Start/End: Northwood Hills Underground Station, Northwood, HA6 1NZ
Distance: 4.5 miles
Allow: 2 hours
Ascent: 215 feet
Highlights: Elton John’s childhood home, Elton John’s first gigging venue, Pinner Hill private estate, View from Pinner Hill Golf Club.
Refreshments: The Namaste Lounge (formerly the Northwood Hills Hotel) offers a fine selection of curries including Dhal and Vindaloo.
This is the perfect walk for those who have a couple of hours to spare on a Saturday afternoon and are interested in popular music, as it explores the former neighbourhood of one of the UK’s most legendary singer/songwriters. It includes parts of Northwood Hills, Northwood and Pinner, and there are no particularly muddy passages en-route.
Leave Northwood Hills Station and cross Joel Street. Diagonally opposite on your left from the station is the former Northwood Hills Hotel, now called the Namaste Lounge. At the age of 15 in 1962, Elton John, then Reginald Kenneth Dwight, became a weekend pianist here, playing from Thursday to Sunday nights for £35 a week and tips. A dark plaque on the wall by the main doors of the pub was erected in 2010 by the Performing Rights Society (PRS) for Music, in front of fans who had travelled from as far afield as the USA. Unfortunately inside the building, there is no trace of Elton’s former presence, although the restaurant does serve up very tasty Indian speciality dishes.
Young Elton John used Northwood Hills Station regularly, to catch the train to the Royal Academy of Music, and to travel to Denmark Street with his co-writing partner Bernie Taupin to their early song-writing jobs.
Turn left and cross over the railway bridge again in the direction of Northwood Hills roundabout. Take the third exit off this roundabout and walk up Potter Street, a quiet, suburban thoroughfare featuring 1930s semi-detached houses. At the end on the left is number 111, Elton John’s second childhood home, where he lived from when he was six, when his parents married. A famous photograph of a young Elton at the piano was taken here when he was six, and it featured on the inside cover of the album ‘Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only the Piano Player’ twenty years later.
Opposite no. 111, turn right down Alandale Drive, and follow this road to the bottom to where it meets Pinner Road. Turn right and walk 300m along the right hand side of the road, stopping at the last house on the right beyond you reach the playing fields.
This is Frome Court, when Elton lived from when he was 15. Elton’s parents divorced prior to his move here, and his mother married a local painter, Fred Farebrother, a caring man who Elton affectionately referred to as “Derf” (Fred spelt backwards). The John’s lived at number 3a, and Bernie Taupin would travel down to London from Lincolnshire during the weekends and sleep over here so they could write songs. The whole experience is explored by the picture in the song “Writing” on the album “Captain Jack Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy.” It was here that Elton launched his songwriting career and penned songs such as “Your Song&rdquo, “Tiny Dancer”, “Levon&rdquo and “Skyline Pidgeon&rdquo.
Turn around and retrace your steps up Alandale Drive. Take the second turning on the right, Lyndhurst Avenue, which heads into Pinner. The road emerges at a t-junction with a fast, downhill road, Pinner Hill Road. Turn right on this road and walk down the hill, passing Caulfield Gardens on the right. Cross the road and stop at number 55. A normal looking, two storey semi-detached house, this is where Elton John was born in 1947 and named Reginald Dwight. It was also the spot where Elton, aged 4, one day managed to play note for note ‘Skaters Waltz’ on the piano from memory. Elton lived here under the often disapproving eye of his father, who tried to steer him away from music. He claims he made up for the restrictions he faced in his childhood by the wild and overbearing costumes he wore on stage in concerts.
Retrace your steps up Pinner Hill Road, and walk all the way up the hill, passing Pinner Hill Farm on your left. The tower and the adjoining block were constructed by Arthur Tooke of Pinner Hill House in 1862, who constructed several buildings on the site-the present tower was probably once used as a storehouse. At the top of the hill where the road bears left, continue straight on into the Pinner Hill Estate. This is a shaded estate consisting of grand, detached houses, and a large golf course that backs on to Pinner Hill House near the top of the hill. Walk up the road, admiring the houses on either side, many of which are valued in excess of £2 million.
Take the second turning on your left, South View Road, a pleasant rural road with no pavements and a variety of mansions. Follow the road round to the right and at the top of the hill, the large Pinner Hill Golf Club House can be glimpsed. The open parkland outside the golf club provides a stunning view northwards into Hertfordshire with the green foliage of the forest looking radiant on a summer’s day.
You will emerge at a crossroads, at the centre of three local authority boundaries and two county boundaries, Harrow and Hillingdon (in London) and Three Rivers (in Hertfordshire). On the right is a coal tax post, marking the boundary of London in 1861 for the purposes of collecting coal tax.
Walk straight ahead and take the footpath opposite the end of South View Road, which emerges at Watford Road in Northwood. The path runs past St. John’s School, and offers some fine views, including that of The Glade, an Arts and Crafts Movement house to the right of the path.
At Watford Road, turn left and follow the road down the hill, towards Green Lane. The road passes the Erskine Hall Care Centre on the left. Turn left at the t-junction at the bottom, and at the first mini-roundabout, walk straight on up Northwood Way. This is a fast residential link road between Pinner and Northwood, and is often used as a short cut by motorists. At Northwood Way, turn right, and descend down the hill towards Northwood Hills Station. The green area on the left is Hogs Back Open Space, and a short detour can be taken through this parkland, following a grass path to the top of the hill, and then taking a right turn. The path then descends and rejoins Northwood Way nearer the bottom of the hill. You will soon emerge onto Northwood Hills Roundabout again, and Joel Street is straight ahead, leading back to the station to complete your walk.
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