There are several long gaps between stations on the Piccadilly line. Sometimes that's because the intermediate station was closed, as with Brompton Road (in Belgravia) and York Road (north of King's Cross). But head to Green Lanes in Haringey and there's a mile and a half's gap because the station in the middle was cancelled by order of the Chief Executive Officer and never built. Let's do the half hour walk.
We like Manor House station. The platforms are tall and deep, with cream tiles and blue-bordered Way Out enamel. Watch out for the jet black ventilation grilles, each with an identical representation of bucolic horticultural charm. A pillared gate leads to a verdant garden with a trio of doves a-cooing by their cote, which isn't what you expect to see high on a station wall. Up the escalator is a ticket hall with a bobblyceiling, semi-resembling the Tardis circa 1975. And check out one of the pillars for an impromptu photographic museum featuring various black and white shots of the station and its environs circa 1935. They've been stuck up with yellowing sellotape, but where else are you going to see the original cylindrical Fares tables, and a tram pulling in above. If all tube stations had this personal touch, you might love your local a little more.
Manor House is the only Underground station in the borough of Hackney (and then only just, because the stairs to the northwest come up in Haringey). It's also one of London's entirely underground stations, built beneath a whopper where Green Lanes crosses the Seven Sisters Road. Never ever attempt to cross this monster diagonally. Beside the non-Hackney exit is a grand gated entrance to Finsbury Park, plus the less imposing Park View Cafe. I was unimpressed by their outside food kiosk, partly because their "Egg Benedict" sounds a trifle weedy, but mostly because they dare to sell "Panini's".
The long walk to the next station begins along the upper edge of Finsbury Park. This is the nice bit, so make the most of it. Ahead is the New River, now only a few months short of 400 years old, and a corner of the park designated for hockey and baseball only (because they're big round here). The Arena Shopping Centre looks like retail nirvana, judging by the busy-ness of the car park, but the shops coming up next along Green Lanes have hugely more character. We're entering Little Turkey, a dash of London with a flavour of extreme eastern Europe. It seems such a friendly place, or maybe that's because every other shop serves up food of some kind and teems with people. Maybe meze, perhaps baklava, and possibly some of whatever that floury thing is being bashed out by the lady in the shop window by the bus stop.
Disney's are celebrating their centenary this year - that's the two floor furniture showroom on Grand Parade, now looking surprisingly out of place. But it's easy to see where all those tables and sofas might end up if you turn off the main drag and head up one of the parallel streets. This is the so-called HarringayLadder, a twenty-rung residential district whose smart terraces must have estate agents aflutter. Only two features link these hillside avenues - one the New River threading through, the other a narrow pedestrianalleyway that runs for almost a mile between sequential houses.
Harringay (St Ann's Road)
And now we reach the junction where the Piccadilly line could have had a station, but doesn't. St Ann's Road crosses four railways on its long curve down towards Stamford Hill, but merits nostation on any of them. One was planned here at the western end but Frank Pick, Chief Executive of the London Passenger Transport Board, turned it down. He thought this street corner already had a good enough bus and tram service, which may have been the case then, but is only half true today. Instead the majestic Salisbury Hotel, now a restored pub, remains unserved. Its French Renaissance façade dominates the exterior, while inside are Art Nouveau motifs and a cast-iron columned bar. Again it's slightly at odds with the distinctly non-English non-Victorian nature of most of the surrounding businesses, but that's the joy of this cosmopolitan neighbourhood.
The Piccadilly line may not be obvious on the surface, but this long run between stations necessitated the appearance of a ventilation shaft a little further along. Check the corner of Colina Road for a boxy brick building rising to a dark grille at rooftop level. On one side a verge of flowers is blooming an almost appropriate shade of blue, while on the other is the car park for the outlet store nextdoor. Why go to Jermyn Street for your posh Hawes and Curtis shirts when you can pick them up cheap or wholesale in cufflink-unfriendly N8? But for the tube connection to Piccadilly Circus walk on. The shops at last give way to flats and houses, and only the occasional Bulgarian Breakfast bar, before reaching the confined expanse of Duckett's Common. And at the far end of that...
We like Turnpike Lane even more than we like Manor House. That's mostly because it has exterior presence, and has it inspades, if a Modernist touch is what you like. The main ticket hall is a lofty cuboid lit by blue-rimmed windows, above which rises atower with louvred ventilators and a flagpole on top. It has to be by Charles Holden, and it has to be Grade II listed, and rest assured it's both. A restaurant and a pawnbrokers have taken the original retail unit to one side, while the busy modern bus station has been carefully hidden round the back. The main pedestrian entrance is down globe-lit steps beneath a low curved slab. But there are feedersubways elsewhere, with each caged entrance labelled "TURNPIKE LANE STN." in white capitals on brown.
The interior of the ticket hall is dramatic, raised to double height with strong horizontal features. Above the ticket window is a blue clock in ITV Schools Programmes style, and in the centre a classical bowl-shaped uplighters. There are more of these down the escalator, and a subtly different version on the lower concourse with what looks like a white ceramic loudspeaker blooming on top. They're only a minor architectural tweak, but they add such panache to the circulation space. And finally the platforms, which are remarkably similar to those at Manor House, as you might expect for stations opened on the same day. Again there are jet black ventilation grilles, again depicting the station's name literally, so this time with horse-drawn traffic approaching a turnpike tollhouse. And if you've enjoyed this trip, just three minutes on the next train south and you can go round again.