Dave Sergeant

The Green London Way is a walking route of 110 miles length around London split into 18 sections. It follows much of the route of the 78 mile long Capital Ring but has some new sections. The Green London Way is largely the work of one man, Bob Gilbert, who is a supporter for the protection of urban open spaces and public access. His book, The Green London Way, outlines each section with detailed description of the historic and wildlife aspects of each section and is being used as I walk the route.

Green London Way Walk 15 - Hampstead to Finsbury Park - June 10th 2021

This walk of around 6 miles starts where I broke off last week and crosses Hampstead Heath to Highgate Village. Then it follows through Highgate and Queens Woods to join the Capital Ring along the Parkland Walk to Finsbury Park. A pleasant though cloudy and quite humid day and although the forecast suggested the occasional shower it remained dry.

So off from Hampstead tube station and into the old and fashionable part of Hampstead village. First Flask Walk and then Well Walk which celebrate the mineral springs in the area in the 18th century. Burgh House was originally occupied by one of the physicians to the wells. It is now a museum. Opposite was the site of one of the Long Rooms where visitors could take the waters. Quite a history that few know about.

Soon into the wooded part of Hamstead Heath. In the 19th century most of this was threatened with housing due to the efforts of Thomas Maryon Wilson, Lord Mayor at the time, who pursued various plans which were dropped after a storm of public opposition. The only remnant is this viaduct over a lake, part of a plan to build an estate road through the area. If he had succeeded the Heath would have been very different today.

While this was all going on a partial solar eclipse was happening. It was largely cloudy but there were occasional breaks and I got a few glimpses of it through thin cloud but not for long enough to grab a photo

The path across Hampstead Heath eventually led to Kenwood House, built in 1616 and after various owners it and the surrounding gardens are now owned by English Heritage. Due to one of the paths on my route being closed because of a fallen tree it was quite hard to actually find the house but when I did I found it fairly busy. Maybe somewhere else to go back to later.

After Kenwood House the route to follow was a bit confusing and I had to ask for help again from a friendly passer by who directed me to the fairly well hidden steps across an open field. More nice houses. Fitzroy Park which I then went along was closed to traffic for some work. I smiled three times to a delivery van driver who I had to let pass and who was very confused how to get to his customer. Then through Highgate Village, far less scenic than Hampstead and even the pond in Pond Square is now just gravel and the nearby Tudor Gatehouse pub only open a couple of times a week. Time for lunch in the Bull, nearly as expensive as last week in Hampstead but I left well fed.

A short way from Highgate Village and crossing the busy Archway Road I entered Highgate Wood. The route initially followed the western perimeter of the wood and beyond the perimeter fence is the route of the former Highgate to Alexander Palace branch railway. This has not been made part of the Parkland Walk (a section nearer Alexander Palace has) and is now so overgrown that nothing can be seen of it even from the Bridge Gate original bridge. I soon came to a granite water fountain with an inscription by Coleridge which more or less marks the centre of the wood. A lady asked if I needed directions (no, that fountain is well marked on my map) and then asked if I knew about the roman clay kilns which were once in the wood. She kindly led me to an area where it is believed some of these kilns were and where they had recreated one as an experiment a few years ago. A lovely ten minute chat.

From the fountain the route took me out of the wood and crossing Muswell Hill Road into Queen's Wood which seems much newer trees. A couple of small ponds were passed and then after some more woodland I emerged again on Archway Road.

After negotiating the busy junction ahead I was soon on the Parkland Walk, last walked as part of the Capital Ring. At 2.5 miles it is the 'longest nature reserve in London' and follows the path of the original Finsbury Park to Alexander Palace railway. Although the track has been removed much of the infrastructure remains and the platforms of Crouch End station have been kept for everybody to enjoy. It seems well used by local people for short cuts and being school leaving time was quite busy.

Parkland Walk soon came to an end and the main railway line crossed by a bridge then a short walk through the park down to Finsbury Park station. Here I found another hitch. To keep everybody safe in this Covid world they have shut the corridor between the main line platforms and the underground ones and consider it safer for you to go via the busy streets of Finsbury Park town centre to use the entrance on the opposite side. Some strange logic there and it added an unexpected quarter of a mile extension to my route. Anyway, all trains running on time and arrived home somewhat tired about 6pm.

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