How To Get The Best Out Of The Overground's Month Of Free Travel

How To Get The Best Out Of The Overground's Month Of Free Travel
Class 710 on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line
Photo: TfL

The Gospel Oak to Barking line is finally up and running, with new trains at full capacity. And to celebrate — or to be more accurate, to apologise — everyone gets a month of free travel on this part of the Overground (see bottom of this article for how it works). But what is there to do along the route? That's where we come in — taking you down the route, west to east with two treats close to each station.

Gospel Oak

It's a hard life at Kristin Baybar's toy shop.

Opposite the station lies one of London's most idiosyncratic shops. Kristin Baybar's toy shop. From the outside it looks like a dilapidated and abandoned shack, but we urge you to knock on the door and be transported to a whole other world. Stuffed with hundreds of intricate miniatures, it beats Hamleys hands down.

Alternatively: There's this tiny pocket park behind the station, so minuscule barely anyone knows its there. Hampstead Heath. We've heard it might be worth your while. Oh, and it has some funny rules.

Upper Holloway

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The Owl and Hitchhiker is one of the most unabashedly fun pubs in London. It's centrepiece is a massive wooden owl. The name derives from the creations of two of the area's former resident. Edward Lear's The Owl and the Pussycat, and Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The boozer is a mash-up of wacky colours and bunting to make sure the fun doesn't stop at the name.

Alternatively: Wander the surrounding area and see how many Dick Whittington connections you can find. This is supposedly the spot where Dick heard Bow Bells, and turned around to give London one last shot. We wouldn't recommend trying to hear them there today, you wouldn't stand a chance.

Crouch Hill

London is currently flush with proposals to provide "the city's answer" to New York's High Line. But what's the point when London already has an analogue that long predates The Big Apple's competitor. The Parkland Walk. Similarly an abandoned railway line that's been transformed into a linear park. Unlike the prim High Line, the Parkland Walk has a wild and overgrown charm to it, along with plenty of colourful graffiti and a fairy bodyguard.

Alternatively: In our minds, the mile long stretch along the bottom of Crouch Hill and then along Stroud Green Road to Finsbury Park, is the most underrated food and drink highway in London. It feels cruel to whittle down the many excellent pubs and restaurants to one option, but we're going to do it. Max's Sandwich Shop lives up to the mouth-watering hype.

Harringay Green Lanes

Photo: Daniele Zanni from Londonist Flickr pool

Kebabs! Gozleme! Lahmacun! Green Lanes is Turkish food heaven, just head into one of the many establishments and prepare your tastebuds for a treat. Not only is the food tasty, it's also ridiculously reasonably priced.

Alternatively: You've got a lot of choice in this up and coming area, but we want to give a special shoutout to arts centre New River Studios. It's always hosting gigs and exhibitions, and there's no cooler hang out spot than the cafe/bar, which serves affordable pizza in the evening.

South Tottenham

Photo: Dun.can from Londonist Flickr Pool

The Markfield Beam Engine is a glorious piece of Victorian engineering that's free to visit. It has a museum attached to it, which opens on the second and fourth Sunday of a month, but really you want to be there for a steam day so you can see the powerful engine in action. Luckily for you, two coincide with the month of free travel on the 21 and 22 September (for Open House London).

Alternatively: Beer. Tottenham has become a bit of a brewing Mecca recently, with both Beavertown and Pressure Drop in the area. Closer to the station is Five Miles, a bar, club, restaurant and brewery all rolled into one. And it delivers on every front.

Blackhorse Road

Photo: Phil Amesbury from the Londonist Flickr Pool

On the approach to Blackhorse Road from South Tottenham your new Class 710 powers through the middle of the Walthamstow Wetlands, providing you with wide open views on both sides. That's just the teaser before you arrive at Blackhorse Road and get the chance to explore the vast wetlands. Once you're there, make sure you stop off in the old Pump House, which has been converted into a visitor centre and cafe.

Alternatively: Explore the works of textile master William Morris at the gallery that bears his name. Based in the house he grew up in, the William Morris Gallery. It's a soothing visit, looking through his varied design work. There's usually at least one temporary exhibition worth your while too, and the cafe is a treat. (Note, this is roughly equidistant from Blackhorse Road and Walthamstow Queen's Road.)

Walthamstow Queen's Road

Not as secret as it once was, God's Own Junkyard deserves its recent fame. The neon wonderland is an Instagrammer's dream, but is still a must-visit even if you're not there to take photos. Just take it all in and pretend you're in an Enter The Void remake. Or chill out at the cafe, The Rolling Scones, which also serves booze from nearby Wildcard Brewery.

Alternatively: SpiceBox is the best vegan restaurant in London we've eaten at this year. SpiceBox is the best Indian restaurant we've eaten at in London this year. SpiceBox is the best restaurant in London we've eaten at this year. Go to SpiceBox.

Leyton Midland Road

Photo: Martin Belham

"Oh-Ori-Ori! Ori-Ori-Ori-Ori-Orient!" Every other weekend that chant emanates from Brisbane Road, home of the mighty Leyton Orient. After a brief wilderness period in non-league football, Orient are back in League Two, and the fans are loving it. It's the perfect day out for anyone who's grown a bit cynical with the money-obsessed Premier League (or simply can't afford to attend regularly anymore). In a special promotion, under-18s tickets are just £1 for the game against Swindon on 7 September, so bring the littl'un along.

Alternatively: There's no shortage of quality pubs around here, but if you're looking for something a little quieter after an O's match, allow us to recommend William The Fourth. There's a wealth of cheap drinks deals to tempt you to have more than just one tipple.

Leytonstone High Road

In a bid to keep this list varied, we've been skipping out the many excellent Antic pubs that line the Goblin (the nickname for the Gospel Oak to Barking line for those not in the know). Apologies to the excellent Mirth, Marvel and Maud in Walthamstow, we've decided to highlight the slightly less well known Leyton Technical instead. Being the former Town Hall, there are plenty of different rooms for you to settle into, and get cosy in the corner with your pint.

Alternatively: Walk to the nearby Leytonstone tube station and admire cinematic mosaics, each depicting a scene from an Alfred Hitchcock movie. He was born in Leytonstone in 1899, and the mosaics were commissioned for the centenary of his birth.

Wanstead Park

If you're travelling from the west, you zoom over The Wanstead Tap, just prior to hitting Wanstead Park station. Do yourself a favour and head there once you disembark, to have a drink beneath the line. There's more than booze on offer here. The pub hosts plenty of live events of every variety: music, talks and even a pop-up bookshop. In recognition of this, it was voted the best cultural venue in Waltham Forest, an incredible achievement when you consider the stiff competition it's up against.

Alternatively: Go to Wanstead Flats, a large and picturesque green space, ideal for a ramble around on a nice day. And as the name suggests, there aren't any hills to tire you out.

Woodgrange Park

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Areas like Brick Lane and Southall get so much acclaim for their Indian culinary institutions, that it's easy to overlook Woodgrange Park and the neighbouring East Ham. That would be a dire mistake. There's plenty of options around here, but Thattukuda is our number one shout. According to one Londonist contributor, it does the best Keralan cuisine in London, a style that's heavy on using breads to mop up curry sauces.

Alternatively: Continuing on with the theme that other parts of London hog the limelight, you don't need to go to Neasden to see a beautiful Hindu Temple. East Ham's Sri Mahalakshmi Temple has it's own sense of splendour.

Barking

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You've reached your terminus. Celebrate by taking a short stroll to the Barking Abbey Ruins a stunning structure that dates back to 666. The neighbouring St Margaret's Church still stands and is quite the looker too. A swell place to find some serenity.

Alternatively: Eastbury Manor House is a National Trust property that dates back to the reign of Elizabeth I. It packs plenty in, with its cobbled courtyard, original spiral oak staircase, soaring chimneys, Stuart-era art collection and exhibition on life in the manor.

Free travel on the Gospel Oak to Barking line runs from 31 August to 1 October inclusive, but watch out for a full closure of the line on the weekend of 28-29 September for engineering works. To take advantage of the free travel all you need to do is tap in with either contactless or an Oyster Card. You will be charged as normal, but then you'll receive a refund within two weeks. (We've gone out and tested it, and it does work.)

If you have an Oyster Travelcard that's valid for longer than a month, you will need to make sure your Oyster card is linked to an online account to get the refund. And if you're properly old school, and still use paper tickets, you'll need to keep them (or the receipts) as proof of travel, and then submit a refund claim to TfL Customer Services.

Last Updated 13 September 2019