Wednesday, June 29, 2022


This is the 24th station I have visited on the Jubilee line. I am now travelling quite a way out of London from where I live. My expectations of finding much of interest were quite low as I really am on the outskirts of London so I was expecting pleasant housing estates but not much more. But what I found was more of a rural idyll than a sprawling suburb.

The station opened in 1934 and services just the Jubilee line. It is small with just two platforms but surprisingly it had a toilet (always useful to know).

The station was built by the Metropolitan Line and as with the other stations on this line to Stanmore it became part of the Bakerloo Line from 1939 but transferred to the Jubilee Line in 1979.

With shops either side of the station I exited  onto a busy High Street. Although it was only 9.30 in the morning there was a strong smell of curry.
Not all shops had opened yet but the fruit and veg market was the most popular with queues already forming outside.

I could see a lot of greenery at the end of the High Street and decided to investigate. It turned out to be Roe Green Park. On first impressions I thought it was just an ordinary park until I noticed a sign for a walled Victorian garden. 

Just before I entered the wall garden I walked past this house known as Kingsbury Manor. The house was built in 1899 for the Duchess of Sutherland and her husband Sir Kaye Rellit. The house was then in the country and surrounded by farm land and was called 'The Cottage'. The 1901 census shows The Cottage had a cook and four other domestic staff and employed John James Watts (60) as the gardener alongside his son Rowland (23), the other gardener.
The House changed hands several times until George Cloke ( a builder) purchased it in 1929 and changed its name to Kingsbury Manor. At this time two gardeners were employed. The council purchased the House in 1938 to provide a maternity Hostel and later a home for the elderly. The garden became a Horticultural Training Ground. The house is now a school for children with Special Educational Needs.
The garden was originally the kitchen garden to the house and provided fruit, flowers and vegetables for the house. In 1989 Barn Hill Conservation Group were offered the garden and facilities which included the original workshop and tool store. It was also used by Brent Parks Ranger Service for a number of years. Since Barn Hill Conservation Group have looked after the garden, a number of grants have been awarded to pay for the renovation of the walls with traditional lime mortar; the fish pond; and the building of the Conservation centre now named The Cottage after the original name for Kingsbury Manor. The garden is now a community garden run by the community for the community.

Lucky for me, being a Saturday, it was open to the public.

The long border was packed with flowers giving it a very natural look. Bees and butterflies were enjoying the garden as were the birds which were singing their hearts out.

I particularly loved this flower bed full of poppies, lavender and roses.

Walking beneath the pergola the delightful perfume from the roses was intoxicating. As I was about to leave I noticed a small building with an open door. I was immediately welcomed inside. No sooner had I sat down for a chat with this wonderful group of volunteers when I was given a very welcome cup of tea.

This was the hub where the volunteers met to discuss the work they were going to tackle that day. There are about 60 volunteers altogether from the local area. A mixture of ages and cultures but all with the same enthusiasm and commitment to making the garden as beautiful as it could possibly be. 

The volunteers have also put together a Victorian display in another building within the garden.

I left the park via a different route going past this pre-school nursery.  John, one of the volunteers, told me that John Logie Baird, pioneer of television used this building for some of his experiments and in particular for the reception of the first television signals from the continent in 1929. There used to be a blue plaque on the wall and a small concrete monument in the garden, neither of which I could see due to the fencing around the building.

From the park I returned to the High Street which was now much busier as most of the shops had opened. The garden volunteers had mentioned a country park just the other side of the town centre so that was my target.

On the way I passed the supermarket Aldi which used to be the site of the Kingsbury Odeon which opened in 1939 and closed in 1972. The building was demolished and replaced with a supermarket firstly Sainsbury's and now Aldi's. All that remains of the original buildings are the cream tiled shops on either side.

I followed the very busy Fryent Way out of the town. The road went over the railway lines which take the underground trains into Kingsbury station.

I hadn't quite expected the park to be as large as it was and I felt I was in the middle of the countryside. Fryent Country Park is 100 hectares of old Middlesex farmland. The busy A4140 (Fryent Way) cuts through the park but you could soon forget the sound of the traffic and focus on the bird song and the buzzing of the bees. The meadows had deliberately been left to grow allowing numerous insects to enjoy the wild flowers.
The oldest feature of the park is this ancient trackway (Eldestrete Lane) once part of a route from Westminster to Hertfordshire. part of this track runs through an old hedge that dates back to Saxon times. The pattern of hedges and fields has survived almost unchanged since the 16th century.

The East of the park is predominantly made up of ancient hedgerows and hay meadows which are managed organically. The fields are irregularly shaped as they were cut out of the original woodland that comprised this area of Kingsbury in medieval times. They still retain their old names as shown on the map.
The west side of the park consists mostly of mature woodland and includes an original design by Humphry Repton a famous landscape architect and was planted in 1793. The park is an important site for nature conservation with its variety of habitats including the hedgerows, ponds, meadows and woodland and is home to many different species of flora and fauna.
Information from the notice board at the site.

I walked to the highest point in the park from where I could see the Wembley Arch in one direction and a view of the town in the other.

The sign at the top of the hill showed that I wasn't far from the Brent Reservoir where I thought on such a lovely day it would make a great place for a picnic.

The Welsh Harp (Brent reservoir) provides an attractive recreational centre as well as being a valuable habitat for wildlife and plants within a very urban part of North west London. The reservoir has one of the country's largest colonies of great crested grebes. The reservoir was created in 1837 by damming and flooding the valleys of the River Brent and Silk Stream. Its function was to provide a water supply for the Grand Union Canal.

 A coaching inn on the site of a ford in the river Brent where it crossed the Edgware Road existed for many centuries. The 'Old Welch Harp' was reconstructed around 1859 and for the next 40 years turned the Welsh Harp into a fashionable resort. Attached to the inn was a dining hall that seated 300 for dinner and 500 for concerts. Popular Music Hall entertainment added to the fame of the inn. The inn contained a museum, beast and fish mostly caught in the local area. 
The site became very popular in Victorian times for day trippers from London who came by train to enjoy the water, the racecourse, pleasure gardens, museum and the Welsh harp public house. Today the site has diverse wildlife especially the water birds within a relatively wild setting and is used for a wide variety of water based activities.

I think I must have walked in the wrong direction around the reservoir as I found nowhere suitable to sit down with brambles and shrubs kissing the edge of the water.

It did look beautiful though watching the dinghies sailing across the water.

Eventually I left the reservoir when I saw a sign for a garden centre. There's always a cafe there and toilet and I wasn't disappointed. 
I had a cup of tea and sit down whilst I reflected on a surprisingly pleasant day's walking.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Wembley Park

  This is the 23rd station I've visited on the Jubilee Line. The station services both the Metropolitan and the Jubilee Lines. Until 1880 the Metropolitan Line only went as far as Willesden Green. In early 1879 work began to build an extension of the line to Harrow-on-the Hill but although trains passed through Wembley no station was built there as it was sparsely populated. However, the chairman of the Metropolitan Railway, Sir Edward Watkin, saw the land around Wembley as a business opportunity. He had a vision to create a pleasure ground for Londoners and to develop homes in the countryside from which people could 'commute' into town on his railway. His plan was to build a park that had numerous facilities including  a tower bigger than the Eiffel Tower to be known as Watkin's Tower. Wembley Park station was built for the sole purpose of providing transport to and from the pleasure ground.  The station opened in 1893 just on Saturdays to serve the football matches in the park. It was fully opened in May 1894. The Tower was never completed due to structural problems but the new pleasure grounds offered ornamental gardens, sports facilities, a music hall and bandstands as well as a boating lake. In 1895 it attracted 120,000 visitors.

In 1921 the Government designated the pleasure gardens as the location for the British Empire Exhibition. The parkland was transformed into a major exhibition park. In 1923 the Empire Stadium was built for the exhibition which later became known as Wembley Stadium with its iconic twin towers. The stadium has been used for numerous large events over the years and consequently the station has been rebuilt to cope.
 In 1948 it was extended because of the London Olympic games. Further adjustments were made in 1979 when it changed from the Bakerloo line to the Jubilee Line. Then, as part of the Wembley Stadium redevelopment in the early 2000s the station was rebuilt and expanded increasing its capacity by 70%.

This is the nearest station to the Wembley Stadium which has a capacity of 90,000 so although it looks very empty today, the new entrances/exits and extra lifts etc will be in great demand on event days.

As you exit the station you can see the broad avenue of the Olympic Way leading to the new Wembley Stadium.  

This is the view of the outside of the station with the wide staircase taking you under the Bobby Moore Bridge

Beneath the bridge is the underpass with this tiled mural, which was restored in 2019. It shows England footballers playing in front of the old stadium.

As you leave the underpass there is a very informative series of boards which filled me in on the history of Wembley.

The Troubadour Wembley park Theatre is the first new theatre in the Borough of Brent in 40 years. It opened in the former Studio 5 which was Europe's largest TV studio when it was built in 1960 by London's first ITV channel. Although I could see it from the Olympic Way, I couldn't get a good photo of the theatre as it is surrounded by other buildings, the most prominent being a McDonald's.

Although there are lots of high rise blocks going up everywhere, the pedestrianised wide Olympic Way makes it still feel spacious.

Also on the Olympic Way is Boxpark. This is a mixed use large events space. The original Boxpark opened in Shoreditch in 2011 and was entirely built from shipping containers. That one had retail on the ground floor and eateries on the top floor. The next one opened in Croydon in 2016 again using shipping containers. This one in Wembley is much larger than the others and as  far as I could see there were no shipping containers in sight. It wasn't open when I was there so I couldn't see the inside. It looks huge from the outside and has numerous food outlets, bars, music and sports zone.

Just off the main avenue is Engineer Way which is home to the  Brent Civic Centre. It is an impressive building both from the inside and outside. The building houses a library as well as providing all the usual council facilities.
On entering the building I was struck by the enormous entrance hall. On the left is the library and on the right of the wide staircase is The Drum, an event and community space that not only holds full council meetings but many other events as well.

An unexpected heavy shower of rain gave me an excuse to take shelter here in  'Bread Ahead' which wasn't a familiar name to me but a little research informed me that it stems from a bakery business that was founded in 2000 in Borough Market. The concept of 'Bread Ahead' came a few years later in 2013. It is a mixture of a cafe, bakers and bakery school.
Rather than just buying a pastry over the counter I decided to sit down and have something more substantial alongside a much needed cup of tea.
I chose a bacon on brioche roll. A big, big mistake. Whilst the brioche was tasty the bacon was inedible. It was like tackling leather and my teeth are just not good enough these days for that challenge. Had one of the waiters come over and asked if the food was ok I would have expressed my displeasure but I wasn't in the mood for complaining today. I chose a quiet time to visit the cafe but maybe I discovered another reason it wasn't busy - the food!

The rain had almost stopped when I left the bakery to admire this building across the way. This is the Wembley Arena. It was built in 1934 as the Empire Swimming Pool. At the time it was the world's largest covered pool and could be converted into an ice rink or sports hall. It was built for the Empire games which opened in 1934. The games were held every four years and were later called the Commonwealth games. The pool was covered at the beginning of the second world war and not used again until the London Olympics of 1948. From the 1960s onwards it was used as a concert venue and in 1977 became known as the Wembley Arena. The Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Who and Cliff Richard all played their first Wembley shows at the Empire Pool. Today the original pool is still preserved under the Arena floor.

Close by is the White Horse pub named after the first FA cup final played at the stadium in 1923 often referred to as the 'White Horse Final'. The numbers on that day were higher than expected and they surged onto the pitch. Policemen were brought in to clear the pitch including one on a white horse. The photo of the mounted policeman on a white horse became the defining image of the day.

This footbridge close to the stadium is also named after the white horse following a public vote which chose from a short list of five: Sir Bobby Charlton, Sir Geoff Hurst, Sir Alf Ramsey, Live Aid and the white horse. The bridge goes over the railway lines and was designed to cope with up to 12,000 people an hour (the estimated number of users during match days. The bridge opened in 2008.

At the end of the Olympic Way is Wembley Stadium. The old stadium was demolished in 2003 and a new national stadium, designed by Foster & Partners opened in 2007 with a capacity of 90,000 spectators. Both stadiums did not just hold sporting events but hosted a variety of other major events. In 1982 Pope Paul II celebrated an open air mass  in front of 80,000 visitors. The Live Aid concert in 1985 was one of the largest ever live global satellite broadcasts of all time had 72,000 spectators and reached an estimated global audience of 1.9 billion across 150 countries and raised £150 million for famine relief. 
(photo taken from information board)
Just two months after his release as a political prisoner for 28 years, Nelson Mandela received an 8 minute ovation when he appeared at the 'International Tribute for a Free South Africa Concert' in the 1990s. Wembley continues to attract the biggest stars from the music industry.

This photo (from the internet) shows the old Wembley Stadium with its iconic towers. Many people were disappointed that the towers were not incorporated into the new Wembley Stadium  but that didn't happen. Whilst researching another station on the Bakerloo line I came across this strange monument in a park a couple of miles from here.

Found in Brent River Park it is a reminder of the old Wembley Stadium. This section is the base of the flagpole from the twin towers. So although this looks a strange monument to have in a park, I think it means a lot to local people. 

Outside the stadium is a statue of Bobby Moore who captained England when they won the World Cup in 1966.

 This new landmark of the Wembley arch can be seen by the incoming flights to Heathrow as well as from various viewpoints around London. However, it wasn't just constructed as a landmark. This 133metre tall arch with a span of 315m was built to support the retractable roof. Its construction  ensured there are no internal columns that might obstruct the view of the field from the spectators.

This staircase known as the 'Spanish Steps' links the Stadium with the Wembley Arena. It is used as a canvas for Wembley Park's art installations. This is the fourth artwork that has been displayed on the steps. It is called 'Drawn Together' a piece of artwork from Wembley's 2020 display 'United in Light'. The design features hundreds of unique self illustrated portraits placed side by side and shaded to form a rainbow. The designer Tash Randolf wanted to reflect the public working together to tackle the pandemic. In a year when people were asked to stay apart Randolf wanted to show people united in one cause.

There are some green areas amongst the highrisers providing a welcome change.

The view from the Stadium back towards Wembley park underground station.


A short walk brought me back to the station and a look at the information board shows that I just have four more stations to visit on the Jubilee Line.