When not under lockdown, London offers plenty of choices. Clubs, theatre plays, shows, exhibitions, parties and restaurants abound. At the time of writing, we are still under lockdown. Some restrictions are slowly easing, but Londoners are still facing severe limitations to weekend activities. In other words, the time is perfect for exploring one’s local area. I have been busy exploring the Parkland Walk in my North London neighbourhood.
Parkland Walk North
The walk follows former train tracks between the North London neighbourhoods of Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace. Although green and leafy, it is distinctively urban with graffiti art along the way and distant views of central London. If starting off or finishing the walk around Alexandra Park, it is worth exploring the park and the building itself. The park is located on flat and hilly ground and offers wide-stretching views over the city. Alexandra Palace – or Ally Pally as it’s affectionally known – is also home to an indoor ice-rink, a boating lake with swan-shaped pedal boats, a cricket ground, a garden centre, a rose garden and a high-rope climbing centre.
Beyond Alexandra Palace, the northern part of the Parkland Walk bypasses the neighbourhood of Muswell Hill and continues to the ancient woods of Highgate and Queenswood. It’s a short stretch, but again you will be spoilt for attractive views of central London. In the spring and summer, the path is flanked by lush green and dotted with bluebells. In the times of Corona, local is the new exotic, so why not imagine yourself wandering in the Alps or Andes…
Parkland Walk South
After emerging from the woods, the path becomes the Parkland Walk South and continues along Crouch End, another village-like neighbourhood. Like Muswell Hill, Crouch End is not part of the tube network and therefore unlikely to become a tourist destination. There are no obvious landmarks to admire, but instead some quirky details off the beaten track. Since the walk runs along disused railway tracks, you will come across old and blocked tunnels offering a sanctuary to the city’s bats. London is not short of wildlife! Walking past abandoned and overgrown platforms, the visitor will also stumble on some striking art along the way.
Approaching Finsbury Park
What makes the walk varied and attractive is its positioning in the urban landscape. It cuts through residential neighbourhoods and emerges in unexpected places. In the image below, the Parkland Walk overlooks the road below and active railway tracks a further level down. The result is a layer cake of three different levels
The scientifically minded and budding botanists may stop along the way and spend some time looking at the acid grassland. It is signposted and an information board provides some interesting facts about this phenomenon. Acid grasslands develop in soil with low nutrients and provide a habitat to some rare plants and insects such as bees, butterflies and ants.
The Parkland Walk can be explored in its whole entirety or in smaller chunks. There are plenty of exits along the way and nearby pubs and cafés to enjoy a break. My favourite pub at the end of the walk is the rugby-themed Faltering Fullback near Finsbury Park. The last time I visited was in early January before the outbreak of the pandemic. Its best feature is a warren of little nooks and crannies in the outdoor space. I look forward to sampling some Thai food and a delicious pint of IPA once normality returns. In the meantime, there is always the walk and I’m lucky to have it on my doorstep.