diamond geezer

 Tuesday, March 19, 2013

CENTRAL: Walking the Hainault Loop

Once you ride past Leytonstone, the Central line links with no other railway line except itself. The Hainault loop is a peripheral peculiarity, poking out into the heart of the borough of Redbridge, and traversed by few other than the borough's residents. The north and east sides of the loop used to be part of the Great Eastern Railway, joined southwards from Newbury Park to Ilford. Then London Transport tunnelled a fresh connection from Leytonstone, opening in 1947, and the Central line's loop was born. It has ten stations altogether, many of them architecturally intriguing, and trains take just over twenty minutes to travel from one end to the next. I thought I'd walk it. I do this so that you don't have to, remember - indeed on this occasion I'd strongly recommend that you don't. From urban sprawl to inner Essex, there are finer strolls. But hang on in there, especially if this corner of London is unknown to you. [map] [16 photos]

I thought I'd start from Wanstead. I couldn't face the trek along the A12 from Leytonstone, plus I'd walked that way before as part of the amazing Linked project. Wanstead is an oasis of pleasantness, but only because the dual carriageway has been hidden in a cut and cover tunnel beneath the village green. The station stands in contrast as an outpost of modernity, a clump of rectilinear boxes topped off by a plain concrete tower. Charles Holden designed it, his plans diluted by wartime austerity, but striking all the same. Those seeking class and culture should head north along the High Street, past the George pub and its plaque "In Memory of Ye Cherry Pey". Alas the Central line follows the A12 east, from here all the way to Newbury Park, and that's the weary road I had to tread.

Cars splashed downhill, past sidestreets abruptly chopped mid-terrace when the new road was driven through in the 1990s. I'd picked a rotten day for it. The rain should have been clearing but instead chucked down even heavier, which is not what you want when striding alongside an arterial. I could have hidden beneath the footbridge, one of the few ways across this tarmac divide, but thought I'd better press on because there were still more than ten miles to go. At the foot of the slope the houses ceased, because this is the floodplain of the Roding valley and much better suited to allotments and sports pitches. Ahead the North Circular crosses the Redbridge roundabout on stilts, only a short distance from the foot of the M11. It's not an easy environment for the pedestrian, funnelled through the middle via a twisting footpath, just remote enough that "what if..." thoughts of solitary crime begin to surface. But nah, absolutely fine.



Here's Redbridge station, another Holden classic. Again there's a tower, but this one's Buckinghamshire brick, while lower down's mostly curves rather than straight lines. The exterior is roundeltastic, not just circles on poles but a whole series wrought in iron as part of a fence around the top of the stairwell. It's all a bit Piccadilly line, but differently quirky and not quite so grand. The station was sited on a traffic island beside the roundabout so it could best be served by local buses, augmented these days by long distance coaches pausing to disgorge motorway folk onto the tube.

You can tell that the main road came first because the next stretch is arrow-straight, with acres of semi-style housing off to each side. This is proper interwar ribbon development, with front gardens shamelessly backing onto the A12 rather than curling away in disgust. Almost all are paved, with hardstanding for a couple of cars and very few attempts at horticulture. A word of advice to the householder who's planted a row of artificial flowers and surrounded them by rings of white pebbles - it's not classy, and a blatant fake when spring's late. If you think London's ugliest building is in Archway or Colliers Wood, perhaps you've not seen Wentworth House. Imagine a shoebox balanced on a coffee table, and now strip away everything lovely about your mental image. The ninth floor office suite is currently up for grabs for an annual rent of £34K, but only a visually dysfunctional boss would move their workforce here.

There's very little to Gants Hill station above ground, just what looks like a redbrick scout hut in the middle of a major roundabout. Dip into the subway, signposted by some lovely solid roundels, and the tiling's bright and sunny. But only if you descend the escalator do the true glories of Gants Hill reveal themselves, notably the arched space between the platforms with uplighters reminiscent of the Moscow Underground. If you like worshipping bits of the Underground, make sure you venture out to this Holden temple to pay homage. But alas I wasn't going to the platforms, I had more of Eastern Avenue to walk. Oh joy, more dual carriageway and exhaust fumes, and more terraced semis facing onto the road. Most of those living out here have wheels, and automotive businesses thrive, be that tyremen, repairguys or in-car wi-fi hi-fi fitters. There's also a sizeable Asian population around here, which again you might not be aware of because you've never visited, reflected in the occasional houseproud façade and pillared balcony.



A major road junction ahead looks like it ought to have the next tube station, but that's only a giant JD Sports on the corner. This is Grays Corner, a retail crossroads where the pub is now a McDonalds drivethru, and where the local newsagent is Fags & Mags. Ilford War Memorial Gardens are the only evident heritage hereabouts, a 1922 survivor watched over by the bronze figure of a soldier, overshadowed on both sides by millennial redevelopment that used to be hospitals. Nobody built a Holiday Inn here because there's something to see, more because cheap beds on the edge of town near the tube are always desirable. And Newbury Park is just down the road - the station nothing special, but the bus station, whoa! Oliver Hill's semi-cylindrical copper roof is breathtaking, especially alongside suburban mundanity, and the worthy winner of a Festival of Britain award. A fine place to pause awhile... maybe even the rain'll stop.


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream