Sunday, 1 January 2012

Walking to Totteridge

Totteridge. Sounds like a place name Ken Dodd made up. It has an ordinary (but listed) Northern Line station at Totteridge and Whetstone, one stop south of the terminus at High Barnet. Totteridge and Whetstone are separated by the Dollis Brook, which sounds to me like it ought to be the name of an actress from the 1930s.

Totteridge and Whetstone station. Picture courtesy TfL.

Whetstone High Street is a few hundred metres up the hill from the station. Correctly High Road, as this is the old Great North Road. A very ordinary London suburb.

Whetstone High Road in the 1950s. Picture courtesy Francis Frith,greater-london/photos/high-road-c1955_w480016/

I've known since I've been about six that the A5109 goes from Watling Street at Edgware, crosses the A1 at Apex Corner, then goes through Totteridge to the Great North Road at Whetstone. This came from years of studying 'the big book' - my beloved grandfather's AA Road Atlas of England and Wales.

Like many places just off the routes we used to travel, I always wanted to go to Totteridge. Similarly Dragonby and Pilham in Lincolnshire. With those places I was disappointed when I eventually went. Not so Totteridge.

It was totally by accident that I actually went to Totteridge. I had a phase during the spring of walking from my current customer site near Old Street station to my hotel in Whetstone. It's about nine miles as the crow flies, and the objective was to walk past as many tube stations as possible. Anal I know, but it gives a sense of what London is really like above ground. Did you know for instance that if you walk from London Bridge to Whetstone along the Great North Road you have passed a station of every tube line except the Bakerloo? Did you want to know? I'll move on.

My walk one day took me along the Euston and Marylebone Roads to Baker Street, then north along the Finchley Road past Lord's Cricket Ground to Swiss Cottage (one of three London tube stations named after pubs, the others being Elephant & Castle and Royal Oak).

Ye Olde Swiss Cottage. Courtesy Wikipedia author Oxyman under the GNU Free Documentation License

Then to the innovatively named Finchley Road - you might as well call the station A41, it would be as descriptive as to where you are - and eventually off the main road to Golders Green. Here I did something rather strange: I turned left rather than continue straight on to North Finchley and Whetstone. No idea why, but a good decision. I then seemed to walk forever, crossing the North Circular and eventually ending up at Mill Hill East station, the one stop spur of the Northern Line from Finchley Central. By this time my phone battery was dead so I was following instinct. The area was becoming more and more upmarket: I'd associated the name 'Mill Hill' with the area around Mill Hill Circus on the A1 - curved London buildings, standrard suburbia - not at all like the area I was seeing.

 Mill Hill Circus. Courtesy Martin Addison on Flickr under the Creative Commons License.

Mill Hill School, which I passed on The Ridgeway, is a little grander. To say the least. Unsurprisingly it's hired out for weddings.

Mill Hill School, courtesy Mill Hill School Enterprises.

The road kept going upwards (the clue is in the name - The Ridgeway) until it reached the A5109. Almost home I thought. Actually four miles, as I was much further west than I imagined. Then - hang on - this is ceasing to be suburban, as there are very few houses. We're still climbing, and there's no footpath. And sheep. And those houses that were there were ENORMOUS. Totteridge Common, Barnet's very own Beverly Hills. Montebello, shown below was designed by the architect Philip Jebb - there are properties similar to this along both sides of a two mile stretch of road.

Montebello, Totteridge Common, courtesy

After what seemed forever - by this point I was tired, and it was 1 am - the road headed downwards into Totteridge Village, and the houses became closer together and Mill Hill posh, not the sort of opulence that I'd just left behind. I saw a police car, stationary in the village, and hoped I wouldn't be arrested for walking. But no, this wasn't the real Beverley Hills, so I was fine.

I proceeded down the steep hill to the familiarity of the Dollis Brook and Totteridge and Whetstone tube station. It had been quite an adventure.

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