Beware the flying sausage

Published 18 May 2016

Grange Hill station sign on the station platform, behind a bench
Grange Hill station sign on the station platform

When I first moved to London, back in 1999, I pinned a London Underground map on the wall of the extremely expensive studio flat I rented in Ealing. On it, I highlighted the names of each of the tube stations I visited.

It was to be a record of exploration of a new city as I sought out the nooks and crannies of my new home, and a reminder that there were so many places to explore.

Of course as I settled down in London, I stopped updating the map, and one day it got thrown away completely. All these years later I’ve no real idea how much of Greater London I’ve visited, although a look at the most recent version of the map shows huge swathes of the capital I’ve never been to.

To be fair, much of it is just suburbia. I have been to Moor Park, to Hornchurch and to East Finchley, but I can’t honestly tell you a good reason to go make the effort to go there, because I didn’t see any. Such a reason may exist but what it is, I don’t know.

Which is why the desire to highlight every station name on the underground map withered and waned.

Despite that though, there was one tube station I had an aching to visit: Grange Hill. And a recent walk on the London LOOP gave me perfect excuse.

If you were exposed to children’s television between 1978 and 2008, you may guess why I was keen to visit.

Of course the TV series Grange Hill was not set in Grange Hill, the district of Chigwell. It’s not really known why the school is called Grange Hill (the original plan was to call it ‘Grange Park’), nor where it’s supposed to be other than the in the fictional London Borough of Northam (well, until 2003 when it randomly moved to Liverpool) whilst the real Grange Hill locale is actually in Essex.

Indeed the shared name is the only link between the two. The real Grange Hill wasn’t used as a filming location or anything, and most of the episodes were filmed in West London or from the BBC’s Elstree studios. But despite the real Grange Hill having absolutely nothing to do with the TV series, I still felt inexplicably drawn to visit.

The London LOOP doesn’t go through Grange Hill, although it goes pretty close. The station itself is hardly a thriving metropolis. Indeed it’s the third least used on the whole of the Underground network, and it was only relatively recently that it (and it’s neighbours at Chigwell and Roding Valley) started opening beyond eight in the evening. With just three trains an hour in each direction, I opted not to alight and hang around, and simply stick my head out of the tube train door and grab a quick photo of the station sign. However it was a firm achievement unlocked.

Truth be told, had it not been for the LOOP I would probably have never made it to Grange Hill at all. There was simply no real need. It is just a piece of suburbia on the edges of London. Nothing more to see than any other piece of the London suburbs. But the LOOP gave me an excuse. And I was more than glad it did.

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