I visited where the London Underground ‘ends’ and discovered it is in the middle of a forest
My London transport correspondent Callum Marius went in hunt of the exact spot on the Tube that’s furthest from LondonSHARE
- BY CALLUM MARIUS
- 19:15, 12 AUG 2021
You need to go to great lengths to visit every single part of the London Underground.
So I found out on a trip to the section of the Tube that’s the furthest west.https://4eff1c2aebd145cf62564ef007bbf866.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html?n=0
Chesham, you might think, which at 25 miles from Charing Cross is the station that’s the furthest from Central London?
Indeed, Chesham is the furthest west a Tube train will take you but it isn’t quite the furthest point west on the London Underground network. Let me explain…https://4eff1c2aebd145cf62564ef007bbf866.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html?n=0
The furthest points you can get a London Underground train to are easy to work out. To the east, it’s Upminster, Morden to the south and Chesham is both the furthest north and west. As for the actual furthest points, that’s slightly more complicated when it comes to Chesham.https://d-11611688461516583073.ampproject.net/2107302322001/frame.htmlhttps://get-latest.convrse.media/?cre=mr-bottom&tags=%5B%22London%20Underground%22%2C%22Metropolitan%20Line%22%2C%22Transport%22%2C%22Apple%22%2C%22Google%22%2C%22Network%20Rail%22%2C%22Theresa%20May%22%2C%22Wembley%22%5D§ion=news&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.mylondon.news%2Fnews%2Fnorth-london-news%2Fvisited-london-underground-ends-discovered-21298826&customAdData=oid:21298826;token:;templ:amp;platform:distributed#amp=1
Beyond Upminster and Morden are depots for Tube trains which mark the furthest points where you’ll find Tube track and conventional London Underground property.
Chesham station, the final stop on the Metropolitan line is the furthest point north but not the furthest west.
That prize goes to a tiny, level crossing in Buckinghamshire which is inaccessible by road.
You’ll find it in Piper’s Wood, an area of thick woodland about three miles west of Amersham station, the other terminus of the northern section of the Metropolitan line.
It is one mile to the west of Chesham station.
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The level crossing (which actually links Weedonhill Wood to High Spring as Piper’s Wood is perpendicular to it) has a tiny, barely noticeable board which marks the boundary between the London Underground and Network Rail.
The odd location is down to various historical reasons following the Metropolitan line’s withdrawal between Aylesbury and Amersham in 1961 which is fully explained in this comprehensive blog post by the late researcher Mike Horne.
So, off I went to go and see the site for myself.
I was prepared for it being a relatively rural location.
I have travelled through it many times as Chiltern Railways trains still use the line to get between Aylesbury and Amersham. Although London Underground owns and maintains the tracks up to that point, Tube trains can no longer use them as they are not electrified.
I headed to Amersham station, which gets an impressive four trains an hour to and from Central London, with an off-peak single being just £4.30 on Oyster and set out to find this mysterious level crossing.
The level crossing does not show on Google Maps.
That did not help things. Luckily, my iPhone did show me it on Apple Maps, perhaps suggesting I may not have been the only one to trek through the woods with a smartphone.
I decided to follow my instinct and triangulate between the various maps to work out which way to go.
Heading through the town, where there is a random piece of disused railway track just chilling at the side of the main shopping street, I proceeded west along Hervines Road, a residential street which leads to the local park called… well… Hervines Park, obviously.
The park was the first hurdle, it is surrounded by woodland, with several rough tracks going through it, none of them signposted.
I slid my way (yes, slid, it is ridiculously steep, this is the Chilterns) down an embankment into the woods and made my way through an overgrown bushy trail like something out of Indiana Jones.
There were one or two dog walkers in the distance and I could hear faint noises and screams in the distance which were a mixture of unsettling and reassuring.
Climbing back up the embankment on what I now realise is Windmill Plantation, I emerged onto an empty rugby pitch. Feeling a little more Eliza Thornberry than Indiana Jones, I was happy to know I was still within the realms of human civilisation.
That was when all signs of life stopped.
At the end of the rugby pitch is a clearing into a woodland. It’s not immediately obvious but there is a random cargo container there which drew my attention.
Heading into the woods, things started to feel a little creepy. I chuckled at myself that even if I no longer had 4G and phone signal I still knew ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ cover to cover. I was not scared.
I knew I was going in the right direction because the classic eight-foot high silver wirey fencing with barbed wire and spikes at the top appeared. It can be seen the whole way along the Metropolitan line, most notably between Finchley Road and West Hampstead and either side of Wembley Park, near to where I grew up. It was a familiar sight in a very unfamiliar setting.
Plenty of chopped wood and random markings on trees gave the wood a horror movie feel.
The ancient woodland was full of old, tall trees with roots that were crusty, plentiful and intertwined. Eerie would be an understatement, this was land uniquely for nature not for Londoners binging on their transport geekery.
Up and down through the horrendously steep woodland, I arrived at the level crossing where Weedonhill Wood, High Spring and Piper’s Wood converge.
I climbed over the stile to cross the railway line to get a clear enough look of the boundary, at a safe distance away from any oncoming trains.
Why there is a wooden stile onto a railway line, I have no idea.
Surely the last place you would want to make tired walkers climb over an obstacle is beside a railway line where trains are doing 60mph on a relatively long, sloped bend?
It probably isn’t a very eventful level crossing due to its location but it probably isn’t the safest as this site seems to suggest too.
There it was. A tiny, barely noticeable sign I could not touch read “MAINTENANCE BOUNDARY BR/LUL”. And that was it, satisfaction. It might be just a plaque in the middle of nowhere to some people but to me, it was like finding the Holy Grail.
I hauled myself over the stile on the other side of the crossing and made my way back to Amersham knowing I had now, literally, seen the entire London Underground properly.
Then there was another stile. Hauled myself over that. Then another woodland. Dragged myself through that. Then a field of wheat.
Ran through that like a naughty Theresa May (on a marked right of way, might I add).
This was when I realised my love of transport should probably have its limits.
Returning via the delectable Old Amersham, with the most impressive views of the Chiltern hills as I completed my six-mile trek back to the Tube, it dawned on me just how impressive the London Underground really is.
There are very few transport systems in the world which have the complexities, the quirks and the dramatic changes of environment that ours does.
Our Underground network is the oldest in the world and one of the best things about being a Londoner has to be exploring all its weirdness and anomalies, even if that takes me, literally, off the beaten track!
What’s the most unusual, obscure part of the London Underground you’ve ever visited? Let us know in the comments below!
- ‘I went on the London bus that only makes 2 journeys a week and it’s the only route where everyone is happy’
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