London Visit: Did you know that there is a fantastic Parkland Walk along a disused railway line which runs all the way from Finsbury Park to Highgate and then to Alexandra Palace? It takes you past the famous North London areas of Stroud Green Road, Crouch End, Highgate and Muswell Hill. This nature reserve is frequented by walkers, dog owners, joggers and cyclists and gets quite busy at the weekend especially when the weather is good. If you’re searching for free things to do in Finsbury Park, free things to do in London or walks in London join me on a tour of the Parkland Walk. It’s an oasis of calm in the middle of North London which brings you closer to nature. With many paths leading off down to the road and pavements, you can take a detour at many points. Get those walking shoes on and let’s begin!
Enjoy Your Walk
Parkland Walk North London | South Route
I’ll start with a snapshot of the history but you should refer to the reading material that I’ve listed at the bottom of this feature for detailed information. This walk has been made from a railway line constructed in 1862 which ran from Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace. It’s about 4.5 miles in length with most of the walk being in the Haringey borough. The railway line ceased operation and the land was saved from being made into a dual carriageway to become a local nature reserve in 1990. It is part of the Capital Ring strategic walking route. We have the Friends of the Parkland Walk to thank for making this an area which can be enjoyed by all. They formed an association in 1988 and should be given a big round of applause for all their hard work.
The South part of the walk begins at Finsbury Park (Oxford Road) and ends in Highgate (Holmesdale Road), or vice versa depending where you are starting. The North part is from Highgate to Alexandra Palace which I will detail later. I began my walk from Finsbury Park because I live there. You can enter from the main gates of the Finsbury Park grounds which you’ll find on Seven Sisters Road. Keep to the left hand side, past the skateboard ramp and the tennis courts until you come across the Oxford Road Gate (which closes at 4pm when there are festivals in the park). Cross over a small railway bridge and on your right you will see the start of the Parkland Walk. There is also a path which brings you out close to the skate park and tennis courts which is at the Station Road exit of the tube and train terminal next to the bicycle park. Alternatively you can walk down Stroud Green Road, on your right turn into Perth Road and then right into Oxford Road.
Park Studios Building
The path starts where you see a large but narrow building called Park Studios which is a Co-op for artists. To begin with the gravel path is on the narrow side and bordered with nettles and blackberry bushes which are quite overgrown so you get a sense of being in the country. As you continue on you’ll be able to see the roof tops of Victorian houses, back gardens and also views of the streets and roads below. There are a few benches along the route if you want to sit down for a while.
Beginning of the South Walk
This is a nature reserve so expect to see everything from bees to beetles, birds, bats and butterflies. Hedgehogs, foxes and squirrels can usually be spotted especially at dusk. Trees include silver birch, sycamore, English ash and many more varieties. You’ll also get to see plenty of wild flowers from lesser burdock to old man’s beard. See the website I’ve listed below which details all the wildlife, flora and fauna you’ll get to see along this route.
Nature Reserve Bird Spotting
I’ll highlight some of my favourite parts of the walk to give you an idea of what to expect. I enjoy passing through this railway tunnel which is always updated with new graffiti. Quite often you’ll see graffiti artists spraying the walls.
Soon afterwards you come across an adventure playground made from wooden logs which is quite spectacular. It’s set within the woodland so is a great place for kids to play. Close by is a skate ramp which is also covered in graffiti.
Not far from the skate ramp there is a famous statue which is high up under a brick arch. It does get obscured by foliage so keep an eye out for it, if you reach the old station platform you have just gone past it. According to Wikipedia, this is a man-sized green Spriggan sculpture by Marilyn Collins. It was placed in the alcove of the wall which is at the footbridge before the former Crouch End station. Urban legend says it is a ghostly goat man who haunted the walk during the 70-80s. Apparently it gave Stephen King inspiration for his short story called Crouch End.
Green Spriggan Sculpture
The disused platforms at Crouch End is interesting because you get a real sense that this used to be a working railway line.
Disused Platforms of Former Crouch End Station
As you carry on the walk gets more woodland with plenty of trees lining the sides and the paths are much wider. You really do feel as though you are in the countryside.
Woodland Parts of the Walk
When you come to the end of this section you will be at Holmesdale Road in Highgate. Come out and turn right up the path where you’ll pass by the Boogaloo pub which serves food like burgers and roast dinners on a Sunday. That’s the end of the South part, read on for the North section.
Parkland Walk North London | North Route
The train line used to go to Alexandra Palace so it is only right that you continue this walk to the final destination. When the South part of the walk finishes you have a few options of getting to Alexandra Palace which you’ll find on the website: click here for route options. We decided to go through Queen’s Wood so we could stop off at the café which serves organic breakfast, sandwiches, cakes and hot drinks and also has toilets. This was originally part of the ancient Forest of Middlesex and was mentioned in the Doomsday Book. It used to be called Churchyard Bottom Wood before it was renamed in 1989 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. It is now a 52 acre nature reserve with more than 300 species of flowers and ferns and 25 species of birds. The Friends of Queen’s Wood help Haringey Council to keep the area in good shape and what a splendid job they do.
Alternatively you can walk through Highgate Wood which is also an ancient woodland. It is 28 hectares of well kept woods to explore which also houses a playground and a cafe. They have received the Green Flag award on numerous occasions and also the Green Heritage Award for recognition of managing a site of historical significance. You are really spoilt for choice in this neck of the woods (sorry for the pun) because there are so many green spaces to roam around.
When you end up at Alexandra Palace you have 196 acres of park to explore with woodlands, informal grass areas and formal gardens. This Victorian park continues to attract many visitors every year thanks to the amazing panoramic views of London which you can see because it is situated on a hill. You will find a boating lake, cafe, ice rink, garden center and you’ll also see the famous transmitter here. If you do this walk on a Sunday you can visit the Farmer’s Market which is situated just inside the park gates and is open from 10am until 3pm. You can pick up a coffee and a bite to eat. Some of the stalls have a few tables and chairs or you can take your goodies to the park and sit down on the grass. There is also a good café in the Alexandra Palace Garden Centre which also has toilets.
Alexandra Palace Farmers Market
Parkland Walk North London Information
A couple of things to mention … when it’s been raining it does get a little muddy on the walk so wear wellington boots. Pedestrians have right of way over cyclists but do keep alert for cyclists because you will need to move over to let them pass. Make sure your mobile phone is charged so you can check google maps to identify exactly where you are along this route and in case you get lost in the woods! Take a bottle of water with you. The route itself seems safe if you are walking during daylight and at peak times. I haven’t experienced anything worrying but then I am always with someone else but you should always be vigilant.
If you want to do some more research into the history and the nature you’ll experience along this walk then please see the websites listed below. Happy walking!
Author: Homegirl London. Photographs: Homegirl London. Thanks: Homeboy for walking with me.