Dear Readers, the second part of the walk takes us along the Parkland Walk. This is the longest linear park in London, and it started life as the Edgware, Highgate and London line in 1867, taking passengers from Edgware to Finsbury Park. Alas, it was never very successful, and in the 1930s there were plans to electrify it and make it part of the Northern Line, but then WW2 came along and the plans were abandoned. In 1954 the line was closed to passenger traffic, and in the 1970s it was closed altogether. There were plans to plonk a motorway here, but the land was acquired by the London Borough of Haringey, and in 1984 the Parkland Walk was born, later becoming a nature reserve.
It really is a fine, shady walk, at least along the section that we walked along – there was outrage last year when over 80 trees were felled on the Muswell Hill end of the walk as part of works to preserve some of the old railway bridges. But here, all is relatively serene, though the path is shared with runners, joggers, dogwalkers, cyclists and people with prams. Fortunately the path is wide enough for people to get out of one another’s way, and pedestrians are given priority so the chance of being mown down by a speeding cyclist is relatively low.
There are the usual speckled wood butterflies, many of them looking a little worn after a summer of guarding their territories.
And I liked the way that this tree was growing over the remains of a wall.
Many of the old foot and road bridges over the Parkland Walk have been decorated by graffiti artists. Some of the designs are really striking. There is, I imagine, a lot of competition between the different artists – often a design has been tagged, or even painted over, and then reinstated. There was a chap under one of the arches working on a painting, his cans of different colours stowed in a backpack on the ground, music blaring. The smell of the paint was enough to get anyone high, and I worry a bit about the long-term impact of the fumes in such a relatively enclosed space.
We soon came upon the old platforms for Crouch End station. What a different place this suburb might have been if it had remained! As it is, places like Crouch End and Muswell Hill have retained a village-y feel largely because they are relatively difficult to get to (though after the pandemic, with so many people working from home, I imagine this is no longer the concern that it used to be).
As we walked between the old platforms, now full of hogweed and comfrey, the most massive chubby rat leapt across the path in front of us. He looked very well fed, and gazed up at us from amongst the weeds before disappearing. Rats seem to be having a very good year in many of our green spaces, I suspect because there is a lot of waste food around from picnics and barbecues that people can’t be bothered to take home, and which are easy pickings if left in the bins.
The path opens up to give splendid views over London. You can see the Shard (to the right) and the Walkie Talkie (to the left) below. I imagine the Gherkin is lurkin’ in there somewhere as well (don’t say I have no poetry in my soul).
And look, here’s the Post Office Tower, plus a plethora of cranes, just to prove that the building boom is not over yet.
There is some traveller’s joy/old man’s beard growing in the hedgerow here, a relative rarity in these parts.
And then, suddenly, the path ends, leading up into Finsbury Park, one of the largest parks in North London, and given to the people of the area in 1862 after the closure of the Finsbury Pleasure Gardens in 1862. It features tennis courts, a skate park, a lake and a cafe, along with some fine trees and this birch grove.
We plonked down in the shade and drank some water. Somewhere, someone was beating on a drum, badly. This is pretty much characteristic of London parks during the summer months – someone takes out a very large drum and starts beating out a rhythm that is, well, not very rhythmic. I sometimes wonder if it’s the same chap doing a tour of green spaces – maybe there’s a Tiktok bad-drumming challenge that I haven’t come across. It will be interesting to see if it follows us around as we embark on future legs of the Capital Ring. But for now, we’re off to find our bus stop, and to head home. We’ve had quite enough excitement for one day.