diamond geezer

 Saturday, March 30, 2013

CENTRAL: Theydon Bois
Head far out of town, to almost Epping, and the Central line halts in the middle of the countryside. Only rarely does the Underground serve a genuine village - Chalfont and Latimer are the only other examples I can think of. But Theydon Bois is proper rural, albeit reborn as an Essex dormitory suburb, with a village pond and ducks and everything. The green is part of Epping Forest, which starts officially just up the hill behind St Mary's church. No littering, no model aircraft, no picking the flowers. A few of the houses facing the green are old and classy, with thatched roofs and perfectly striped lawns. Many of the others are terraced cottages, dating back to an era after the railway came and the village opened to incomers. But head away from the main roads and the houses are newer, more mixed, occasionally Towie aspirational. The local butcher is a "Purveyor of Quality Meats", while bread is still served from a "High Class Bakers And Confectioners". But on Good Friday the parade of shops is closed and only the Tesco Express is serving, with queues way back past the chocolate eggs.

The village boasts three pubs, the most remote named Sixteen String Jack after a notorious 18th century highwayman. You'd have thought twice about taking the road up Jack's Hill back then, with Epping Forest a notorious haunt of bandits. You'd have thought twice about walking into the forest yesterday too, with muddy tracks and marshy puddles where soon a meadow of buttercups will bloom. As for The Railway Arms down by the station, that pub closed in 2011 and is now a forlorn sight. The car park is fenced off, there are legal notices in the windows, and the only sign of commercial life is a remaindered chalkboard advertising the final Neil Diamond Tribute Evening.

The station itself will be 150 years old in a couple of years time, originally opened by the Great Eastern Railway before London Transport snapped the line up. It's the least used station in Zone 6, as you might expect serving a village of a few thousand (and the complete absence of street lights in Theydon Bois can't help commuter numbers either). The platforms are peaceful places, watched over by horses in fields to the east, although the M25 rumbles not too far behind. They're joined by a lattice footbridge, open and narrow, currently littered with salt to prevent unseasonable frost taking hold. None of the daffodils in the flower beds have opened yet, although one looks like it might do soon if temperatures lift. And the name of the village, to save you asking, rhymes with Noise. Although there isn't much of that.

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