Woodberry Wetlands and New River walk - 2nd June 2018
Lynne’s proposed visit to Woodberry Wetlands was one I’d looked forward to, and – particularly as the weather proved fair, if somewhat humid, I joined Lynne and six others at Manor House station for the allotted departure time of 10.30.
A short walk through an estate – with some impressive new tower blocks clad with some exciting new colours – led us to a stretch of the New River. This new river is in reality quite old, and is not a river. It was built in the early 17th C. as an aqueduct to carry fresh water from a spring at Amwell in Hertfordshire the 40-plus miles to London, with waterworks at New River Head, near the Angel.
A footpath alongside this waterway led us to the entrance to the northern-most of the two north London Reservoirs that have now been made accessible to the public and branded as Woodberry Wetlands. The public side of these is run by the London Wildlife Trust, at whose nice cafe, we – perhaps unsurprisingly – stopped for tea, and coffee. From the rooftop vantage point we were able to sit in the sunshine looking out over the reservoirs.
Afterwards we continued our walk by means of a stretch of the New River footpath, passing the southern reservoir, which is used for sailing and similar water activities. This length of footpath was particularly notable for the colour and variety of wildflowers that grew here. We left the water-side near an impressive castle-like building, which was built in the early 19th C. as a pumping station.
A bit of pavement walking led us to Clissold Park, a 55 acre open space – similar in style to Valentines Park, so very pleasant to walk through. The land was originally the estate of Jonathan Hoare a City merchant, Quaker, philanthropist and anti-slavery campaigner, and his house - originally Paradise Hall - is a Grade 11 listed building now used as a venue and for refreshments.
Emerging from the park, the New River has been piped underground, but we were able to follow its route by mean of an urban lane between houses and and with a linear allotment. The next stretch was down the middle of a road, but because of the subterranean river, the central reservation is now a public footpath with trees, grass and flowers. The houses here are quite grand, although mostly terraced, so the whole aspect was pleasurable.
After another short road stretch – passing Canonbury station – we entered a park-like section of the New River, here above ground and beautifully landscaped, with trees, shrubs, nesting birds and imported rocks to add flavour – plus an old watchman’s building, built like one of the beehive dwellings where monks used to spend their holidays on remote Scottish and Irish rocks. The idea was stop illicit fishing from the river, and skinny-dipping in it, I suppose. We had time for neither, even though the building is probably only used for garden-tool storage now, and proceeded south towards down-town Islington.
The last stretch was probably the most built-up and busy, with a saving in the grand facade of the old Carlton Cinema, in all its 1930s Tutankhamun-inspired glory. We dropped away from the busy-ness of Essex Road, down towards the much more refined Duncan Terrace, where the gardens – again describing the route of the New River – provided us with a shady and pleasant spot to have a short rest-break before the final stretch.
Well, I never completed the final stretch of half-a-mile or so, as when we reached the Regents Canal Trevor and I decided that we would have a go at walking back to Mile End via yet another waterway. We never got to Mile End either, because at the junction with the Hertford Union Canal we took that, and then joining the Lee Navigation we continued south as far as the Bow Flyover.
From there we stuck to one of the Bow Back Rivers as much as private development allows, and thus reached Stratford Station.
Lynne’s walk from Woodberry Wetlands to New River Head at Islington was 5 miles. Trevor and I completed 10 miles.
Thanks very much, Lynne for such a pleasant visit to the wetlands combined with an interesting and delightful New River walk. And the company, as well.
Paul Ferris, 3rd June 2018
Photos by Paul Ferris, Lynne E. and Peter G.