urban75 walk: the Northern Heights Parkland Walk
A walk along the route of the Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace railway (part one)
Report by urban75 editor, July 2005
Opened in 1984, Haringey's Parkland Walk stretches for four miles and is billed as London's longest Local Nature Reserve.
The path follows the course of a disused railway that used to run from Finsbury Park through Highgate to Alexandra Palace (known as the 'Northern Heights').
The railway between Finsbury Park and Highgate was constructed in 1867, with the short branch to Alexandra Palace being added in 1873.
The line hasn't seen a passenger for over half a century - the last passenger train ran in 1954, with freight traffic continuing until complete closure in 1971
The Parkland Walk was created after extensive resurfacing and improvements to access and now supports a huge range of habitats and wildlife.
Clearly, trees weren't allowed to grow on the line when the line was operational, making the current range of trees all the more remarkable.
Oak, ash, birch, cherry, apple, holly, rowan, sycamore and yew have all arrived through natural processes, with field maple, hazel, black Italian poplar and white poplar being planted.
Railway lines have traditionally supported long corridors of plant and wildlife, and twenty two species of butterfly have been recorded along the route.
We didn't see one on our travels, but apparently muntjacs - a weird looking mini-deer beastie - can occasionally be seen on the walk.
Bridge by the site of Stroud Green station, looking north towards Highgate.
The station was added in 1881 to cater for population growth in the area.
Not a trace of the station now remains.
Looking down from the masonry viaduct over Stapleton Hall Road, you can see the tracks of the South Tottenham - Gospel Oak line below.
Despite being in the heart of London, parts of this line are still controlled by semaphore signals - a technology dating back over a 150 years!
The old trackbed provides a quiet green corridor through a heavily built up area of London.
Crossing the Mount Pleasant Villas bridge.
Despite it being a Saturday afternoon, we barely encountered anyone along the route save for a few joggers, a family trying to push a buggy through a particularly muddy patch of the footpath and two young graffiti artists doing their thing.
Approaching Mount View Road bridge. Graffiti artists have been very busy on the brickwork and abutments.
Graffiti on Mount View Road bridge.
Graffiti city. The the bridge carrying Crouch Hill over the old line is covered in 'unofficial artwork'.
The original bridge collapsed around 1994, apparently during maintenance work to strengthen the structure!
Graffiti on the abutments.
Hazelmere Road footbridge, near the site of Crouch End station.