As autumn approaches and reading a book in the not-so-sunny park becomes less appealing by the day, many Londoners will set their sights on the leafy horizon for excellent inspiration for a day out.
Don’t you know Surrey from your Essex? No fear. We’ve done the legwork. So why not blow away summer’s messy cobwebs with some solid exploration.
And the best part? These areas are all easily accessible on LondonThe newest, coolest and best tube, the Elizabeth Line.
So grab a jacket and a plan, and hop on that purple line to discover what gems await just outside the capital.
The Wonders of West London
Travelers will need to change trains at Paddington for westbound services to Ealing, West Drayton and Reading, but it’s worth soaking up the sun at the Thames Lido (two hours from £25) – restored Edwardian pools on the banks of the Thames. You can see a full-size replica of the Bayeux Tapestry in Reading Museum free.
Stop by on the way back Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha in Southall, the largest Sikh temple outside of India. Or take a walk on the Flight of Locks – seven locks along the Grand Union Canal at Hanwell.
Don’t miss a walk around Pitzhanger Manor in Ealing. The mansion, a ten minute walk from Ealing Broadway station, is the former home of neoclassical architect Sir John Soane and is now an acclaimed art gallery.
The only way is Essex
Formerly known as Crossrail, the railway links 41 stations between Reading and Heathrow in the west and Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east, giving millions of commuters time to travel from Essex to Berkshire. areas. However, the Elizabeth line also opens up a multitude of attractions to the vacationer.
I hop on the new line at Farringdon and take the southeast branch to Abbey Wood, suitably delighted with the royal purple livery on board. The first stop is Woolwich, the military heart of London. Home to the Royal Military Academy, the Royal Arsenal and Henry VIII’s shipyard, it also houses London’s newest creative district Woolwich Works, on the site of the old Royal Arsenal ammunition factory. A thriving hub of coolness, it hosts all sorts of events from comedy nights to, um, Baby Gospel.
Abbey Wood’s City Safari
I hop back in and head to Abbey Wood, the last stop on the southeastern branch of the line. Stepping out of the station, I am engulfed by the leafy green delights of zone four.
A ten minute walk from the station is Lesnes Abbey Woods, a nature reserve set around the ruins of the 12th-century Lesnes Abbey. Eagle-eyed wildlife enthusiasts can spot woodpeckers, nuthatches, slow worms and voles roaming the forest while the rest of us will appreciate the breathtaking views of Canary Wharf.
A titanic piece of history
I board another train to Liverpool Street and join the east branch. The first stop here is Chadwell Heath, where Eva Hart – one of the longest-lived survivors of the Titanic disaster – stayed. Read more about her experience on the liner on the Valence House Museum, a 15th-century mansion with a water moat. It’s well worth an hour or two of your time, not least for the impressive cakes in the tea room.
In the museum you can also see Chadwell Heath whale bones, which came from a creature stranded in the Thames in the 17th century; the Dig for Victory garden and air raid shelter; and the Fanshawe collection of family portraits from the 16th to the 20th century. I especially like the rusting off-road Ford Capri.
Or play a round of Moby Golf on the UK’s largest adventure golf course (£9.95, golfkingdom.net) with Moby Dick, Dagenham’s sperm whale.
At the end of the line is Shenfield, where kids can discover the magic of the deep, dark forest on the Gruffalo Trail in Thorndon Country Park (free, essexwt.org.uk). And you can also meet Romeo and Juliet raccoons, Steve the pig and Bertha the boa constrictor at Hopefield Animal Sanctuary (free, hopefield.org.uk), a mile walk from Brentwood station, one stop east.
Iron Maiden from Maryland
There’s no rest for the wicked, so it’s back on the Liz Line east to town for my next stop, Maryland. I only chose this stop because it sounds exotic, but I wasn’t aware that the East End venue has a permanent place in music history as the birthplace of Iron Maiden. The band played some of their earliest gigs in the Cart & Horses in 1975.
After a pint of Iron Maiden Trooper, a pack of scratches and a spontaneous headbang, it’s back on the train, heading west to Paddington.
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