Grange Hill

Now when you mention Grange Hill, the iconic long-running BBC TV kids drama is the first thing that will spring to many peoples minds. The fictional school was actually supposed to be in a suburb of North London so sadly there isn’t connection to the local area or many blue plaques to commemorate where ‘Just Say No’ was first performed.

Grange Hill tube station first opened on the Central Line on 21st November 1948 and like other stations on the Hainault loop, had begun life as a railway station in 1903. While the platform shelters and structures date from the Edwardian period, the rather dull ticket office building is late 1940s, the original having been destroyed by a German V1 bomb during the Second World War.

The Pub: The Two Brewers, 57 Lambourne Road, IG7 6ET

The real world Grange Hill turned out to be incredibly barren for pubs and is definitely one of the furthest walks we’ve had to do. It is however a very easy to follow route, just head East along Lambourne Road for the best part of 25minutes until you stumble on ‘The Two Brewers.’ The Maypole’, slightly closer to the station and my original choice as its still listed as open on some websites was sadly very desolate and permanently closed! Its often said that 30pubs a week are closing across the country – as a general rule I’ve felt quite insulated from that in Central London but I’ve certainly noticed alot of derelict pubs as I’ve headed further out.

It’s a big pub although the relatively low ceiling gives it a cosy vibe. As well as various alcoves with comfy seats, there is also a side room at the back which seems to be the dining area. There is a front garden which has a courtyard feel and I liked the old style ‘London Stout’ and ‘India Pale Ale’  painted onto the walls. They also had a decent selection of board games including Cluedo and Guess Who? The Two Brewers had a nice roaring fire on the go when we visited and combined with the low ceiling and wooden beams, helped create a country pub atmosphere.

The beermats here have information about walks in the nearby Hainault Forest Country Park, which is a nice touch. It was very quiet when we first arrived here and we were practically the only customers but thankfully it started to fill up a bit by the time we left. Ale wise, there was 6X from Wadworth and Brunnings and Price Bitter. I went for the 6X as its always a reliable option. Two pints were only £6.60 which is reasonable these days.  The food menu is mainly traditional British classics, sausage and mash,  roast pork loin and the like. Most mains are around the £12-13 mark.

Now I really liked The Two Brewers and it was a worthy reward after our travails to get here. It’s a very good pub but is a trek from the station. To put it in perspective, you can walk from Warren Street Station down to Leicester Square on the Northern line on foot quicker than the journey from the station to the pub here. I do recommend it but it’s probably a better bet if you’re walking in the nearby countryside rather than as a trip from the tube stop!

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Hainault first opened on the Central Line on the 31st May 1948, serving as the terminus of what was later to become the ‘loop’ when it was extended onto Woodford by the end of that same year. In its previous life as a rail station, it had opened in 1903 only to close five years later before re-opening in 1930.

The majority of the platform buildings such as the art-deco shelters appear to date from its latter period as a train station. The ticket office itself is a dull brick building underneath the bridge carrying the line.

The Pub: The Old Maypole, Fencepiece Road, IG6 2NG

The Old Maypole is another easy pub to find from the station, providing you stay on the right road! Head east onto the New North Road until reaching Fencepiece Road where The Old Maypole is located on the junction with Cleves Road.

The Old Maypole is based in a large, art deco looking building. It’s part of the ‘sizzling’ pub company, not to be confused with the similar ‘flaming grill’ pub company, but both generally seen towards the outer suburban stops of my journey. The bar is near the front entrance of the pub with expansive seating sections past it in either side of the building. One area felt more like a family area as it had one of those ‘grab machines’ where you could win a Minion toy like you might see in seaside funfairs. The decor is pretty generic and inoffensive as you might expect from a chain pub.

There were three ales available on tap, London Pride, Hobgoblin and Greene King IPA, the latter of which was an incredible £4.80 for two pints – I’m not sure if it’s a mid-week offer. Sizzling Pubs have fairly cheap food with Burgers and Fish and Chips available for under £7 – their lasagne is only £5.79!  The Maypole also had a pool table as well as my favourite, a quiz machine. They also have a sports licence and plenty of TVs.  Posters inside the pub advertised regular Karaoke evenings here if you’ll feeling brave. There is a fair amount of outside seating within the pub’s large front patio which has various plants and shrubs in it as well as another sheltered area which I assume is for smokers. In another sign of a suburban pub, it also has a sizeable car park.

The Old Maypole was solid enough although I found it lacked atmosphere a little which perhaps may have been due to its size. Not a bad place for a pint but if I were choosing between the two neighbouring chain pubs, I’d go for the ‘spoons at Fairlop.

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Fairlop became part of the Underground Network on 31st May 1948, along with six other stations on the Great Eastern Railway’s ‘Fairlop loop’ which all transferred to the Central Line on that day as part of the ‘New Works’ programme. The station itself first opened in May 1903.

In keeping with the majority of the Central Line stations on this branch, the buildings here date from its initial opening as a railway station.  When the station was refurbished in 2007, TfL had a green colour scheme reinstated on the platforms in keeping with how it would have been during the 1930s under the LNER rail company.

The Pub: The New Fairlop Oak, Fencepeace Road, IG6 2JP

The Fairlop Oak is a straightforward five minute walk from the station. Simply exit onto Forest Road, heading West along here until reaching a roundabout where the pub will be visible.  It’s in a nice old looking building, complete with hanging baskets and window boxes that remain in bloom even in these winter months. There are also traditional lamps lighting the front of the pub.

It’s a Wetherspoons so the interior has many of its recognisable traits including wooden seating booths and their familiar carpet. There are photos of Old Fairlop on the wall as well as some paintings depicting what I assume could have been the area in much older times!  As well as the main section around with bar with said booths, there is also a back section with a wood beamed roof that reminded me a bit of a barn. There is also a small outside seating area to the side of the main bar.

As a ‘Spoons, there was a solid ale selection. This included Doombar, Ruddles Best, Abbott, Hook Norton and another local beer from my old neck of the woods, Hophead from Dark Star. As it was the middle leg of our journey, I went for the Beer and Burger which certainly did the job.

On the Wednesday evening we dropped in, the Oak was buzzing with a varied crowd of young and old alike – plenty of people were eating in the barn-like section towards the back. The couple of TVs here were on which were showing BBC1.  The Oak has fruit machines but sadly no quiz machines.

The New Fairlop Oak is a good Wetherspoons and decent suburban pub. I’d recommend it as a solid choice for a pint if you’re based around these parts.

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Barkingside joined the Central Line on 31st May 1948 and is my first station from the second batch of stops on the Hainault loop. It first opened on the Great Eastern Railway on their branch line from Woodford to Ilford before becoming part of the London Underground as part of the ‘New Works’ programme.

The station itself remains fundamentally unchanged since its initial opening. The brick ticket hall building has a striking curved roof and is Grade II listed. I really liked the old sign etched into the glass for the ‘General Waiting Room’ on the London bound platform. The platform shelters are in keeping with the others on the route, showing the old company name GER in the supporting structures for the canopies.

The Pub:  The Chequers, 2 High Street, IG6 2DD

Its a straightforward route to the pub and just under 10minutes walk. Head out of the station and through the car park to reach Crown Road, from there turn onto Carlton Drive and then Craven Gardens before reaching Tanners Lane. Head north along the Lane until reaching the High Street where the pub is on the right.

Chequers has only recently reopened – it was earlier known as Ye Olde Investigator, perhaps in part due to its proximity to the police station. For my purposes it reopened in the nick of time as I’m not sure where else I could have gone had it been shut. Inside I could certainly tell it had only just been refurbished as everything felt very fresh. It’s gastropub with a contemporary bright theme – the exposed lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling and modern art on the wall – alongside more traditional aspects such as old black and white photos of the pub. The front section has some comfy sofas in it and the back area felt more laid out for diners. There are also a couple of tables outside the front of the pub.

There were three ales on tap during our visit, Deuchars, Autumn Red and Theakston’s Bitter. On the food side of things, it was your usual gastropub menu with deals including 2-4-1 Pizzas on Monday nights. Live music nights were also advertised as well as a pub quiz every Monday. The Chequers also has a solid selection of board games for a further source of entertainment. It was fairly busy on the Wednesday we popped in, although the back area was pretty quiet.

Overall I enjoyed our visit to the The Chequers. It’s a solid pub and I hope it does well in its new incarnation, especially given it’s the sole survivor round these parts!

(The pub has no website)


Newbury Park

Newbury Park first opened on 14th December 1947 and was initially the terminus of this branch of the Central Line until the completion of the route back to Woodford the following year. It first opened as a rail station on 1st May 1903 on the Great Eastern Railway before being transferred over to the Central Line along with its neighbouring stations in 1947.

The station is an interesting mix of buildings from different architectural styles and time periods. The shelters at platform level are Edwardian and date back to its initial period as a a rail station. The original station buildings here were demolished when the A12 was widened in the 1950s. Plans for a new ticket office when the tube started operating here were the victim of post-war cutbacks – here are plans for ‘what might have been’, designed by Oliver Hill. Thankfully his impressive modernist bus station did survive and opened in 1949. It received a ‘Festival of Britain’ design award in 1951 and is very much of that area. It was Grade II listed in 1981.

The Pub: The Avenue 902-910 Eastern Avenue, IG2 7HZ

Coming out of the station, we were immediately greeted by the busy A12 in our way which didn’t seem like a good omen to me on the pub front. The only place round here, The Avenue, is accessed by using the subway underneath the station and then walking East along Eastern Avenue until you come across the pub a couple minutes down the road.

It’s a large building, some of which is now an Indian restaurant but don’t let that deter you as there is still a pub here. Inside its pretty sparsely decorated with little to brighten up the place. The plain walls look a little weathered and tatty in places. There a couple of pool tables in the side area, alongside some fruit machines. They have a sports licence and the TVs were playing Soccer Saturday here.  Posters above the bar advertised an ‘Open Mic’ night on certain Saturdays.

There were no ales on tap so it was Kronenberg all round. Food is available which I think must come from the restaurant next door as its all cheap kormas and naan bread. It seemed to be quite a locals pub with a small group of punters here who seemed to know each other – that said we didn’t get the eyes following us around the room as we entered. There were some pretty drunk people playing pool who were pretty loud but that only seemed to be towards each other and they left soon after we arrived.

The Avenue has clearly seen better days and seems a little tired in places. I think given its location adjacent to the A12, its always going to be an uphill struggle to get something good going there. While it isn’t the worst place I’ve been to for the blog, I wouldn’t recommend visiting even if you live nearby.

(The pub has no website)

Gants Hill

Gants Hill is another of the tube’s architectural delights from Charles Holden. Here you will find a spacious barrel vaulted underground concourse linking the two platforms which the well travelled reader may notice looks similar to those on the Moscow Metro. This is no coincidence because Holden himself advised in the construction of the Soviet Metro system. A particularly nice touch is the seating incorporated between the lamps.  Sadly I don’t think there are any tales of Stalin or indeed any other Soviet politicians visiting the Hainault loop themselves.  There are no buildings above ground here but the ones below make up for it!

The station opened on 14th December 1947. In its semi completed state it was used as an air raid shelter during the Second World War which had halted its construction.

The Pub: The Valentine, 27-37 Perth Road, IG2 6BX.

Gants Hill station is under a roundabout, to get to the pub make sure you take an exit which is signposted for Perth Road. Once you get on this street you quickly come across The Valentine as its a large building that stands out from its neighbours.

Inside, its big interior is certainly put to good use when it comes to TV screens – the pub advertises itself as a ‘Premier Sports Bar’ and there were loads of screens on during our visit as well as a few large projecters. The majority were showing Soccer Saturday so it really did feel like Jeff Stelling was all around us. I don’t think I’ve seen this many screens in a pub, excluding obvious places like the Sports Cafe, outside of the US.

It was starting to get dark when we got here and the place was given some extra illumination in the shape of bright lights strewn from the ceiling. There was quite an open space around the big projector screen and I think this must become their dancefloor when they have DJs at the weekends. Posters on the walls also advertised regular Karaoke sessions too as well as a pub quiz. It was starting to fill up on our visit but there was still a fair amount of free seats left.

There were no ales on tap so it was lager all round. Food came in the shape of Chicago Town Pizza for £6.50, a bit more than in the supermarkets but at least they admit that’s where they come from unlike another pub I visited on the trail! The Valentine also had a back garden but it was far too cold for venturing outside.

If you want to watch sports, and probably any sport at that, then The Valentine is your place. Even if you aren’t, it seemed alright to me! I quite liked the novelty of all the screens, especially when Chris Kamara popped up..

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Redbridge station opened on 14th December 1947 on the Central Line’s eastern extension. Like other stations on the branch, its initial opening was delayed by World War Two.  During the war, the completed tunnels here were used by the company Plessey as a factory for aircraft parts.

The station building is another solid effort from Charles Holden, complete with a circular ticket hall and a tower with the Underground roundel on it. The Essex County emblem is on the tiles as you make your way towards the platforms. It was Grade II listed in June 2011.

The Pub: The Red House, Redbridge Lane East, IG4 5BG

Redbridge is very suburban and there wasn’t much by the way of pubs here. The only real option, which we had to go for, is the Beefeater which is opposite the station and on the ground floor of a Premier Inn. If you’re coming here, be careful because google sometimes lists its location as half way up the road where it most certainly isn’t!

As a Beefeater Grill based within a Premier Inn, it probably won’t come as much surprise when I say it had a pretty generic interior here. There wasn’t much of note here and it felt a bit like an airport bar as it lacked any real distinguishing features or atmosphere. On the plus side, there was a quiz machine. There were a couple of TV screens which were only showing an episode of Come Dine With Me on Channel Four.

There were no ales available on tap so we had to make do with Stella – there were to their credit a few bottled ales available including Old Speckled Hen. The food is standard ‘grill’ fare – burgers, steaks, ribs and other pub staples like Fish and Chips. Unlike the Flaming Grill and other chain pubs it’s not cheap and most mains are over £11 There is also has a small garden which backs onto a busy road and roundabout so am not sure how enjoyable it would be. There were only a few people here on our late Saturday afternoon visit. I did visit a similar Premier Inn/Beefeater double header out in Northwick Park, to their credit this one was a lot cleaner.

I think it doesn’t take much thought to imagine a Beefeater under a Premier Inn not being the most inspiring place to have a drink. Unless you like that prospect, I wouldn’t really recommend coming here!

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