A cold, slightly snowy Saturday in early February; the perfect day for me and Lesley to walk the Victoria Line.
I was a little nervous about this. The Waterloo and City Line (covered in a later post) was a mere 1.5 miles with only two stations. I knew where both of those were and couldn’t really get lost. The Victoria line is some 13 miles of track and takes me to places I’ve never been before. Pimlico…Tottenham…some place called Blackhorse Road.
We got the tube to Brixton, home of a wonderful vegan cupcake shop called Ms Cupcake. No time for cakes today though, so I didn’t even mention it to Lesley. Too much temptation.
A quick snapshot of the station and off we went. The first landmark (ie thing I had heard of) along the way was the Brixton Academy, officially known as the O2 Academy, Brixton. Starting life as a theatre and cinema in 1929, it was once used as an equipment store for Rank Films before becoming the music venue it is today.
Fifteen minutes later we were outside our second station, Stockwell. This station is notable for being one end of the former City and South London Railway; the first fully deep-level entirely underground tube railway in the world. There’s a plaque inside that tells you so. Apparently. We couldn’t find it.
Onward past a brightly-painted mural depicting famous local residents. The Bond connection here is Roger Moore who called Stockwell his home at one point.
Next station, and the last one before we cross the river; Vauxhall. Trains, buses, tubes, river boats; more transport options here than you can shake an Oyster Card at.
We cross the Thames bidding farewell to sarf London and make our way north towards Pimlico. We pass 20, Vauxhall Bridge Road, and as book lovers, we had to take a pic of the Penguin Random House building. They have their own gym!
Pimlico’s notable residents include Winston Churchill, the Laura Ashley of floral pattern fame, and Laurence Olivier. We didn’t see any of them, but then again, neither did we see the station entrance for a while. It was behind us. Pimlico is the only station on the line that has no interchange with any other tube or train line so we had a good look. We won’t be seeing that again.
Victoria station is next along the line. Victoria has had an underground station since 1868, serving what we now call the District Line. It wasn’t until 1969 that the Victoria Line came about though.
What mattered to us wasn’t history, but the fact that there were shops where we could buy food and get away from the cold for a few minutes. As we left the station, we came across the Victoria Palace theatre, where Hamilton will be playing next year. Very excited about that. Lesley and I have tickets, but next May seems so far away! Next to the theatre, just about visible in my pic is Little Ben. A replica of Big Ben, or St. Stephen’s Tower if you want to be pedantic about it. I’d never noticed it before, and wouldn’t have noticed it at all had it not been pointed out in the Walk the Lines book. The next landmark of note was Westminster Cathedral. I say of note, honestly I’d never heard of it, but very grand it is. Before the cathedral was built, the site was used as a market, pleasure gardens, a maze, a fairground and a ring for bull-bating. That doesn’t sound very holy!
Onward to Green Park, passing a very famous residence, Buckingham Palace. That place does have an awful lot of windows! As Lesley pointed out, if the Queen, having forgotten her dressing gown, had to make a dash from the bath to her wardrobe everyone would be able to see. We couldn’t spot her or any of her clan waving at us through the windows so we pressed on through St. James Park. Pausing for a quick snapshot of the Green Park tube, we turned right along Piccadilly, past Fortnum and Masons (too poor to shop there) until we got to Waterstones. Had to take a photo, I work for Waterstones and so it’s an unwritten rule that I have to take a pic of every one I see during this walk. Our flagship store, Piccadilly also houses our head office, and has a wonderful cocktail bar. Hmm. Need to see if our staff discount works there…
We walked the lovely curve of Regent Street to Oxford Circus Station. This was very difficult to photograph due to the number of people spilling out of it, and that the sign is a digital one that keeps changing to a different message. Modern technology.
A quick look at the map, next station: Warren Street. This station was first called ‘Euston Road’ but was soon changed to ‘Warren Street’ in celebration of my nan, Eva Gertrude Maud Warren.* It was the first station on the underground to be Wifi enabled.
Bit of a trudge along to Euston Station. Lesley, perhaps overcome by a hot flush, had bravely removed her gloves, whilst my teeth were chattering. When finally we got there, the station was far too busy to get a decent shot of the Underground entrance, so instead I settled on a poster advising a reduced escalator service. Never mind. Euston is on the Northern Line, both Bank and Charing Cross branches, so I’ll have other opportunities.
Easy walk from here to our next station, King’s Cross St Pancras. It did mean we had to walk past the British Library without popping in, which hurt, but time was against us. Quick, reasonably priced loo stop at the station itself before continuing on.
From here on in, I was venturing into territories unknown. I love London, but rarely do I have the need to travel beyond its centre. Already the vibe was very different as we headed toward our next station, Highbury and Islington. Gone are the shops selling tourist tat, instead a more definite community feeling as we walked along Caledonian Road. I don’t know much about this area, except that there’s a famous team’s football ground nearby. Indeed, as we rounded the corner to Highbury & Islington tube itself, there were stewards there ready to direct football fans the right way. By this time though, we were not interested in the football, but in filling our tummies with delicious delicious food. We kept walking until we found an Italian place we could both agree on; Dear Pizza. So good….
Walking along some residential streets toward our next station, Finsbury Park, we came across a house with a free library in the front garden. What a marvellous idea! As we drew closer to the tube station, the number of football fans increased. Right next to the tube station was the Arsenal shop. However, I resisted the temptation to pop into the shop for some overpriced red shirts and settled for a quick snap before turning my phone’s camera to the tube station. Here, I sadly said goodbye to my friend, co-map reader and walking companion Lesley; she had other plans for the evening. My legs felt quite jealous as she vanished into the crowds at the station entrance. Soon she would be sitting down. I was going to continue for some time..
I’ve been to Finsbury Park before. I was volunteering at a charity event, and for some reason, I remember it being posh. I don’t remember it smelling of marijuana like it did that day. Nor was it quite so muddy. I felt a little despondent as I continued. There really wasn’t much to look at between Finsbury Park and Seven Sisters, apart from road and some run-down looking shops. The section of Victoria Line between Finsbury Park and Seven Sisters stations is the the longest between adjacent stations in deep level tunnels on the London Underground network. It felt like it too. I did get to wondering why the area is called Seven Sisters. A bit of Googling revealed all. The area was once known as Paige Green, but the name was changed to Seven Sisters after a ring of seven elm trees were planted. I likely walked past this clump of trees without realising it. I’ll look out for it next time.
My mood improved as I carried on my trip to Tottenham Hale. There was a shiny new retail park, which called to me, but I ignored the urge to look at stuff I don’t need and walked on. I was further cheered by a sign advertising a ‘World Wide Womb Blessing’. I was half tempted to go along; not one to turn down a unique experience but I like my womb as it is.
I got hopelessly lost looking for the tube station. Guess what – GPS on phones aren’t always accurate. Sometimes you just need to follow signs. Behind an area seething with bus stops I spotted the tube station. Again, not a good one for pausing to take pics but grabbed a quick snap and off I continued.
The trip to Blackhorse Road station was really quite pleasant. On a sunny day, I’d have been inclined to linger. The River Lee is in view, and I would have like to follow the river path a little. However, that’s for another lifetime. I continue on, passing a hand car wash, wondering if they’ll charge the driver of the stretch limo waiting its turn more than the generic little car in front of it.
There’s a mural of a black horse outside the station entrance. I did not spot this at all, I really should do my research before I walk. However, I was still excited to be at this penultimate station, so I left with a smile on my face.
I was delighted to finally make it to Walthamstow. There was evidence of a market, but was mainly packing up for the evening. I didn’t envy the stall holders, it was still cold and a little drizzly. My mood was lifted further when I passed a kebab shop which I knew from previous experience was close to the station. I’d been to a wedding in Walthamstow several months earlier, and had stopped for some chips at said kebab shop. Very good chips! I digress…
Finally, the last station on the line was there in front of me, almost 8 and a half hours after we started our journey, at Brixton. My feet were tired, but I was buzzing. The first long walk I’d managed in months. The Victoria Line is unique in being the only line where passengers are underground for its entirety. I wasn’t thinking about that then. I simply couldn’t wait to get onto to tube and eat my celebratory Raisin Whirl, courtesy of Walthamstow Sainsbury’s.
*Not true. Nor was my nan named after the street.