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LEYTONSTONE Central Line - A LONDON TUBE RAMBLES WALK
(About a mile on streets, but leave time to explore woodland from which you can access 
Wanstead Park, making it a half-day excursion)


A lot of surprises!
The station is architecturally uninteresting, having been hit by a bomb while undergoing refurbishment in the 1940's, but its low-key design is redeemed by an amazing series of 17 murals (2001).
These
celebrate the centenary of Alfred Hitchcock’s birth at 517 Leytonstone High Street (now the site is a service station). Turn left at the underpass to see scenes from his films as well as portraits of the director himself. The mosaics were designed and made by a team of artists from the Greenwich Murals Workshop. At the end of the underpass you will see outside something else unexpected.   In the bus station is an unusual and clever sculpture. Made of bricks, the circular seat represents a variety of buses. (Lodewyk Pretor. 1999.)

Now retrace your steps and continue to the end of the tunnel (you'll find more murals on the way). Once outside the station turn left and cross at the lights to Church Lane where you will see St. John's. It has a leafy churchyard, but lost many graves in a WW2 bombing raid. However, it's worth a visit as it has been treated as a little park, with small info boards dotted around. One describes the damage and casualties suffered by Leytonstone during the war, others are concerned with wild life. I particularly liked the one headed ‘Mini Beasts’ (insects). Tucked away in the right hand corner at the back is the family grave of Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton (1786-1845), a leading social reformer and anti-slavery campaigner.
Leaving the churchyard, follow the road as it bends left into the High Street (heavy, often slow-moving traffic). After a few minutes cross carefully at the lights to Aylmer Road.   Go down a little way and  behind the handsome bank building on the corner is yet another surprise. Totally hidden until you peer through an iron gate is a terrace of large eighteenth-century houses. By contrast, next door is the old London City Mission building (1885). 


Back in the High Road at the top of Grove Road is an intriguing sculpture ‘Leaf Memory’ (Stephen Duncan 2001). A little further on,  Browning Road has a distinctly rural collection of early Victorian cottages with traditional gardens clustered higgledy-piggledy at the bend of the road. Sadly, this potentially very attractive area has been spoilt by the dominant presence of large wheelie bins .  No wonder so many of the people who live here seem to have given up the battle to maintain  their little patch of garden. Continue walking down Browning Road proper which curves to the left.

Ahead of you is Bush Wood (perhaps the inspiration behind ’Leaf Memory’ ?). This is a lovely area of ancient woodland, once part of Wanstead House estate (see possible walk extension below)  with some very large sweet chestnut trees. You can either explore it or go back to the High Street via John Drinkwater Close.   At the major road cross at the lights towards the handsome set of buildings opposite and  walk right towards the Green Man roundabout. Bear left to find Leytonstone House. This slightly odd, but very impressive eighteenth century mansion is unusual in having a curved wall at the rear which houses the internal staircase. In the early part of the nineteenth century the Buxton family (see above) lived here. From 1868 to 1937 it was part of Bethnal Green Industrial Schools, and subsequently Leytonstone House Hospital. Now offices. Behind it is the large range of dormitories etc that belonged to the schools. This has been converted into apartments with some buildings still used for Community Care. The rest of the estate is now occupied by Tesco. You can get to the shopping area by turning into the western courtyardThe main hall of the old industrial schools adjacent to the supermarket has been turned into a parade of small shops.      Cut through the car park  (notice the ancient cedar tree which once stood in beautiful gardens) and walk along  Lemna Road/Kirkdale Road tget back to the Tube station.

 
A varied visit, quite a lot to see if you are in the area, and worth making it a whole a day out in the summer if you pick up my Wanstead trail from Bush Wood. There are entrances to Wanstead Park a short walk away along either Overton Drive or, even nearer, Blake Hall Road (see sketch map). I should warn that in wet weather the track from the Blake Hall Road entrance gets very muddy.

For a general history of the Leytonstone area, click here.




Photos (click on image to enlarge)
'The Birds'/bus station seat
'Saboteur'/'North by Northwest'
'Leaf Memory'
St. John's churchyard/'Young Hitchcock'
Leytonstone House


MAP

Leytonstone is just one walk from the many to be found at London Tube Rambles. There are architectural gems, beautiful country views, historic places and quirky buildings even in the most unpromising areas covered by the outer London Underground stations. Usually the discoveries are within a mile of the Tube - often only five minutes walk away. If you reached this as an individual page via a search engine, you might like to go to www.londontuberambles.co.uk to see the other destinations explored. You'll be amazed at what's out there!


© DR