Hidden away behind Finsbury Park in North London lies one of the city’s hidden gems, the Parkland Walk. Following the path of an old high-line railway, the Parkland Walk is four and half miles of lush greenery.
Within seconds of heading onto the walk, you are lost in the wilderness and you forget about the city that surrounds you.
The walk has a rich cultural history that is sewn into the fabric of North London.
The walk was opened in 1984 following the removal of all tracks and buildings. The walk narrowly avoided becoming a road in the late 1980s, but these plans were abandoned following fierce opposition. In 1990, the walk became a nature reserve.
Hidden in an alcove of a footbridge along the walk, a man-sized green spriggan artwork created by sculpture Marilyn Collins.
This sculpture provided the inspiration for Stephen King’s short horror story “Crouch End”.
There is a local urban legend that a “goat-man” haunts the woods and children continue to dare each other to walk the length of the walk in the night.
Despite being the longest nature reserve in London, not many people outside of Finsbury Park and Highgate know about it.
Currently in London, all eyes are focused on the proposed Garden Bridge across the Thames. The project seems dedicated to creating the high-line aesthetic, without the genuine transformation from transport infrastructure to nature.
The bridge’s advocates argue that it will place an environmentally-aware piece of infrastructure on the London skyline. However, critics argue that London’s ‘version’ of the High Line has some serious issues.
it is highly likely that the bridge will significantly obstruct the city skyline, blocking views across the river. Because of the limited width of the bridge, it will require an environmentally damaging artificial irrigation system – despite being in the middle of a river!
Cyclists will be banned from using the bridge, and the benches along the bridge are being made to be so uncomfortable as to put off homeless people from using them.
The whole project will cost upwards of £175 million. Although the majority of this will come from private donors, The Mayor of London and the Chancellor of the Exchequer have both promised £30 million of public funding. The public will also be responsible for the annual £3.5 million maintenance bill. Maybe this would be acceptable, if it weren’t for the fact that the bridge wont even be free for the public to use. It has been announced that entry will be limited and admission is likely to cost money. Several private funders of the bridge have shady business records, such as Glencore, one of the largest suppliers of seaborne thermal coal undermining any environmental credibility.
According to Will Sandy from the Edible Bus Stop Project: “The budget for the Garden Bridge equates to 53 new £100,000 green spaces per borough.”
Michael Ball, the director of the Waterloo Community Development Group, argues that the cost of the project could fund 30 times the amount of green space offered by the Garden Bridge.
Why is this bridge even necessary? Instead of pouring money into Joanna Lumley’s vanity project, why don’t we celebrate the green, natural spaces that we already have?
The Parkland Walk is almost entirely supported and sustained through the work of volunteers. It isn’t costly, exclusive or corporate – it waves no flags for shady big name funders. It is supported, loved and used by the local residents. And above all, it’s about the quiet resilience of nature, nature surviving against all odds in the urban jungle.
So by all means spread the word and escape to this oasis of greenery and woodland. But remember you’re sharing the space with some other, small, but vitally important residents.