the station during the Second World War when engineers were trying to construct a bomb shelter.

The Pub: The Brown Derby, 336 Kennington Park Road, SE11 4PP

The Brown Derby was not our planned pub to visit for Oval. We had a few potential options to look at as we began to head South from Oval, along Kennington Park Road.  However the lit up interior of the Brown Derby just looked so interesting we had to drop in. The exterior is fairly low key, albeit in a funky kind of way that suits the venue well.

When we got in, we weren’t disappointed.   The interior is really eclectic with globes, old gramophones and a traditional jukebox scattered around the place.  My favourite item being the fans shaped as leaves just above the bar.The mixture of exposed brick at the bar and red walls in the back section, combined with the darkish lighting all  add to the ambiance of the place.   The comfy chairs and sofas help make it feel like a cosy place to have a drink.

You may be forgiven for thinking somewhere like here would skimp back on the ales, far from it! On our visit there were four ales available on tap, including the ever reliable Doombar,  Tribute and for an added bonus, Sussex Best from Harveys.  It also has a wide range of cocktails too, as you might more obviously expect.

I must admit, it was the fans shaped like leaves that drew me to the place, as it reminded me of a bar my friends and I used to drink at when we were at University, just near Warren Street.   When chatting to the barman, I found out that Brown Derby effectively was a reincarnation of that bar, which had been called Positively Fourth Street. Looking around,  some of the decor did look familiar.

The Brown Derby was really unexpected but a great find.  I would definitely recommend a visit here, it’s one of my favourites on the trail so far! There is also something calming about those fans…

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Kennington

Kennington Station sits at one of those junctions where to the uninitiated, the Northern Line suddenly gets more complex.  It first opened on 18th December 1890 on the City and South London Railway, which is now forms part of Bank branch of the Northern Line.  In 1926,  the Charing Cross, Euston and Hampstead Railway(no prizes for guessing where it went..) was extended to reach Kennington and two new platforms were built.     Kennington is the location where heading northwards, the Northern line branches off to either Bank or Charing Cross.

In the near-future, Kennington will also be where the Northern Line extension veers off to Battersea, with all Charing Cross trains eventually running through to there.  The potential citing of ventilation shafts has caused concerns among local residents in the area.

Kennington Station, with its impressive domed roof, is the only survivor from the opening of the CSLR in 1890 – all the others on this stretch of the line have subsequently been rebuilt.  Like other stations of this era, it has lifts down to the platform level. After some of my friends got trapped in one of them during the Summer, I started taking the stairs more often..

The Pub: The Old Red Lion, 42 Kennington Park Road,  SE11 4RS

Kennington Station was one of my local tube stations for the last flat I lived in before moving out of London in October,  so I know the pubs in the area pretty well. In a way this made it harder to choose a pub, but in the end we went for The Old Red Lion.    Despite living in the area for 10months,  the first time I visited was just as I was moving out.  I was looking for a pub to host my birthday party and leaving drinks, and a couple of friends recommended here.

From the outside, it looks  like a very traditional pub with its tudor style frontage, the building itself is also Grade II listed. The interior is divided into three rooms, two which back onto the bar and one at the rear of the pub which opens out onto the garden,  The rooms are all quite cosy, with wooden beams and comfy seats.  They have a rotating and interesting selection on the ale front,  I went for the Twickenham Ale on our visit here. It also has an extensive food menu and from what I saw others having looked really good.  Sadly nobody in our group went for the Octopus Stew though!

The Old Red Lion is part of the Antic chain of pubs.  There are plenty across South London including one of my favourite pubs, The Tram and Social in Tooting,  as well as plenty of others dotted around. The staff were all very friendly during our visit too – one of the photos from the gallery shows the flowers one of the barmaids had arranged so nicely by the bar.

Kennington is an area well served by pubs,  no doubt one of the reasons I enjoyed living there so much. The Old Red Lion is a great pub and well worth a visit – it’s also a great place to have a party!

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