Trace the old railroad on Parkland Walk.
The remains of London’s industrial heritage are found all over town, be it in the transformation of spaces such as Coal Drops Yard or Dalston Eastern Curve Garden, or in the gasholders of Bethnal Green. Still, nature has done its best to claim some of these places back, and one such spot is North London’s Parkland Walk, the old railway line which now offers a tranquil escape as one of London’s best walks. [Featured image: @parklandwalk]
Originally constructed to run trains between Finsbury Park and Highgate (with branch lines up to Alexandra Palace and High Barnet), Parkland Walk was part of the Great Northern Railway, and could have ended up with quite a different fate if not for the onset of WW2. Plans had been made to add the stretch of track to the Northern Line, but the war effort meant that plans were abandoned before being fully finished.
The line began to fall out of service in the years afterwards, with passenger services withdrawn in the 50s, and the last trains passing through in 1970. A mere two years later, the track had been lifted, and station buildings were demolished, leaving an open swathe across North London – land which, in 1984, would become Parkland Walk. By 1990, the park had been designated a local nature reserve, and the unusual shape means it was and still is London’s longest nature reserve.
Though the trains have long gone, the old platforms and tunnels still remain, allowing walkers, runners, and cyclists to alternate their journey between sun-dappled woodland and railway relics. At 5km long and wonderfully flat, it’s not the most taxing walk you’ll find in the capital, but provides an excellent spot for a wander (particularly during the lockdown). Plus, there are a wealth of natural delights to enjoy, with butterflies, hedgehogs, and foxes all known to populate the nature reserve, and two hundred varieties of wildlife known to bloom here.
Oh, and if you keep your eyes peeled around the Crouch End stretch of the walk, you’ll catch sight of a strange figure seeming to emerge from the brickwork. It’s actually a sculpture of a Cornish sprite, known as a Spriggan, and was the only statue to be commissioned when plans were briefly made to turn Parkland Walk into a sculpture trail. In full sunlight, it looks pretty mischievous climbing out of the graffiti – but by the fading winter twilight, I can’t help but think it would be immensely creepy…
Still, if you can get over the sneaking suspicion that it’s about to leap out at you, you’ll find Parkland Walk to be a charming place to enjoy a little lockdown wander.
Also published on Medium.