diamond geezer

 Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Today's question: Where in London is furthest from a station?

A good question, and not entirely simple to answer. I hoped there might be some clever online clickable map thingy that'd help me work it out, but had no luck in finding anything practically efficient. So I resorted instead to the 20th century staples of a map and a ruler, essentially trying to spot holes in the rail network large enough to drop an imaginary circle into.

For my purposes I'm allowing any type of station - tube, rail, DLR, whatever. I've also decided to count Tramlink stops as stations, because trams run on rails and deliver you to places according to a set timetable - a decision which has certain ramifications in the outer reaches of Croydon.

If my ruler is working properly, this map shows the corners of the capital that are furthest from a station. The eight red areas are more than two miles from a station. The two blue areas are more than three miles from a station. See that tiny yellow dot - that's more than four miles from a station. And everywhere else in London is less than two miles from a station, which in a city covering more than 600 square miles is pretty damned impressive.

Two things. I've measured in a straight line, with total disregard as to whether it's possible to walk along that line or not. There might be a river or a motorway or a large expanse of private land along the way, but to keep things simple I've ignored that. And also, the exact shapes of the areas on the map shouldn't be circles, they should be complicated curves resembling bits of the outsides of circles, but I've gone with circles to keep things simple. Hopefully they're roughly the right size.

So, where precisely are London's railway coldspots?

1) Harefield (UB9) (>2m)
This pleasant Middlesex village (plus world-renowned heart hospital) is over two miles from Northwood on the Metropolitan line and Denham on the Chiltern line. It would have been just under two miles from a Central line station if a proposed extension past West Ruislip had been built in the 1940s, but the Green belt squashed that. Unexpectedly the very top left corner of London (north of Harefield on the map) is within one mile of Rickmansworth station.

2) North Hayes (UB4) (>2m)
A tiny patch of North Hayes, around the junction of Kingshill Avenue and Lansbury Drive, manages to be fractionally over two miles from Hillingdon on the Metropolitan line, South Ruislip on the Central Line, and of course Hayes and Harlington on the Great Western.

3) Richmond Park (TW10) (>2m)
Richmond Park is vast, and beautiful, and nobody lives there, so London's railways have always skirted round it. It's the largest railway-free chunk of London that isn't round the periphery, and a bit of a transport black hole. The park's southeastern corner (by the Robin Hood Gate) is fractionally over two miles from Norbiton, Barnes and Southfields stations (with residents of nearby Kingston Vale just closer to the former, and those in Putney Vale just closer to the latter).

4) Barnet Gate (EN5) (>2m)
That's not Barnet town in the valley but a small hamlet on the hill, just down the road from Arkley, near the windmill. Residents of the Rockways cul-de-sac live just over two miles from Elstree & Borehamwood and Mill Hill Broadway stations on Thameslink, plus High Barnet station on the Northern line. It's lucky they own three cars each.

5) Havering-atte-Bower (RM4) (>3m); Collier Row, Chase Cross, Noak Hill (RM5, RM2, RM3) (>2m)
This is the most populous area of London to be more than two miles from a station. The northern edge of Havering runs distantly parallel to what will be Crossrail, a fair trek from Romford, Gidea Park and Harold Wood stations, and much too far from the Central line's Hainault loop. The village of Havering-atte-Bower is furthest of all, over three miles from Romford, but at least you can get there on the occasional bus.

6) North Ockendon (RM14) (>2m)
A snout of London pokes out east beyond the M25, no great shakes population-wise, mostly fields. A patch of it (near Warley substation) is just over two miles from Upminster at the end of the District line, and Ockendon and West Horndon on c2c. Move along, there's nothing to see here.

7) Damyns Hall (RM14) (>2m)
Damyns Hall Aerodrome lurks in an overlooked rural corner of the capital, between woodland and gravel pits, almost in Thurrock, near nowhere in particular. It's a lot easier to fly in than to get the train (from Hornchurch, Rainham or Ockendon).

8) Cudham (TN16) (>3m); Biggin Hill, Downe (TN14) (>2m)
London's largest area of stationlessness is in the southeast corner of the capital, at the foot of the borough of Bromley. The East Grinstead line runs too far to the west, and the Sevenoaks line too far to the east, while the Hayes line halts much too soon to make a difference. The largest town in the quiet zone is Biggin Hill, where residents are reliant on buses and cars (and also occasionally planes) to get around. The scattering of villages to the east is intensely rural and ought probably to be in Kent. Without Tramlink connectivity would be even worse, its crucial link to New Addington keeping this corner of Croydon, and additional chunks of Bromley, out of the track-distant zone.

So to answer the big question, where exactly in area number 8 is furthest from a station?

I reckon it's Grays Lane, a narrow hedge-lined road to the south of the village of Cudham, close to where the North Downs tumble down Westerham Hill into the county of Kent. More specifically it's on a footpath through the grounds of Cudham Grange, an old house which sounds like it ought to be the hub of an Agatha Christie whodunnit. From here the three nearest stations are each 4¼ miles distant, specifically Knockholt in London, Oxted in Surrey and Dunton Green in Kent [map evidence] [map evidence]. They're all well over an hour's walk away, indeed practically nearer two, making commuting from here tougher than anywhere else in the capital. The 246 bus and the R5/R10 buses may run within a mile, but TfL rate the spot with an accessibility score of zero. If you hate trains but love London, this is where to come.

Update: Reader Geo_rich has created a much more accurate map showing areas more than two and three miles away from a station. We almost agree, and it's a fascinating shape.

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