Eerily quiet and yet strangely peaceful. That's how I would describe the station I'm currently sitting in. Platforms that are interrupted by the rustling of the leaves rather than by the commuters.
But I'm not in bucolic no-man's-land right now; I'm in the busiest London Underground line - one serving about 260 million people a year.
With just over 368,400 registered passengers in 2017, the Central Line's Roding Valley is officially the least used station on the London Underground network. To put that into perspective, King's Cross Station had 97 million passengers in the same year. Let it sink.
"Maybe it's quiet because passengers do not get in or out ..."
The locals do not seem to believe that the station is something out of the ordinary. Most seem to be surprised that Roding Valley is at the bottom of the charts.
"I'm surprised," says Sean, "I think it has increased at least fivefold in the last decade, especially since they changed it from Zone 5 to Zone 4. I would have thought that the least used station would continue somewhere is gone. "
To be fair, it's about 8:30 am - maybe we missed the onslaught. But this is Roding Valley as it is the most hours of the day. Very peaceful.
Roding Valley lies between Buckhurst Hill and Woodford and was originally built for the housing estates in the area. Opened in February 1936, it only became part of the London Underground in 1946.
The low utilization - also due to the small catchment area - is not the only thing that makes this station so unique. Roding Valley is also one of the 12 subway stations that have no ticket barriers in London.
"Maybe it's quiet because the passengers do not get on or off because there are no ticket barriers," Sean muses. "Or maybe because they'd rather walk from Woodford than wait 20 minutes between trains."
Trains every 20 minutes
He assures us that it is very rare to get a seat. "When I arrive at 7:23 in the morning, there is generally the possibility of getting a seat, but after that it is impossible at any time, especially in rush hour."
We only counted one person in the carriage on the way to the station, but that went the other way.
It can be a bit difficult to get there if you do not know how the Hainault loop works. Central London passengers need to change at Woodford or Hainault and take a second train to get to the Roding Valley. Trains operate only every 20 minutes outside rush hours. A missed connection can make the difference between the evaluation of the new job and the failure to fulfill the job.
"Sometimes I have to take the trains and there is nobody, so I'm scared!"
Once there, Roding Valley is a scene of deserted platforms, empty waiting rooms and deafening silence. Hard to believe that you are still in London, and technically you are ONLY in Essex.
However, being the least used subway station does not make it trouble free.
Allie and Matty work in the mom and pop shop in front of the train station. Although they admit that the station can be very empty during the day, they assure us that it gets very crowded between 5pm and 6pm. For Allie, the abandoned platforms may give cause for concern. "Sometimes I have to take the trains and there is nobody, so I'm scared!"
These are thieves who worry Matty the most. The shop is just around the corner from the train station making it an ideal playground for shoplifters. "In the last nine months we have been robbed at least 20 times!" says Matty. "People are coming here right after they leave the station, so take them!"
Roding Valley Station Master Nahan Praykvar agrees: "Sometimes there is trouble for children because the pedestrian bridge connecting the two platforms is open to the public and remains open at night.
"But never anything too serious or dangerous."
For Nahan, the days at the station can be long; "It's quiet, sometimes it's difficult to pass the time," he admits. That's understandable with just over a thousand passengers a day.
Nevertheless, one can not deny that the silence of the Roding Valley has its charm.
xxx video download