Alperton

The station first opened as Perivale Alperton on 28th June 1903 on the Metropolitan District Railway’s extension to South Harrow. It was renamed as Alperton in 1910. Services from the station were transferred over to the Piccadilly Line in 1932. Shortly after this, the station was rebuilt. The Charles Holden designed ticket hall feels distinctly European to me, with its high ceiling and two banks of windows letting light into the wide, open space.

Alperton used to have the distinction of being one of only two stations on the Underground(Greenford being the other) with an escalator up,rather than down, to the platforms.  The escalator in question actually began life on the South Bank in 1951 as part of the Festival of Britain celebrations.  It now disused but remains in the station as this photo demonstrates. 

The Pub: The Pleasure Boat, 346 Ealing Road, HA0 1BH

The area around Alperton Station is fairly industrial, with lots of small factory type units on the surrounding roads. The Pleasure Boat is a short walk along Ealing Road. If you head towards the big green tower block, you can’t miss it!

I think perhaps the best way to describe The Pleasure Boat is forlorn. The interior of the pub is rather non-descript and bleak, with little or no decorations on the white walls where the paint has started to peel and discolour in places. The seating is also suitably basic and weathered.  The pub was empty when we arrived, adding to the air of desolation. It only opens three days a week, Thursdays to Saturdays from 6pm onwards,  further suggesting this is not a pub in the best of health.

It also advertises a garden beside the Grand Union canal. Surrounded by broken tables and with weeds threatening to invade the patio area, this too has seen better days. Oddly enough, an area of it now seems to have been given over to a hand car wash – a business you assume is open more frequently than the pub.

At the front of the pub there is another outside seating area, so we chose to go there. It backs onto a rather busy road so it isn’t the nicest spot either. There was no ale available so from the limited selection available, I went for a Budweiser.  A few people had arrived by the time we left so it wasn’t completely deserted, it still didn’t suggest the Disco, which was starting at 8pm, would be busy in any way.

With its limited opening hours and small clientele, I wouldn’t bet on the Pleasure Boat still being open by the time I finish this blog.  And while it pains me to see any pub close, this is clearly one that has run aground and in need of some fresh ideas and direction. Sadly its position on the edge of a main road and surrounded by industrial parks makes me feel there won’t be a queue of people lining up to take it on.

(The pub has no website)

Park Royal

Park Royal Station first opened in June 1903 as Park Royal and Twyford Abbey,  on the Metropolitan District Railway’s extension to South Harrow. It was built to serve the Park Royal showgrounds.  When the Piccadilly Line took over the District Line services in 1931,  the station was re-sited and reopened as ‘Park Royal’.  In 1936, its name was modified again to Park Royal (Hanger Hill), but this was dropped in 1947 and it returned to its previous name.

Architecturally the station,rebuilt in 1936 in an art-deco, modernist style,  is a marvellous example of the kind of designs that help to make London Underground so iconic. As with a station not too far from here(Chiswick Park), the ticket hall is topped with a tower –  a totem to the tube you could say!

The Pub: Ten Pin Acton, Royale Leisure Park, Western Avenue, W3 0PA

Exiting Park Royal Station, you find yourself bang on the edge of the A40 with several lanes of traffic thundering past as well as an abandoned looking factory. It is certainly not the most welcoming vista you will see on leaving a station. However if you look into the distance, you will see several familiar sights of the London skyline.

Being on the edge of a main trunk road, pubs are hard to come by in these parts. With options limited, I took the suggestion of the bar in the Bowling Alley on the Park Royal Leisure Complex a couple of minutes south of the station.  As well as the ‘Ten Pin’ bowling alley, there is a Vue cinema and several eateries such as KFC, Burger King, Pizza Hut and Nandos. Fun for all the family!

The bar area is based behind the bowling lanes. There are a mixture of high ‘bar stool’ type seating as well as chairs slightly closer to the ground. Perhaps unsurprisingly the bar had no ales available so we opted for a couple of bottles of Peroni. On the food front, it seemed like the standard sports bar fare with platters, wedges, onion rings and the like.  As well as a couple of fruit machines, there is a fussball table within the bar area. The overall complex also has a Sky Sports Licence.

Finding somewhere to drink near a station that is by a major trunk road was always going to be challenge. For me there was a definite novelty value in visiting a bar in a bowling alley which helped add to the fun. I’m not quite sure what reason you will have to get off at Park Royal but if you do want a drink nearby, you don’t really have many other options!

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North Ealing

North Ealing marks the start of my journey West on the Piccadilly Line’s Uxbridge branch.  The station itself definitely has the air of an outer London station, with trees and greenery prominent on both platforms.It first opened on 23rd June 1903 on the Metropolitan District Railway’s extension from Ealing Common to Park Royal and Twyford Abbey. In July 1932, District Line services were withdrawn and replaced with Piccadilly Line services which took over the route to Uxbridge.

Perhaps to be in keeping with its leafy suburban surroundings,  the station’s colour scheme seems to be green and white.  The platforms both have traditional shelters, complete with decorative canopies, although one is far smaller than the other.  The footbridge linking the two platforms feels like one you might come across at a village railway station.

The Pub: The Greystoke, 7 Queens Parade, W5 3HU

To reach The Greystoke, it is a short walk up Station Road until you hit Queen’s Drive – you can’t miss it! From the outside it looks like your typical turn of the century pub, with a plain brick frontage. The old style lamps above the main doors are a nice touch and the window boxes help to add a little colour.

The interior is fairly spacious with the bar towards the front of the pub, near the main doors. There is a large area towards the back of the building. I would say by the look of it these used to be separate rooms which have all been knocked through. It is decorated in a fairly inoffensive if generic fashion, as seen by the beige-ish coloured walls.

In its favour, The Greystoke does have a few ales on tap, with Greene King and Bombardier both available when we dropped by. To their credit, they also offer 10% off for CAMRA members. It has a fairly standard ‘pub grub’ style menu, with an emphasis on burgers.  There are also fruit machines but sadly no quiz machine.  The pub also has a small outside seating area near its car park.

On the early Saturday evening we visited, the pub was fairly busy.  While The Greystoke is a perfectly amiable pub, I don’t think it has enough to it to really warrant a visit. I suppose its relatively low key and inoffensive nature is in keeping with the quiet, leafy suburban area around it.

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Stepney Green

Stepney Green brings to a close the Eastern leg of my journey for now. Like Bow Road, it also opened on 11th June 1902 on the Metropolitan District Railway’s ‘Whitechapel and Bow’ venture.

The station itself has been preserved well over time, with few modern alterations.  It feels particularly atmospheric at platform level with the arched brickwork roof supporting the road above. I was also rather taken with the decorative pillars on one side of them.On the stairs down to the platforms, there is a very old looking ‘To The Trains’ sign painted on the wall. I can’t make my mind up whether it really is that old or is a contemporary copy of those signs from way back when.  Have a look in the gallery and tell me what you think!

The Pub: The Half Moon, 213-223 Mile End Road, E1 4AA

The Half Moon is a couple of minutes from Stepney Green Station, heading East along Mile End Road.  It is a Wetherspoons, the second I have visited on the crawl so far.  The pub itself is based in an impressive building – part of it being in a former Methodist Chapel. This area of the pub is called the ‘Chapel Bar’ and its domed roof certainly conveys the air of a place of worship.  The Half Moon spans out into a modern extension, which is kept light and airy thanks to its glass frontage.  There is also an outside patio seating area which is fairly pleasant and helped by the fact it is set back a little bit from the main road.

The Half Moon is within walking distance of Queen Mary University, and there were plenty of students here on our Friday evening visit giving the place a lively and friendly vibe.  In terms of drinks, it has a decent selection of ales – Ruddles Best, Otter and a South African IPA among others on our visit. They are also currently riding the craft beers wave, with bottles of Brewdog Punk IPA and Brooklyn Lager. It also has the usual Wetherspoons menu, beer and burger, curry club et all.  I’m sure both are popular with the nearby student population.

As I said on my last visit to a Wetherspoons (at Finchley Road), the chain they divide opinion and comes in for a significant amount of stick.  There is no denying some are grim and depressing, especially those attached or nearby railway stations. Equally there are plenty of decent offerings within their pub stock and The Half Moon definitely falls into this category. It’s a good pub and certainly worth a visit if you live in the vicinity.

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Bow Road

Bow Road opened on 11th June 1902, a week after all the other stations on the Metropolitan District Railway’s ‘Whitechapel and Bow’ venture.   These days, it is served by both the District and Hammersmith and City Lines.

Bow Road Station has a grade two listed booking hall, but as that section of the line was shut for engineering works on our visit(the joys of a replacement bus!), I couldn’t really get inside to do it justice. I got a shot of the exterior but that’s about it.

Talking of the interior,  this station was apparently the first to be fully refurbished by Metronet, the doomed private company that was tasked with upgrading the stations and infrastructure of several Underground lines. As we all know now, they made a right mess of it and went bust in 2007.  Their showing at Bow Road seems to have been no exception.  According to Diamond Geezer’s blog post from 2005, it took them over 600 days to finish what was effectively a minor station upgrade!

The Pub: The Bow Bells, 116 Bow Road, E3 3AA

The Bow Bells is a few minutes East down Bow Road.  You won’t miss it as it is painted in a very distinct shade of orange – the future’s bright!  The pub itself dates back to 1860 which is apparent in its Victorian-era exterior. Regarding the name of the pub, legend has it that only those born within earshot of the ‘Bow Bells’ are true cockneys.  These are not the bells of the nearby Bow Church, but the St Mary-le-Bow church, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, in the City of London on Cheapside.

The Bow Bells has a traditional interior, with the bar in the centre. In their back area, there is a large projector and TV screens to show football and other sports action – they have a Sky Sports licence.  There is also a weekly pub quiz, as well as regular comedy nights upstairs too. The pub has an italian kitchen, perfect for a good pizza.

When we visited, the pub had three excellent ales on tap in the shape of Doombar, London Pride and Timothy Taylor’s Landlord. It also has a good selection of bottled beers and Meantime IPA(from Greenwich, obviously..) on tap too.  There is an interesting tube map on the wall of the gents toilets which replaces the stations with famous footballers. I’m not quite sure of the logic behind it, for example Phil Thompson is Westminster Station while Mark Schwarzer is Camden, but it is certainly interesting!

To me,  The Bow Bells is a good, solid traditional boozer. It’s not too far from Queen Mary University either and I recommend it to all students who appreciate a proper pub!

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Upminster

Upminster marks the end of the District Line. I quite like getting to a terminus of a tube line for the blog, it comes with a sense of achievement. It’s not quite the same as deep level tube lines though, as the National Rail tracks continue from here on their merry journey to Basildon and beyond.  It is also the last of the tube stations on my trail that first opened on 11th June 1902 – so after this I get a new day to write about!

Much of the station has the vibe of a dull ’70s rail station,  complete with strip lighting and functional, rather than decorative platform canopies. Original Victorian-era structures do however survive on platform 1, as can be seen in this Network Rail photo.

The Pub: The Crumpled Horn, 33-37 Corbets Tey Road, Upminster, RM14 2AJ

Upminster is a a sizeable town of its own right within London, with a population of around 25,000.  Walking down Station Road to reach The Crumpled Horn,  you are heading down what feels like a high street in its own right, with several banks, shoe shops, electrical shops and the like.   The pub itself is about 10minutes south from the station, where at which point Station Road becomes the far more interestingly named ‘Corbets Tey Road.’

It’s based within a 1950s style parade of shops with I assume flats above them.  It’s a spacious, bright pub inside thanks to all the windows!  There are a couple of sofas towards the front of the pub that were taken on our visit.  In fact it was pretty busy all round so we took the strategic decision of perching ourselves by the Quiz Machine.  The Crumpled Horn even has a pinball table, which definitely are a rarity in pubs these days.

There are also a few ales on tap, which happily bucks the trend for my other experiences in East London. I went for Brakspear Oxford Gold, which is always a solid choice. We didn’t eat here but the Crumpled Horn has a number of Wetherspoons-esque food nights, such as ‘A Night At the Dogs’ – any footlong hot dog and drink for £6.65. There are also quiz nights on Tuesdays too.

As I said, it was quite busy when we popped in here and had a friendly atmosphere. This is a decent pub and I’d probably pop in again if I were in the area.

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Hornchurch

Hornchurch Station, like the several stops I have just visited,  opened on 11th June 1902 on the Metropolitan District Railway.

As with Dagenham East, Hornchurch Station was rebuilt in 1932 when the District Line services were reinstated after a near 30 year absence.  Again, I’m not particularly overwhelmed by it architecturally but there is a dry cleaners based in the station building, so at least it has some practical merit.

The Pub:  The Railway Hotel, Station Lane,  RM12 6SB

You’ll have no trouble finding the appropriately named ‘Railway Hotel’ from Hornchurch tube, as its just a minute or two down Station Lane.  The pub is situated in a rather large building.  The upper floors are part of a small hotel chain known as ‘Innkeepers Lodge’,  which isn’t directed connected to the operation of the pub.

The interior feels fairly new – the leather backed seats and wallpaper all seems relatively fresh. It is certainly the first pub we have found for a number of stations that feels like it is towards the gastropub ideal. Another welcome rarity in Eastern parts is the availability of ale.  Three decent ales were available on tap on our visit – Adnams Broadside, Greene King IPA and the excellently named Emerald Tiger.

It’s part of the Ember Inns chain of pubs so has a fairly extensive ‘pub grub’ type menu, plus pizzas, curries and the like. I was feeling peckish so opted for the Lasagna, which was hearty enough to prepare me for a few more pubs on the journey. It was only after I visited I discovered its chequered recent history, with tragically one fatality and 33 struck down with food poisoning on Christmas Day 2012.    I assume these problems are now in the past as there were plenty of people eating here on our visit.

This is the second Ember pub I’ve visited on the crawl so far,  following on from The Gate in the leafy suburbs of Northwood on the edge of the Metropolitan Line.  The Railway is a decent enough place for a pint of ale. Don’t expect anything earth-shattering though.  I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit this one.

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