The Parkland Walk, Saturday 5th January. Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace.
Just over 10 years ago I stood outside Finsbury Park Station, at Station Place, to meet nine other Epping Forest Outdoor Group members to lead them on a 5 mile walk along a disused railway line.
On Saturday, on a somewhat grey day, I again met with members of the group, this time for Lynne to lead 15 of us over the same tracks (tracks – get it? Railway line?) Well, actually there aren’t any tracks and the old Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace railway, after years of decline, eventually closed to all traffic in 1970 after which the tracks were removed. In 1984 much of the route was re-opened to pedestrians and cyclists and became known as the Parkland Walk.
The walk is effectively in two sections. The southern section begins at one of the entrances to Finsbury Park itself and leads – gradually trending uphill - as far as the Highgate tunnels. These tunnels are not accessible to pedestrian, and indeed since I lasted visited have even been bricked up. This is for safety, but also – and importantly – to protect the various species of bat that have made them their home.
Thus, at this point, pedestrians are diverted onto a stretch of pavement walking along the Archway Road, passing the entrance to Highgate Northern Line Station, and then shortly in the City of London-owned Highgate Wood. After only ten years I was mildly disturbed that I couldn’t remember entering the wood at this point, until – looking back on the route that we had taken then – I realised that I had diverted slightly to include nearby Queens Wood.
There is one of those convenient and welcome park cafés in Highgate Wood, and we paused there for a while to take in the ambience, and some food and drink.
Leaving the wood, the temperature had taken a distinct drop, and we did too, dropping down – by way of a stairway – to regain the railway route in its northern section. We soon found a convenient tree alongside the track where – as ten years ago – the more adventurous (or fit) members of the party had a swing on the old tyre. I didn’t participate, this time.
The railway route exhausts itself at an entrance to Alexandra Park. But of course park paths take over and we made our way to the extensive terrace with views to the east and south-east of the City, the Docklands complex, Shooters Hill, the Stratford development and even Ilford. Ilford, by the way, looked like a somewhat broken pyramid, with the twin-towers of Pioneer Point helping to form the sides. I couldn’t really see my rooftop just to the left, but it’s true that if I cross my road onto the Flats I can – visibility permitting – see the transmitting mast of Ally Pally. Oh, and the Epping Forest ridge was clearly visible, even to what was probably where some of us had been when 2018 became 2019 – Pole Hill.
We descended from the heights down the slopes of the park to cross the railway footbridge at Alexandra Palace station, where most of the group repaired to The Starting Gate pub for more refreshments. A bit further walk followed, to catch our transports home from Wood Green station.
Thanks, Lynne, and all the others on the walk. Looking back to the ten-year-past walk, I see that I was the only group member that did that one and this one.
There is a photo write-up of that expedition on our website here.
Paul Ferris, 5th January 2019
On this walk: Lynne, Ann, Brian, Cathy, Chris, Fred, Ian, Jenny, Ken, Kathy, Paul, Phil, Sue, Tony, Trevor.
And ten years ago: Paul, Ann L. Cliff, Duncan L., Gill L., Maz, Pam, Peter, Prue, Susan W.