Archway to High Barnet (8.3 miles total)
This walk is the longest of the five. It visits the stations that became the only successful part of the Northern Heights plan. It starts with a trek on the surface over the present-day Northern Line between Archway and East Finchley and ends with a picturesque stroll along the Dollis Valley Greenwalk to High Barnet.
Note – On the map, the route is marked in green.
To start, get an Oyster / Travel Card that includes at least Zones 3-5 and get yourself to Archway.
Archway (1907) was the starting point for the first phase of the Northern Heights plan. The project called for the extension of the line from the terminus here through tube tunnels to a new deep level station under the LNER Highgate station and then onwards through more tunnels to reach the surface just before the LNER station at East Finchley.
The station had been opened in 1907 as the second northern terminus (Golders Green was the first) of the Charing Cross, Euston & Hampstead Railway (CCE&HR), commonly known as the “Hampstead Tube”.
Archway was originally named Highgate when it opened. As we have already seen, the 1867 GNR (later LNER) station further north was also known as Highgate and the village of Highgate itself lay between the two. In the 1930s the station became Archway (Highgate) and then simply “Archway”. The name derives from the Archway Tavern which still stands just outside the station.
The extension work was begun in 1936 and completed as planned; the new line was opened to East Finchley in July 1939; services to High Barnet commenced in 1940, and to Mill Hill East in 1941. Although the station never gained the planned direct services to Edgware and Bushey Heath , the project transformed its connectivity dramatically.
The station was originally only provided with an elevator and stairs, escalators were added later along with other exits. The surface buildings have been modified several times over the years and nothing original survives.
From Archway the Northern Line makes its way to Highgate under Archway Road (A1) but the following route makes a more pleasant (although very hilly!) workaround.
Head up Highgate Hill for about a half a mile until you see Waterlow Park on the left. It is quite a stiff climb; an early version of San Francisco’s famous cable cars used to run along this stretch.
The park is worth a wander around if you have time.
Turn right into Cholmeley Park. You cannot easily miss the turning as there is a large pink “Highgate Heritage” sign that commemorates Barbara Castle, the Labour politician, who once lived in the building behind.
Walk (downhill) along Cholmeley Park until reaching a roundabout. Turn left here into Cholmeley Crescent and almost immediately head right along a footpath (Peacock Walk). At the end of the footpath bear right into Highgate Avenue and follow It until it meets Archway Road. Highgate Station is just opposite here (1.0 mile).
Highgate (Deep Level 1941) would have enjoyed a service of 21 trains an hour via Archway in the initial timetable for the full Northern Heights plan. A third of these would have terminated at Finchley Central, another third would have gone to High Barnet and the remainder to Bushey Heath via Edgware. Passengers would also have been able to change to the 14 trains an hour between Moorgate and Alexandra Palace / Finchley running from the surface platforms above.
Highgate was opened in January 1941 almost 18 months after the new tube lines that ran through it from Archway to East Finchley had been completed. The two platforms here were the only new tube platforms planned for the whole Northern Heights project.
They are still decorated in the original (and very pleasing) tiling scheme which includes the usual excellent signage from the 1930s London Transport era. They are also longer than any other tube platform on the network as they were built as part of an experiment to accommodate longer 9-car trains. The idea was never pursued and so today trains look a bit short as they stop in the middle of the platforms.
Highgate was also used from 1941 until the end of the war as an air raid shelter. Apparently, Jerry Springer, the US TV personality was born in the station whilst his mother was sheltering there in 1944.
The new tube platforms were linked to the new concourse that had been built underneath the LNER platforms. The station functioned briefly as an interchange whilst the LNER continued to offer its steam service between Alexandra Place and Finsbury Park until 1954.
Designed by Charles Holden, London Transport’s most-favoured architect, the pre-war plans for the whole station included a large Art Deco entrance building at the top of the hill on Archway Road next to The Woodman public house. It would have been topped by a statue of Dick Whittington and his cat.
Sadly, there is no entrance there today. Instead, the prospective passenger needs to head further east along Archway Road and descend steps to the station car park. From a corner of the car park there is a single depressing entrance with steps leading down to the concourse under the old LNER station.
The only other entrance is from Priory Gardens on the north side. This side is level with the concourse, but it looks almost as depressing as the Archway Road entrance.
Bizarrely though, whilst there are only two entrances, there are three exits!
From the concourse a single long escalator leads up to a lonely lobby….
The way out is then signposted through what first appear to be emergency exit doors….
When you get closer you can see that the doors are marked with a series of paper notices that instruct the user only to exit via the single door on the right. The signage here is totally amateurish and is in total contrast with that found on the platforms below.
Open the door and prepare yourself for a surprise….
You are now at the exact spot next to the Woodman public house on Archway Road where the grand Art Deco entrance hall with the statue of Dick Whittington on the top was planned to have been.
It seems that by the time the station was being completed in 1957 (after the old surface platforms had closed) the money had run out and a one-way escalator was all they could afford.
As it is “exit only”, the building is totally anonymous, but just in case there is any doubt, they have put up a little sign on the outside that says, “this is not the correct entrance to Highgate station”.
They can say that again!
Continue to follow Archway Road ( following the same route as in Walk 2 but this time not turning into Highgate wood) and when the main road heads left, bear right, and continue along Great North Road.
We are now following two routes between Highgate and East Finchley. Underneath us is the 1939 tube route, whilst just next to us on the surface is the old LNER line.
Take a brief detour into Woodside Road and peer over the railway bridge. Looking towards Highgate, the old LNER line (now part of Highgate Depot) can be seen reaching as far as the western tunnel portals. Looking in the other direction, the line reaches towards East Finchley Station.
Continue along Great North Road passing the Old White Lion pub on the left before reaching East Finchley Station (2.1 miles).
East Finchley (1867) was completely rebuilt for the Northern Heights plan; It is the most significant surface building to have resulted from the entire project and is perhaps the last example of Charles Holden’s reworking of London Transport stations in the 1930s.
The original station had first opened at the same time as the rest of the GNR line in 1867 but it had just two platforms. Under the Northern Heights plan East Finchley had to be reconfigured with four. The extra tracks were needed because the new 1939 tube lines from Archway came to the surface just before the station and met the old LNER tracks from Highgate and Finsbury Park.
The inner pair of tracks were intended to serve the surface route from Moorgate via Finsbury Park, whilst the outer pair would serve the new tunnel from Archway. Passengers would have enjoyed cross-platform interchange between the two routes in each direction. The initial timetable suggested that 7 trains an hour would have arrived from Highgate on the surface line and 21 via the new tube. All 28 would have gone forward towards Finchley Central.
Underground trains first reached East Finchley in July 1939 and were extended to High Barnet in April 1940 and to Mill Hill East in May 1941. Although it was certainly not the plan at the time, this completed the shape of today’s Northern line.
The LNER steam trains continued to operate a shuttle to Highgate until 1941 but the post-war cancellation of the electrification of the surface line from Finsbury Park meant that the inner platforms were only ever used for depot movements.
Although it never reached its full potential as an interchange, the station is a classic Art Deco/Streamline Moderne design by Charles Holden and is a Grade II listed building. It is dominated by a 10-foot statue of an archer (Eric Aumonier). It is perhaps not the best Holden station, but it is still worth a wander around.
Continue along High Road, passing the Phoenix Cinema (previously the Rex and the Coliseum) on the right. With its prominent neon sign, it is another Art Deco classic. It is Grade II listed and its interior has appeared in many period films including most recently, “Films Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool”.
At the next crossroads make a left turn into East End Road followed by a right turn into Market Place. There used to be a pig market in the area at one time, but now the street is residential. There is an interesting Royal Mail sorting office (1901) about halfway along,
Follow Market Place until it widens and splits into two, take the left fork and then continue onto the footpath at the end. Continue along the footpath (which becomes “the Walks”) as it crosses several streets: Oakridge Drive, Park Gate, Leslie Road and Leopold Road before passing the Windsor Castle public house on the left.
Turn left at the crossroads after the pub into Church Lane and then right into Long Lane. Follow Long Lane until it passes under the North Circular Road. Note the fire station on the right as you emerge from under from the bridge, it was completed in 1936 in modernist style.
Immediately after the North Circular Road take the footpath to the left and cross over the Northern Line. During the early planning for the Northern Heights, consideration was given to having a tube train depot here as well as an extra station that would have been known as Finchley Manor. The plan was dropped due to lack of space.
After crossing the line make a right turn into Rosemary Avenue. Follow Rosemary Avenue as it eventually becomes Station Road until the junction at the end with Regents Park Road.
Ignore the south entrance of the station and turn right onto Regents Park Road and cross the railway again. Chaville Way with the main entrance to Finchley Central is on the right. (4.1 miles)
Finchley Central (1867) was first linked to the Northern Line in April 1940 and if the full Northern Heights plan had been implemented it would have had up to 28 trains an hour arriving according to the initial proposed timetable.
Up to 21 trains would have travelled here using the new tube route via Archway. 7 of these would have terminated here, whilst the remaining 14 would have been split equally between the High Barnet branch and the line to Bushey Heath via Edgware. An additional 7 trains would have arrived from Moorgate via Finsbury Park. These would have been extended to High Barnet at peak periods.
The station retains much of its original Victorian character. There were plans for Charles Holden to reconfigure the station with buildings either side of the road bridge, but they fell through.
The station has three platforms. The shuttle service to Mill Hill East normally departs from platform 1, with the trains to and from High Barnet use the other two.
Just after the station the tracks to High Barnet branch off quite sharply to the right; the line to Mill Hill East goes straight on. Yet if you look at the diagrammatical map of the Underground, you could assume that it is Mill Hill East that is on a branch.
Given this “illusion”, it is quite appropriate perhaps that Harry Beck, the designer of the diagrammatical tube map (who lived nearby), is commemorated by a display on platform 3. Ironically, Finchley Central was not yet a tube station when he designed the first map.
Continue east along Ballards Lane past Falkland Avenue and then turn left onto a footpath (it is called Lover’s Walk but signposted as “Footpath to Nether Street”) ) and follow it over the railway. At the end of the footpath turn right into Nether Street and continue walking. West Finchley is on the righthand side. (4.9 miles)
West Finchley (1933), like the other stations on the High Barnet branch, was first linked to the Northern Line in April 1940.
The station was a late addition to the High Barnet line; it was opened by the LNER to serve new housing developments.
It was made from used parts that the LNER brought in from Yorkshire and it looks more like a station from a quiet country branch line. It is incredible to think that at the same time as the LNER were putting this together, just a few miles away Charles Holden was creating modernist masterpieces like Arnos Grove on the Piccadilly line.
Much as I am a fan of Holden’s stations, I think West Finchley is quite charming.
Continue along Nether Street (now on the other side of the tracks) and then turn left into Argyle Road. Just before the railway bridge there is a footpath on the right. Walk down this footpath, with the railway on the left side (crossing Holden Road about halfway down), until you reach Woodside Park (5.6 miles).
Woodside Park (1872) was never rebuilt, and it still retains much of its original Victorian architectural character today, even the little signal box on the down platform remains in situ.
Cross the tracks via the station footbridge (there is no need to enter the station to do this) and emerge into Station Approach, turn right into Holden Road and then soon after turn left into Tillingham Way. Cross the river and then turn right onto the Dollis Valley Greenwalk path.
Follow this path alongside the river. At first it is gravel but after Laurel View it becomes a paved track. It ends at Totteridge Lane. Turn right onto Totteridge Lane and Totteridge & Whetstone station is in front of you. (6.7 miles)
Totteridge & Whetstone (1872) was never modernised and, although the exterior seems a little worse for wear, it also retains much of its original Victorian character today.
Retrace your steps slightly and turn right back onto the Dollis Valley Greenwalk. Now the paved path splits into two and threads through a wide-open space. In theory one path is for walking and one for cycling, but in practice the distinction does not seem to be observed much.
When the path eventually emerges at Barnet Playing Fields, take the footpath on the right hand side of the field, keep walking north (with the fenced-off school field on the left) until exiting into Priory Grove. Walk up Priory Grove with the school (Ark Pioneer Academy) on the left.
Turn left into Westcombe Drive and soon after right onto a path which leads to Underhill. Cross Barnet Hill Common and High Barnet is visible in front of you on the right. (8.5 miles).
High Barnet (1872) became a terminus for the Northern Line on April 14th, 1940 when the new electric service from East Finchley was inaugurated.
On the same day, British troops first landed in Norway at the start of what would become a disastrous campaign.
Despite the worsening war situation, London Transport created a poster to advertise the new electric trains. Perhaps in honour of the new statue at East Finchley, it used an archery theme and talked optimistically about the benefits of the new line for “sightseeing” in London!
If the war had not intervened, High Barnet would have had up to 14 trains an hour terminating in the initial full Northern Heights plan. These would have included 7 electric trains direct from Moorgate via Finsbury Park which would have been extended here at peak periods.
It is hard to argue that any of the four stations on the High Barnet branch lost too much from the abandonment of the full plan. Users of the line today enjoy very frequent services via both the Charing Cross and Bank branches of the Northern line; one would assume that the lack of a direct service to Finsbury Park, or a one change connection to Edgware, is not too much of an inconvenience to most of them.
The station was never modernised in the 1930s, and like the previous two it still retains much of its original Victorian character today. When you approach it from the long sloping narrow pedestrian lane that leads down from Barnet town centre, it looks quite enchanting; more like a halt in a quiet village than a terminus in a busy metropolis.
In 1872, much to the chagrin of the locals, the line stopped short of the main centre, but it is certainly worth the effort to make the final short climb up to the centre for a look around.
From High Barnet it is obviously easy to return to Archway using the Northern line.
More information on the Northern Heights
Walk 1 – Moorgate to Finsbury Park (3.6 miles)
Walk 2 – Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace (4.4 miles)
Walk 4 – Finchley Central to Edgware (4.5 miles)
Walk 5 – Edgware to Elstree & Borehamwood (6.6 miles)