Epping marks the Eastern end of the Central Line and indeed my final stop on this particularly expansive line. It is also one of the few Underground station outside the M25 boundary.  It became part of the Central Line on 25 September 1949, serving as its Eastern terminus until 1957 when the short stretch of line from Epping to Ongar was electrified and passed over from British Railways to London Underground.

The Epping to Ongar service typically ran as a shuttle so passengers from those easterly destinations had to change at Epping to continue into Central London, as you can see from this tube map from 1986. The service was withdrawn by London Underground at the end of September 1994 – a heritage railway now operates over the route.

Architecturally, the station is very similar to Theydon Bois and others on this section of line where the original station buildings from their initial period as railway stations have been preserved.

The Pub: The George and Dragon, 208 High Street, Epping, CM16 4AQ

It’s just over a 10minute walk from the tube to the pub. From the main station exit, head onto Station Road and walk up here until turning right onto Epping High Street where after a few minutes walk, you’ll come across The George and Dragon.

Inside, it felt very busy for a Monday evening!  It’s a contemporary, brightly lit gastropub which has retained some original features such as the decorative stained glass windows at the front. There seemed to be a divide between the front which felt more ‘pubby’ and a back area which was laid out for those eating. As the pub bit was pretty full, we ended up going in the dining area which was pretty empty as the kitchen was near closing time. To their credit nobody said we could only sit there if eating so I guess it can function as an overflow seating area when required. There is also a small back garden area.

There were a few ales on tap, Adnam’s Southwold Bitter, Bombardier’s Glorious Bitter and Doombar – sadly the latter was off the night we dropped in. It’s managed by the same company that also ran the King William IV in Chigwell, so the menu is very similar to there –  a mixture of traditional British dishes like Fish and Chips and then more restaurant-esque fare like Linguine and the the grandiose sounding ‘Roasted Salmon Supreme.’

The George and Dragon is a decent place which in places feels like a restaurant but still retains enough of a pub atmosphere to make it feel ok just to come here for a pint. It’s a solid bet if you find yourself at the end of the line.

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Theydon Bois

Theydon Bois opened on the Central Line on 25 September 1949 as the final section of the London and North Eastern Railway was transferred across to London Underground as part of the ‘New Works Programme.’

The station retains a traditional Victorian ticket office building and footbridge in keeping with a number of other stops on this section of the Central Line. The platform canopies seem more modern though as they are less decorative than those that survived at other stations on the route.

The Pub: The Queen Victoria, Coppice Row, CM16 7ES

On leaving the station, head onto Station Approach and continue along this as it becomes Forest Drive and Coppice Road. You’ll find the The Queen Victoria just after the Tesco Express

The pub is divided up into two sections. The snug is The Victoria Room which has a cosy, traditional feel with a low, wood beamed ceiling, open fire and old nick nacks like a gramophone dotted around the place. The famous Victoria quote ‘We are not amused’ has been painted onto one of the beams. This seemed to be the spot for a quiet drink among the regulars. The Albert Room feels much more modern and expansive with a light, open feel.

I quite liked the homely atmosphere of The Victoria Room so we based ourselves there. Two ales were available on tap in the shape of McMullens Country Bitter and their AK beer. I went for the Country Bitter which was a very pleasant pint! The food menu is mainly traditional English fare, or ‘heritage cooking’  as the menu puts it, as well as sharing platters and various options from the grill. I had a very hearty portion of Ham, Egg and Chips which was very solid value at £8.95.

The Queen Victoria also has a sizeable front garden which was illuminated with some impressive fibre optic lights. They also have free car parking for customers, although I’m glad I arrived by public transport as I imagine I’d not have figured out the automated system where you have to put your registration number in when you arrive at the pub!

I really liked The Queen Victoria. The snug area had a charming, old school vibe to it which was right up my street. Equally, if you were after something more open and contemporary then The Albert Room covers that base too.  A definite must visit if you’re based at the outer edges of the Central Line.

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Debden first opened on the Central Line on 25th September 1949. It had previously been a rail station called Chigwell Lane(Chigwell Road for its first few months) which had initially opened in 1865 and was renamed upon transferring to the Underground.

The footbridge between the platforms seems to date from the Victorian era but both the ticket office and platform canopies look more modern and non-descript.

The Pub: The Black Deer, Poundfield Road, IG30 3JN

It’s about 15 minutes from the tube to the pub here so bear with me. On leaving the station, exit onto Barrington Green, then crossing over the main road Chigwell Lane and turning onto Colson Road. Follow Colson Road as it curves up until reaching Bushfields where you turn off.  Finally turn up Deepdene Road and then turn left onto Poundfield Road where you’ll find The Black Deer on the junction with Barfields! Simple?!

In amongst all the housing of the Debden Estate, constructed by the London County Council between 1947 and 1952,  I was pleased to find a pub at all.  There aren’t any shops/takeaways around it either so it’s really on its own here. Inside it felt a bit like a social club with a main room with the bar in. There were no ales on tap so we went for Kronenberg which is only £3 on ‘Manic Mondays’.  There are glowing red lights along the bottom of the bar.  The Black Deer also had some speakers near their Pool Table for their events here which include Bingo and Quiz nights.

There were pictures of old Spurs teams from the 1960s on the wall, as well as some more recent late 1990s players including David Ginola, Les Ferdinand and Ruel Fox. For a bonus point, what connects all three of them…  Talking of quizzes, The Black Deer also had a quiz machine which we won a couple of quid on. They also have Sky/BT Sports too. As there were no games on, the TV was on silent and the radio station Absolute 80s was playing which went down well with an 80s fan like me!

Although it was billed as ‘Manic Monday’, the pub was very quiet and at one point we were the only people in it. As well as the main room, there is also a side room with another pool table, a little retro games machine and table football. The regular ball from Table Football was missing so somebody had improvised and put in a bouncy ball which was rather large and made it almost unplayable as it was nearly the same size as the footballers!   There is a patio out the front as well as some more outside seating which can be accessed via the side room.

I really enjoyed visiting The Black Deer because it was so reassuring to see a pub in such a residential location still going as I imagine many have closed in recent years. It also was far more welcoming than the pubs I endured in other suburban locations like Stonebridge Park. I’d say it’s worth a visit because it’s so different from how most pubs in London are these days.

(The pub has no website)


Buckhurst Hill

Buckhurst Hill brings to an end my run of stations which all joined the Underground on 21st November 1948. Like its immediate neighbour, Loughton, it had originally opened as a rail station back in 1856.

While Loughton was rebuilt for the coming of the Central Line, Buckhurst Hill retains station buildings dating back to the late Victorian era when the rail station was moved slightly in 1892 from its original location,

The Pub: The Three Colts, 54 Princes Road, IG9 5EE

It’s a five minute walk to the pub – exit the station onto Victoria Road and follow it as it becomes Princes Road and curves round where you’ll find The Three Colts on the junction with Kings Place.

Following hot on the heels of The Victoria Tavern, it’s another pub with a low ceiling. There is a small area around the bar as well a more substantial dining room to the side of that and a little room at the back where we ended up. The front of the pub was very busy with people watching football on Sky and others who had been eating had reserved their tables.  There was also a selection of board games in the area we were seated in and a little saying which had been written on the wall ‘The best antiques are good friends’ – interpret that how you like. Part of the table we were sitting on was being used as a makeshift overflow area for cutlery which had just been washed up!

On the beer front, there were two ales in the shape of Landlord and Doombar, two favourites of mine. We weren’t eating here but from what I remember of the menus it was mainly English pub/restaurant staples. The Three Colts also has a sizeable back garden with a small kids play area as well as a couple of tables outside the front of the pub. As I said, it was fairly heaving on our Sunday afternoon visit with a mix of people watching the football and families having a Sunday meal.

While The Three Colts was a solid enough pub and the staff were friendly, it didn’t really click for me on our visit here. It was pretty busy and we were somewhat on a limb on our back table with the washing up on it which I guess didn’t help matters. I’ve seen from other reviews online that it generally gets a good write-up so maybe I just hit it at a bad time.

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Loughton first opened on the Central Line on 21st November 1948. Rail services started here nearly 100 years before that when the Eastern Counties Railway station opened their station here in 1856, albeit on a slightly different site.

The station building here is particularly striking, opening in 1940 in anticipation of the transfer of this route on the Underground.  The ticket office, designed by John Murray Easton, is a tall box with a big arched window at its centre. The heritage plaque at the station pointed out the similarity to the facade at Kings Cross Station. The curved art deco platform shelters are also impressive.  It was Grade II listed in 1994.

The Pub: The Victoria Tavern, 165 Smarts Lane, IG10 4BP

It’s just over a 10minute walk to the pub through the leafy environs of Loughton, now past the Greater London boundary. Head out onto Old Station Road until reaching a roundabout, turning north onto the High Street. Shortly after this turn left onto High Beech Road where you’ll find the pub at the junction with Smarts Lane.

The Victoria Tavern is a cosy, traditional pub with  a low, wood beamed ceiling. There are lots of nice decorative touches here including a collection of beer bottles on the far wall and a little metal sign above the bar reading ‘In God We Trust, Others Pay Cash.’  There is also a bust of Queen Victoria herself, in keeping with the name, and much like the one that Peggy Mitchell used to have in Eastenders. It was very busy on our weekend afternoon visit with lots of people here having their Sunday roast as well as those who’d just enjoyed a country walk and a fair few dogs too!

The beer selection here was top rate – a fine selection of solid ales in the shape of Doombar and fellow Sharp’s beer Atlantic, Wherry from Woodfordes, Timothy Taylor’s Landlord and Adnams Southwold Bitter. The food menu was written up on a chalk board with classic dishes like steak and ale pie and scampi and chips.  It wasn’t all old school options as there was also a grilled halloumi burger. The Victoria prides itself on not having any TVs or having any music playing in the background -it’s nice to see a pub keeping it traditional in that way. It also has a decent sized garden with a covered seating area for smokers.

I was very taken with The Victoria Tavern. It’s a good country pub with a very welcoming atmosphere. Highly recommended if you find yourself in these parts!

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Roding Valley

If you prefer a quieter pace on the Underground, then Roding Valley is the spot for you. It currently ranks as the least used station on the entire network, with just 260,000 passenger journeys recorded in 2014. Wikipedia states this is due to its ‘very small catchment area’ – that is also true and I think being at the furthermost edge of the loop makes other nearby stations with quicker journey times into Central London far more appealing.

Like its two immediate neighbours on the Hainault loop, it joined the Central Line on 21st November 1948 having first opened as a rail station in 1903.  The platform shelters and ticket office seem to date from this immediate post war period as there were few buildings here during its previous life as a rail station. The footbridge linking the platforms looks to predate those structures though.

The Pub: Monkhams, Buckhurst Way, IG9 6HY

It’s a short hop from the tube to the pub. Exit via the London bound platforms and head east along Station Parade and after a couple minutes, Monkhams will come glowing into view.

It’s part of the ‘Hungry Horse’ chain, a collection of family friendly pubs . Its a big place and has a sizeable ‘family area’ This has one of those toy machines which seem to be a staple in this genre of pub. It has a sports licence and as well as having a few big TVs,  you can even enjoy the action at your table thanks to TV screens in some of the seating booths towards the back of the pub – the first time I’ve seen something like this on my travels. The Monkhams also has some outside seating at the front of the pub.

The games area is on the other side of the bar has both pool tables and a dart board. There was also a quiz machine here which we even managed to win a few quid on. A signed photo of Aaron Lennon on England duty appeared to be looking on approvingly as we did so.  Overall there was a real mix to the pictures on the wall – shots of Winston Churchill were vying for attention alongside pictures of iMacs(don’t they seem a long time ago now?!) and a Bloc Party logo.

Ale wise, there were three available on tap – Ruddles County, Abbott and Greene King IPA. The food is pretty cheap and included some dubiously named dishes like ‘Oceans a plenty’ seafood platter and the ‘Megasaurus’ 20oz steak. If you’re lucky enough to be a golden oldie(i.e: over 60), you get two courses for £4.49. Another Hungry Horse specialty is their horseshoe of onion rings – akin to their logo – 21 in total I believe! On our Wednesday evening visit, it was fairly busy – as it was getting later in the evening the family area was much quieter than the more conventional bar area.

I liked The Monkhams for some reason – it still had a decent pub atmosphere in a way some of the other ‘family friendly’ places I’ve visited haven’t. If you are one of the relatively few people who ever get off at Roding Valley, coming here for a pint isn’t a bad option at all.

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Chigwell became part of the London Underground on 21st November 1948, as the final parts of the Hainault loop were electrified and incorporated into the Central Line. On one of the platforms it seems as if the staff here set up their own little garden to mark the Tube’s 150th Anniversary in 2013. It’s a nice little gesture but the plants have certainly seen better days.

One thing that struck me here is the irregularity of the service – there are only three trains an hour in each direction. Certainly a culture shock when compared to the train every 2 minutes or so on the Victoria Line!

The Pub: The King William IV, High Road, IG7 6PJ

Its a quick stroll from the tube to the pub, head out of Station Road and get onto the High Road, head down here for a couple of minutes and you’ll find the William IV opposite a parade of shops.  The first interesting thing we noticed about the William IV was the fact there were speakers on the outside of the building, so we could hear music playing as we headed in here. The music playing was the same as we heard inside, so it must have been hooked up to the same system.

The King William IV has a modern, uncluttered interior.  While they had no problem with us just coming here for drinks, it does feel more like a restaurant and everyone else here seemed to be here for meals. They did have Bombardier on tap and a decent selection of bottled beers too including a gluten free option.  In the end we did end up getting a snack,  some sides of chips and sweet potato fries, which did the job. The food here is a mixture of English classics and foreign dishes like Linguine and Crispy Duck Salad. There is also ‘Steak, Mushroom and Doombar Pie’ so one of my favourite ales is available here, albeit within a pie. There are some tables outside but its obviously not the weather for that at the moment

The King William IV used to be a Harvester, so it has certainly changed! It was decent here, like I said they didn’t have a problem when we initially just ordered drinks and there were a few seats near the bar that seemed for that purpose. It is primarily a restaurant though so bear that in mind if you’re looking for a more typical pub experience.

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