Vauxhall

Heading out from Waterloo, the first station all trains pass through and the majority stop at is Vauxhall – 26 trains an hour call here in the normal off-peak schedule. It opened the same day as Waterloo,  11th July 1848 and was initially called Vauxhall Bridge.

It is also the eighteenth busiest rail station in the UK, with over 20million entries and exits in 2014/15 and has eight platforms. It’s built on a viaduct so one of its most interesting aspects is the views you get from the platforms out across the River Thames, although this is increasingly being obscured by high-rise luxury housing. You can also see the distinctive roof of Vauxhall Bus Station although as I wrote when I visited Vauxhall tube, its days seem numbered. The MI6 Building also looms very close by.

I’m sure there used to be some quite ’80s mosaics in the staircases up to the platforms, a bit like the one at Kings Cross Thameslink, but these now seem to have vanished. Does anyone else remember them?

The Vauxhall Griffin, 8 Wyvil Road, SW8 2TH

Vauxhall was actually one of the last stops I did on my Underground crawl, visiting here in February 2016, although in many ways that feels a lifetime ago given everything that’s happened since then. This time around I headed West out of the station to The Vauxhall Griffin. To reach the pub, navigate the delights of the traffic system outside the station to get onto Wandsworth Road.  A few minutes down the road and opposite the Sainsburys, take a turning off onto Wyvil Road where you’ll find the pub.

It had a cosy and homely atmosphere on our Wednesday evening visit. Its an independent pub which may help to explain some of the eclectic decorations and trinkets dotted around the place. These varied from old newspaper front pages, magazine cuttings from music magazines like Melody Maker and photos of old rockers like Rod Stewart through to the collection of slightly creepy(think Chucky…) plastic dolls above the main door. Lots of pubs these days try and do the whole ‘random bric a brac’ but its clear they have just ordered all the stuff in one go, here I could definitely tell all the paraphernalia had been been collected organically over time. A far better approach!

As well as the main seating area which has a few comfy sofas and chairs, The Griffin also has a pool table – increasingly a rarity in pubs these days – and small DJ booth in the back area. It also has a small outside seating area. The pub also boasts a lively events schedule with regular quiz and games nights. There is a TV above the bar showing the BBC News Channel on our visit. Another nice touch here is the fact they sell dog treats at the bar with all the money raised going to the nearby Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.

On the ale front, we had three to choose from, Brains SA, Hobgoblin and the Autumn Brown Ale from The Park Brewery based down in Kingston.My friend gave that one a go and found it to have an almost chocolaty taste. I went for Hobgoblin which I have mixed views on, I didn’t really enjoy it this time but that may have been to do with nursing a small hangover… They had previously had Doombar on but regrettably it had all run out by the time we got there, they had bottles though if you really needed that West Country fix.

Food wise, the main attraction is their burger selection, especially on Fridays where you can choose from options like pork belly and apple and a ‘fish finger stack’ alongside the more conventional options, the majority of which are all just under £10. The other dishes on the menu are generally solid pub fare like ham,egg and chips and a pie of the day. I actually decided against a burger on this occasion and went for some cheesy chips to push me on. One of my friends had one though and it looked suitably hearty.

Overall I was really taken with The Vauxhall Griffin. I found it to be a very friendly and welcoming pub and well worth a visit, especially given its so easy to get to. Like much of Vauxhall, the area around Wyvil Road is changing at a rapid pace with new blocks going up right beside the pub.  I do worry a little how long it can hang on before developers start eyeing it up but it’s a great little pub so hopefully it’s not going anywhere!

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(For Vauxhall Tube, I visited Zeitgeist in February 2016)

 

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Waterloo

What better place to start the second incarnation of INNside Track than Waterloo, the busiest rail station in London and indeed the entire country. There was an incredible 99.2million entries and exits from the station in 2014/15.

It first opened back in 1848 as ‘Waterloo Bridge Station’ and is definitely one of my favourite London terminal stations. Much of today’s station dates from an early 20th century rebuild that was puncuated by the First World War and finally completed in 1922. It remains a very impressive structure today with a number of sections Grade II listed. The main entrance is called ‘The Victory Arch’ and contains a memorial to railway staff killed in the two world wars.

The station also acquired a slick modern annex in 1994 in the shape of the Waterloo International terminal. This only had a very short life in its original guise with Eurostar trains diverted up to St Pancras from 2007 with the completion of the high speed Channel Tunnel Rail Link. Even when the first Eurostar services began arriving here in 1994, it was already planned for the UK’s high speed link to the Channel Tunnel to come into St Pancras. However that’s another story, one I hope is someday covered by the excellent London Reconnections blog…

After several years gathering dust, two of the four international platforms were reused for domestic services from 2014 onwards. These were closed off again from April of this year as a more comprehensive refurbishment programme is taking place to bring all four back into use. When it and other station upgrades are finally complete in 2018, Waterloo will have 24 platforms in active passenger use, the most of any rail station in the UK.

Just as a recap to my plan of action this time around. I am starting at Waterloo and then working my way out through all the stations in Greater London served by trains starting here.

The Wellington, 81-83 Waterloo Road, SE1 8UD

There are no shortage of pubs dotted around the streets to the East of Waterloo Station. However these are all closer to Waterloo East(the clues in the name) so I went to The Wellington, just opposite the Waterloo Road exit of the station. The walkway linking the two stations actually passes directly above it.

It’s very spacious inside, sub-divided into three sections with a long bar at the back of the pub spanning all the areas. There is plenty of wood panelling throughout and the seating is a mix of sofas and plush chairs as well as standard tables and chairs packed in. Living up to the name, there are two murals painted depicting scenes from the battle of Waterloo – one on the arched roof of the central section of the pub and another above the bar area.

There are TVs in all sections of the pub with both BT and Sky Sports. As well as having my old favourite, a quiz machine, there is also ‘Golden Tee Fore Complete’, a golf arcade machine which apparently dates from 2005 but has very ’90s graphics. Arcade machines in pubs are even rarer than quiz machines these days and I hope the management here don’t move it anytime soon.

Its run by Fullers so has their usual range of ales as well as a sighting of their seasonal offering, Red Fox, an autumnal ale. I had a London Pride which tasted particularly good as it was free. As it stands, if you sign up for the pub’s newsletter, you get a free drink in return. Not an offer to be sniffed at with drinks prices creeping ever higher in the capital. No surprises on the food front with the usual English pub food staples.

The Wellington is also a hotel, with a dozen or so rooms above the pub. We visited on a rainy Wednesday evening and the clientele was a mix of foreign tourists (some of whom were no doubt staying upstairs) and a sizeable post-work crowd. Kings College also has a few buildings round here so you also get a fair few students here too.

Overall The Wellington is a solid pub. It’s spacious and perfectly situated for onward travel beyond Waterloo!

(For Waterloo tube station, I visited The King’s Arms in May 2014)

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Here I go again…

Clearly visiting a pub for all 270 London Underground stations wasn’t enough for me. Sure it might have taken me three years and seen cold winter evening trips to glamorous hotspots like Debden, Ruislip and Hounslow, but it was great fun and I stumbled upon plenty of excellent pubs along the way.

If truth be told, I’ve missed it. The excuse to go and visit random parts of London for no reason other to find a good pub there – a nice distraction from the rest of the chaos gripping the world this year. What’s more, there’s plenty of London that simply can’t be reached by tube.  So I’m going back on the trail. I’ll be keeping my head will be firmly above ground as I take to the rails to visit a pub for every National Rail station in Greater London.

This time around I’ll be visiting the stations on a route by route basis out of each London rail terminus, starting with Waterloo and all the stations on the lines out of it. I will then move anti clockwise across South London and Southern and Southeastern before crossing the river and heading from East to West. My final stops will be in West London out of Paddington. Of course by the time I reach them, Crossrail could well be open which would be a rather fitting route to close out the project on. In terms of picking the pubs, I’m sticking to the same rules as before. While it doesn’t have to be the closest pub to the station, it can’t be closer to any other National Rail stop either. I’m probably even more unfamiliar with the outer reaches of the rail network in Greater London than I was the Tube, so recommendations will again be gratefully received.

The observant among you will have realised a number of stops are served by both National Rail and Tube stations, including my starting spot, Waterloo.  At this stage I am working on the principle that where the station has a number of pubs, I’ll visit again and try a new pub there. However for areas in which I’ve visited the only pub around – trust me, there were a few of them – there is little to be gained going back.  I think these stops will primarily be in North West London so it will be a fair while until I visit them so I’ll assess that situation closer to the time.

I’ll be spending much more time in South London this time around too as it has over 150 rail stations in comparison to its paltry offering of 27 tube stops.  This is also going to be much more about suburbia and where Londoners actually live as only 19 of the rail stations I’ll be visiting are in Zone 1. I look forward to discovering excellent pubs that hopefully inspire people to jump on a train and head out to parts of London they’ve never explored before.

So, here we go again…