Malden Manor is the start of my journey on the short Chessington branch line. The station opened on 29 May 1938, the same day as the line itself. The station is a simple yet elegant piece of art deco architecture with its slightly curved platform shelters and clear, rectangular ticket hall. The latter could do with a lick of paint though. It was designed by James Robb Scott who was also behind the excellent station building at Surbiton from the same period.
There is also an old permit to travel machine lurking out the front of the station. For the uninitiated, these machines used to be commonplace at stations without ticket machines, allowing passengers to a pay a a small sum(as little as 5p) to get a ‘permit to travel’, allowing them to then purchase a ticket on board their train without fear of being fined. Of course, the flipside to this was that if you didn’t encounter a guard or a staffed station(in the days before barriers were commonplace), you could get yourself a fair distance for a pittance. As the vast majority of stations now have ticket machines, permit to travel machines are few and far between these days. Within Greater London, I doubt the number remaining is in double figures.
Woodies Freehouse, The Sports Ground, Thetford Road, KT3 5DX
Sadly there are no pubs in close proximity to the station. There used to be one at the roundabout just north of it, but this closed several years ago and is now a Coop supermarket. As a result, it is one of the longest walks to a pub that I’ve done for the blog, although am happy to say it is certainly worth it. It’s made longer by virtue of the fact you have to cross the A3 via an underpass that requires a detour. There is a fence in the central reservation so I don’t advocate trying the direct route!
Once you finally reach Woodies on the edge of a sports field, you won’t be disappointed. From the outside it looks like a clubhouse and has an enclosed marquee like area at the front of the pub. This leads to the main pub itself and its spacious interior. My photos don’t really do justice to the decor of Woodies which has bags of character. It has sporting memorabilia hanging from the every free space on the ceiling and plastered across the walls, including FA Cup and Wimbledon Final programmes spanning the decades. A personal highlight for me is a print of ‘The Cricket Match between Sussex and Kent at Brighton’, from 1849 and showing a game of cricket between those two counties taking place near St.Peter’s Church.
Woodies is a Freehouse but was at once stage run by Youngs, and the breweries signature snap of the Queen Mother pouring a pint is still on the wall. It had six ales on a tap, a mixture of regular faces like London Pride, Youngs Bitter, Broadside and ESB plus a couple less familiar to me in the shape of Horizon Golden Ale and Wellons Tam O’Shanter. It also has a menu of good pub grub at affordable prices – all mains are under a tenner and I had a very tasty burger for £8.95, other options include lasagne for £8.95 and fish and chips for £9.95. As I’ve remarked before, with pub food prices edging ever higher, it is always reassuring to find places where you can still get a decent meal for under a tenner.
The pub was really busy on our Sunday afternoon visit, popular with all ages. At one point I thought we wouldn’t get a table but we found one in the corner by the cricket match picture I referred to. They have a few TVs and were showing the football, having both BT and Sky Sports. Woodies also has pub quizzes every other Monday and open mic nights every other Thursday.
Woodies is a great pub and is a true hidden gem, given its on a quiet road heading towards a sports pitch. It is well worth the schlep to get there – I will certainly be finding a reason to return before too long.