14 May, 2006

Highgate to Stoke Newington- the old straight track

Walk 12 of the Capital Ring began with a steep climb from Highgate station up to the Highgate Library (shut on a Sunday). Then the walk went down the road leading to the Archway, with a tantalising glimpse at that glorious arch before going down onto the old straight track of the parklands walk. You can see two locked and gated tunnels but you do not walk past these- you carry on to the right and walk towards the East.

highgate tunnels Posted by Picasa

The track is London’s longest nature reserve and is home even to Muntjack Deer although I didn’t see one. The track has artworks installed, both officially and unofficially. An official one is the figure of a spriggan emerging from the old brickwork outside the former crouch hill station. Spriggans were said to steal human children and leave baby spriggans in their place!

the spriggan Posted by Picasa

The track crosses Tollington Park, which is where, at No. 63 Miss Eliza Barrow was murdered by Frederick Henry Seddon, called by some the meanest murderer of all time. He poisoned Miss Barrow with using flypapers, but it is hard to have any sympathy for any of the participants in the case, although Seddon called on the Great Architect of the Universe when in the dock to try to prove his innocence. All rather too late as he was hung.
After crossing the East Coast Main Line I entered Finsbury Park where I was surprised to find Jason Beazley and a friend of his, Greg, cycling through the park. We passed the time of day. Jason had been going to work but wasn’t going to make it on a bicycle that day so was going home.
Finsbury Park was quiet and, in keeping with London park names, is 3 miles from Finsbury. Southwark Park is also in Rotherhithe not Southwark although it is in the Borough of Southwark. But a pleasant park none the less. The New River was next. I have walked by this in Hertfordshire at Cheshunt. The new river is not a river and it isn’t new. It is over 400 years old and is a canal designed to bring water to the capital from springs in Hertfordshire, a function it performs to this day. It looked quite full as did the reservoirs. I could not walk all the way along the river as the path was closed but I walked down Seven Sisters Road (which for some reason I translate into German – Sieben schwestern) and joined the new river again disturbing two rats in the process.
The reservoirs were home to bird life including a moorhen with chicks, a nesting swan some Canada geese with chicks and a heron, again the heron flew away before I could get a good shot. Rather camera shy are herons. Here you can see two geese with their goslings.

geese and goslings Posted by Picasa

The path came out at the castle, a former pumping station, and the next green spot was Clissold Park. Jason had warned me that Clissold Park would be busy and he was right. There were lots of people using the park and several drinking fountains in view of the reservoirs nearby I suppose. I drank at the fountain in memory of “three sweet sisters” aged one three and four. Clissold Park is very beautiful with lakes and flowering trees, all dominated by the massive spire of George Gilbert Scott’s St Mary’s Church. The Mansion in Clissold park holds a cafĂ© and I had a fairly nice burger here! The walk led on by the little 16th Century church, also dominated by the 19th Century one. I had a peep into the old church but something was going on in it so I didn’t go further. The fine 1930s Stoke Newington Town Hall is now just relegated to offices for Hackney Council but Stoke Newington Church Street is fine with lots of cafes and fair to lousy bookshops with surly assistants or maybe they were their proprietors. I was impressed with this street and it seems like one of the nicer parts of Hackney.
Leaving Church Street behind I entered Abney Park Cemetery, where William Booth founder of the Salvation Army is interred and where Isaac Watts has a memorial (although he is buried with other great dissenters in Bunhill Fields). The ruined chapel (including ruined outside toilet with pointed window) looked rather sad, I hope the trust can restore it. The cemetery as a whole was very overgrown and luxuriant. Over 300000 people have been buried there. One of the graves had a racehorse with a horseshoe over it, one had a lion couchant and yet another had a bicycle on to commemorate a record breaking feat of cycling. The Cemetery and the walk ended at Stamford Hill. A very quiet walk with some pleasant scenery and only 12 miles to Woolwich!!

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