End of the Line..

So that’s that then, all 270 stations done. Below are my final thoughts on this three year epic pub crawl – I thought it would be a nice way to bring things to a close and offer some of my reflections on the experience!

The Journey

For something that took so long to do, the idea came to me relatively quickly. I had thought about doing a blog featuring pub reviews for a couple of weeks, following on from a conversation with a friend who runs a successful blog himself. I was thinking over a few potential ideas in my head as simply visiting random pubs didn’t seem to have a hook to it. On a Sunday evening I was watching a BBC2 documentary on the History of the Tube – I’ve been fascinated by the Underground for years. I remember seeing some of the guests talk about some of Charles Holden’s station designs on the Piccadilly Line like Arnos Grove and Southgate. I began thinking,  I’d love to visit them and then suddenly the two ideas came together – I’d visit a pub for every station on the tube! I remember excitedly telling my flatmate who thought it was a great idea. I then quickly fixed on the idea of doing it in the order they opened. I went on Wikipedia, printed myself a list off of all the stations in the date they opened and agreed with a friend we’d kick off that Friday (8th March 2013) – at Paddington where the first Underground train had departed on 9th January 1863.

We made good progress early on, stations were predominantly on the Circle/Hammersmith and City Line so it was just about darting around Zone 1 and 2. At that stage, I wasn’t too scientific about where we visited and we generally just had a bit of a wander around. However after visiting the underwhelming Phoenix for Bayswater and finding there had been better options nearby, I resolved to do better research for each stop – after all I only got one go at each station.

With stations easily accessible, I had little trouble persuading friends to join me and made very quick progress. I hit the 50 station mark by the end of June 2013. Going into the summer, I planned to slow the pace a little as I had my Masters dissertation due in and the stations were starting to get further out. To everyone’s shock – including my own! – I then accepted a job back in my home city of Brighton and Hove and left London in September 2013. Because I’d already got a fair way in, there was never any question in my mind about stopping. I was coming back to London frequently to see friends so I began to fit it around those trips. It was a bit ironic that was exactly the same time as we began heading to some of the furthest outposts of the network on the Metropolitan Line.

Away from London, I still kept a steady pace up when I could, reaching the 100th station at West Ham and the ‘memorable’ Greyhound Pub in March 2014. My progress in part was helped by some marathon sessions while I was up, 8 stops on the Northern and Central Lines being my record for one trip I believe. After a year I was back in London, ironically living near Paddington and where I’d started the blog! Towards the end of 2014 and early 2015, the pace began to slow somewhat. Visiting the North West edges of the Bakerloo and Jubilee Lines, as well as some on the Met and Piccadilly Lines, produced little in the way of good pubs and often involved quite a trek to the only watering hole. Even in these stages, the blog was still fun, it just became a little trying in places.

Once we had finally done these sections by Summer 2015, things began looking up. We had some great run of pubs on the Northern parts of the High Barnet of the Northern Line. The Eastern parts of the Central Line also proved to generally be pretty solid, even if took an age to get between the stations on the end of the loop due to then poor train frequencies. The final stages of the blog felt very much like the victory lap, with top pubs on both the Victoria and Jubilee Line extension stations. 

I wanted to go out with a bang so set the end date for the Defectors Weld several weeks in advance so friends would be able to attend. In the end, it was a great afternoon/evening as we spent many hours in there. Gathering together many of the people that had come along for various parts of the journey, it felt like a fitting send off to a mammoth three year project.

The Pubs

So now it’s over, what have I learnt about London pubs? Well the first point is pretty upbeat, there are countless excellent boozers scattered right across the capital. That’s what’s always made it so hard for me to compile best of lists, although I have done a few along the way which I’ve included at the bottom in my media summary.  I’ve been very lucky in the fact so many were good because it would have been a real drag visiting dive after dive every night. Many have also had real history to them, like the Hoop and Grapes near Aldgate that survived the Great Fire of London or Ye Olde Mitre Tavern in High Barnet which dates back to the 17th century. I’ve also seen pubs spring up in some unusual buildings, The Coronet in an old cinema on Holloway Road and the Leyton Technical in the grand old Technical College building in Leyton being two fine examples.

The majority of the time, I was able to find pubs fairly easily. A couple of stations were a particular challenge and for Park Royal, located on the A40 road, I ended up at a bar in a bowling alley! I was generally able to keep to my rule that the pub couldn’t be closer to any other tube stations, but in some areas that wasn’t possible and when that was the case, I made sure the pub in question was the closest to that particular stop, even if there were other tube stations closer. The pub closing down in Heathrow Terminal 4 was a right pain too…

The blog hasn’t just been about the pubs so I’ve also come to appreciate first-hand how incredible much of the architecture on the Tube really is. If you’re into that kind of thing, I thoroughly recommend exploring as many Charles Holden stations as possible. Uxbridge and Southgate being two particular favourites of mine. Trust me its thirsty work so you’re lucky you have plenty of pub recommendations afterwards…

When it’s come to what I’ve judged the pubs on, I’ve always valued somewhere that is true to itself. I love a traditional pub with bags of history and character but equally I think modern pubs can be really homely too. It just has to be done well – I can’t stand a pub which puts ‘Ye Olde Fish and Chips’ on the menu and pretends to have history to it in order to lure in the tourists, nor one that goes gastropub by numbers with modern art, whitewashed walls and ‘artisan’ sides for £5. London isn’t static so some of the pubs I visited back in 2013 may be somewhat different now. I know of a couple that have closed, including the Wetherspoons at Finchley Road O2 Centre which is now a Pizza Express.  Talking of Spoons, I have no problem with them and visited several decent ones on the journey. I also came across pub chains I’d never heard of before such as the Flamin’ Grill with their ‘flaming guarantee’ – I came across quite a few of these pubs in the suburbs.

My tastes for beer have always been consistent, a good solid bitter like Doombar, Tribute, London Pride or Youngs Bitter or Special. Sightings of Harveys Sussex Best also made me very happy… Food wise, it’s usually a burger for me. I figured doing this is in the first place was pretty adventurous so I felt no pressure to be overly experimental in other ways. Plus hey, I know what I like…

The People

I couldn’t have done this without my friends. I visited all 270 stops with at least one friend, often with a couple and sometimes big groups depending on the destination. They put up with long tube journeys to some truly bizarre destinations. I’ve had many people join me but three deserve particular credit for the amount of trips they came on, Lee Butcher, Saam Das and Dan Smith, take a bow! Sometimes groups of friends – including my current flatmates –met for the first time on one of the blog sessions.  I loved it when we got a big group out as it felt like we were bringing people together. I was also extremely grateful to anyone who sent across/tweeted pub recommendations – there have been plenty but Sarah Clark(@londoonhamer) and Stix (@JeffKennaLeague) stand out on that score.

I was always able to fit the blog around my life, it just meant going out to a random tube station for drinks rather than one of our regular haunts. Again, that’s why I must salute the patience of my friends over the past three years. I also knew deep down I was always going to finish it, I’m too stubborn not to.

Media Fun

Ever since I started the blog, I was trying to get media coverage to spread the idea of it further. In my mind, an idea combining the tube and pubs, two things so iconic to London, seemed like a sure-fire hit. I’ve been lucky in the interest that both Londonist and the TimeOut blog showed to me over the journey. Now as good an idea as I thought it was, I’ve really been taken aback by the press coverage I’ve had over the last couple of weeks. While daunting, they were an incredible experience in their own right where I hope my own enthusiasm for the journey came across to those who interviewed me. I also must thank them for taking the blog to audiences’ way beyond my expectations.

What’s Next?

Now it’s over, what’s next? Well I’ve had so much fun doing this so it’s definitely not the end! I don’t want to rush into the next project. It will definitely involve pubs of London but I’m open minded on the hook. It would be very easy to jump straight on the Overground but I’ll give it some thought first. If anyone has any good ideas, please let me know!

Equally I’d also gladly take the idea on the road if any benevolent types in different parts of the UK or foreign cities are reading this would like to fund such an undertaking! I can imagine having a great time out in Berlin or Budapest. I think it would also make a great TV show, BBC4, you know it makes sense. I’d also love to turn the INNside track journey into a book so if there are publishers reading this, please get in touch.

Finally, thank you to everyone whose been reading over these last three years and sending over pub tips. I hope you’ve enjoyed the reviews almost as much as I enjoyed visiting the pubs. Cheers!

Press Roundup

May 2013

Londonist

March 2014

TimeOut Blog – 10 of my favourites from the first 100

April 2014

Londonist

April 2015

News shopper

July 2015

TimeOut Blog – ’10 Most Surprising Pubs’

November 2015

This is Local London

January 2016

Evening Standard Online

February 2016

Londonist – Interview

Business Insider

March 2016

The Artefact Magazine

Daily Telegraph

Daily Telegraph Feature Section

Evening Standard

ITV London News Website

ITV London News Website – Top 10 Pubs

Metro News

Munchies(Vice News Food/Drink blog)

TimeOut

Yahoo News

Advertisements

Wood Lane

So here we are, the final stop – Wood Lane. I intend to do a full post reflecting back on the journey and my experiences along the way so I’ll leave most of the reflections for then. The current Wood Lane station opened on Sunday 12 October 2008 on the Hammersmith and City Line, the day before my 21st birthday! It was also during a pretty tumultuous period for Britain as the plans for the initial wave of the bank bailout were being formulated that weekend. In some ways it is ironic then that Wood Lane itself opened due to the arrival of the Westfield, a massive shopping mall, at exactly the time the retail boom of the past 15 years was coming to a close. It has been served by the Circle Line since December 2009 when it was extended down to Hammersmith.

Building wise, it’s quite an interesting structure. As its built up on a brick embankment(delights of Hammersmith and City Line!), they have left the exposed brick arches within the concourse area. The ticket office building itself, with its very slightly slanted glass windowed frontage, reminded me a bit of nearby White City while another nice historical touch was the old Underground roundel logo on the glass wall by the steps up to one of the platforms.

There had previously been two stations of the same name – One being slightly further south on the same stretch of the Hammersmith and City/Circle Line. It opened in 1908 as the Olympic Games and the Great Exhibition both took place nearby. It then closed during WW1 and when it finally reopened in 1920, only operated on an ad hoc basis when events were taking place in the nearby exhibition centre. It was renamed to White City in 1947 and then closed permanently following a fire in 1959. The other opened as the Western terminus of the Central Line in 1908 and closed in 1947 when replaced by White City.  The station buildings for that stop remained in situ until 2003 when flattened for the Westfield, the development that in turn prompted the return of a Wood Lane station, albeit on a different line!

The Pub: The Defectors Weld, 170 Uxbridge Road, W12 8AA

Wood Lane is right near the edge of the Westfield and the former BBC Television Centre, the latter of which is now a building site. With no pubs right near the station, the best bet is walking south down Wood Lane to reach the edge of Shepherds Bush Green and the Defectors Weld. Now I know some people pointed out to me that the pub is closer to Shepherds Bush Market station, but it still showed up to me as the closest to Wood Lane, so for that reason it qualified!

Inside its a spacious, modern pub. With its big windows backing onto the street, the front section of the pub is suitably light and airy. I liked the lamps above the bar which reminded me of old Gramophones, the kind the HMV dog was listening into. The back section of the pub felt more cosy precisely because its away from the light coming in from the street. There are also a few comfy sofas dotted around the place too if you’re lucky enough to grab one of them! The Defectors Weld also has a small back garden with some rather funky painting on the wall as you can see from my gallery.

On the ale front, its a Youngs pub so you get their usual range of ales – Youngs Bitter, London Glory, as well as guest offerings Wandle, the appropriately named Red Wedge(no Ben Elton in site) – a defiant red ale – and finally Russian Winter from Itchen Valley, their Imperial Stout, complete with Hammer and Sickle on the the pump art. For lager fans there is Meantime and a wide selection of others including Gamma Ray, sadly no connection to the ’80s rock band. Food comes in the shape of contemporary pub grub at around the £11-£13, including the ‘W12 Burger’, Fish and Chips and Macaroni Cheese. I didn’t eat here but one of my friends had the burger and was very impressed.

As it was the last pub, I decided it would be only fitting to have a party to mark the end of it with friends who’d joined me in some far flung places.  In some ways it almost felt like a birthday party! As a result, this was the longest time I’ve spent in a pub on the crawl, around 8 hours in total!  The management also very kindly let me send over a playlist of music I’d like to hear on, and a number of the tracks made it. I was particularly happy when Careless Whisper by George Michael and its fantastic sax intro came on, I don’t think you hear that in many pubs…  I also got Crazy, Crazy Nights by KISS on, a tune which seemed appropriate to my endeavours.

The Defectors Weld is a top pub and was a fitting place to end the blog. Its well worth a visit and also an excellent place for a party. I had a great time here and truly ended the blog on a high note. While I will be doing a final post bringing the blog to an end, this is my last pub review so I’d like to thank everyone whose read any of them over the last three years – I hope I’ve inspired a few pub trips along the way. Cheers!

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Heathrow Terminal 5

This is very nearly the end! Heathrow Terminal 5 is the second newest station on the tube, it opened on 27 March 2008, a day before the first flight arrived at the new terminal in Heathrow.  It all feels very shiny and modern here with the blue colour scheme. Apart from that, there’s not much more to add here architecturally I’m afraid.

The Pub: The Five Tuns, Landside, Terminal 5 Heathrow, TW6 2GA

I’m normally not a huge fan of airports because I often find their buildings quite claustrophobic and chaotic. Heathrow Terminal 5 seemed very different to this with its open feel and large roof letting in lots of natural light. Admittedly I only saw the Departure Lounge but I think leaving from here would start a holiday off on the right foot.

The Five Tuns is on the main floor of the departure lounge. Like The Three Bells I visited in Terminal 3, its another Geronimo pub. As a result, the design of the place is fairly similar but the Five Tuns has got itself a better location in terms of being easy to find. It had two decent ales on tap in the shape of Youngs Best and Doombar. Food wise its standard pub fare at around £12 for a main – slightly higher than you might expect elsewhere but that’s the Airport premium for you! The Five Tuns feels light and airy as it doesn’t have any windows so just opens out onto the departure lounge.

There are old Underground posters on the walls, including the classic ‘For The Zoo’ featuring four penguins. The Five Tuns also has books dotted around the place. As well as approving of the posters, I was a fan of the music selection when Torch by Soft Cell came on – maybe a more obscure choice for an airport bar but a good choice in my eyes. This made for an interesting soundtrack for what was on TV with the sound off – the Roger Moore James Bond film ‘The Man With The Golden Gun.’ I’m not sure why, but Roger’s quips seemed even better with subtitles and facial expressions only.

I enjoyed my pint at The Five Tuns. I think I’d be in high spirits if I was having one last Doombar here before setting off somewhere exotic.

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Southwark

Well now I’m very near the end – Southwark is the third newest station on the Tube Network. It opened on 20 November 1999 as the last phase of the Jubilee Line extension began operating when trains started running through to Green Park and onwards to Stanmore.

As with the majority of these stations, its another really impressive design. Instead of having a set of three escalators next to each other, each escalator is set on its own and it felt like we were heading up into a portal. You then get into the concourse level with its stunning blue glass wall. Its another design triumph and won BSkyB’s building of the year award in 2000.  If you’re an architecture fan, its well worth having a walk along the spacious upper concourse yourself to take it in – its great!

The exterior of the station building is rather small yet still remains an impressive building.

The Pub: The Ring, 72 Blackfriars Road, SE1 8HA

When I’ve been doing this blog, sometimes people ask me if its about going to pubs opposite tube stations? It isn’t, although in this case the criteria would certainly fit as The Ring is right opposite the station exit. You really can’t miss it.

The pub is filled with Boxing Memorabilia, this is due to its location opposite what was was the home of British Boxing – The Blackfriars Ring Boxing Arena – which was destroyed during the Blitz in 1941. The Arena had a fascinating history and you can find out more from this excellent article about it.  Now on the site is the modern office building The Palestra. Some of the trinkets on the wall include boxing gloves hanging from an antler(as you can see from the gallery), as well as plenty of photos of boxers from the Ring’s early days in the 1910s and 20s.  These old photos contrast nicely with the light, modern décor.

The Ring had a variety of ales on tap on our visit although sadly no Doombar but the barman said they usually have it on. The selection was more amber and porter based, I went for the Calif-oregon Amber from the Belleville Brew.  Although I generally prefer Bitters, this was a pleasant, refreshing pint – I’m not sure I could have a session on it though. They also had a Milk Stout if you’re into that kind of thing. On the food front, they are known for their hot dogs. On their menu it says food critic Giles Coren went so far as saying they are the best in London. After high praise like that, I decided I had to try one myself. I went for the Big Frank – a Frankenfurter – which was very tasty! They also do other food like burgers and sausage and mash. Their chips are great too, nice and chunky, as I tried some of the ones my friend ordered.

It was pretty busy on the Saturday afternoon we visited as the Six Nations was on but we were able to get a seat. By the time of England’s match though, it was very much standing room only!  The pub has a wide selection of board games including Connect 4, if you want to while away an afternoon on a quieter day here! The Ring also sell their own t-shirts for £15 a go, it’s definitely the first pub out of the 268 I’d done up to this point to do that.

The Ring is an excellent pub. Its very well situated as its very close to Blackfriars Bridge as well as Waterloo and London Bridge/Borough market aren’t far off either. I definitely recommend visiting here, especially if you’re a Hotdog fan.

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Bermondsey

Bermondsey station opened on 17 September 1999 as the Jubilee Line Extension edged its way into Central London and towards the existing section of the line. The platforms have the shiny metal finish seen throughout the extension. Compared to some of the other stops on the line, the station building here is a more modest rectangular box – the glass roof means it still feels light, airy and spacious.

The Pub: The Angel, 101 Bermondsey Wall East, SE16 4NB

The pub is just under 10 minutes walk from the station – head East along Jamaica Road, turning north up Cherry Garden Street until reaching Bermondsey Wall East, continue eastwards along here until you come to The Angel.

The Angel has a real history to it. Pubs have stood on the site since the 15th century, Samuel Pepys was a visitor to one of its earlier incarnations – the current building dates from the early 19th Century. If you’re into your art, Turner painted The Fighting Temeraire from the Angel’s upstairs room. I don’t blame him because the pub has excellent views of the River looking towards Central London – there is a small outside seating area on the ground floor which is where I took my photo from.

It’s a Sam Smiths pub, so that means cheap drinks and ales from their own brewery only so this includes their best and sovereign bitter. I went for the Sovereign and found it to be a solid bitter. They also do food, again reasonably priced and most under £10. I didn’t eat on the day I did the review but on my visit earlier this year I had a very nice fish finger sandwich with cheesy chips – again, my classy tastes coming through.

Its got a traditional interior with old school lights and curtains, as well as a sturdy stone floor. There was also a real fire on the go on our visit. The front room is divided into two sections with a small door that most people would have to duck to go through. If you don’t fancy doing the limbo, its probably easier to go out the pub and come back again. As I said earlier, their is an upstairs room which has fantastic views of the River Thames.  Sam Smiths pubs don’t play any music so this is the place for you if you want a quiet drink without any distractions, well bar the view!

The walls have old pictures of the local area as well as paintings/drawings of London bridges,  including a nice one of the old Hammersmith Bridge. I also liked the photo of a Vicar blessing the beer. The pub was quite quiet on the Thursday evening we popped by, there were a few tourists here but I suspect it might be slightly off the beaten track for most of them.

In my opinion, The Angel is the pub with the best riverside view in London that I’ve visited. Combine that with the agreeable Sam Smiths prices, it’s definitely worth a visit! Make the short journey on from London Bridge and give it a go!

(The pub has no website)

 

Canada Water

Canada Water is another station with an amazing design on the Jubilee Line Extension. It first opened on that line on 17 September 1999, having initially opened a month previously on the East London Line which is no longer part of the tube network.

I think its my favourite of the new Jubilee Line stations. I love the massive mass drum on the top of the station and how it lets the light into the spacious ticket hall and reflect off its metallic silverly finish. I also like the fact it pays homage to Charles Holden’s designs at Arnos Grove. For some reason it reminded me of the Crystal Dome when it was lit up at night!

The Pub: The Ship, 39-47 Saint Marychurch Street, SE16 4JU

Maybe its because I’m so dazzled by the station itself but I usually find myself getting lost when I get off here.  The best route to the pub is going past the Sainsburys Local and following the pedestrian paths until you reach Swan Road, stick on this street until you reach Brunel Road. From there head East until you reach Rupack Street which then turns into Saint Marychurch Street where you’ll find The Ship.

Inside, its a homely, welcoming pub. Its part of the Ram Pub Company, a small chain of pubs linked with Youngs – The Greyhound in Hendon was a Ram pub so my previous experience of them was very good. It has the usual Youngs beers on tap – Bitter, Special and London Glory. The food prices here are noticeably cheaper than other pubs in the area, the majority of dishes being under £10 – Sausage and Mash is only £8.10 while Ham, Egg and Chips is a mere £7.20. I had the burger here which was very tasty and really filling with excellent proper chips, for just over £8 it was a bargain. They also sell home made sausage rolls and scotch eggs for £2.50

Given the name, its probably not surprising there are some model ships as decoration here! There are also some old black and white photos of the area where the Docks were still going strong.  The Ship has a piano and hosts regular live music nights, I saw an advert for the ‘Flaming Sambucas’ coming up. I just hope the band are better than the drink. The pub also has a large collection of board games.

The Ship was fairly busy on our Friday night but there were still a fair few seats going spare. As well as having a row of leather backed seating, there were also some comfy sofas towards the back of the pub. For sunnier times, the pub also has a back garden.

I really felt at home in The Ship and could have easily spent all evening here. Its an excellent pub and well worth a visit. If you want an easier route here and aren’t doing a tube related pub crawl, its much closer to Rotherhithe Overground Station.

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North Greenwich

For many people, North Greenwich will forever be associated with Millennium Dome. It is the station closest to it and was built with sufficient capacity to deal with the hoped for hoards that would come flocking to the Millenium’s answer to the Festival of Britain. As we all now know, visitor numbers didn’t hit the expected levels and after the exhibition shut at the end of 2000, the building remained empty for several years. However, like one of its most vocal champions,  the building was a fighter and not a quitter and since 2007 has had a new lease of life as the O2 arena. In my few experiences of seeing gigs here, the station has coped admirably with the crowds!

The station opened on 14 May 1999, several months ahead of the Dome. It is a very impressive building, I especially liked the blue tiling and glass paneling which have a really striking effect as you leave the platforms and head up towards the ticket hall.

The Pub: The Pilot, 68 River Way, SE10 0BE

With the majority of the area cleared for the Dome or demolished when the old industrial uses for the area fell out of use, there aren’t many buildings here which date from before the late 1990s at the earliest! However the pub we went to was one of the few survivors from days gone by! On exiting the station and heading South away from the Dome, get onto Edmund Halley Way, getting onto West Parkway and heading down along there until you come to The Pilot.

Located at the end of a small row of traditional Victorian houses,its setting is incredible. It’s like they’ve been plonked down from a previous century into this landscape of ultra-modern developments. Inside The Pilot, which was built way back in 1801, is a smartly decorated pub with plenty of nods to its position by the river – porthole mirrors, tables in the shape of trunks and old shipping posters on the walls. There was also a big globe which I resisted the temptation to spin around. Another theme seemed to be old kids toys, as there was a large display box full of old Cowboy and Indian figures as well as posters for 1950s robot toys! The way the light was shining in through the windows on our mid afternoon visit also made the place seem very bright and airy.

Its a Fullers pub so has their usual range of ales along with the beer Black Perle which I haven’t seen before. I had a very pleasant tasting pint of Pride here. The food is standard pub fare at around the £11-£13 mark –  the chicken schnitzel burger looked interesting! The pub also has a small garden at the back and even has a few hotel rooms in its upstairs area. Seating wise, there are plenty of comfy sofas dotted around the place as well as a dining area downstairs.

Regarding the pubs survival, story goes that the property developer were ready to offer the owner a substantial sum to have it demolished in the early 1990s but he refused and stuck to his guns. As you might imagine, it did an excellent trade during the construction of the Dome and other nearby projects as the workers had somewhere to go after work, and we have his stubborness to thank for it still standing today!

The Pilot is a really nice pub – its quite the experience to stumble on this traditional building in the midsts of such a modern part of London. I definitely recommend you pop in and experience that contrast for yourself!

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