A walk along London’s longest linear nature reserve

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Review type

Things to do

Date of travel

May, 2023

Product name

The Parkland Walk

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The Parkland Walk is the longest linear nature reserve in London at 4km in length, and follows the former railway line connecting Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace, which opened in the late 1800s. In the 1930s, London Underground planned to electrify it and take it over as part of the Northern line but the work was abandoned at the outbreak of the World War II and the line was closed to passengers in 1954. The tracks were lifted in 1971 with the walk opening three years later. It is divided into two stretches: north, between Muswell Hill and Highgate, and south from Highgate to Finsbury Park.

We decided to walk north to south as for us, Muswell Hill was more difficult to get to: having taken the Northern Line to Highgate, we caught the 43 bus to our starting point.
From the bridge we had a wonderful view of the broad treelined path which was down a few steps. The map which I’d downloaded onto my mobile phone highlighted 17 marker posts along the route denoting points of interest.

Shortly after we started, a vantage point provided fabulous views of the surrounding houses and the tall city buildings, including the iconic Shard and Gherkin, on the distant skyline.

On entering Highgate Woods, we had the choice of two routes, but to avoid getting lost, took the shorter path on the outer edge which hugged the road. The woods were popular with dogs, and we saw so many varieties, large and small, both on and off the lead.

Exiting from Highgate Woods we negotiated a section of road past Highgate Underground station until we hit the well-signed walk again. We took a short detour onto a Wildlife Trail: an educational and conservation project. A short meandering well-trodden path led us around an area of natural beauty. Wildflowers were in full bloom and signs told of the species of birds, butterflies, bats and insects which had been spotted whilst children were invited to take clay from a box and make ‘Crazy Clay Creatures’ using sticks and leaves.

At one point the walk follows section 12 (Highgate to Stoke Newington) of the Capital Ring, a circular walk around London.

Post 11 marked the former spot of a building, where the remains of a brick wall were being swallowed by the roots of an old sycamore tree, whilst the next landmark was the old platforms of Crouch End station. The Acid Grassland was easy to spot, but we failed to find the ‘spriggan’, a sculpture embodying ‘spirit of place’, located in brickwork at one of the cuttings.

Birds sang, cow parsley, buddleia, and hawthorn abounded, and tall trees provided natural shade on what was a sunny day. However, it was not all natural beauty, with graffiti adorning bridges and arches.

The only disappointment was not finding Ben Wilson’s famous miniature artworks created on discarded chewing gum which are said to line the path.

On finishing at Finsbury Park, we headed to one of our favourites, Someday, where we shared the most magnificent margarita pizza with a sour dough crust. With a couple of pints of cider it was the perfect end to a lovely walk.

Helen Jackson

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