A 5 mile walk in North London on a rainy Good Friday you say? Why not! With non stop rain, I had this wonderful walking route almost all to myself, bar a few crazy runners and some dogs that seemed to like muddy puddles a little too much.
From the 1860s a train line ran from Finsbury Park to High Barnet and Highgate to Alexandra Palace. An extension of the northern line was planned to replace the mainline trains but it was postponed amidst WWII and the idea was soon abandoned completely. The passenger trains still continued to run until they then became redundant and purely used for freight from the late 1950s. The lines ceased to be used in 1970 and the tracks were quickly taken up. The Parklands walk opened in 1984 with the area becoming the longest linear nature reserve in London.
I didn’t really do my research of the actual route before starting, very unlike me! I had wrongly assumed the walk would be signposted and on arrival at the grandiose Alexandra Palace I had absolutely no idea of which way to walk! Good job the views were worth a little stop and some research time.
A quick google and I found the Londonist (often my London bible) had published a great article on the Parklands walk but as I’m not too clever with my north west and north east (how do I manage to travel round the world?!) I didn’t actually find the start of the walk. If only I had paid more attention to the article at the beginning and I could have clicked on the link to THE most helpful google map detailing the walk. Once you reach Highgate Wood (and where I finally started the route properly) the walk becomes part of the Capital Ring walk (next challenge…) and is better signposted but the google map was still incredibly helpful!
Walk down through Highgate Wood and over to the adjacent Queens Wood. This may sound ridiculous, and probably because I don’t frequent north London often but I never really expected to find woods in London! Parks, most definitely! Heaths, of course, but woods, never crossed my mind!
After Queens Wood you’ll meander through a couple of the local streets and then find yourself by Highgate tube, walk down past The Boogaloo pub, and as you enter the main part of the abandoned railway track walk there will be a map that shows all of the old stations. If you turn around and go back on yourself and look to the right there are some hidden tunnels. The old tunnels that lead to Highate tube are now sealed off and are preserved bat caves. Yep, actual BAT CAVES!!
Despite the weather, and the mud, this part of the walk was my favourite. Some of the stations are still very apparent, there’s even a station house which is still standing. You can just imagine the trains shuttling back and forth in the late 19th century. I was excited to see what street art I would discover along the bridges and viaduct but it was mainly just graffiti’d tags rather than works as such.
If you prefer a shorter stroll then I highly recommend just doing the walk along the abandoned railway between Highbury tube station and Finsbury Park station. I can imagine that it is a lot more popular in good weather but being above and away from the traffic it feels like you’re a million miles away from London Town.